“Poor birds,” I say, “you leave them alone.”
“Dirty feathered sods,” she snarls with a grin.
Pulling her close as she makes a strange growling noise in the back of her throat, Hachikō snaps his tail before rushing the tree. Circling its trunk like a squirrel, he ascends with great speed and agility. Disappearing into the bright leaves of the many crooked branches, his bark disturbs the watchful birds but not enough for them to scatter.
“You have more in common with them than you might think.”
“What do you mean?” she asks.
Squeezing her hand, I smile at her curious face, and how the dimming light from the sky collides with the tree creating shadows on her face that roll upon her features like a sea of fluttering waves.
“If it wasn’t for what the adult world has done to you, you would be able to fly the same as they fly.”
“Yes. They clipped your wings when you were young—too young to understand what was going on.”
“I don’t remember at all,” she huffs.
“The same was done to me. Those such as us were never meant to stay grounded, so they did their best to keep us from being the people we were meant to be when we were unable to resist.”
Looking at the pigeons and magpies, she seems to be rethinking her hatred for the feathered ones she resembles.
“Because to them, a curious mind will always be a dangerous one, liable to ask questions that demand unpleasant answers.”
Looking down on us as we hold hands, Hachikō sticks out his tongue before barking.
“They fill our heads all full of lies. That’s why it’s so easy to give in—so tempting to surrender.”
Digging her nails into my flesh, she tilts her head gazing first at the birds then the dog.
“Was that first bit a Black Sabbath lyric?”
“Yes, it was. Well done.”
“Welcome,” she grins.
“The problem is, is that those with curious minds are prone to self-doubt. They’ll do anything to turn us against ourselves. If we’re not careful, we’ll spend our entire lives down here when we should be up there. That’s our greatest challenge—to never lose sight of where we deserve to be. The gutter is not our home. It swims with sin, and although these pleasures at times taste so good, they’ve got nothing on the cosmic kicks of the stars.”
Nodding at the branches above our heads, I make animal noises. The birds coo and Hachikō lets out another bark.
“Do you think I’ll ever be able to unclip my wings?” she whispers.
“I think you’re well on your way.”
“Yes. Just make sure you never stop asking questions and remember to look up more often.”
“Mmm,” she says, “okay.”
“And be kinder to birds.”