His family loved him, of that you can be sure. He was, after all, from them and like them. Sometimes when his mother walked with her child along a street, he would look up at her and see the pride in her eyes. And sometimes when she was tired of dealing with the unkindness of others, and the way they stared at her little son, he could see tears in her face. She would secretly dry her eyes with her coat sleeve, smile the biggest of smiles, and encourage her boy to hurry along.
In his early years, no one told him that he was different in any way. It was only when he went out into the world – a world of half-formed people, with half-formed hearts and half-formed love, that he found the winds were just that little bit colder, and the shadows somewhat darker.
When his mother caught him staring into a mirror with his usual look of bewilderment – she would shout, ‘now ain’t you just the most beautiful creation ever’. And to her and her family he was the most beautiful of children.
She did her best to warn him of the apes who lived outside the walls of their home. Those apes all looked alike, and that made them feel that they were a tribe, that they all belonged together – but they also carried hate in their hearts – perhaps they were born with it, or it was legacy passed down from parent to child – but it was the hate which drove the tribe, and the hate which caused them to despise others who were not like them.
She told him that he should walk with the stars which filled the night sky and not be scared of them. That the universe was magnificent and vast, and that those who chose to look only at creatures near them and judge them, were only cave dwellers, who were blind in eye and heart.
In his first day at school, a little girl had read a story called the ‘Ugly Duckling’, and his new class mates had all looked at him. But he knew from his family that he had special gifts, and they weren’t going to go away or transform him into a beauty that the rest of the word could deal with.
He was beautiful, it was as simple as that. He had wings which none of his family had, and he could fly at any time. Something that any of his classmates would have wished that they could do.
He knew he was different, and he knew he was beautiful, and he knew he could soar above the clouds. He had no need to show others to be accepted. He might have to live a life with the half-formed hearts trying to break him or even, make him disappear. He would be called ugly, he would be spat upon, he would be beaten by stones, but in the end, he would always remember what his mother had whispered in his ear one birthday: ‘chase happiness’.
So, that is what he did. He decided that in order to be happy, he had to help happiness in others. That meant being a new super hero. Maybe not the first, but definitely a very different one. By day he was a mild-mannered kid, who did what he was told, and smiled at everyone. After school, it was a very different story, his hat and coat were thrown aside (he couldn’t change in a phone box) and he’d spread his wings and swoop down on anyone in need of help.
It probably all started with that kid who lived in the next street. He was a child with an imagination and therefore didn’t need much else in his life. He could build fantastic new worlds out of twigs, empty jars, and old boxes. What his world lacked in colour and structure was painted by the thoughts in his head. Now I’m not saying any of that is wrong, but sometimes this kind of behaviour scares folks who can’t keep a single thought between their ears.
It was the fattest kid in the area, and the tallest kid, who hung together and caused maximum mayhem where ever they went. Perhaps these were just two outsiders who thrust themselves into the centre of things by hurting others. If they were hurting folks, then those people couldn’t harm them.
The kid in the next street had built a castle made from glass jars, it looked clever and displayed a degree of talent, which was the kind of thing that really bothered bullies. So, one morning the fat boy and the tall boy looked over the hedge of a garden and saw the kid from the next street and his castle, and decided to kick it over, throwing the jars into the road. They would cheer every time one smashed and needless to say the kid from the next street started to cry.
It was this sad sound which first attracted our half-bird-half-boy (who at the time was feeling happy about his new hat, and kept tipping it to the side to see which angle looked better).
Our hero, threw off his human clothing and headed to the source of the crying where he saw immediately what had occurred. He started pecking at the fat boy and then the tall boy – and although they tried to swat him away, it didn’t work. The fat boy was sure that the bird would peck out his eyes, and so ran away leaving his friend to take the punishment. Once the tall boy had enough of the bird, he, too, ran off.
This was the way his life continued for a while. The boy-bird would swoop down on those being victimized and would then use his beak to put right the wrongs of this world. Sometimes he was hurt himself, when they fought back, and on other times he wasn’t.
Then one Saturday morning, he found himself sitting on the highest branch of the tallest tree in a local park. He tended to hide this way when he was outside and naked – meaning that he was without his human clothes. It did feel good but he also felt that as a bird-boy he had a responsibility not to run around without any clothes on, leastways, not when humans were watching.
As he was watching the park, he spied some children playing a game of football. He’d always wanted to play football but most birds weren’t that excited about the prospect, and he found it difficult to get a game. On the other hand, most humans weren’t too keen on birds playing football either. So as far as he was concerned it was basically a stand-off.
The kids were enjoying themselves until a taller and older looking child, tackled one of the smallest. The little boy let out a scream and seeing he was upset, the injured boy’s friends started to pick on the larger kid. It looked as if all-out war would ensue, until our little bird flew above the melee and started to shout and whistle:
“That’s enough,” he shouted in a high squeaky bird voice. He called out again but still there was no reaction. So, our little bird friend landed on the head of the tallest kid and started to peck at his head.
“Ow!” Yelled the boy.
“Behave yourself,” said the bird.
“Says me,” said the high-pitched bird (although in bird circles he was known to have quite a butch voice).
“Want to be our ref?” Asked one of the younger kids.
“Sure,” said the bird.
And that was where it all started. That day in the park, our bird started on a journey that took him from fan, to referee and then to running the team.As he was the only bird in that job, he became famous, always in the newspapers and forever on television.
And now our little friend manages an English Premier League team – of course you don’t need me to tell you which one.
bobby stevenson 2017
photo: Alexei Petrenkov