A Short Story About Birds

(With apologies to Søren Kierkegaard.)
U.S. National Archives

This is a short story about birds. Every Sunday, the birds go to their bird church. All the birds in that parish go there. Starlings, eagles, pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds, ducks, geese, and so on.

The birds enter the church. Gravely, silently, they file into the church and find their way to their seats in the wooden church pews.

Music plays. Then, the bird preacher enters the room, using a small door behind the main altar. The bird preacher makes a dramatic gesture. Then he clears his throat and addresses his congregation.

“Brothers and sisters!” he says. “We are birds, and birds have wings!”

“Amen!” says the congregation.

Then he says: “We are birds, and birds can fly!”

“Amen!” they all say. “Testify, brother!” says a lone voice from the back of the room.

The preacher coughs theatrically. Then, winding up to the end of his oration, he puffs out his chest and says, “We are birds, we are birds, and birds are creatures of the air; the ineffable lovely air! Always remember this, for we are birds!”

“Amen, amen, amen!” the congregation says, for they know this speech by heart, for some variant of it is delivered every Sunday.

Then a small basket is passed around, collecting dollar bills and loose change. More music plays. Then, the service being over, all the birds slowly file out of their wooden pews. Slowly, they file out of the main door. And then they walk, travelling over hill and over dale, down the winding pathway to the bird village. There, they enter their houses and they eat their Sunday dinners and they talk or they watch TV.

Every Sunday, the birds attend their church. They find the sermons to be a great source of comfort and inspiration.

…One Sunday, many weeks later, the birds were on their way to church when they saw something in the sky. “What is it?” someone said. But as they traced the path of the object below the clouds they knew what it was, and the question hung there; a slip of the tongue, a reproach.

“Hm.”

“Strange.”

“Must not be from around here.”

“Not a member of our congregation.”

They watched him fly and it would had made more sense to them if it had been an old shoe or a toaster oven flying. He disappeared from view, and they resumed their path. Merrily the birds trudged along. They had stood, they had marveled, and now they continued down the pathway leading from the village, for what else is there to do? For after all, what would you suggest or would you, do you suppose, have been the one to do anything different? TC mark

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