The bird that fell from its nest
Juliette was playing ball with her little brother Bastien. The sun was shining brightly in their yard. As she ran and jumped, her pretty ponytail danced and bounced along with her. She was three and a half. Bastien was a little under one. He could already stand up on his own. He could even take a few steps, but he could get around faster on all fours.
One Wednesday afternoon, the two children were playing on the lawn. Suddenly, Juliette stopped and put the ball on the ground. Just then, she heard music coming from the road.
She rushed to go see but she couldn't see anyone. Looking left and looking right, the street seemed tobe empty.
Just then, she saw the slug for the first time. A red one. It was on the road, concentrated on crossing it. It moved forwards very, very slowly.
"You'll get squashed," said the little girl. "Go back to the sidewalk."
The little creature didn't listen. It continued its crawling to the middle of the road.
Juliette picked up a stone and put it on the ground in front of the slug, to make it turn around. But it continued stubbornly to cross the street.
Our friend grabbed a stick and put it in front of the slug. The strong-willed little creature climbed over the obstacle. As it hung onto the stick, the little girl took action and carried the slug to the grass in her yard. But the little creature folded itself in two and fell onto the pavement.
"Shoot," Juliette said aloud.
She ran to her house and took a dustpan. She slid it under the slug. Our friend did not want to touch the little creature, much less take it in her hand. She was a little grossed out.
You, would you dare pick up a slug with your fingers?
Juliette came back to the rear of the house and put the slug and the dustpan down.
Just then, she heard the chirping of a bird.
The little girl looked all around her, then she went over to the tree that was by the hedge. There, in the middle of the tall grasses and the little flowers, she could make out a baby bird as well as the shell of its egg, fallen just beside it. The poor little thing had just fallen out of its nest. It was calling its parents at the top of its lungs.
Poor little thing, thought our friend. I would like to put you back in your nest, but it is much to high up in the branches of the tree. Still, if you stay there, a cat will come and eat you up.
Juliette didn't know how to climb trees yet. She didn't dare. What she wondered was how to go about getting the poor little thing back where it belonged.
Bending down, she gently took it in her tiny hands and tried to fit it back into its shell. But it refused to go.
So our friend called to her mommy but she didn't reply.
Holding the bird in one hand and Bastien in the other, the little girl returned to her house. She went in by the kitchen door. Mommy wasn't there. She called out. No response. She went into the living room, then the dining room. No one.
"So where is Mommy?" our friend said to herself.
She called one more time but with no better luck.
Juliette went up the stairs. She looked in her room then in Julien's. She opened the door to her parents' room. Nothing. But where could Mommy be? In the attic?
The little girl, still holding the bird in her hand, and keeping tight hold of Bastien's hand in her other, slowly started up the wooden steps of the attic staircase. They creaked at each step. Our friend did not like going up there all alone.
She opened the door and turned on the light. Mommy wasn't in the attic.
The little girl took a few more steps, being very careful to avoid the spider webs that hung from under the rafters. Just then she noticed a pretty box on a little table. Letting go of her little brother's hand for a moment, she opened the top. The inside was lined with red cloth. There, she carefully placed the bird with its shell that she'd found in the grass.
Then, holding the box level, she went back down the stairs with Bastien.
Once she was back in the kitchen, she found her mother.
"Where were you, Mommy? I looked for you everywhere. And I was calling you. You didn't answer."
"I was tidying the basement, my dear."
Juliette hadn't thought of looking there.
"Look, Mommy. This poor chick was in the grass in the yard. It must have fallen from the tree. I'd really like to put it back in its nest."
"Okay," said Mommy, smiling. "We can try. I suggest, first of all, that we give the little guy something to eat. He must be hungry, poor little thing."
Our friend took a slice of bread and removed the crust. Then she crumbled it and put it in a little saucer. This she filled with milk. She presented it all to the chick. It ate some. Its chirping already sounded a little happier.
Juliette wanted to bring it back to its nest. Mommy took a ladder and went out into the yard. Bastien, sitting on the grass, watched them.
The mommy of our friend placed the ladder against the branch of the tree with the nest.
"You can do it yourself, my dear."
For the first time, the little girl climbed the ladder. She was not very sure of herself.
She climbed several rungs, then her mommy handed her the box with the bird. After another three rungs, she was level with the nest. She slid the chick into the nest and placed the shell just beside it.
Juliette would have preferred to keep the little bird in her room, but Mommy explained to her that a bird must grow up in freedom so it can fly in the blue sky.
The little girl climbed back down the ladder, very proud of herself. She heard the little bird sing. It sounded happy.
Soon she heard another. A bigger one. Its song, very melodious, came from another branch.
It approached the nest slowly. Surely it was the mommy or the daddy.
Juliette listened to them a moment.
Then she went back to the sidewalk, in front of the house. She saw the red slug. It was about to cross the road.
"It's your own fault if you're squashed by a car. You're really just too stubborn," the little girl told it.
That evening, before going to bed, our friend opened her window wide. She listened to the little chick sing. She recognized its voice. It sounded very happy to have returned home to it parents.
And Juliette slept very happily herself.
Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton