Just to the east of Nome, old mining activity had left some ponds,
replete with rusty machinery, and only by the kindergartener's
persistence were they reachable.
liked these ponds. Nobody bothered them there, they could nest
and hatch their eggs in safety. At first the swans were alarmed
by the boy, but the little fellow did not throw rocks. Instead,
he often came with corn, nuts and other goodies. The swans trusted
the boy, and would gather around him.
in the warm sunlight, the boy could imagine the swans' voices:
“Hi, I am Papa Swan.” And they told the boy about
the beautiful places they'd been, and the wonderful things they'd
fall days passed, one after the other, with the inevitable progression
of the seasons.
Robinson, the boy's mother, was a fastidious society woman. She
didn't work too hard at her job, and often invited society ladies
to her home for tea and cakes. She was very proud of her polished
hardwood floor, her chandeliers, her lamp shades, her paintings,
and her carpets.
here was the boy again, dripping water and mud, leaving footprints
on her prized rug. “Look what you are doing,” screeched
the mother. “I told you not to play with those stupid birds!”
a day or two the boy would mind, but the ponds and the swans were
irresistible. Mrs. Robinson could not count on a clean, neatly
dressed boy to show off to the visiting ladies. And, because she
was the mother, and could not hate the boy, her hatred was focused
on the swans. “They have no right ...” she would mutter.
And her resolve steeled.
day, after the boy had gone to school, she went to the closet
and loaded the shotgun; and she trundled and stumbled to the ponds.
There she saw the swans, and she fired both barrels.
in the warm, caressing breeze, the dead swans slowly drifted away.
Problem solved,” she said to herself. And went about her
life and work.
that afternoon the clueless boy went directly from school to the
ponds. He could not find the swans, and he called for them. “Papa
Swan, Mama Swan! Where are you?” But the swans were not
to be found. His only answer was the whisper of the breeze among
the reeds, under the hot arctic sun.
the boy got more agitated. He called repeatedly and he walked
around the ponds, getting muddier and wetter by the minute. And
he tripped, fell into the pond, and his head struck a steel remnant
of machinery. The boy was stunned, and he sank.
opened his eyes, but was dazed. He knew he should not breathe
water, but in his confusion he did not know which way to go, and
his lungs burnt with the effort of holding his breath.
as he squirmed and looked, he saw the shimmering surface of the
pond, and upon it was the outline of a bird. A bird whose wing
reached into the water and touched him. The boy grasped the wing
and the bird led him to the shore and safety.
for breath, spitting water and rubbing his eyes, the boy looked
around and saw Papa Swan. “Papa Swan! Papa Swan! I was looking
in his mind he again heard the bird's voice, “Me too, I
was away for a bit but I saw you fall and came over.” Mama
Swan and the young birds also approached and told him “you
are all wet! You can't stay dry in the water like we can!”
Relieved, the boy conversed with the birds and whiled the afternoon
away as usual.
then, Papa Swan said, “We have to go. It is time for us
to migrate south. The other birds are calling to us.” And
the boy looked skyward, and saw the vee formations and heard the
honking and squawking of birds upon their migrations.
of the youngsters said “Why don't you come with us?”
“Yeah, why not?” asked another one of the young birds.
can't,” said the lad, “I am only a boy, I can't fly.”
you can,” said Mama Swan.
Papa Swan said, “If you believe you can, and you wish it
real hard, you can.”
the boy said “No ... I don't think so.”
your eyes,” said Papa Swan. “Imagine you have wings.
Wish it real hard.”
upon opening eyes, his arms were long and feathered, and he could
feel the breeze on each of his feathers.
said Mama Swan, “you did it!”
with us,” said the young birds. And the boy took a few short
the call of the formations overhead was strong, and Papa Swan
again repeated the invitation. “Come with us. Stretch your
wings and fly up.” And the boy did so and soared into the
sky, and fell in line with the birds.
looked down and he could see ponds, beaches, capes, lakes, mountains
and other wonders. “But my mom will miss me,” he said.
worry,” Papa Swan said. “We come this way every year.
You'll see your mom again then.”
the boy did not worry any more, and flew away from his home; the
sun glowing golden in the puffy clouds ahead of him. And he was
happy and contented to be with his friends and their kind.
back home, when Mrs. Robinson went looking for him, all that she
found was her lifeless boy floating face down in the water.