Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dinner for a Hungry Baby

When we left Storm King and Councilor Tom Tam, the councilor-cook had just made a gift of the three eggs he had set aside for his king's dinner so that the very hungry baby phoenix would have something to eat. Lady Phoenix pounced on the offering of eggs mixed with rice as soon as the councilor and king had backed away. She picked up bits of the meal in her beak and put them directly into the beak of her infant. Soon the crying of the baby bird turned to cooing as it fed.

Hungry though Storm King was, since his dinner had been interrupted by the hatchling, he was also fascinated to be in the presence of the mother phoenix and to have witnessed such a rare event, the birth of a new phoenix. Legend tells us that a new phoenix is born only when it is nearing the time for an elder phoenix to die and rise no more from the ashes.

Linda asked Nancy, "Do phoenixes have expiration dates," and her mother laughed.

"No," said Nancy, "they don't exactly have expiration dates, but it is told that there is a limit to the number of times that a phoenix can fly through the hot flames of the underworld known as Hell and rise from the ashes."

Lady Phoenix's under feathers were brilliantly colored like the rainbows of the sky after a torrential rain, which indicated that her life was yet to be long. But the under feathers of a phoenix that has grown dull means that the life of that elder phoenix is nearing its final end. The mighty mythical birds yearn for life just as humans yearn for long life. Nancy said to her attentive children, "It is a likely possibility that Lady Phoenix had hidden her egg in the desert sands to hide it from the elder phoenixes.

Gus, ever the boy and fascinated by stories of fighting and death, chimed, "I bet she was protecting the egg and the baby inside from those elder phoenixes. I bet they would have stolen the egg and made sure the baby didn't hatch, so that they could live longer."

When the rice mixture was completely fed to the hatchling, the baby bird stretched and flapped its black wings and struggled to stand up on its two scrawny feet. The mother phoenix cooed to her infant a melodic song that was beautiful in a strange, eerie way, and the hatchling cooed a response. Storm King and his councilor watched with wide eyes, because something very strange was happening before them, and they doubted what they saw.

As the melodic song grew longer and stranger, the baby phoenix seemed to be growing larger in size. First its head would double in size, and then its right wing and left wing, and then its feet would catch up so that it looked the right size all over again, only much larger than a moment before. The hatchling stretched its newly larger wings and flapped them experimentally, hopping a few steps on the desert sand. It stopped when its head doubled in size again, followed by its wings and feet. Then more stretching and flapping for the new infant was trying to fly.

The once black feathers all over the little bird, who was quickly becoming a much larger bird, began to take on the colors of the rainbow on the underside of its wings. There was a shimmering all over the baby bird, like the wavy, visible air one notices on a very hot summer day in the dry desert, as its feathers grew longer and they changed from black to rainbow colors. The transformation of the newborn hatchling to an almost fully grown phoenix happened in a very short time.

The councilor and king barely had time to adjust to what they had seen before they found themselves in the presence of two black phoenixes that towered over them. Lady Phoenix was only slightly taller and fatter than her hatchling, who certainly did not look like a hatchling any longer. The mother bird turned to Storm King and Councilor Tam and said, "I am glad that you did not eat my egg so that my young could be hatched. I believed that I had hidden the egg well enough that no one would find it here in the Western desert where hardly anyone travels.

"I could not sit on the egg myself, but the hot desert sand kept the egg warm and safe while I was away. How was I to anticipate that Storm King would leap from mountain to mountain to soothe his boredom and end up in this desert? For your sacrifice of your eggs and rice for my young one's dinner, so that he could grow into a true phoenix, I will grant you each a wish."

Lady Phoenix turned her beak to her left wing and pulled out a bright red feather. She beckoned to her son, and he came near her. She reached under his left wing with her beak and pulled out a blue feather. She said to the king and his councilor, "When you are ready for your wish, you have only to burn one of these feathers, and one of us will come to you as soon as we can. Burn the red feather to call me, and burn the blue feather to call my son."

Then, with a great flapping of two sets of black wings, the mother and son lifted into the air, circling around the king and his councilor, swirling the sand all over and stinging their eyes. When Storm King and Tom Tam opened their eyes as the wind died down from the draft caused by the beating of the phoenixes' strong wings, the birds were gone, and they couldn't tell the direction they had taken.

"We shall continue the story of Storm King and Councilor Tam at another telling. Good night, children," said Nancy.

No comments:

Post a Comment