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When she was ready, she continued her ascent towards the Sky Tower.

The Sky gods and goddesses, including Sun and Sunray, Moon and Moonbeam, recognized Macaw right away and welcomed her, listening to what she had to say.

Macaw was in a rush. “Please, my friends, I need your help! The people need you to be generous and keep the earth flowing with water. For the first time there has been a drought and severe disease at the same time.”

The gods and goddesses didn’t hesitate for a second, for they trusted Macaw and this news disturbed them. “We will return water to the people and animals of earth, and it will be called rain,” they replied.

The gods and goddesses went lower into the clouds. They all linked hands, making a long chain. One of them, who was positioned the closest to the mountain peaks, reached out their hand. Life water from all the Sky Gods combined flowed out of their fingers, turning into all forms of precipitation, including rain, snow, sleet, and hail.

Upon seeing this, Macaw was grateful again but started down briskly towards earth, turning back into a bird as she fell through the dark clouds. There could be a new problem if the tribes didn’t figure out how to protect themselves from the heavy rain. Luckily, there were spider monkeys nearby. Macaw commanded them to spread the news as quickly as possible and in all four directions to get to higher ground.

The excitement eventually ended, and the earth was restored again. The rain fell for many hours, in order to fill up the lakes and rivers again. The people were relieved and grateful after the rain let up and they could plant again, the trees thanked the Sky Gods. Even Jaguar postponed his tricks to let everyone refresh and relax. Now, every time there is drought and famine, the Sky Gods remember Raven’s loyalty and give rain.

Until one day, several crows alighted on the windowsill and the other little animals and birds scattered back aways. The old lady was not choosy as to which animal needed her help. She fed the crows as happily and generously as she did the others. A pattern soon developed that the crows would feast after the songbirds, squirrels and chipmunks. They would come in waves like a great dance of life. This happened day after day for a whole month in late autumn.

Sometimes the crows would come with presents for her. Usually organic things like leaves, mushrooms, and pretty rocks. But sometimes they would give her shiny things and once they came with a beautiful gift: a thin sterling band ring. She always acted quite pleased and thanked them profusely, giving them extra treats such as oranges, suet, and sunflower seeds.

They were quiet voracious eaters though and soon her supply started to dwindle, and she had to go into town for more. She got into her old jalopy and drove the 20 miles into town over hills and meadows and forests and bought her own food and bags of seeds and nuts enough to get her through the next cold winter.

Part II - In Town

To an observer at the store, she appeared to be a small round figure with long silver hair wrapped up on top of her head and beautiful dimples upon her ruddy cheek. She had smiles for all the people she ran into, but she said very little to them. The clerk noticed she had two sparkling blue eyes clear as a summer sky. She didn’t come often to the store, but he was used to seeing her several times a year and remembered her because she was so quiet and peaceful. She reminded him of his own dead grandmother.

It was then that he was very upset to see a newcomer in town, approaching her with a gleam in his eye and a plastic grin on his Ken-doll face. He had already visited quite a lot of families in the area and the clerk knew it was bad news. The town was a buzz with the awful story.

“Ms. Attleboro? Hello my name is Tom Bracken. Can I have a word?”

She turned to face him such a petite woman against his massive form. He had to stoop to meet her eyes. “I have been trying to reach you. My office has been attempting to contact you for months. You haven’t returned my calls.”

“I am not interested in your offer. I am not moving,” she insisted with her soft voice.

The grin didn’t leave his face as he spoke, “The bank notified me that they are going ahead with the foreclosure on your estate, and they are willing to sell my company your property.”

“They have no right! It was my father’s property, and it was all paid for!” she said firmly.

“You haven’t kept up with the taxes it would seem. At your age you should downsize anyway,” he said in a ingratiatingly kind voice.

“It’s my home,” she sighed visibly shaken.

“You will have to vacate the premises within the month. I’m sorry to tell you this, but we are going to begin building the Datacenter in the spring and need to clear the land to lay the groundwork,” he explained jangling something in his pocket and shifting as if he had a better place to be.

“I’m afraid you are mistaken. It is my home, and I am not going anywhere. Excuse me. I have to get back,” she said and continued out of the store without waiting for his reply.

Part III - Homeward Bound

That afternoon she decided not to stop at the diner like she usually did. But to pick up as many supplies as she could afford and head back home as soon as possible. The sky was a heavy grey, and the air was cold, and she suspected that there was going to be some more weather. That developer had no brains on him. This land would not be cleared willingly. And out her way the wilderness had a mind of its own. Where would the bears and wolves go if they took down their forest?

And what of the others she knew and loved? Where would they go? No, she won’t think about it. It was all too upsetting. She drove her jalopy at a moderate pace and all the town traffic dwindled away and a few tractors were her only company. Soon as she headed towards the mountain they faded away as well.

After a while a few flakes fell. It was light snow at first, but then the wind began to blow, and the visibility was limited. She slowed down considerably and continued at a crawl. A few farmhouses dotted the landscape, and they were lit up as afternoon turned to evening. And then it was just Maisy on a mountain road all by herself. Her farm was the one at the top of the mountain. Fortunately, she had changed her tires and had her chains in place. She knew she would make it. Though she worried a little. Anything could happen up here away from everyone and everything.

When she reached her estate, as the man called it, she had just enough time to get her supplies put away and her fire started before the real storm took hold. It had all the ear markings of a doozy as her father used to say.

She looked out her picture window and just as the light was disappearing the shroud of woods in the distance were shadowy and mysterious. She hoped her little friends had a good cozy place to spend the night. She was very grateful for her home and trembled to think of spending such a night anywhere else.

The snow was coming down fast and all definition had disappeared as everything outside was covered up in a thick and mounting blanket of snow. She fixed herself a cup of coco and wrapped a pale blue knitted shawl about her thin shoulders. She took a book down from the shelf and began to read a fairy story called “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. She fell into the solemn story, crying with joy at the end. She moved on to another story about a Nightingale and realized that she wished life could be a fairy tale where the good prevailed against the miscreants of the world. With these thoughts dancing through her head, she fell into a deep winter sleep.

Part IV - A Visitor

Awakening to a tapping at her door, it was an odd sound, nothing like a knock, and she startled awake thoroughly discomfited by the thought of a visitor. She looked about her and saw that it was morning. The sun streamed in through her picture window now a bit covered by a layer of snow and ice. Already there were birds gathering there and a squirrel, too sitting on its hind legs with his nose pressed up against the glass a good deal higher than the sill because of all the snow. The squirrel was at her eye level, as she stood there and looked out.

The tapping commenced again, and she was curious when none of the animals scattered away from an impending intruder.

She went to her door and opened it wide and there was snow up to her shins against it. She would have to shovel her doorstep and walkway. She looked out and saw crows gathered about the front of her house, sitting on the bushes on either side of the door; one perched in the crepe myrtle and another in the dogwood. Several walked about the surface of the icy snow and looked at her expectantly. And then the most remarkable sight caught her eye, coming from around the corner of the house. It was a little bundle of coat and mittens, and scarf and hat with two green eyes looking back at her apprehensively.

“What have we here?” she asked the crows and they looked at her proprietorially as if they had brought her the greatest present of all.

“Well, come here my darling. What is your name?” she asked the small child.

The bundle came closer on tiny feet and Maisy could see long gold hair rippling down her back over her winter coat.

“My name is Annabelle. And I am…I am lost…can you please help me?” she asked with a high, little voice.

“Why of course I can help you. Come in come it and warm yourself!” she cried and took hold of the mittened hand and guided her inside by the fire. Maisy put another log on right away and helped the little girl out of her coat. Standing before her was a very young child of six.

Maisy wrapped the child in a blanket and sat her on the armchair nearest the fire.

“I got lost when my family came up for a drive,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“And how did you do that?” asked Maisy conversationally, trying to make the dear feel at home.

“I saw a beautiful silver fox and followed it and soon lost sight of everyone. I’ve been walking and walking and almost gave up when something strange happened.”

“What was that?” Maisy asked as she fixed her hot chocolate.

“A black crow hopped down in front of me and stared at me with its black, black eyes. And then it said, Follow me. Follow me, as plain as day!” said Annabelle.

Maisy was so startled she spilled a little of her milk as she poured it out for the hot drink. “It talked to you, or you thought it talked to you?” she asked incredulously.

“It talked to me with clear words!” said Annabelle.

“Are you sure child?” asked Maisy setting down the milk carton.

“Why don’t you believe me? You could go outside and ask them yourself!” she declared pointing at the door. “They all talked to me. The fox and the bear that kept me warm overnight. They all spoke in perfect English. That it is how I knew not to be afraid.”

“Of course, you did, child,” said Maisy stirring the cup. She set it down in front of Annabelle who clapped her hands and cried, “This is just like Christmas!” And the child crossed her arms and had a big pretend pout on her pretty little lips,

“I am not a child!” But then she relented and took the hot chocolate in her hands and said, “Thank you ma’am.”

“You can call me Maisy, dear heart,” said the older woman as she went to the door and opened it up. She had every intention of talking to the crows herself, but they were all gone.

“There at your window, Maisy,” said Annabelle as she blew on her drink.

And they all were. Even the bear and the fox were at the window peering in at them.

Maisy was taken aback not having fed the bear before, but something about all their intelligent little faces made her trust them, and she walked over to the window and opened it. A squirrel hopped right onto the sill, and Maisy reached into the nearby bag of nuts and gave him one. He took it eagerly but would not leave. He held it in his little paws and looked at her intently, and then chittered at her in quite a conversational tone.

“He wants more than that, Maisy. And so do the others,” said Annabelle from her perch on the armchair. Indeed, the animals were making a lot of calls and clucks and grunts and groans, and they sounded almost human.

“What do you mean more?” asked Maisy a little alarmed.

“I’m afraid they’ve heard my father talking with his work friend, and they are not happy,” said Annabelle primly taking a little sip.

“What did they overhear?” asked Maisy wanting to know more herself.

“Well, you see, Daddy is a builder. He plans on taking down the forest and building a great big data processing center.”

“Whatever for? Isn’t there enough cities and city things in the world, and all the forests are vanishing away! That is terrible,” fumed Maisy forgetting that she was in the presence of a little girl. Annabelle must belong to the developer. “What was his name? Tom—

“Bracken,” offered Annabelle.

“What do the animals want?” asked Maisy coming back to the point of their conversation. She didn’t much want to talk about Mr. Bracken. It wasn’t Annabelle’s fault who her father was.

“They want you to help me. They want you to stop him,” said Annabelle in her tiny voice.

“Well, I would like to help, but I don’t know if I have any pull with your father or your father’s sort. Oh dear!” Maisy let out a huge sigh. The fox had come up to the windowsill and was sniffing around looking like he wanted a treat. He emitted a couple of sounds that seemed like he was trying to speak to them. She could almost hear frustration in his voice. Maisy put a handful of nuts and seeds on the windowsill. Then she brought over some fruit.

The animals feasted and Annabelle spoke to each of them. The bear especially liked eating grapes from Annabelle’s little hands. All that morning while Maisy drank coffee, she watched the child feeding the animals and chatting amiably with them as if they were speaking right back at her and could understand every word, she said to them. Maisy was a witness to all the commotion but didn’t quite understand them like Annabelle did: however, she did notice their intelligent eyes and their gentle ways with the child. Something was afoot and Maisy was right in the middle of it.

Part V Three Days of Snow and Ice

After a while, the animals and birds receded back into the woods and the snow began to fall again. Lightly at first, but soon it was blowing like mad, and the visibility was very poor. Too poor for Maisy to drive in. Maisy had tried to call the town and let them know that Annabelle was safe up on the mountain lodge, but her phone did not have any service. It was as if the towers were out. They were cut off for the remainder of the storm at least.

But this was no normal storm. It was as if the old Mountain herself would not let go of them. The snow fell all day and into the night. And then the temperatures dropped quite low until all the top layer of snow was icy and too hard to dig out.

They snuggled down by the fire and Maisy told Annabelle beautiful fairy stories reading her Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson tales. Sometimes Maisy didn’t even have to read them but told them from memory which really delighted the little girl with all her marvelous voices and her deep rich singing voice.

For Annabelle imagined that Maisy was like a fairy godmother and that her cabin on the mountain was a magic place where all the living creatures could find refuge. For the worse the weather became, little visitors would come from the wood, enter through the window, and bed down near the fire until they had two bears, two fox, two coyotes, and a flock of various birds as well as the little animals such as squirrels and chipmunks and a few mice. They all nestled in front of the fire on the oriental rug in one big circle of life. And the wren sat right on Maisy’s shoulder.

Try as she might Maisy could not understand the animal's speech except to witness, they did have a language, and they were quite raucous at times. She had never had so much excitement in the long years she lived on the mountain. There was something giddy and joyful about it as well as solemn and sacred. As if she were involved in a great Council of nature trying to find a solution to their coming doom.

For soon the storm would end and the temperatures would go up and there would be mud and officers of the law looking for Annabelle.

Part VI The Resolution: A Happy Father

On the third day, Maisy tried her phone for the millionth time, but it finally went through, and she reached the police department.

“Yes, I have Annabelle Bracken here with me. She has been safe through all the storms. Yes, we have tried to reach out to you before, but the phones weren’t working. Of course, she can speak to her father. Here you go, Annabelle, it’s your Daddy.”

“Daddy! Have I got a story to tell you! Maisy has been ever so nice to me! She lives in a beautiful lodge! You have to see it! I can’t wait to see you either!”

She handed the phone back to Maisy, and Maisy found herself on the phone with Tom Bracken. There was an awkward silence and then Mr. Bracken asked for directions and said he would make his way up soon, with a snowplow, to get through all the weather to see his daughter. They should be there by mid-morning.

After Maisy hung up, she felt let down. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but she was hoping for something, and it had not transpired. She would miss the little Annabelle. She had filled all the corners of her home. And now she would be going and soon, soon they would be tearing down the wood and she would have to move away from her beloved home….

But she didn’t have time to fret because all the animals were at the window. They were calling out in their many different languages and Annabelle was listening with a rapt expression on her face. Then she reached into the seed bag and started feeding them.

“Yes, yes! I will do my best! I will do as you say!” she told them, but what she was promising Maisy had no idea, for she still could not hear the animals speak in English as Annabelle insisted that they could.

“When my father gets here, I am going to speak to him,” said Annabelle. You will have to back me up!” she said in a serious tone to Maisy.

“Of course, child. I will support you. But what a strange thing to say!” laughed Maisy as she made some oatmeal.

A couple of cardinals had flown into the kitchen countertop, and the little wren was perched on the banana holder. They were all singing to her and giving her a serious scolding.

“What is this all about?” asked Maisy laughing at their antics.

“They are telling you to ask my father for a boon.”

“A boon? What language my dear!” laughed Maisy.

“You know what they mean. Daddy will want to give you a reward,” said Annabelle her dimples were showing prettily on her shining face.

And Maisy knew just what she would ask for. She would ask Tom Bracken to spare the mountain and the forest. She would stand up for all the animals and for the spirits in the woods. She would ask for a reprieve of sorts. Whatever that Tom Bracken could arrange.

She didn’t have to argue with him. Tom Bracken had had an experience with a bear that pushed his snow plow out of a large snowbank. To his amazement the bear stood on its hind legs and talked to him in his bear language. Tom didn’t understand, but he it opened his mind and heart up to possibilities.

He was so glad to see his daughter alive and safe that he was willing to grant Maisy’s wish in the first few moments of arriving at her cabin home. He pulled out his paperwork from his ever-present brief case and wrote a contract right then and there giving Maisy’s property back to her and included the mountain and the woods in his arrangements with her. They would remain pristine and untouched for as long as Maisy lived.

And in truth it is still rumored that Maisy is living and in good health up on top of the Mountain. Remarkable good health, for the forest is lush and thick and full of life and the lodge at the top of the mountain is always bustling with activity with Annabella’s family visiting and bringing their children and grandchildren to meet their fairy godmother every summer and every Christmas.

Catherine’s poetry is published in literary magazines, including Paper Dragons, Kaleidoscope, Jalmurra, Cholla Needles, Bewildering Stories, The Raven Review, Open Door Magazine, Stone Hill Journal, Honeyguide, Zephyr Review, Phare, Blue Bird Word, Life and Legends, Jonah Magazine Avatar, Heart of the Flesh Literary Magazine, and Home Planet News. She also has stories published in Proem, Quail Bell, and KeepThings on Instagram. She has published an essay, “Éowyn as Light Bearer,” in an anthology from Luna Press called Not the Fellowship Dragon’s Welcome. In addition, she recently published an essay, “The Christian Fellowship” in a Luna Press anthology called Follow Me. Catherine is passionate about adult literacy and ESL learning.

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