Isaac looked the baby bird in the eye that he could see through the hole in its eggshell. “I’m not your mother,” he said.
“I know that,” the baby bird said. Its voice was muffled. “You’re much too small. You look more like food. Besides, mother’s voice sounds different.”
“I’m not food,” Isaac said. “I’m really much bigger than this.”
“No you’re not,” the baby bird said. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Even if it doesn’t make sense, it’s true,” Isaac said. “I got shrunk by an elevator. Normally, I’m much bigger than your mother.”
“I don’t think anything is bigger than mother,” the baby bird said.
“Why?” Isaac asked.
“Mother talks to us all the time. She tells us about the tops of the trees and the mountains and the clouds. She can look down on everything,” the little bird said.
“That’s because she can fly,” Isaac said.
“Well, that’s when you move your body up in the air. You’re not taller, your feet are just further off the ground,” Isaac said.
“Show me,” the bird said.
“I can’t fly,” Isaac said.
Isaac almost said that he was much too big to fly, but then he remembered that he wasn’t very big any more. “Well, I don’t have feathers or wings,” he said.
“What’s that?” the baby bird asked.
“You ask a lot of questions,” Isaac said.
“I have a lot to learn,” the baby bird said. “What are feathers or wings?”
Isaac looked around and picked up a long feather half-hidden in the grass. “This is a feather. Birds like your mother have lots of them. Wings are the flappy arms that they use to fly.”
“If the wings are for flying, what are the feathers for?” the baby bird asked.
“To help catch the air, I guess. See, watch.” Isaac found another feather, and holding one in each hand, he pushed down on the air several times, as though he were a bird about to take off.
“You’re flying!” the baby bird said.
For a moment, Isaac believed it was true. He could look down at the grass below, and the eggs seemed much smaller. Then he realized that his feet were still on the ground. “I’m not flying, I’m taller,” Isaac said. “My feet haven’t moved.”
“Well, come back,” the baby bird said. “I have more questions, and it’s harder to understand you way up there.”
“I don’t know how,” Isaac said.
“You were showing me how to fly,” the baby bird said. “So just do the opposite.”
“You mean landing?” Isaac tried pushing the air up with the feathers. They were smaller now and he had to adjust his grip. He flapped his arms and shrunk.
“This is great! Now I can leave,” Isaac said.
“Why do you want to leave?” the baby bird asked.
“Because I want to go home,” Isaac said.
“This is home,” the baby bird said.
Isaac sighed. “It’s not my home.”
“You could stay here and answer my questions,” the baby bird said. “Then it would be your home.”
“But I can’t fly. Not even with feathers. And I don’t have wings,” Isaac said. “Besides, I would miss my family too much.”
“What’s family?” the baby bird asked.
“It’s the people you love who love you too. Like your mom and dad and the other baby birds in the other eggs in your nest,” Isaac said.
“Is family part of home?”
“It’s what makes it home,” Isaac said. “My family could change houses, and then the new house would be home. Home is where they are.”
“Then why are you here?” the baby bird asked.
“Because I don’t know how to get back,” Isaac said.
“I don’t understand,” the baby bird said.
“I hope you never do,” Isaac said. “Don’t leave your home until you’re old enough to find the way back.”
Suddenly, everything was a lot dimmer. Isaac looked up to see a large bird circling overhead. “It’s your mother!”
“Yay! Isn’t it wonderful? Now I’ll know what home looks like,” the baby bird said.
Isaac did not think this was wonderful. He was terrified she’d swoop in and eat him. He needed to be too big to eat. Clutching the feathers a little tighter, he began to flap his arms, pushing down on the air around him.