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The Pecking Order

1.1 Illustration: Denis Shifrin

Snowy's first song

Guy's big sister, Einat, had a birthday, and for a present she asked for a budgie. So father took her to the pet shop, and there she found Snowy.

A budgie looks like a small parrot. Except, you can teach him to talk a little, but it takes a lot of time and patience. Budgies are usually green or blue, but Snowy was white, with fluffy blue feathers on her stomach. As soon as Einat saw her, she knew that it was Snowy she wanted.

Father and Einat brought Snowy back in a small cage, with a little ladder inside, and a tiny bell on top of it. Father put the cage in the big room where everyone sat, and all the family came around to look at her.

"What a beautiful bird," said mother. Einat put a finger through the bars of the cage and Snowy quickly hopped over and bit it.

"Ouch!" said Einat. "Snowy, that wasn't nice." But Snowy only looked at everybody with her tiny black eyes.

When Fang, the almost all Alsatian dog, came home, he saw something new. Hullo, he thought, what's this. He put his nose near the cage, and took a deep sniff, like this.

"Yeech," screeched Snowy, "what's this thing!" She flew to the corner furthest away from the snuffling black nose, and hung upside from the bars.

This was most interesting. Fang put his nose against the bars and took another deep sniff. Snowy quickly hopped down, took a peck at that black snuffling machine which was Fang's nose, and quickly hopped back to her corner.

"Yowl" howled Fang! It hurt (a dog's nose is very sensitive, even more than yours). Fang started growling, grrr, grrr.

As he came near the cage, showing his teeth, Einat came into the room. "Fang, stop it", she said, and pulled him away by his collar. "Don't go near the cage again, naughty dog!"

Fang went off to a corner to nurse his nose. "That's a bird", he said to himself, "that cross thing. She doesn't even sing."

He was right. For two days Snowy sat staring at everybody with her eyes like two tiny black beads. The only noises that she made were screeches and shouts whenever anybody came near her cage.

The trouble started on the third day when Einat tried to give Snowy fresh food and water. As soon as she put her fingers in the cage Snowy jumped down and pecked at them. Well, maybe she didn't know they were only fingers. To her they might have seemed like five pink worms.

Anyway, Einat was sucking her sore finger and wondering how she was going to change the little bird's food and water. Her big brother, Eyal, could have done it – he knew all about such things – but he was away at a school camp holiday.

"Snowy," said Einat, "be a good bird now." She put her hand in the cage again. Snowy hopped down to peck at the fingers, but Einat quickly pulled her hand away and closed the cage door.

"Oh Snowy, you silly bird," said Einat. "What am I going to do with you." Meanwhile Snowy was shouting bird noises, and she sounded very cross. "Krak, krak, yeech, cheep, whew, krak, yeach".

Koala heard all this noise. He climbed down from Guy's bed and went into the sitting room. With his big, round eyes he watched what was happening.

Guy's koala looked just like all the little koalas. He was small – very, very small – and he had round black eyes and a small black nose, and his fluffy ears stuck out of his round, friendly face. Koala hardly ever said anything, he was so quiet, but now he stood and looked at Snowy. And when Koala looks at you, it feels like his eyes are talking to you.

"Hullo," he said at last, "what's wrong?" His voice was very soft and quiet, but Snowy heard him because she stopped making noises. When she heard him speaking, she knew he was a friend.

"Well," she said in her screechy bird voice, "this girl keeps on putting big pink worms in my house. I don't know whether to eat them or fight them, but they make me scared."

"That's not worms, that's part of the little girl. She wants to give you more food and water."

"I can't help it," said Snowy, "every time those worms come in my house I get scared, and I have to peck them."

"Will you let me come in your house?" said Koala.

"Yes, of course," said Snowy, "but please move slowly. I still feel nervous."

Koala always moved slowly, so there wasn't much trouble there. He moved quietly, as if he was thinking of something else, or as if he was going to sleep. Snowy blinked, and felt like going to sleep herself.

"Why, whoever's changed the water?" said Einat when she came into the room afterwards. She saw Koala sitting near the cage, resting. Snowy was quietly sitting on her swing inside the cage. She felt very full, after eating and drinking so much food and water.

Meanwhile Guy had gone to his bedroom, and saw that Koala wasn't in his usual place. Guy was a bit worried. Koala hardly ever moved out of the room. "Einat," he called, "have you seen Koala anywhere?"

"Come look," said Einat. "He went into Snowy's cage."

"What!" Guy quickly came into the sitting room. "He went into the cage – whatever for! Koala, are you all right?"

"He even changed the food and water," said Einat.

"Koala, you mustn't strain yourself," said Guy. He picked up the tiny bear. "You better go and rest now."

Koala waved to Snowy over Guy's shoulder. "Bye bye Snowy."

"Bye bye Koala," said Snowy, "I'll sing you a song."

She hopped up her little ladder, pecked at the bell, which made a little tinkling noise, and then she sat on the round wooden stick in the cage, and began to sing a song.

What a beautiful song, thought Einat.

It was Snowy's first song in her new home. 



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Wednesday, 17 April 2024

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