The Flight of the Ostrich--A short story
Eric looked at his watch for what must have been the tenth time. It was quarter to eight in the evening. He had gone into work an hour earlier than his usual start time of six o’clock in the morning and to top it off his boss had asked him to work an hour later in the evening. It had seemed like he would never get out of there today. Eric rubbed his hand over his face and leaned into the open doorway of his son’s bedroom. He was exhausted already but he had rushed home as fast as possible just so he could spend a little bit of time with his five-year-old boy Wesley before he went to bed. Eric’s company had been working nearly around the clock trying to meet a fast approaching deadline for a big project they had bid on and won. With all the extra work and the long hours Eric had been doing, he was afraid he might be neglecting his family. Mindy his wife understood of course that the overtime was only temporary. But at five, Wesley had not quite grasped that concept yet and was already complaining daily that he missed Daddy reading his bedtime story to him at night. Normally Eric looked forward to this part of the day since it was the only time that he and Wesley got to spend together alone. However, tonight as tired as he was everything seemed irritating to him. After driving like a maniac to get home quickly he had hastily bolted down his reheated meal while Mindy gave Wesley a bath just so he could be ready to read to him without disrupting Wes’ routine. All Eric wanted to do right now was sit down in the recliner and just relax for a few minutes. Thinking all of these thoughts, he looked down at his little red racecar printed pajama clad son who was busily pulling every book he had off of the bookshelf searching for the right one to have Daddy read it to him. It seemed like it was taking forever for Wesley to pick a book. Eric knew how this was going to go, after thoroughly making a mess of his room he was only going to ask him to read the same book about the zoo animals that he always wanted to read. It was the same thing every time unless Eric put his foot down and suggested they read a different story, but tonight he didn’t have the energy to argue over a storybook. Finally, after checking his watch again he spied the book on the top of the heap closest to his foot. Picking it up he showed it to Wesley saying, “Look what I’ve got! Do you want to read about the zoo animals again?” Eric knew he would. Wesley excitedly bounced up and down shouting, “Yay! I love zoo animals! I was looking for that one Daddy. Where did you find it?” A moment later, they were sitting on the edge of Wesley’s bed reading the story. “Daddy what’s that one called again?” Wesley wanted to know for the twelfth time. Mindy stopped in the doorway with a pile of freshly folded towels in her arms to watch her guys reading together. “That one’s the Ostrich,” said Eric pointing to the page. “He’s a bird but he doesn’t fly right Daddy?” “That’s right Wes, Ostriches can’t fly. Look here’s a bird that can fly.” “That one’s a parrot right? He’s got all kinds of colors!” “Yes he does. See the lions on this page?” “Oh! Look Daddy koala bears!” “Yes I see them.” Twenty minutes later Eric and Mindy had both kissed Wesley goodnight, tucked him in and he was drifting off to sleep.
Taking a deep breath for the first time that evening Eric flopped down in the recliner and stretched out. Picking up the remote, he aimed it at the TV. Mindy came in and giving him a kiss sat down next to him. One of his favorite shows had just started and he would be into it for a while. Twirling her straight dark brown hair, she carefully watched him out of the corner of her eye. Finally, a commercial came on and Eric turned to look at his wife and seeing her playful smile said, “What? Do I have something on my face? What are you looking at?” “Oh nothing.” came the reply, “I was just thinking how sweet it was for you to rush home just to read to Wes like that.” “Well, I don’t know if it’s sweet or not but I do know with all the extra hours I’ve been doing we haven’t spent much time together lately. I really enjoy reading to him but sometimes it can be a challenge always reading the same book over and over all the time.” “Which book?” “Take a guess.” “Hmm? Zoo animals?” Mindy asked with a giggle. “What else would it be? It’s enough to make me crazy.” “Oh it’s not that bad. Besides I think it’s cute.” “Cute! Hah!” “Hey don’t you have a day off coming up this weekend?” “Yeah I think so. Why?” “Well I was just thinking since you and Wes haven’t had much time together lately why don’t you go somewhere together just the two of you.” “That’s a great idea. Hmm? Where could I take him?” “Well, you know how much he likes his zoo animals book, why don’t you take him to the zoo? The weather’s getting nicer out and he’s big enough to really enjoy it now.” “The zoo? That would be lots of fun for Wes. Oh, man! Wait, I can just see it now he’ll never want to read different book after that.”
The following day they let Wesley know that Daddy had a surprise for him on the weekend. For the next three days, he begged to know what it was. Finally, the big day came and on that Saturday, Eric took Wesley to the zoo. Wesley so excited he jumped up and down so much Eric could barely get him strapped into the car. On the way there, Wesley asked a million questions about which animals they would see and if he could feed them. “Daddy do they have elephants there? Daddy will there be an ostrich at the zoo?” “Yes. Yes.” “Ostriches are birds but they don’t fly, right Daddy?” “That’s right.” Eric told Wesley that he even had a friend who worked as the zookeeper there. That only made him more excited. At the zoo, they waited in line and paid for the tickets. Taking the usual tour of the park they saw all kinds of animals.” The monkeys made Wesley laugh, the crocodile made him shiver, and the pandas looked soft and he wanted to touch them. Eric had all he could do to answer all of his son’s questions. “Why do the otters swim? They aren’t fish,” said Wesley. Chuckling at the reasoning of a child Eric almost missed seeing his good friend Robert who was the zookeeper standing near the ostrich’s cage. “Hey Eric, old buddy how you been?” Robert called out to him. “Rob, Hey I was looking for you.” “Well you found me. Whoa! Look at this little man; he’s getting taller every day.” Robert said tousling Wesley’s floppy blonde hair. Kneeling down Robert looked Wesley in the eye. “Hey little guy are you having a good time here at the zoo?” “Uh huh! I love seeing all the animals.” “Yeah which one’s your favorite?” “Uh, I think I like the ostrich the best but we haven’t seen it yet.” “Really? Well look where you are.” Picking Wes up Robert showed him the ostriches in their pen. Wesley stared at the ostriches mesmerized. Robert pointed out the three Mommy ostriches and all the little baby ostriches, and then he said, “See that big black guy right over there? That’s Juma, he’s the Daddy ostrich.” “That’s a funny name,” said Wesley laughing. “Yes, I guess it is. But, that’s the name he had when he came here. You see he’s from that’s where ostriches are from.” “Where’s Afrik-uh? Is it far away?” “Yes it is. Africa is a big continent on the other side of the ocean. See here on the map. That’s where Juma came from and way over here is where we are.” “Oh. How did he get here if there is so much water? Did he swim?” Robert and Eric chuckled, “No,” said Robert ostriches don’t swim silly. He flew here!” Wesley’s eyes got big and he looked at Eric. “Daddy you said ostriches don’t fly!” “Well, they don’t fly Wes, not normally but they had to use an Africa airplane to get him here. Right Robert?” “That’s right. We had to put him in a special box just big enough for him to stand in and put it on the plane so we could fly him here.” “Wow!” was all Wesley said.
Looking at his watch Eric decided it was time to move on and see a few more things before leaving. On the way out, they stopped at the gift shop and bought Wesley a little stuffed ostrich so he could have a souvenir of his trip to the zoo. Driving home Wesley talked of nothing else but all the things he had seen that day. When they arrived home, Mindy and her father were waiting for them in the kitchen. Giving Eric a kiss, she handed him a cup of coffee and then turned to Wesley. “Hi honey did you have a good time today?” she asked hugging her son, “Look who’s here to see you.” “Grandpa!” Wesley said launching himself into his Grandfather’s arms. Giving him a big squeeze Grandpa asked, “How’s my favorite Grandson?” Wesley grinned his wide toothless smile and said, “Grandpa, I’m your only Grandson!” “I know and that’s why you are my favorite,” he said touching him on the nose. “Oh! Hey what’s this you have here?” he asked seeing the miniature stuffed version of Juma the ostrich for the first time. “Daddy got it for me. It’s an ostrich,” said Wesley holding it up almost into Grandpa’s glasses. “So I see.” Putting Wesley down he asked, “What did you learn at the zoo today, Wes?” Jumping up and down Wesley could barely contain his excitement. “Oh! Oh! I learned that ostriches come from Afrik-uh!” he said through his missing teeth, and he continued “And you know what Grandpa? They have to fly to get here!” “What? Fly? But Wes, ostriches can’t fly.” “Uh huh! Do too. That’s what the zookeeper said.” said Wesley in between flying his stuffed ostrich around the kitchen and making little airplane noises with his mouth. Wesley ran from the kitchen into the living room before they could discuss it any further. Mindy and her father looked at each other and then they both looked at Eric. Feeling another chuckle coming on Eric met their gazes, smiled, shrugged, and just took a sip of his coffee.
The Flight of the Ostrich by Daelyn H. Appleton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.