Close Encounter

Close Encounter by David Macfie

 Yeah, Saturday! I’m up and outside really early. Saturdays have always given me a feeling of excitement. After a hard week at school, I feel free and raring to discover more of the world’s secrets. I know, at eight years old, there’s more I don’t know than I do know, and I’m impatient to add more to my head. So, on Saturday, I always go on a journey to find new things. I’ve already spent days chasing and studying butterflies and watching birds and checking out their nests. I’ve been to the woods near my house and examined the stream that runs through. You won’t believe the stuff I found in there – Minnows, Stickle Backs, newts, tadpoles, caddis-fly larvae in their little houses made of grains of sand and lots more.

Some things take quite a number of Saturdays, but I keep going until I’m happy that I know enough about that particular thing. I keep notes in a little black book and I learn something new every journey. I always do drawings and take pictures with my phone and print them on Dad’s computer. Then I stick them beside my notes. That way I keep the things I’ve seen alive in my head. And if my memory gets fuzzy, I can always look at the pictures to go back to the time of that discovery. My Dad also lets me do research on his computer. That’s fun too. I don’t know what I’d do without Saturdays. I do this stuff by myself, cos the other kids don’t get it – they make too much noise or they tramp everywhere or they stomp the butterflies. It’s better when I’m alone.

This Saturday, I’ve planned to stay in my garden. It’s pretty big so I’m sure I’ll find something new. It’d still early but the sun is up and it’s starting to get warm. I see a robin scuffing in some dead leaves and a blackbird is singing in the big sycamore tree. Dad’s chickens are awake and eating ants in the vegetable patch, clucking, scratching in the dirt and shaking their feathers from time to time. My dog Patch comes to say good morning. I rub his ears and he smiles. Then, exhausted by the effort, he sets off back to his favorite sunbathing spot and stretches out again. He’s old now.

I see a pair of wood pigeons grooming each other in the horse chestnut tree and then I stop short. I’ve just noticed a male kestrel perched on a dead branch at the top of the sycamore. That’s new. He’s never been here before. Before he changes his mind and flies away, I take several photos. He looks at me curiously, head cocked to one side. Then he turns his beady eyes on the two pigeons. That’s not good. I know he’s got to eat and he’s probably got a family to feed, but not with my pigeons. I’m just about to chase him when I see that the victims have seen him. They quickly walk along the branch until they’re right by the trunk. Now, the kestrel can’t easily fly in to catch them. He loses interest and takes off to look for breakfast elsewhere. I enjoyed that. Imagine – a kestrel in my garden – I’ll keep an eye out for him from now on.

Now I continue on my journey. I check the tadpoles in the duck pond. Some have got little back legs now. I take more photos and move on. I see movement under a bush at the edge of the shrubbery. I creep a little closer. It’s a baby bird and it looks hurt. I go down onto my hands and knees and edge closer. It looks like a sparrow and it’s definitely wounded. I move closer, slowly and quietly, determined not to alarm the little guy. Then I see something strange. There’s a golden glow right next to the bird. Slowly, slowly, I creep closer. Now I see a shape in the glow. It’s a tiny figure and it seems to be trying to help the little bird. I go closer. I can’t say why, but the little figure seems to be a tiny girl. I stop and look harder.

“Who are you,” I whisper to the figure. It looks as if it turns to face me.

“You can see me, Tony?” I hear a tiny voice ask, in a tinkling little sound.

“I can see you, but not very well. You’re sort of hazy inside a golden glow. But I think you’re a girl. Who are you? And how do you know my name?”

A musical sound, like someone running their finger along the keys of a very small piano, has to be her laugh. It makes me smile.

“I’m Lara and of course I’m a girl. I’m one of the fairies who live at the bottom of your garden. I know your name because we keep a close watch on everyone who loves nature and wants to know all about it. Now, just stay quiet, while I finish with this little fellow.”

I watch, entranced by what I now know and by the care Lara gives to the sparrow. Soon the little bird gets to its shaky legs, totters a bit then strengthens. A loud chirping comes from above and I guess that mom and dad are here. The little bird looks at them and visibly perks up. A moment later it flaps its wings with great determination. The take-off isn’t the best, but it’s enough and the family reunion is joyful. I look back at Lara.

“Thank you,” I say. “I wouldn’t have known what to do.”

“You’re welcome. We help all the creatures when we can.”

“How many of you are there?” I ask.

“As many as are needed,” she replies. “But, this must be our secret. If you tell anybody else, we’ll have to leave. I’m surprised you even saw me. It shows how special you are.”

I feel warm all over.

“Will I see you again?”

“Yes, I’ll meet you here, same time, for the next three Saturdays, and show you some things you haven’t discovered yet. You deserve that.”

Then she’s just gone. The world seems darker somehow, but I have something wonderful to look forward to.