George rushed over to his grandfather’s house after school. “Grandfather, look at this,” he said as soon as he’d closed the door.
“Take your coat off and come in to the living room,” Grandfather said.
George hung up his coat and hurried in. He held out his hand. On his palm there was a tiny, glowing, silver pebble. “On my way to school, a crow landed in front of me and dropped this on the sidewalk. What is it?”
Grandfather held out his hand. George tipped his palm and watched the pebble roll down onto grandfather’s palm. Grandfather held it in the light from the window and the pebble dimmed. He blocked the sunlight with his other hand, and it glowed softly.
“What is it?” George asked again.
“I think it’s a star,” Grandfather said. “It’s come loose.”
“I thought stars were made of plasma or burning gasses or something,” George said. “We learned about it in science.”
“Of course not,” Grandfather said. “The moon isn’t made of cheese and the earth isn’t flat either.”
“I know that,” George said.
“Perhaps, but people always believe such crazy things and call it science. The science changes, but the new ideas are still crazy. Science is like that,” Grandfather said.
“I thought science was all about proving things,” George said.
“Yes, yes, but they don’t realize that they’re leaving things out, so they keep getting these weird ideas,” Grandfather said.
George frowned. “But, if that’s a star, why did the crow bring it to me?”
“He probably wanted you to put it back.” Grandfather smiled. “You should do that. The night sky just wouldn’t be the same without all its stars.”
“How?” George asked. “And why did the crow choose me?”
“Toss it in the air just after sunset. It will find its place,” Grandfather said. “Just make sure you toss it outside.” He handed the pebble back to George. “I think the crow picked you because it trusted you to help. You’re a good boy, George.”
George held the pebble tightly in his fist. He opened his hand a little and peeked at the star. “I’ll take care of it,” he said.
“Of course you will,” Grandfather said. “Would you like a snack?”
That evening, George sat on his bed and watched the sun set. It was beautiful. The sky looked like it was painted with ribbons of color. The colors deepened and darkened.
George opened his window. A chilly breeze blew in. The air felt sharp on his warm face. He held out the pebble. It glowed brightly. He tossed it up and away into the air.
It went up in an arc and paused. Just when George thought it would fall, it started to rise, slowly at first and then faster and faster. It gleamed brightly for a moment, and then George could barely see it. It had found its place in the sky.
The next day, George went to his Grandfather’s house after school again. He hung up his coat and found his grandfather in the kitchen, putting together some strange device that looked like a lantern with arms and legs.
“What’s that?” George asked.
“A phoenix house. I think I saw one eyeing the tree out back. It’ll need a safe place to nest, poor thing. It’s certainly the wrong weather for rebirth. I’ll have to add a little heater,” Grandfather said.
“But phoenixes aren’t real,” George said. “I think.”
“Nonsense, of course they are,” Grandfather said. “So, what happened with your star?”
“I put it back, just like you said.” George reached into his pocket and opened his hand to reveal three more glowing silver pebbles. “This morning, on my way to school some crows swooped down and dropped these in front of me.”
“That’s great. You must have done a good job,” Grandfather said.
“Is this going to happen every morning?” George asked.
“Perhaps.” Grandfather said. “Stars fall more often at some times and less often at others. Some nights there are hundreds of falling stars.”
“Don’t worry about that right now,” Grandfather said. “I’m sure it will be fine. Do you want a snack?”