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So last month my mom and I, randomly, wrote a fairy tale. Via texts. Y'know, a sentence or two at a time, back and forth.


Once upon a time…

In a far off kingdom…

There was a small bird named Robert. Robert was a robin, a jolly old soul who liked to spend time amongst the humans of his land. Particularly one young girl named Annabelle.

Annabelle was not a fairy princess, but was instead a peasant girl who wandered the forests looking for wildflowers and berries and other pretty and delicious things. She loved the bird songs and the crickets and other sounds of the forest. But she especially loved bird song, Robert the Robin's song in particular.

One day something strange happened…

As Annabelle was walking through the woods, she heard the strangest noise. Robert was talking to her.

Talking! Really talking! Like any old human would.

Telling her that he liked her and would like to sit on her shoulder.

"But little Robin, I didn't know you could speak!" Annabelle cried in her surprise.

“I had to be sure you would listen to me,” said Robert.

Annabelle thought about that for a moment as she walked and then nodded. "I suppose that's true."

Suddenly Robert flew up into a tree! Annabelle looked around but saw nothing. Then she heard something on the path coming toward her.

Annabelle paused. "Robert?" She called up tentatively, and he chirped reassuringly. Annabelle waited to see what was coming toward her.

What is it, a wild animal, a person, or something else? A young man!

The young man had been muttering to himself as he traipsed through the woods, but he paused when he saw Annabelle on the path in front of him.

He was a handsome man and looked stunned to see another person in the woods.

"What are you doing here?" He said accusingly, and Annabelle shot back, "I walk these woods almost every day!" Despite his tone, she noticed he had a voice as handsome as his form.
"These are not public woods," said the man angrily.

"Who says they are not?" Annabelle retorted, just as angrily.

“I do!” said the man.

“Is it yours?” said Ammabelle. "Then who are you?" she continued. "I've never seen you walk these woods before."

“I'm the owner of these woods. You are trespassing.”

"Are you really the owner?" Another voice, scratchy but commanding, asked from above the two humans. Robert the Robin flew down to land on the ground between Annabelle and the handsome young man. "Are you truly?"

"Of course, why should I lie?"

Robert the Robin blinked up at the handsome young man for a long moment, head cocked to one side. Eventually the young man grew uncomfortable. "Why aren't you surprised at his speaking?" Annabelle asked.

“I've never heard a bird talk,” said the man. “I am. D. Marcus. Withers, second son of Fergus. L. Withers.”

Annabelle answered, “why aren't the roads and paths posted if you don't want people using them?” And you don't actually own the woods, do you?" she added triumphantly. "I've heard of your father, of course, but I've never seen him on these paths either. Would he consider me trespassing?"

"Yes he would! He wants nothing to do with villagers. Turn around and get out of here!"

Annabelle stamped her foot. "You never come here! Many villagers come to these woods for food!"

"Not after I tell my father!"

"But why?" Annabelle asked. "Why do you care?"

"It's the principle of it."

"What principle?" Annabelle asked in confusion.

"The principle of private property!"
"How can a forest, full of wild animals and wild things, be private property?" Annabelle asked.

“Go back, Annabelle,” said Robert. “I'll take care of it.” He gave a loud whistle and all of the birds and animals left the forest.

The handsome second son stared around him in astonishment, and Annabelle cried out. "Oh, Robert! What have you done?!"

"I simply sent them away. He doesn't want to share."

Annabelle scowled at D. Marcus Withers. "Look what you've done!"she said.

The second son quickly retorted, "Your pet Robin did it, not I!"

"Don't be silly, you said you wanted everyone out of your woods."

Annabelle felt like crying. Withers looked thoroughly discombobulated. "These woods won't survive without all the animals," he said.

"So have you changed your mind?" asked Robert.

The handsome second son scowled. "My family will not be, be bullied by birds and wild animals!"

“Okay,” Said Robert. “Okay,” said Annabelle. “Let's go, Robert,” and they turned to leave.

“Stop!” shouted D. Marcus, “get the animals back!”

"Are you willing to share the forest?" Annabelle asked, looking back over her shoulder.

"With all the animals and the villagers?" added Robert the Robin.

“No!” D. Marcus shouted again. Annabelle shrugged her shoulders and walked out of the forrest. D. Marcus ran back the way he came. The forrest was very quiet that night, there were no owls or other night creatures.

The same was true for the next several nights and days, no birdsong or chirps or any kind of sound at all. Robert the Robin stayed near Annabelle's cottage, and she wept every evening over the Withers' folly.

The handsome second son crept into the forest every night thinking the animals would return but none did. Then one night a wry large black bear met him.

Withers shied back as the bear stood up on its hind legs. "Are the other animals coming back?" he asked tentatively, deciding that if robins can speak then so can bears.

"No," said the bear in a gruff, reverberating voice. "Nor will they if you will not share these woods. I was sent to eat you but I don't like humans so I'll wait a few days. I'm not hungry yet anyway."

"Oh," said D. Marcus. "Thank you, I suppose?"

“Not yet. There doesn't seem to be anything else to eat here but some berries and green apples.”

"Don't bears like berries and green apples sometimes?" The second son asked tentatively.

"I prefer meat."

"I'm not very good meat anyway," Withers said, trying to sound confident rather than diffident. "Far too scrawny, you know."

"And probably tough as acorns."

"Absolutely," said the second son gratefully. "Look, is the Robin about? I'd like to talk to him."

"He's with his friend. That girl."

Withers stamped his foot and immediately wished he had not made such a childish move, even in front of only a bear. "That girl is ruining everything!"

"Why?" said the bear. "She likes to walk here as much as the rest of us, and she collects the trash that others leave."

"What trash?" Withers demanded indignantly.

"Look around, there's plenty. A bag, wrapping paper, what is that metal thing?"

Withers looked around the forest. "A trap," he said at last when he saw where the bear was looking. "For trapping smaller animals than you, of course."

“What!? How barbaric.”

"Not all of us can catch and kill our food with our bare--paws," said Withers.

“I know there are quicker ways.”

"Those ways aren't always possible," Withers said evenly. "Do you always kill your food quickly?"

“Yes, I do, why make it suffer?”

"This is all beside the point," the handsome young man said impatiently and changed tactics. "Look, my family have no trouble with the birds and animals who live here--this is their home, where they belong! Surely you all can see that? Do you really want those other humans traipsing through your grounds and hunting you?"

“What you mean is you are the only one who can hunt us.”

"But we don't hunt you!" Withers protested. "At least, not much," he added weakly and decided he didn't enjoy speaking with bears very much.

“You hunt and trap my friends.”

"We all have to survive," Withers said, and the bear replied quickly, "As do the villagers, who eat the fruits of this forest like the rest of us."

“B-b-but....” Withers scowled and turned away. "Enough! My family will not be held hostage by-by animals and lowly peasants!" He stalked off, and the bear called after him, "Don't forget to come back in a couple days, I'll be quite hungry by then."

When Withers had returned to the house, the bear roared and the animals and birds came out of hiding, and Robert and Annabelle returned to the forest. The bear warned everybody about the trap. Annabelle found a long thick stick to spring it and looked for more.

"Vile man!" Annabelle stormed as she hunted for traps. Robert the Robin flew at shoulder height, chirping when he thought he saw something. "These weren't here a few days ago. Trying to lure you all back so he could trap you all!"

“Do you think he put them here after he chased us away?” said the bird.

“No, he knew everyone was gone,” said Annabelle, “that would be silly, he must have been setting them when he found us.”

"He has no respect," Annabelle scoffed, "and how his family thinks they can own the forest is beyond my understanding!"

“I don't think he even respects himself,” said the bear. “He doesn't respect me, but he is afraid of me.”

"Doesn't respect himself?" Annabelle asked and looked at the bear speculatively. "Perhaps we should have you and your family always stand guard...I don't suppose that will work very well, though, will it."

“No, almost everybody is afraid of us. Except fleas and mosquitos.”

Annabelle giggled. "Are fleas or mosquitoes scared of anyone or anything?"

“Getting swatted,” said the bear.

“Oh, but it happens so fast, they don't have time to fear it,” answered Annabelle.

Annabelle turned thoughtful and looked to Robert. "What are we going to do about the Withers?" She asked the Robin.

“They must learn to share with others. I must go, someone is coming again.”

"Oh no," Annabelle said in fear, and Robert settled on her shoulder comfortingly.

"The Withers again, or a villager?" asked the bear.

“I don't know, somebody noisy,” said Annabelle. “Withers was quiet last time, it must be a villager,” Robert agreed.

Robert and Annabelle waited to see who would be on the path. Annabelle gasped when she saw who it was--for surely it was Withers Sr, D. Marcus' father! An older, dignified man in clothes even finer than what his son had worn, walking with a silver-topped cane.

“Hello,” said Robert. Annabelle couldn't say anything, she was stunned.

"Hello," the old man Withers said cordially to the Robin. His son had gotten his melodic voice from his father. "I understand my family and yours are having difficulties about sharing."

“Yes. Can you do something about it?”

"My son," Withers said thoughtfully, "is an impetuous young man."

“Your son is an arrogant egotistical, jackass!” Annabelle replied bluntly.

Withers blinked, then nodded slowly. "You have a point," he conceded, and it was Annabelle's turn to blink in surprise. "He also likes to think he speaks for the family."

Withers’ response was rather surprising. “Do you mean he doesn't?” asked Annabelle.

"Not always," the old man's voice turned stern, "and not in this instance." He looked at the assembled forest dwellers, his gaze including Annabelle. "This land belongs to us all," he proclaimed.

“Do you mean the villagers have your permission to walk in the woods, collect firewood and food here?”

"Yes," Withers said with finality, and Annabelle started dancing for joy.

“Robert,” she cried, “bring everybody back!”

Robert swept up into the sky, singing so loud his voice pierced the clouds. The other animals and birds started flowing back into the forest. Annabelle wanted to cheer.


My Auntie Ethel died yesterday. This grief is strange to me--she's been fading away for years now, mentally, to the point the past few times I've seen her I'm not always sure she remembers who I am, only that she knows and likes me; my mom today said she's been missing her sister for years, and it's true. (We used to have such conversations--she was the best aunt for a precocious pre-teen, who would sit and listen and engage; I could still talk to her about what I was studying up until grad school.) And after the wrench that was my dad last year, after the pain and duty that came after his passing, this is...strangely light. I can grieve without having to worry about who will look after mom and how the hell do I administer an estate and who will take care of the cat. I can just be sad.
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