There is someone you should meet. His name? BB. He is a lovebird. No, not the metaphorical kind. The molting kind. A real, feathery bundle of cuteness.
Like the rest of his avian counterparts, BB lives a simple life. Well check that - he did enjoy such a life until a fateful event, on a fateful day, turns his world upside down.
Through an unfortunate and cruel coincidence, everything BB knows will be upended. Through no fault of his own, BB will lose all he once held dear. The lovebird will become a jailbird.
He will be unjustly accused. He will be misunderstood. He will be mistreated. He will suffer the pain of lost love. But he will also discover the incredible power of a single positive thought. And the power of dreams.
This is BB's story...
The door to the First Federal Bank slowly opens. A bank clerk, finishing a phone call, issues the customary greeting.
"Good afternoon. How may I help ---"
She looks up, expecting to meet a customer, but not a soul can be seen. The middle-aged teller is perplexed. She heard the bell on the door ring. She heard the whizzing sounds of bustling traffic sneaking in from Main Street. She even heard the approaching footsteps, albeit a bit lighter than usual.
Suddenly, the confused chug of her thought-train is derailed by the dreaded words. The words which no bank employee ever wants to hear.
"Alright! Listen up! Follow my orders and nobody has to get hurt. This is a holdup."
Somewhat surprisingly, the threatening command doesn't ratchet up the panic meter as much as might be expected. Perhaps the high pitch of the bandit's voice has something to do with it. And then there is the remaining matter of where the words are coming from.
Slowly she leans forward, peering over the counter. She lowers her widened eyes toward the immaculate, tiled floor. There she discovers the culprit. An exceptionally-short, masked individual. Any comfort afforded by the diminutive desperado's size is taken away by the long-barreled weapon pointing upward.
In a flash, the teller's subconscious serves up a thought. That looks very similar to the toy gun I saw in the mall a few months back. But assumptions can be deadly in situations such as these. No one knows this better than a seasoned bank professional such as herself.
Meanwhile, across the street, another height-challenged creature waddles down the sidewalk. He too wears a mask. But in his defense, BB didn't put on his mask. Nor can he remove it. As a masked lovebird, he was hatched with it.
Coincidentally, a convertible pulls alongside BB as he walks, blasting the rhythmic vibrations of Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. How ironic. And ominous. For, though he doesn't yet know it, one lovebird's life is about to unfortunately change. The goings-on across the street, in the First Federal Bank, will soon alter his comfortable existence.
Talk about "wrong place, wrong time." And talk about "wrong size, wrong appearance" - because BB will be mistakenly identified as the bank robber by eyewitnesses on the scene.
Oh the luck.
The drab portal to the interrogation room creaks open. The meticulously-polished footwear of Detective Brad Kopp appear in the doorway.
"Alright fella, let's get down to b ---"
The mustached police veteran halts. It seems his little suspect has managed to take flight. Anger turns his face nearly as red as a blaring siren. Turning back toward the door, Kopp fires a verbal round on his desk-cuffed colleagues.
"What is going on out here?! So you just let a robbery suspect waddle out the door? Come on! I mean, I know paperwork can be distracting - what with the rectangular shape and ink and all. But now my main guy is gone. Just gone!"
A voice replies.
"No one has exited that door, sir."
Hands on hips, the detective tilts his graying head and combs the precincts of his brain for an answer. As he turns around to re-enter the interrogation room, a second voice mumbles.
"Not real sure how that guy could open a door...with the wing thingies."
Giggles escape from smirked lips across the network of desks.
"What's that?," snarls Kopp.
The door slams shut.
Where could he have gone? So occupied with this question is Kopp that he doesn't notice the slightly-swaying light fixture above his head. Not immediately, anyway. Finally he lifts his strained eyes - the very eyes which have fallen upon decades of sad sights and human wickedness. Now he deals with a suspect of a different...*ahem*...pattern.
Deflecting the light rays with his right palm, Kopp squints. Black eyes stare back at him. Suspect found.
"Get down from there! You've got some questions to answer."
"I'm fine up here, thank you. Fantastic view."
"I said get down here. I will not blind myself because of you. Nice disappearing trick but the magic show is over. Now come on and let's talk."
Kopp extends his rolled-up sleeve. "Come on, I won't hurt you." BB inches his way around the hanging lamp, then stops. After a nod of the detective's head, BB finally and hesitantly dismounts onto the human limb.
"Take a seat." Once situated in the time-worn chair, BB disappears from view yet again. "This might not work," admits Kopp with an irrepressible laugh.
Peck. Peck. Detective Kopp is seated at the head of the interrogation table, looking down at a yellow legal pad. Peck. Peck. Over the course of his career, he has acquired an almost superhuman ability to block out all noises not immediately relevant. Peck. Peck. Peck. Finally he looks up. BB is pecking on the buttons of the recording device.
"Hey, cut that out," orders Kopp. "I will handle the recording."
BB instantly stops. The detective sighs.
"We both know why you're here, BB." Kopp leans his head toward his right shoulder as he speaks. To an outside observer, looking into the room, it would appear that the seasoned investigator has taken leave of his senses. Either that, or he suffers from some unfortunate neck spasm. In actuality, he is addressing his suspect. BB is perched on his shoulder.
"Why don't you save us both a lot of time and confess."
"Confess to what?"
Kopp purses his chapped lips. "Why did you do it, BB?"
"Do what, Detective?"
A fist of anger pounds the table. Startled, BB flutters onto the table in front of Kopp.
"Why did you rob the First Featheral Bank in the late afternoon on the twenty-third of September? What's the motive? What were you thinking?"
BB tilts his masked head to the side. "Did you just say 'First FEATHERal Bank'?"
"Now why would I say that? Stop deflecting and start answering. The First FEDeral Bank - why did you hold it up?"
"You do realize that I'm a bird, right? I eat, sleep and poop for a living."
"I know that's what you claim. It's a handy alibi. But the facts are not in your favor. Multiple witnesses place someone who fits your description at the scene. Short, nose like a beak, wearing a mask."
BB is incredulous. "Detective, are you actually saying these things out loud? Surely you cannot be serious!"
"I have never been more serious in my life. I'm so serious, I should have my own satellite radio corporation. And my name's not Shirley. Actually, my sister's name is but ---" Kopp suddenly hears himself, snapping back to a less ridiculous approach.
"Let's come at this another way. We have physical evidence linking you to the crime."
BB calmly asks, "Such as?"
Stroking his facial stubble, Kopp smugly grins. "The gun. And not just any kind of gun. A BB gun." He pauses for dramatic effect. "So BB, have you been missing your BB gun? That's right - your name is literally all over this thing."
"Detective, are you feeling okay? Or is this some sort of comedy bit? I mean, when does the camera crew jump out?"
"Oh there are cameras all right. Don't you worry about that. But there's nothing funny about this process, and I don't find comedy in what you did."
The two creatures glare at each other. Finally, BB breaks the painfully-awkward silence. "Detective, I know you have a job to do. But I can't give you what you want, because I simply didn't do it. I am only a bird. And a lovebird at that." He begins whistling a vaguely-familiar tune to Kopp's ears. Then he recites some of the lyrics with a slight alteration.
🎵 "Just a good ol' bird. Never meaning no harm. Making my way the only way I know how."
Kopp extends a finger in the direction of the door. "Get out."
Order in the court? Hardly. Unsettled chatter. Anxious questioning. Gasps. A crowd gathers around the defendant's table. The judge has not yet emerged from his chamber and there is already something to talk about.
Within the circle of curious onlookers, motionless on the tabletop, lies one BB - flat on his feathered back. "Is he okay?," inquires a voice from the crowd. "What's wrong with him?," asks another. "Is he...dead?," a third voice hesitantly wonders.
Presently, a deep voice interjects with authority. "Alright, people. Back to your seats. Remember you are in a court of law. I know how to handle this." The voice belongs to one J. Jay Lawson - accomplished public defender and, as such, BB's legal representative.
A third-generation attorney, Lawson has tirelessly defended the rights of the disadvantaged for two and a half decades. He has prided himself on obtaining justice for the proverbial underdog - those who are lacking in financial resources and social status. Considering the zoological identity of his latest client, perhaps he should expand his professional mission to include underBIRDS? Though he takes his work very seriously, this thought never fails to evoke a smile.
Lawson's tall and lanky frame towers over his unconscious client. The courtroom spectators, now seated, stare in anxious silence. Lawson removes his black-rimmed eyeglasses, clears his throat and...whistles.
What a sight - this polished, dapper warrior of truth and justice whistling in court. A brave member of the crowd heckles. "Does anyone else have a hankering to watch The Andy Griffith Show?" Pockets of laughter escape from rapt faces. Ignoring this remark, Lawson persists in his whistling.
Suddenly, there is movement on the table. The diminutive defendant flips over in a flash. A single shake of his feathers and BB waddles his way toward his human advocate. "Welcome back, Sleeping Birdie. Glad you could join us." Scanning the courtroom with a sigh, Lawson takes his seat.
"BB, I get the feeling that you don't view this situation with the utmost seriousness." Lawson is leaning toward his avian client, speaking only a notch or two above a whisper.
"What makes you say that?," replies BB.
"Well, there was that time you went to sleep in court. Remember?"
BB giggles. Lawson wrinkles his forehead. "See? That right there is exactly what I'm talking about. Here you are, on trial in a human court, charged with bank robbery. This is serious business. This is your life, BB. Your very life is at stake. And I am here to defend it. And there you are...laughing."
"Oh come on," retorts BB. "Give me a break. I am a bird. A bird. I don't rob human banks, I don't break human laws and I don't react to situations in your world like humans do. I came from an egg. Remember that the next time you're flippin' an omelette. Respect who I am instead of trying to make me into your image. Is that too much to ask, Mr. Lawson?"
"That's beautiful, BB. Absolutely beautiful. And you know what? When you are molting away behind bars, you will have plenty-o-time to come up with all kinds of beautiful sentiments. And hey! Maybe your cellmate will play the harp or the violin for you. But only one thing matters today, in this court. Did you or did you not, in fact, rob the First Federal Bank? If the court finds in the affirmative, then it's bye-bye-birdie. It's my job to see that doesn't happen. So puh-leeze, BB, in the name of all that is chirpy, take this seriously."
BB lowers his head, giving the misleading impression of actually heeding his counsel's plea. After a few moments of seeming reflection, he speaks again. "Mr. Lawson, once upon a time, someone very dear to me taught me a valuable lesson. I am flying on the wings of that lesson into this situation. The exact wording of it is very personal. The only other creature I've shared it with is my tweetheart. But here's the yolk of it: I don't let anything ruffle my feathers. Take a good look. Are my feathers ruffled?"
"A little," deadpans Lawson.
"Well I haven't been up long. And it's a little drafty in here." BB motions with his wing for Lawson to come closer. The acclaimed attorney uncomfortably inches his head closer to the table. BB continues, assigning emphasis to each word. "Trust me, I'm not worried."
The cold cell door slams shut with an attitude. "Enjoy your stay. Or not." The hulking guard displays a contemptible grin, creasing a scarred and stony face.
BB stretches his wings across the iron bars. "Ok. Now I'm startin' to get a lil' worried."
The bird world hums along to the pristine rhythm of melodic sound. BB's new world? Not so much. From the harsh clang of forbidding metal to the blush-worthy commentaries of fellow inmates - not exactly a lovebird's idea of harmony. Harmony. Oh sweet harmony. Such a lovely word, such a wonderful thing, such a beautiful --- No, BB mustn't allow his thoughts to go there right now. Too distracting. There are more pressing concerns at the moment.
Suddenly the bona fide jailbird detects a somewhat-more-pleasing tune. It seems to be near. Yes, it is definitely near. Very near. But where - where exactly is it coming from? It is assuredly a human-made sound. One of the less-vexing ones.
At last BB arrives at the unavoidable conclusion. The mystery music is in the same room, in the same cell, with him. It's behind him. Slowly he turns to literally face the music.
There, on the top bunk of two stone-hard beds, lies BB's new roommate. The gray-haired stranger is playing (of all things) a harmonica. Here we go again, says BB to himself. Harmonica. Harmonic. Harmony. I wonder what Har --- no, not now. Focus, BB. Focus.
The last lilting note eventually fades into the hope-plucked air of the iron cage. The man, lying on his back, stares in awkward silence at the dingy ceiling. BB accepts the ice-breaker role.
"I enjoyed that."
After an eternity of more silence (or so it seems), the man speaks. "Bob White."
BB is a tad confused. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Bob White," the man repeats. He has not stopped glaring at the ceiling.
BB scratches for a tactful response. "Well I ---"
"Bob White. That's my name. And yours?" Still his eyes have not left the ceiling. BB begins to laugh.
"Hear a zinger, didya?," asks the man.
"I'm sorry - did you say your name is Bob White?" BB stretches out the name for emphasis.
"As a matter of fact I did. What's so funny?"
"Ok, ok. I'll play along. Nice to meet ya, Bob White. Now my turn. I guess my name will be...Dan Quail." BB just about pops his plumage with laughter. He chirps, squawks and flaps his lovebird wings. It's this last sequence of sounds which apprehends the attention of the man who says he is Bob White. His bushy eyebrows lower with confusion. Now the ceiling loses his gaze.
He turns his head toward the source of the out-of-place sounds. Nothing. He sees nothing. Just the same, old, dismal cell space. Slowly he lowers his view downward. Finally his eyes rest on BB for the first time.
Forehead wrinkles. Man swings legs over side of bunk bed. Man falls onto hard cell floor.
"What in the --- What's going on here? Who put you in here? Is this some sort of joke? Where did my new cellmate go? Ah great. Listen to me. I am talking to a bird." The man presses his face against the cold, metal bars. "Alright," he calls out into the vacuous corridor. "Very funny! Somebody call the doctor cuz my side is splittin'! Puttin' a bird in my cell. Very clever. Why don't you go --"
The man's rant to nobody in particular is suddenly and abruptly interrupted by a voice from behind him. It's a familiar voice. "Hey fella, let's moonwalk it back a little. Still me. I am your new cellmate. The name's BB. That's my actual name."
The milling machine of the man's internal dialogue runs at a furious pace. Is this real? Am I dreaming? Hallucinating? Maybe all the years of being confined in here like a caged bird has finally got to me. That's it! I bet this BB character is nothing but a figment of my imagination. I'm just seeing a metaphor - a symbol - of myself. I am the caged bird. That makes sense. Yes! But wait - what am I happy about? Doesn't this mean that I've gone crazy? Ok, here's what I'll do. I will close my eyes, turn around and count down from ten. When I open my eyes again, birdie will be gone.
As the man slowly pivots around, said birdie is not in fact gone. Nor will he be any time soon. But the ironically-named prisoner doesn't yet know this. There he stands, eyes shut and fists clenched, inaudibly counting down. BB can't decide if he feels amused or downright freaked. Maybe a mixture. Is he wanting to play hide-and-seek, BB doubtfully asks himself.
BB interrupts. "Um, guy? You alright there?" The man tightens his closed eyelids and fists even more.
BB tries again. "Well, I love a good countdown. Ask anybody. Boxing, MMA, wrestling, rocket launches. Even The Final Countdown - great song. But not gonna lie...this is gettin' a lil' weird."
For the last three numbers, the man covers his ears with his formerly-clenched palms.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he lifts open his eyelids. He is less than thrilled at the sight awaiting him. It is a feathery, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me, disgustingly-cute sight. Then it speaks again.
"Sorry to disappoint you," offers BB. "I didn't exactly make reservations to be here, ya know."
The man continues to stare in stunned silence. BB presses on. "Let's push the restart button. How about you start by telling me your actual name?"
The man clears his throat. Hesitantly, he decides to play along with this --- this --- well, whatever is going on here.
"I thought we already covered this. My name is Bob White. Of course, I can understand how you might forget, seeing as you're just a figment of my imagination."
"Did you just call me a cookie?"
For the first time, the man cracks a grin. "No, that's a fig newton. I said you're a figmen --- oh just forget it. Anyway, the name's Bob White. I have the birth certificate to prove it. My first name is actually Robert, of course," the man explains, "but I've been called Bob for as long as I can remember. Still not clear on why you think it's so hilarious."
BB is amazed at the man who calls himself Bob White - amazed at his blindness to the humorous irony in his name. Still, BB thinks it best to move on from the subject. "Never mind, not important. So...what's your story? Why you in here?"
Bob White looks down and shuffles his feet. "Bank robbery," he answers after a few moments of regretful reflection. "I'm not proud of it. At the time, I convinced myself that I had no other choice."
BB finally feels a sense of rapport and connection with his human cagemate. "Get outta here!," exclaims BB. "I mean --- I know you can't literally do that. It's just that I'm in here for the same reason. Actually, I am innocent. I didn't rob any bank. It was a case of mistaken identity."
Bob White smirks and nods. "Sure, little guy, sure. Of course you didn't do it. You're just a sweet, adorable, harmless creature. Right? You are sprouting wings." BB slowly and pointedly spreads his colorful wings. Message received by Bob White. "Ok, poor choice of words. No need to sprout."
Suddenly, and quite strangely, the interspecies communication is disrupted. The cell becomes hazy and dim - even more so than usual. BB can see Bob White's mouth moving, but his gruff voice has been muted. Furthermore, BB thinks he hears, from an undetermined location, the muffled sound of a television set. What's going on here?
BB shakes his head. Gradually everything returns to normal - well, to his new normal anyway. At last he can hear the sound of Bob White's voice again.
"You know what I'm saying, birdie?"
No, BB assuredly doesn't know whatever it is that his cellmate has been saying.
"Actually I ---" BB stops himself. No need to reveal that apparently important information has fallen on deaf ears. This interaction has been rocky enough.
"Sure, Bob White. I hear ya. Totally."
BB would love to know what Bob White actually said. But there are plenty of other pressing concerns to occupy his bird brain.
The desperate air of the prison cafeteria is, unshockingly, suffused with tension. Palpable tension. So thick it could be cut with a knife - if sharp, pointy objects were allowed, that is.
An epic staredown is in progress. On one side, an unconventional inmate named BB. And on the opposite side? A red tray of something masquerading as food.
"Um, BB?" Bob White, seated opposite, leans forward. "I know you're new around here and all. But I believe you will get more benefit from your food if you actually eat it. You know, instead of staring at it. Just some helpful advice."
"You mean there's food around here? Where?" BB, perched on the table, looks around. "Did I miss something? This stuff in front of me can't be food. I really don't think it's edible. It doesn't look fit for avian consumption."
"What? Come on. It's giblets. Dig in. Besides, it's all we're gonna get."
"Really, Bob White? Really?" BB is incredulous. And nauseated. "You really can't see why I might object to eating giblets? I can't eat this slop. I won't. It's making me sick to my gizzard just lookin' at it. Not to mention smellin' it."
Bob White shakes his head with a smirk. "Hey, I have an idea," he offers sarcastically. "Why don't you call the waiter and demand to see the manager? Or how about this --- just stiff him on the tip. After all, we are in a five-star restaurant, right? I mean ---"
"Alright, Bob White. I get it."
"No, I really don't think you do, BB. What --- just because you're different from the rest of us, you think you deserve special treatment? You are in for a rude awakening, my fine-feathered friend. That's not how it works in here."
A rude awakening. Funny how a particular phrase, or even a single word, can seem to glow with special significance. "A rude awakening," said Bob White. Awakening. Awakening. A-wake-e-ning. The word echoes in BB's bird brain. There's something about that sequence of letters. Something meaningful. Something that BB is unable to put his beak on at the moment. Perhaps the mystery will be cleared up in the near future...
Suddenly BB is jolted out of his reverie with a bang. Actually it's more of a boom. The tattooed knuckles of a scarfaced prisoner have slammed down on the table. The man bends down and evilly grins, showcasing rotting teeth and questionable breath. His massive frame bulges against his orange jumpsuit. Musclehead meets lovebird. Pecs versus peck.
Staring into the bloodshot eyes of this loathsome creature, BB suddenly finds his greasy heap of grub a little more attractive. He mumbles in Bob White's direction.
"Ok...this is awkward. What's happening here?"
But Bob White, avoiding all eye contact, seems inordinately focused on anything other than the developing situation. Clearly he wants no part of whatever is about to go down.
BB tries again. "C'mon, roomie. Help me out here."
Finally, it speaks. "You gonna eat that?"
BB is fairly certain the man isn't attempting to kickstart a friendly conversation. But he doesn't have much of a choice except to play along.
"Well actually I ---" Before BB can finish his nervous reply, the muscle man buries his ugly mug into the pile of food. When he raises back up, the greasy giblets drip from his face. BB stares in disbelief.
Now Bob White decides to contribute a thought. "I think he's mocking the way a bird eats," he mutters. "In other words, you."
"Yeah, I got that," BB retorts. "Thanks."
The burly bully leans in even closer, wiping his face on BB's wing. Oh the humanity, thinks BB after getting an up-close-and-personal whiff of the prisoner's breath. And they say the animal kingdom is filled with stinky odors. Actually, BB begins to realize, this place is an animal kingdom of its own. A man-made one.
"I...don't...like...you." Well at least the man is pithy.
BB may be small. He may be a bird - and a lovebird at that. But he is also quick on his talons, ever ready and able to launch witty projectiles in any situation. Sometimes this characteristic doesn't serve him.
Perhaps now is one of those times.
Bob White, having been repeatedly subjected to the force of this jailbird's wit, can perceive trouble. He can see that BB, though trying to suppress it, is about to drip --- no, more like spew --- a sarcastic remark in Manzilla's direction. He realizes he must intervene.
"Don't do it, BB," he warns, barely speaking above a whisper. "Just don't do it. Resist it."
Bob White sees BB's beak beginning to open. He closes his eyes, bracing for Smarty McFly's response. He is pleasantly surprised, however, at the words which come out.
"I'm sorry to hear that, sir."
This is an unprecedented step for BB. But then again, he finds himself in an unprecedented circumstance. Whether he restrains himself out of fear, wisdom or simply wanting to live another day - no matter. Disaster averted. The man slowly straightens up to an upright stance and walks away.
Bob White is proud of his cellmate. And relieved.
BB hangs his head.
"Hey BB, don't be bittern." Bob White chuckles at his own joke.
"That's for calling you Bobby, isn't it?"
The heavy-booted footsteps of the guard echo down the cellblock corridor.
"Alright, Feathers. You've got a visitor. Get up and follow me."
"Feathers? Clever. Hope you didn't sprain a brain cell coming up with that one."
"Shut your beak and keep waddlin'. I think you will like this visit. A chick is waiting for you."
At these words BB's avian heart skips a beat. Could it be? What if it's really her? The chick in BB's thoughts goes by the name of Harmony. A lovely name for a lovely creature. He hasn't been able to stop thinking about his bird-boo while in this dreadful place. They had gotten into a heated argument the night before sentencing. He had said some very hurtful things, but he meant none of them. The two hadn't talked since. And it has weighed on him, along with the many other things weighing on him.
The barrage begins as BB makes his way past the other inmates.
"You are in the wrong cage!"
"I suspect fowl play!"
"What happened? Poop on a cop car or something?"
"Call me if you need your paper changed."
Bullets of derisive laughter ricochet off the cold, dreary walls. But BB fails to even hear the hullabaloo, so lost in thought is he. Anticipation builds, questions swirl and butterflies flutter.
If it's really her, muses BB to himself, what should I say? What if she's still miffed at me? Oh come on, she will just be happy to see me. And I will definitely be happy to see her...if it's really her that's waiting for me, that is. One way to find out.
Suddenly, this internal dialogue is interrupted by pleasant waves of a very familiar sound. It is coming from a few feet away. At this moment, BB has at least one of his self-questions answered. She is here. Harmony is here, and she is singing to him. Ah yes, this is just what BB needs in this dark hour of his life. Maybe everything will be all right after all.
The next few feet seem like an eternity. He turns the last corner. There she sits. The glass partition does nothing to diminish her beauty and radiance. To humans, she is "cute" and "adorable" at best. But as far as BB is concerned, Harmony is in a flock all by herself.
They sit in hesitant silence for a few moments, each taking in the sight of the other.
"So how are you do ---"
"Girl, it's so great to ---"
Giggles break the separation-induced ice as they simultaneously speak. Harmony gives way to BB with a nod.
"I have missed you so much. You look fantastic. Beautiful as always."
"And you look..." Harmony searches for the word that won't feel like a kick in the dumplings.
"I know, I look rough. I feel rough. This is a rough place. This has been a rough experience for me. Life is rough. Mine anyway."
"Actually, I was about to say you look drained. But since you brought up the r word, I think we should talk about that." Harmony seizes on the opportunity to drop a pellet of wisdom. "You know, I have heard that 'the rough is only mental.' "
BB's crest rises. "What does that mean?"
"Just that, as challenging as life can be, it's really all in how we think about it. If you think you can overcome anything, you can. And you will. We make things harder on ourselves by negative thinking."
"So says the bird on the right side of the glass," BB says to himself. When he observes her displeased expression, he realizes his mistake. Unwittingly he thought out loud. "I'm sorry. I know you're only trying to help."
"BB, you told me once about the little ditty your mom taught you. Remember? You said it got you through many dark nights and hard days."
Harmony begins to sing the words which have meant so much throughout BB's life. But suddenly, her melodic voice is muted. She disappears from view. Everything melts into oblivion. Now all BB can perceive is the lovely and loving face of his beloved mother. All he can hear is his mother's soothing voice. He has been transported back in time through the portal of memory.
"My precious son, great things are ahead for you, but so is danger. So I give you these words to carry you through the challenges which await you. They won't mean much to you right now. But they will. In time, they will."
Over and over, day after day, the words would fall like seed into the wide-open beak of his young consciousness.
🎵 "Whatever may come, whatever the weather, I will let nothing ruffle my feathers."
In an instant, BB is back in his cold, metal chair - back in the bleak, present reality of his human cage. He hears himself reciting the rhyme. Harmony is singing it, just like his dear mother used to do, looking at him with black eyes of compassion.
"Thank you, my love. I really needed that." At these words, Harmony drops her colorful head.
"Sure, BB. No problem."
But clearly, there is a problem. She is still looking down, speaking in a barely audible voice. BB is nothing if not perceptive.
"What's going on, Harmony? What's the matter?"
Finally she makes eye contact again. "Why do you ask that?"
"Oh come on, Harmony. Do I look like I hang upside down in a cave?"
She glares back at him with confusion.
"A bat, Harmony. A bat. Bats hang upside down in caves. And I would have to be blind as said bat not to see that something is wrong. Spill it."
Harmony steers the conversation toward the subject of happiness. "Do you want me to be happy, BB? I mean, really happy?"
"Of course I do. You know I want you to be ---"
Harmony interrupts. "Even if it's not because of you? Even if you are not the source of my happiness?"
Awkward, gizzard-wrenching silence. A stunned tilt of BB's head. This convo is plummeting faster than a bird with broken wings. Harmony is ending it. BB is not blind, nor is he slow to catch on. But he is devastated.
"Say something, BB. Talk to me."
"You want me to say something? Alright. I get thrown in this human litter box. I lose my freedom. I lose my dignity. I lose my connection to all that I've ever known. And now I lose you. The icing on the poo-cake that is my life. I can't believe this! We are lovebirds. We are supposed to stay together...for life!"
"We are lovebirds, BB. But you have become a jailbird. Some things just don't go together. Like us, anymore . I'm sorry. Goodbye."
Harmony turns and waddles away. As for BB, heartbreak turns to anger. He begins to feel the distinct ruffling of feathers.
🎵 "Whatever may come, whatever the weather, I will let nothing ruff ---"
He attempts to repeat it, but the words taste like gravel in his beak. He starts shouting at Harmony as she departs.
"Harmony! Harmony! Just so you know, I don't feel very harmonized right now! What's that about?! HAR-MO-NY is HARM-ING-ME! That's right, I can pun! Birds just wanna have pun! Ah see, there goes another one! Harmony!"
Finally the emotional volcano subsides. The lava of anger stops flowing. And BB is left with the ashes of his grief and loneliness.
The hardened guard cannot help but feel sorry for his winged inmate. "Alright, Feathers. Let's go." His cold voice doesn't bespeak the sympathy he feels.
🎵 "Whatever may come, whatever the weather..."
Clouds darken. Rain pours. Thunder rumbles. Lightning strikes. A storm rolls through the area, curtailing the day's outdoor activities. A bad, nasty day, thinks BB with a sigh. The thing is - he isn't referring to the atmospheric disturbance outside.
🎵 "Whatever may come, whatever the weather..."
The echo of two guards discussing the day's weather reach BB's cell. Weather. Weather. Whatever the...weather. In a flash BB sees it. His mother, in teaching him the positive rhyme, was referring to more than rain and storms in nature. She was trying to show him the importance of remaining unruffled and unfazed through any "stormy" situation.
It's almost as if this day has been designed to teach me that lesson, reflects BB.
Nothing extraordinarily bad happened to him on this particular day. At least on the outside. But on the inside, BB is beginning to break down. The chilled hopelessness of this barely-glorified box has done a number on the jailbird. The harsh reality of his new, unchanging normal hits him with the force of a million stones.
The raging storm outside is just a cruelly-ironic symbol of the inner storm of despair raging within one lovebird.
Darkness falls in the prison, replacing the already-scant illumination of dimmed hope. No hour of the day in this place is a happy one for BB. Or even an okay one. But the late hours, the night hours, the dark hours - these are the worst. Far worse than any trouble foisted on him during the day by the human inmates. For here in the darkness, exhausted from the harsh monotony of prison life, BB is left to wrestle with the ultimate enemy: his own negative thoughts and emotions.
He closes his teary eyes, trying to bring on the sweet relief of unconsciousness. But sleep eludes him. The torrential downpour of his inner thoughts is too much - too noisy, too consuming. He lifts a weary wing and covers his face.
Suddenly, in the darkness and through the tears, BB hears a familiar voice. It's an internal voice, to be sure. But a beautiful one. A soothing one. A calming one. It's the melodic voice of his mother, flying across time into his remembrance.
🎵 "Whatever may come, whatever the weather, I will let nothing ruffle my feathers."
It's truly amazing what one positive memory can do. In an instant the tears dry up. The raging fires of hopelessness and helplessness die down. A mantle of calm descends upon BB. He begins to quietly sing along to the familiar words. His ringed eyes grow exceedingly heavy. Ultimately, silence replaces the recital of hope.
BB has fallen asleep. Finally, this day has reached its merciful conclusion.
BB is beginning to wake up. A full night has passed, deleting his exceptionally bad day. Outside, the sunshine of dawn ushers in the morning glory of a new day. Inside, the bars of confinement gradually come into view as BB slowly opens his moist eyes.
Different day, same story. Right? Well not quite. Something's not right. In fact, BB notices several differences about this new day.
For one thing, BB swears he can hear the sounds of television coming from --- well he can't pinpoint the source right away. Just like I heard that day when I met Bob White, he recalls. Except on this occasion, the mystery audio is considerably louder. Whatever the source, wherever the source, it is most definitely near. As if it's in the same room with him.
That's impossible, reasons BB to himself. The only t.v. in this place is located in the rec room. And there's no way I could be hearing it all the way in my cell, so far removed.
That's not all. As BB begins to stir around, he perceives something unusual about the floor of his cell. It doesn't feel quite right as he waddles around on it. And it has a different sound - a papery sound. As it turns out, there's a good reason for this.
BB looks down. He can't believe what he sees. The floor is covered with newspaper. What in the --- what's going on here? BB vainly searches the corridors of his bird brain for a rational explanation.
Wait. There's something else. BB detects a colorful something in the corner of the cell. The mixture of hues instantly remind him of --- No, don't go there, BB. Not now. It can't be that, anyway. One thing is certain: he is moments away from clearing up this particular aspect of the mystery.
BB turns in the direction of the out-of-place object. In real time, this action takes mere seconds. But to a mystified and nervous lovebird named BB, it seems to take an excruciatingly-long time. At last the bogey is in view.
No, no, no. This can't be. There is no flappin' way. It's just not possible. It just can't be!
Now don't get it twisted. It isn't that BB is unhappy with the unbelievable discovery. It's just that he is experiencing a sight which should not be possible. And yet, there it is. There she is, to be more precise.
That's right. There in the corner, peacefully sleeping on her feathered back, is none other than the lovely Harmony. Harmony! But how did she get here? And where exactly is "here," anyway?
BB suddenly realizes that he is back in his cage. No, not the human one. The original, far-less-threatening bird one. This is home. Somehow, someway, he is back home - reunited with the bird of his love, the beloved Harmony. And it feels so good.
The joyous realization alights upon BB's consciousness. His nightmarish ordeal - the arrest, the prison, the mistreatment, the painful separation and disconnect from Harmony - it has all been exactly that. A nightmare. A literal, actual nightmare. Only a dream. A bad one, yes. But just a dream.
Now BB is awake.
The nightmare is over.