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Little Bits

By Linda Siebold, Janice Thompson, J. Carol Nemeth, Cynthia Hickey, June Foster, Eliza Scalia, James Wright, Florence Witkop, LuAnn K. Edwards, Dana Mentink, Bonnie Engstrom, Darlene Franklin, Cindy M. Amos, Rita Peterson, Christina Rich

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The Giver filled the holder with seed, replaced the lid, and went into the house. Pike and his sister, Miranda, watched as Mother and various cousins fluttered onto the rails, ate, and dropped choice bits of grain down to the ground. Then, they joined the throng of cousins waiting below to scoop up what they had been given.
Pike pecked the ground for the millet Mother threw down especially for him and savored each bite. Miranda ate a little slower as she looked around cautiously.

“Yummy. These are good, Miranda. Aren’t you hungry?”

“Yes, Pike. I’m hungry, but I’m watching for danger as I eat. We have to be careful to watch for the things that can hurt us.”

“Like the black bird gang?” He asked.

“No. The black bird gang are just annoying. They probably won’t hurt us. We just stay out of their way. But other things can. Remember what Mother said about the shiny squares?”

He nodded.
“I can’t see them, so don’t think I can fly through them. I would have a terrible headache and maybe even die. I remember what the alarm sounds like too. Just in case Black Death may be hunting us birds.”

“Caw. Caw.”

“No. I’m not done eating. Why do the black birds push us around?”

“It’s okay, little brother. There’s plenty. The Giver provides us food and will fill the holder back up when it’s empty and gives us water in the big bowl so we can drink and bathe. The
Giver protects us too. Let’s move over to the edge by Mrs. Dove.”

Lemuel, the leader of the black bird gang, flew onto the holder and two of the aunts moved away before he could knock them over. “Move your brown selves over and let us important ones eat.” The sun glinted off his iridescent feathers on the top of his head and made the gold around his eyes glitter as he spotted Miranda and Pike. “Well, well. If it isn’t that homely sparrow and her little brother. Mir-an-da. So ugly no sparrow would want to be her mate.”

Pike balled up the ends of his wings. “If I was bigger I’d knock him silly.”

“He’s just a jerk, Pike. Ignore him.”

“Why can’t we all just get along?” Mrs. Dove moved closer to them and glared

at the black birds.
With a loud whooshing of wings and raucous calls, the black birds flew off.

The sparrows soon followed.

The next morning the black birds flew in again as the sparrows ate. Lemuel lit close by Miranda and Pike. Miranda ignored him and Pike pecked at the ground quickly, looking for the millet before Lemuel could see it.
The other four black birds ate their fill, then cartwheeled over the house’s roof. Lemuel stayed and kept his beak down, cracking seeds on the ground. He flew to the bird bath, washed his feathers, and followed the rest.

The backyard was noisy with bird sound. Pike stopped to listen and look around. He was full for a change. Miranda’s beak moved daintily on the outer edge of the grass around the pole. A strange sparrow landed a short way away. Then, Pike realized that Miranda and this stranger were talking.

Mother chirped, “Time to go.” She raised her wings and the rest of the sparrows flew after her – even Miranda and the stranger.

She didn’t even wait for me. Pike flew up to the deck rail in a huff instead of following like he was told. He sat quietly, wondering what to do. He was alone in the backyard.

A flutter of red darted past as Mr. Cardinal flew to the big bowl and eased into the water. He ruffled his feathers and splashed until all of him was wet, sending much of the water outside the big bowl. Then, he stood on the edge and shook his bright feathers.

Mrs. Cardinal was on the seed holder. She fed quietly, choosing her favorite seeds. Pike gasped as he realized how beautiful she was, all golden and tipped with darker reds and maroon. She heard Pike and looked over at him on the deck. When she finished eating and Mr. Cardinal was on the holder, she flew over and perched beside Pike. “What are you doing here by yourself, little one? It’s dangerous to be here like this without anyone with you to watch out for danger.”

Pike liked listening to her voice. It was calming and quiet, but so different from the sparrow’s song. “I got mad at my sister. She was talking to a strange sparrow and forgot about me.”

“Your sister is probably at the age where she is looking for a mate to have babies of her own. She didn’t mean to fly off without you. Go to your roost where it’s safe.” Mr. Cardinal called to her, and she flew to meet him. They glided over the garage and out of sight.

Pike was getting a little sleepy. Maybe he’d fly back to their roosting area and find his little branch to lean against. A buzz sounded above him before he could stretch his wings and take off. He looked up to see one of the hummers at the feeder above him. The bird, even smaller than him, beat his wings so fast they hummed. He kept sticking his long beak in a little hole and taking a drink. Pike just knew the red stuff wouldn’t taste as good as the millet. The hummer darted away as quickly as he’d come.

Pike took a deep breath and raised his wings, but, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Black Death, the cat from the next yard, come around the corner of the unfinished fence. His heart beat loudly in his chest. He froze. Black Death would kill him and eat him. Black Death had razorsharp claws.

The flutter of wings drew his attention back to the seed holder. Lemuel had come back. Pike tried not to move his head as he looked from Black Death to Lemuel. Lemuel, the biggest and most active heckler of the gang, dropped to the ground below the feeder. He had his back turned, so he didn’t see the cat. The cat hadn’t spotted him yet. If Pike sounded the alarm, the cat could come after him instead. He was closer, just higher. If he didn’t, the cat could pounce on Lemuel’s back and kill and eat him.

Pike had never seen anybody die before. He sure didn’t want to get eaten. Mother and Miranda warned him about flying into the squares, falling out of a tree in the storm, or getting hit by a car when you didn’t fly fast enough to get out of their way. Old birds died when their time was up. He wanted to live to be an old bird.

Closer and closer Black Death crept. His eyes narrowed on the blackbird’s iridescent feathers and the muscles in his legs bunched as he set to leap.

“Warning,” Pike rasped. “Black Death. Black Death!” He chirped loudly.
Instantly the yard was full of calls as others added their voices. Fluttering wings beat in the trees. “Warning!” “Black Death!”

Lemuel didn’t hesitate, but pounded his wings against the sky and rose.
The cat leapt, but his claws met emptiness. He growled and turned to return to his yard.
Then, he noticed the little sparrow...

Pike raised his wings in panic as the cat sprang again. He heard his sister’s squawk, “Fly, Pike. Fly!” Sharp claws tweaked his tail feathers as he flew up. They fluttered to the deck.

“What are you doing on my deck?” The Giver shoved the screen door open. “Scat! Leave my birds alone.”

Pike trembled as he clung to the lattice.

The Giver stood behind the screen and watched the cat scurry away. Then, he looked up at the tiny sparrow holding on for dear life. “You know His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.”

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