In a forest was a large pond filled with fish. Every day, there was a bird who would fly down to the water’s edge and watch the fish. He would stand on the rocks and lean out over the water. Peering into its depths, he would watch the fish all day. He watched as they swam and played together – touching and chasing and laughing.
The bird wished that he were a fish. He wanted to touch and chase and laugh with the other fish. He wanted to swim and to play. The bird tried to talk to the fish but they could not hear him. He flapped his wings and spread his feathers, but it just chased the fish away.
One day the bird was very lonely and very sad. He wanted to be a fish so much that he decided to jump into the water and swim down to the fish. Building up his courage, the bird jumped from the rocks into the water.
Cold! The water was so cold and so wet and so heavy. The bird was afraid and began to flap helplessly in the water. He could not swim, the water was overwhelming him, and he began to sink.
A fish was swimming by and saw the bird struggling in the water. Swimming up underneath him, the fish began to push the bird toward the rocks. The bird was so cold and afraid that he continued to struggle. His talons cut into the fish’s back but the fish did not give up. Slowly he managed to push the bird onto the edge of the rocks. As soon as the bird felt solid ground, he flapped his wings and collapsed onto the rocks.
“Who are you and why can’t you swim?” asked the fish.
The bird lay exhausted and out of breath. After a few minutes he replied, “I am a bird and I can fly, not swim.”
“Then why were you in the water? Did you fall?”
“Every day I come to the water to watch the fish. I am alone and I wish I were a fish so that I could make friends and laugh,” admitted the bird. Then he saw the fish was leaning to the side and had cuts on his back from the bird. “I am so sorry! You saved me and I hurt you!”
The fish smiled and said, “If you will tell me what it means to be a bird, I won’t think about my cuts at all.”
So the bird told the fish all about being a bird. About the nests the bird has to make and how they have to be strong to survive wind and storm. He told the fish what he saw as he flew over the treetops and about the waterfall that feeds the pond.
“That sounds wonderful! Why would you ever want to be a fish instead of a bird?” the fish asked.
“Because I have no friends,” said the bird.
“You do now! I will be your friend,” announced the fish.
“Really?” cried the bird. “That would be wonderful!”
Every day the fish swam to the rocks and talked with the bird. The fish told the bird everything about what it meant to be a fish. The bird learned about the games he had watched and about all the secrets of the pond.
Soon the other fish noticed that their friend left them every day. “Where are you going?” they would ask.
“I made a new friend and he is a bird! He tells me wonderful stories and I tell him everything about our pond.”
The other fish did not like this. They didn’t know anything about birds and wanted their friend to play with them instead. “You’re friends with a bird?” They sneered and laughed. “We don’t want to play with you anymore if you are going to be friends with a bird!”
The fish was embarrassed. He did not want the other fish to laugh at him and refuse to play with him. He liked his new bird friend, but when it came time to go to the rocks he decided to keep playing games instead.
The bird waited all day and every day after, but the fish never returned. Weeks passed as the bird watched the fish, wishing even more that he could swim and play with them. But he was a bird and not a fish.
The days grew longer and hotter. One day the bird noticed that the water level of the pond was lower. Lower and lower the water went, until the bird could walk out passed the rocks onto the dried earth and moss. He pretended he was a fish swimming around in the moss, but soon tired with no one to play with. Later in the afternoon, several fish were splashing in the shallow water and the bird walked out to them. His friend was one of the fish and he seemed upset.
“What are you doing, fish? You cannot leave the water.”
“The pond is changing,” exclaimed the fish. “The water level has gone down and now we cannot reach the plants we need to eat!”
“Why is this happening?” cried the bird.
“We don’t know. We have looked all over the pond and cannot find the reason. We must get food soon, but the moss only grows along the edges of the pond and there is not enough time for more to grow!”
“Maybe the problem is not in the pond,” wondered the bird.
The other fish looked at the bird in confusion. “Not in the pond? But the pond is everything.”
“Look around you,” said the bird. “There is a whole forest here. I will look for you, fish, to see what I can find.”
The bird flew away, circling the water. The other fish watched, amazed at what the bird could do. “This is what a bird is?” they exclaimed. “How marvelous! No wonder you wanted a bird for a friend.”
The little fish glanced away. He was embarrassed that he had left his friend waiting at the water’s edge all of this time.
Meanwhile, the bird had flown all around the pond and found that the stream coming into the pond was dry. He followed its path all the way until he was close to the waterfall. And there! There was a branch that had fallen into the water. Over time, leaves and twigs had collected around it and it was stopping the water flow.
Luckily the bird was a bird and not a fish. Immediately he flew down and studied the mess. After a few minutes, he knew what needed to be done to loosen the entire tangle. Quickly he worked and soon the branch became loose and floated downstream again.
The bird followed and every time the branch became stuck, he would pull a twig here or some leaves there, and it would start floating downstream again. Working this way, the bird finally made it all the way back to the pond. With him came the water from the stream.
The fish felt the water flow return and were very happy. Soon the water level would rise and the fish would be able to reach their food again.
“We are saved!” cried all the fish. “Thank you! Thank you, bird!”
The bird looked around at all the fish and was filled with happiness that he could finally be part of their world. But his little fish was not there. “Where is my friend?” he asked. The fish looked around and one said, “We haven’t seen him since we were by the rocky shore.”
The bird flew to his rocks, hoping to find the little fish. There he was, swimming by himself in the shallow water. Walking out onto the still dry earth and moss, the bird went to his friend.
“What are you doing here all by yourself?”
“I was a bad friend,” said the fish. “I was ashamed to have a bird as a friend, so I stopped coming to see you.”
The bird thought for a moment. “It is alright,” he told the fish. “You were not angry when I cut your back while you we’re saving me. I cannot be mad at you for wanting to be with the other fish. After all, that is exactly what I have wanted to do all this time.”
“I am sorry you are not a fish,” said his friend.
“I used to be,” said the bird. “But now I am not sorry.”
“Why?” asked the fish.
“Because if I were a fish, then I could not have saved the pond. I think some were born to be a fish and some were born to be a bird. If we continue to talk every day, you can show me your world and I can show you mine. I cannot see or understand all that you see and understand, just as you with me. But through you, I can swim and through me, you can fly. And when you need a bird, I will be your bird.”
An Autism Awareness Story
(C) Rachel Flinchum 7/4/2013
If you liked this story, please consider adding your support to autism awareness in any way that your heart takes you. One possible way to consider would be to provide a financial donation to my Walk Now for Autism Speaks 2013 fund at http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum. Online donations have a $20 min, but below the donation amount field there is a printable mail-in form you can use to donate as little or as much as you want.
Thank you for reading my story!