Somehow Tommy got to thinking about that tree in his back yard. He sat there in his Social Studies class, looking out the window at the parking lot and thinking about that tree. Once, about two years ago, he had been climbing that same tree and fallen out. Twisted his ankle and been grounded for a week. He never told his mother, but the reason he fell was because, and he was sure of this, a bird yelled at him.
That isn’t to say that it squawked or cawed at him. It had yelled “Get down off there!” and the startled boy had lost his grip and fallen.
But after the fall he had been more focused on the pain, then the punishment and he had mostly forgotten about it. Until that Social Studies class.
He sat there thinking about that bird, and about the tree the bird lived in. As far as Tommy had ever noticed before or since. The tree had been there when his family moved into the house. Tommy had been five at the time. He supposed it must have grown some since then, that’s what trees did, right? But he had never bothered to notice it grow. He’d have to see if there were any photos at home that showed the tree when he moved in. What if it hadn’t grown? What would that prove?
Maybe it wasn’t a real tree. Maybe it was a facsimile of a tree designed to house that bird (and possibly other intelligent animals). Perhaps inside that tree there were all manner of superintelligent animals living. Could it be? Squirrels? He’d never seen any in the tree. Ants? There’s always been lots of ants, but they were probably food for the birds. It was probably just the birds that were smart, Tommy decided. Maybe it was just the one bird that was smart.
The bird had been one of those little brown ones that were always around. What kind was that, Tommy wondered. Were those sparrows? He wouldn’t be surprised if they were, but didn’t know for sure. Maybe he could stop into the library before he headed back home. The library was bound to have some sort of book about birds. And maybe, he realized, a book about trees. Tommy didn’t even know what kind of tree it was, now that he thought about it. It wasn’t a christmas tree-style tree with all the needles. It was a leafy one. Maybe it was a maple tree. The bark got sticky sometimes. Maybe that was maple syrup.
Ants ate that sticky syrup, didn’t they? Maybe that’s why the bird put it there. It was there to feed the ants that the bird would eat. It was like a farm. The bird kept a supply of ants around so it could eat them without having to leave the tree. It made sense. Plus, it proved that the bird wasn’t a robot. That was one of the theories Tommy had held, but now he knew better. Robots wouldn’t have to eat, so it wouldn’t have any ants.
What did that leave? Was the bird an alien? It didn’t seem likely. Why would an alien look like a bird? That was just silly. It was more likely it was just a regular bird that was smart. But why? How did it get smart. Wait. Wait. Maybe all birds were smart.
What if all of them were smart? Even if it was just the sparrow or whatever. That meant that there were probably millions of smart birds in the world. Was that a good thing? The bird hadn’t tried to attack Tommy. Just yelled at him. Maybe it was nice. But what if it wasn’t? What if none of them were? Just what was that bird hiding in that tree? Weapons? Weapons of Mass Destruction? The birds are planning a war!
Tommy had to know. He would skip the library today. Better to climb the tree and find what was inside. If he lived until tomorrow, that’s when he could do research. Once school was over, he would race home and climb that tree!
“Pencils down,” said Mr. Moirs. Tommy realized his pencil was already down. He had neglected to write the test. In the end he received and F and had to repeat the sixth grade.