Yesterday’s post, Just the Right Word, was about writing realistic fiction with a third grade class. I modeled taking an event from one’s one life – a slice of life – to create a work of fiction. As a child, I had a yellow parakeet that frequently escaped his cage (the part about the window in this story is true!). “The Escape Artist” was composed over the course of several days with the class making suggestions during the process, some of which strengthened the story profoundly.
Tweety Bird sat inside his cage on his swing, rocking back and forth. He lifted one yellow wing, preened it, fluffed all of his yellow feathers, and went back to swinging.
As if he didn’t know Jake was watching.
“You don’t fool me, Bird.”
Tweety blinked his purple eyes at Jake and kept on swinging.
“Jake,” Mom called from the kitchen, “Did you get the mail for me like I asked you to?”
“No, ma’am,” Jake replied. “I’ll go now.”
As Jake left the living room, he turned back toward the birdcage. He shook his finger at Tweety:
“You better stay put. I’m going to figure out how you keep escaping from your cage.”
With that, he walked through the front door.
As soon as the door closed behind Jake, Tommy popped up from behind the sofa. He was wearing his Batman costume, mask, cape, and all.
Tommy looked to the left.
He looked to the right.
Tommy snuck very Ninja-like over to the cage.
“Don’t worry, Robin,” Tommy whispered to Tweety Bird. “I’m here!”
Tweety Bird chirped happily.
Tommy reached for the door of the cage just as the front door opened and Jake walked back into the living room.
“The mail truck is on its way down the street … HEY! TOMMY! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!”
Tommy twirled around and hurtled himself in one motion over the top of the sofa. He crashed onto the floor on the other side.
“Uggghhhh,” came Tommy’s voice from behind the sofa.
Jake stomped over to the couch. “You little dirtbag! You’ve been letting Tweety out this whole time and I thought he was doing it all by himself. Some mystery!”
“Acckkk…” groaned Tommy. “I think I hurt myself.”
“I don’t care!”
“And I haven’t been letting him out ALL the time. Sometimes Robin gets out by himself,” said Tommy, beginning to cry.
Mom, with her radar-hearing for crying, came into the living room from the kitchen.
“What’s going on in here?” she demanded, with her hands on her hips.
Tommy wailed louder. “I’m HHHUUUUURRRRT!”
Mom stepped over to Jake. “What did you do to your brother?”
“I didn’t do anything to him!” shouted Jake. “I caught him trying to let Tweety out of the cage! He’s been doing it all along!”
“Tommy, is this true?” Mom asked the sofa. “Have you been letting Tweety out of his cage?”
Loud sniffles echoed behind the sofa. “Maybe once or twice … and he’s not Tweety, he’s Robin!”
“He’s Tweety, you bonehead!” Jake rolled his eyes.
“Jake!” Mom snapped. “You used to like make-believe, too. Besides, Tweety – or Robin – has gotten out of the cage when you boys are not home, so it’s not always Tommy letting him out.”
Mom shoved the sofa over and pulled Tommy out from behind it. “Come on, let’s go have some cookies and milk, Batman. You too, Jake.”
Just as they turned toward the kitchen, a scratching sound came from the birdcage.
They turned back.
Right before their eyes, Tweety, clinging to the bars on the front of the cage, used his beak to lift the cage door so that it fell open.
Tweety looked to the left.
He looked to the right.
And he flew out of the cage!
“Fly, Robin, fly!” screamed Tommy, jumping up and down, his Batman cape flapping.
“Jake!” cried Mom. “Go grab a dishtowel! We have to catch Tweety!”
Jake ran for the towel. He came back and threw it at Tweety, who was squawking madly and flying back across the room in confusion. The towel landed on Mom’s head.
Tommy ripped off his cape – Jake could hear the Velcro – and swiped at Tweety, who was now flying rather low. Tommy missed. Feathers floated through the air as Tweety flew high again.
Jake stared as Tweety flew as hard as he could across the living room, right toward the huge picture window with a view of the trees in the front yard.
Oh no, Jake thought, he doesn’t know that’s a window! He thinks he will escape to the outside!
Just then, Tweety smacked into the window with a sickening SPLAT. He slid down the glass and landed on the floor.
“NO!” shouted Jake!
“Tweety!” cried Mom.
“ROBIN!” screamed Tommy.
All three of them rushed over to Tweety’s crumpled yellow body.
Tweety’s eyes were closed.
He’s broken his neck, thought Jake. Hot tears stung his eyes.
Then he noticed that Tweety had opened one purple eye.
“Robin, you’re all right!” shouted Tommy, jumping up and down.
“Shhh, let’s be calm and quiet,” said Mom. Very carefully, she picked Tweety up.
Tweety promptly bit her hand as hard as he could with his beak.
“OUCH! Quick, Tommy, give me your cape!”
Tommy handed Mom his Batman cape. Mom covered Tweety, head and all, and wrapped the cape into a tiny bundle.
“Ok, escape artist, back to your cage you go,” she said, and she carried him over, put the bundle inside the cage, and shook gently until Tweety stepped out. She shut the cage door.
Tweety looked at them with his purple eyes. He lifted a wing, preened it, then climbed up the bars on the side of the cage to hop on his swing, like nothing at all had happened.
“I’ll have to get one of my ponytail holders from the bathroom to keep the cage door tied shut from now on,” said Mom. “We must keep Tweety safe.”
Tommy looked through the bars at Tweety. “Sorry, Robin,” he said. “It’s better this way.”
Tweety chirped. He swung back and forth on his swing.
Jake sighed. “At least he’s all right.” He looked at his little brother.
“You know, Tommy,” he said, “I have a Batman flashlight that I used for the Bat signal, if you want it.”
“Awesome!” said Tommy. “I can shine it on the wall behind the cage. I can still play with Robin.”
With that Tweety chirped loudly, flapped his wings several times, then held them out like a bat, just for a second, before he settled back to swinging.
Tommy and Jake stared at Tweety with their mouths hanging open.
“That’s one tricky bird,” Mom smiled. “You never know what he might be up to next.”
Tweety blinked his purple eyes and kept on swinging.
As if he didn’t know all three humans were watching.