Yesterday, Hopscotch took a dust bath. He found some fine dust and sat in it.
Then he wriggled down into the silt as deep as he could, and swept his wings back and
forth in the dry soil. He felt much better afterwards. Today he sat in the
half-light of the forest, his feathers ruffled and rumpled. He had started to
clean them, taking one feather at a time and pulling it through his beak, but he stopped and
his head drooped. What was the use? The other birds would just laugh at him no matter how carefully he preened his feathers. They called him Hopscotch. It was Blue Jay who had first named him Hopscotch, jeeringly, and the name had stuck.
They called him Hopscotch because he only had one leg to hop on.
Right after his mother and father taught him to fly, he went to play in a
birdbath. He was having so much fun, he didn’t notice that a cat was creeping
up on him. It sprang and caught one of his legs in its sharp teeth. The cat’s owner
(a little girl), tried to make her cat let go of the bird, but the cat’s teeth stayed clamped on
Hopscotch’s leg. When the tiny bird managed to fly away, he had only one leg.
He had to learn to hop all over again. At first he would fall over sideways
when he tried to hop. Sometimes he would turn a somersault or rollover instead
of hopping, much to the other birds’ amusement. “Hey, Hopscotch,” they would cry, “Keep practising those somersaults and maybe you can join the circus.” Then they would all twitter and point and laugh.
All except Pleeleah – Pleeleah, who could call and sing with such beauty. “Don’t
mind them,” she told him, “for you’ve learned to hop with only one leg; and
you’ve learned to leap high so you can begin flying, That’s it! I’m going to
call you ‘Leap High’.” and she flew off into the blue sky, singing and calling, “Leap High,
Leap High” so that the notes of her song spread and spilled into the air like water arcs
over a waterfall.. He called, “Pleeleah, Pleeleah, wait for me, Pleeleah,” and flew to her in the
air where they played, and swooped and danced in the sky.
That’s when Hopscotch spotted them – hunters with guns out for practise shooting. The men saw the flock of birds, and started to run toward them. “Hide, Pleeleah,” Hopscotch shouted, then he headed for the flock, screeching a warning, “RR-RR-RR
Men, guns, hide!” But the hunters came so fast, their weapons raised! Hopscotch screeched one more warning – RR-RR-RR!”, then fell to the ground at the hunters’ feet.
The men were so surprised, they stopped in their tracks. Hopscotch started hopping and falling on his side, purposely, to lead the hunters away from Pleeleah and the flock. The men raised their guns, but the little bird somersaulted into the bushes and rolled inside an old, rotting, hollow log.
Angry at being outwitted by a bird, the men searched long and hard for him. Inside the log, Hopscotch longed to fly into the cool, fresh air. It smelled so dank and stuffy inside the log, he could hardly breathe. The sound of the hunters terrified him and he felt like rushing out of the log and flying away into the forest. But he knew he mustn’t. At last, the hunters became bored with their search and left.
All the birds in the flock were gone when Hopscotch hopped warily from the log and breathed in the clean, fragrant air. How good it felt after sitting so long inside the moldy log. Suddenly he heard, “Leap High, Leap High!”
It was Pleeleah – she had hidden behind a rock while the hunters searched for him. Together they flew into the blue sky and the gold of the evening sun seemed to drip like raindrops from their wings. They chased each other and played Catch Me If You Can in the sunset. In the days that followed they flew to the meadow and searched for fat juicy worms and plump bugs among the flowers, and they sang and splashed in the stream – until, one day, Pleeleah told him it was time for them to build a nest.
As for the rest of the birds in the flock, they felt differently about Hopscotch. Now, they didn’t laugh at him, or make fun of him when he fell. The flock saw beyond his missing leg to the brave, courageous bird inside, who struggled to learn to live with only one leg. Oh, they still called him Hopscotch – but, now, they said his name with respect!