Once I lived in a shack on a mountain, with only a dog for company, and a rescued bird. One afternoon the dog limped home from the stream, scratched once on the hearth and died. I took it as a sign to move on. So I set the bird free and said my goodbyes to that lonely place.

The track through the forest had grown thick with vines and I could find no way down. Then I heard the familiar whistle of my little bird. It seemed to say, come, this way. It flew ahead, up the hill.

So I followed, climbing until we came to a broad plane. At the edge of the plane was a drop to a fertile valley. I called to the bird. ‘How shall I get down?’ But the bird had flown.

Then I heard below me the sound of scraping. In a moment a head popped over the edge—a woman draped in coils of rope. She laughed when she saw me. ‘How did you ——’

I pointed behind me. ‘I followed the bird.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I think I saw it. It urged me to keep going when I was about to turn back.’

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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