A long time ago, when bees didn’t have wings and birds didn’t have beaks, when human beings were small and stout, there was a valley in the shadow of a snow capped mountain. They valley used to be verdant and bountiful. All the creatures who lived there had taken advantage of the earth’s beneficence for centuries, and had forgotten to give praise and thanks to Avikwaame, the mountain spirit, manipulator of seasons and influencer of weather. The mountain spirit took her benevolent hand off the valley and a record breaking heat wave pervaded. Almost everything that grew from the ground had shriveled up. Rivers and lakes had dried up. All the creatures became desperate and selfish.
Two pairs of eyes stared at the girl eating a fruit ice. Her brothers had traveled up the mountain to gather snow for their parched orchard. By the time the brothers returned the snow had melted except for a dense ball of ice. The brothers sprinkled the cool mountain water over dying crops and fruit trees. The mother dripped plum juice onto the ball of ice and gave the refreshment to her daughter. The fruit ice melted through her chubby fingers and dripped onto her stubby toes.
A bee crawled up her shoulder, and whispered into her ear, “Won’t you share your popsicle with little ol’ me?”
The girl squinted at the bee. “No way,” she said. “My brothers walked for hours to bring this ice, and my mother pulled the plum off the tree. I can’t share with you.”
“It’s melting. You can’t eat it fast enough. I can help you,” said the bee.
Just the girl was about to flick the bee off her shoulder, he stuttered, “I can sweeten it with my honey.”
In those days fruit wasn’t as sweet as it is today. “Well, okay,” said the girl.
Then a bird swooped down from a leafless tree branch. He said he’d like to help eat the cool and refreshing concoction too. This bird was a sneaky creature that spent his days trying to steal the bee’s honey, and fruit from the girl’s orchard.
“Why should we share this popsicle with you?” yelled the bee. “I walk long and far to find flowers to pollinate for my honey, and the girl works all day in the orchard so that the trees produce fruit. All you do is steal other people’s food. Go away!”
The bird stood on his head and thought for a while about how he could contribute. After all the blood rushed to his bird brain he popped right side up and came up with a plan. “If you share the pop…poppy…whatever you called it, I’ll fly up to the mountain and bring more ice, then we could make more of these, um, these whatchamacallits.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said the bee, who thought of himself as being the clever one. “You’re not such a bird brain after all.”
“Thank you.” the bird beamed, taking criticism as a compliment.
“Girl, can you climb the tree and bring fruit from the higher branches?” asked the bee.
“I think so,” the girl said. “Yes, I can. I’ll do it.” She’d never climbed a tree before. Her legs were too short and her arms were too stubby. The girl and her mother used a pole to shake the fruit off the tree tops, which in better times, was enough to sustain the family for months. The stubborn fruits, at the top were usually left to rot.
The girl, the bee and the bird shared the fruit honey popsicle. The refreshment put them in an amiable mood. Then bee decided it was time that they set off in different directions to gather the ingredients for making fruit honey popsicles.
The bird flew up to the mountain peak with a wide woven basket in his twiggy feet. He wobbled left and right, dipped down and then a gust of wind turned him upside down. The bird persevered, and made his way to the mountain peak. “Avikwaame, I pray to you to help me,” said the bird as he flew closer to the mountain peak.
The bee had to cross the valley to reach the ridge where there were still a few surviving flowers to pollinate. It was a long and arduous journey on six minuscule legs. Bee worried that he wouldn’t make it back in time to make honey, the ice that bird brought back would melt, and all their hard work would be for nothing. Despite his doubts, the bee continued his journey to the ridge. “Please, oh great Avikwaame, help me finish in time, said the bee when he reached the ridge.
The girl stood under the plum tree, closed her eyes and imagined herself with simian arms and legs and climbing up to the highest branches. When she opened her eyes she was still standing on squat little legs staring up at the tall tree. She tried climbing the trunk but her stumpy arms and legs wouldn’t assist her. She jumped up trying to reach the lowest branch. She stood on crates and then brought over a ladder, but they were made like the people who built them, so she was unable to reach very high. These efforts exhausted her. She was overheated and on the way to dehydration. She lay down on the hot ground. The snow melt her brothers sprinkled in the morning had dried up. “Avikwaame, bring us some rain and respite. I don’t want to die of thirst,” said the girl.
The mountain spirit watched the girl, the bird and the bee from her mountain perch. She liked what she saw. Their efforts weren’t harmonious, but at least they were trying to do something together. It was time to swoop in an assist those three. It was time to answer their prayers. Avikwaame placed her hand over the valley and clouds gathered. A gentle rain fell on the girl’s crimson cheeks, and on the plum trees. Water filled the wrinkles in the ground, and began to refill the creeks and streams.
Then Avikwaame performed a deeper, more permanent magic. The bird was given a stronger beak to carry the basket back to the valley, and this new beak would allow him to eat seeds and dig for worms, so he wouldn’t spend the rest of his day stealing bee’s honey and the girl’s fruit. The bee was given wings so that he could return to the valley quickly. For the rest of his life he’d be able to pollinate more flowers and make more honey, which would be produced in excess. Each winter he would live off the stores and have enough to share with the other creatures. The girl was given longer arms and legs so that she could climb, and walk faster and eventually she’d learn to run, and every morning after, she would run up the mountain and pray to Avikwaame.
The girl climbed the tree and picked more plums than she needed. The bee found more flowers and made an enormous batch of honey. The bird made two trips to the mountain top to gather ice for the whatchamacallits. They had enough ingredients to make popsicles for all the creatures of the valley. The creatures praised Avikwaame. They danced for her and sang songs to her. There was harmony in the valley once again.
(Short story based on the Hopi folktale, “The Bird and the Aysa.”)
Originally published on Reedsy, https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/53/submissions/28688/