a commonplace kind of special
This story is a commonplace kind of story, the type that lives in the ordinary, the 3.40pm of a weekday afternoon ordinary, schools having finished but it not quite being time for tea just yet ordinary. And although this story exists in a city that may look a little different on the outside to other cities, on the inside its workings are just the same as every other city. The tree in the back garden where this story lives is also commonplace and could very easily be any other tree in any other back garden. It is not a story of big, huge, gigantic adventures, it is a story of routine, normal, everyday.
And that, that is what makes it a special story.
So, sitting with your ordinary tea in your ordinary chair, with your ordinary bed-cover wrapped around you, relish how cosy and nice and comforting it is as you see, in your minds eye, the commonplace tree at the bottom of a commonplace garden, just off to the left a little.
At the very top of this tree lives Grandma Magpie.
She chitters and chatters to no one thing in particular, hers is the speech of companionship not meant to lead anywhere or right great wrongs, simply that reassurance of being there. It’s the chitter and chatter that is accompanied by the click clack of knitting needles, the routine reassuring rhythm of a steadily ticking clock, an occasional ping from an old fashioned electric fire possibly with broken plastic shaped like fake coal.
Slightly lower down the tree, in a perfectly shaped circle live the Coal Family. Every single thing they do is in unison. All decisions are decided together, food fetching is done together, sleeping is yawned as one. And they are all the happier for it, no voice is left behind, no voice is unheard, no voice is unloved. There’s is a dance of the individual in harmony.
At the bottom of the tree, from time to time, like slotting into a bird-shaped Airbnb are the Wood Pigeons, constantly curious, constantly asking questions of each other for which they have no answer. They never stay very long, restless and flitting with not much attention for anything. But the place, it has to be admitted, would not be the same without their brief stopovers once every while.
In amongst all of this flies Robin.
Robin who has a story to tell every single day.
Robin who sweeps and swoops about the tree spilling his words as he goes.
Robin who no bird really pays attention to anymore.
Robin who doesn’t even listen to the stories he is telling himself.
On one particular day, as Robin had stopped on his way home, sidetracked by crumbs of cake upon a small, chipped windowsill, he noticed the humans therein intently watching a Robot through an indoor window. A Robot in a galaxy far, far away. A Robot that sounded just like Robin. In fact, Robin thought to himself, a Robot that was not just like but exactly like Robin.
“It has my voice!” he went to shout but then realised, if this Robot had his voice then Robin could not speak what was in his mind to speak.
Robin tapped at the window.
Robin flapped and bristled.
Not a one of the humans paid him any mind.
Not a one of the humans was interested in anything other than listening to the Robot.
The Robot that had Robin’s voice!
The Robot that was in a galaxy so far, far away that Robin would never ever be able to get it back.
Robin, with his head hanging low, with his wings barely having the desire to flap, made his way back to his home in the tree.
Not a one story did Robin tell that day.
Or the next day.
Or the next.
How could he tell any stories if his voice was no longer his to tell with?
Because the other birds in the tree had not really been paying attention to Robin with his stories for some time, it took them a while to notice the silence that moved about them now.
Robin just huddled at the bottom of the tree, not in the space taken by the wood pigeons but much further down, in the dark forgotten corner far too close to where the cat might scratch.
Nothing in the tree really knew what to do.
They could not exactly pinpoint what was different, only that something was, and as Robin was sure his voice had been stolen, well, how could he let anyone know.
Now, Wind, Wind listened to everything.
Wind paid attention.
Wind loved, loved, loved stories.
Wind loved to bundle them up and dance with them, twirl them and whirl them, carry them to every leaf and twig and bark and stem and flower and nut and fruit and brick and stone and window and roof and hole and cloud.
Wind carried the stories to every single place in every single corner and curve.
Wind loved, loved, loved stories.
Wind even carried stories to other birds…
And one very specific bird, not in a galaxy far, far away but still some distance, when it heard the stories it sang so loud and sweetly and clear of gratitude for them that Wind scooped it up and danced it back the way it had travelled.
Wind loved, loved, loved songs.
Wind was also pretty easily sidetracked and it took some time, alas before Wind arrived back at our commonplace back garden and the commonplace tree that grew in it.
Robin was a shadow of himself, barely there at all in the silence and the dark at the bottom. Why, even the cats didn’t think he was worth a bother.
Then Wind found him.
Wind wrapped around Robin the loud and sweet and clear song of gratitude and it fitted snuggly and tightly and warmly and cosily just like an ordinary familiar bed-cover.
Now, because the sound was so slight and sat on the edge of things, Robin didn’t know if it lived inside of him or outside of him, and because he didn’t know there was such a thing as others like him in the world, when he felt the song gathered about him there was only one thought that lifted his heart.
“It’s my voice! It has found its way back to me from that galaxy far, far away! Ha!”
He laughed and danced and chirruped up and about and around the tree and all its inhabitants.
“My voice” he called
“I have my voice back!”
And he shared the story of what had befallen him, how his voice had been stolen and found its way back to him.
From that day forward, everyone listened properly and with joy to Robin’s stories, including Robin himself.
Not in any spectacular, epic way but in a very special ordinary normal and commonplace kind of way.