We thought it might be fun to share this precursor story to Anipal Land here for you to see how it all got started. Remember that this story was written before we were on Twitter, and before Chloe (and Ollie) were adopted, back when I was an "only bird." Also, we had just moved in our new home in the woods, so the characters are inspired by the wildlife we "met" in those first few months in our home.
Without further ado, I proudly present Hanging Out With Zack.
Hanging Out With Zack
Zack gazed out the window as Mommy and Daddy turned out of the driveway, leaving for work. They would be gone all day, the same as every day. He fluffed his feathers and settled in the back of his cage for a nap when he heard tapping at the window.
“What could that be?” Climbing to the front of his cage, he saw Bob and Bella Bluebird at the window.
“Hi Zack, we’d like to hang out with you today,” Bob said.
“That’s nice,” Zack said. “What will we do?”
“We thought about taking you for a trip through the woods,” Bella said. “It’s a beautiful summer day, and we have friends we’d like you to meet.”
“But I’m locked in a cage, and you’re outside,” Zack said. “How am I going to get out of here?”
Bob smiled. “Birds know ways of opening locks that human’s don’t. Watch!”
In a flash, they had the window raised just enough to get in the house. Bella lifted the latch to Zack’s cage and opened the door. “You’re free! Come on, let’s go.”
“Mommy and Daddy will worry,” Zack said.
Bob shook his head and pulled the window closed. “There, good as new. We’ll have you back before they come home from work.”
“Let’s go to the woods!” Bella said, taking off for the trees across Zack’s back yard.
“Bella, wait! It might be dangerous!” Zack said, flying after her.
“Nonsense,” Bob said, flying next to Zack. “We live here. Besides, we know everybody back here. We have many friends, and we want you to meet them.”
“Yes,” Bella said, landing at the edge of the woods. “Since you moved in last fall, they wonder who you are. Come on, we’ll walk from here.”
Zack landed next to Bella and fluffed his gold feathers. As a pet parrot he always liked to meet new people, but he didn’t meet many animals. “I hope this is safe,” he said.
“It is. Look! Here comes one now,” Bob said as a brown bunny approached with a carrot in his mouth. He hopped to the three birds.
“Good morning fine fellows! Who is your golden friend?” he asked, nibbling on the carrot.
“This is Zack. He moved in the big house on the edge of the woods last fall,” Bella said.
The rabbit took the carrot from his mouth and smiled. “Hi Zack, I’m Ricky Rabbit. I’m pleased to meet you!”
“I’m pleased to meet you too,” Zack said.
“Ricky, where did you get that carrot?” Bob asked.
Ricky pointed to the farm in the distance, where a man was driving a tractor through the fields. “Over there.”
Bella gasped. “You stole from Farmer Fulmer’s crops! He’ll be furious!”
Ricky shook his head. “Not at all. He’s seen me before. He left this at the edge of the woods for me because it’s too small for him to eat.”
“Are you sure it’s for you?” Bob asked.
“I’ve heard Farmer Fulmer is kind,” Zack said. “Mommy buys produce from him all the time.”
Ricky nodded. “He is a friend of mine.”
Bella sighed. “Then I suppose it’s fine.”
“Why are we talking in rhyme?” Bob asked.
They laughed and continued their journey on foot, since Ricky couldn’t fly. It wasn’t long before Zack stuck his foot on something scaly.
“Watch your step, Twinkle Toes!” a voice hissed. A head popped in front of Zack’s face.
“My goodness! I’m sorry!” Zack said, jumping back. “Who are you?”
“I’m Sammy Snake, and you stepped on my back!”
“Sammy, it’s good to see you!” Ricky said. “How are you?”
Sammy sighed. “I’m terrible. Farmer Fulmer ran me out of his garden again yesterday, and Henrietta Hawk chased me this morning. I was barely able to slither to safety. She’s going to make me dinner soon!” He curled up on the ground. “Everybody hates me.”
“That’s not true!” Bella said. “We like you!”
“We do?” Zack asked.
“Most people don’t like me,” Sammy sobbed. “Like your Mommy. She saw me last week, and she screamed.”
“I think people are afraid of snakes because they slither,” Zack said, “but everybody needs friends, and I would be proud to be your friend.”
“You would?” Sammy said. “Even if your Mommy is scared of me?”
“We’ll be your friend no matter who’s scared of you,” Bella said.
“Not only that, we’ll introduce you to more friends,” Bob said. “We’re taking Zack to meet the folks of the woods. Would you like to accompany us?”
Sammy brightened. “Sure!”
They continued through the woods, looking at the trees and birds flying overhead. Shuffling through the leaves, they stopped for a sip of water from a pond when they heard footsteps behind them. A stick poked Zack in the back.
“Alright everybody, turn around slowly and put your hands up!”
Turning, they saw squirrels surrounding them. Some had sticks pointed at them. Others had slingshots and small pebbles. Ricky put his paws in the air. “I think I’m the only one that has hands to put up.”
“Very funny,” the squirrel behind him said. “Come on everybody, you’re coming with us.”
“Where?” Zack asked, trembling.
“We’re under orders from the Day Queen of the forest. You’re trespassing on her land.”
“Trespassing! We live here!” Bella said.
A squirrel behind her with a stick. “Quiet, Blue Beauty. When the Day Queen requests your audience, you come with us.”
“Who is the Day Queen of the forest?” Zack asked.
“You’ll find out soon enough Goldenrod.” The squirrel behind Zack said. “Now move.”
The squirrels marched them further into the forest. Zack was scared. The sun was in the middle of the sky. It was getting hot. They stopped in front of an oak tree in the middle of a heavily wooded area. The squirrel behind Zack stepped forward and saluted.
“Squirrel Squadron Seven reports the mission complete. The suspects have been found. I present them to you.”
“Very well,” a female voice said. A hawk flew from the top of the tree and landed in front of the group. “Greetings! I am Henrietta Hawk, Day Queen of the forest. What brings you into my lands?”
“Henrietta Hawk!” Sammy hissed. “We’re doomed!”
Bob and Bella huddled together. “No! She’ll eat us!”
Ricky dropped his carrot.
Zack knew he had to be brave. He stepped forward and bowed his head. “Greetings, Queen Hawk. My name is Zack. I moved to the edge of these woods with my mommy and daddy last fall.”
Henrietta bent down and studied Zack. “Yes, we have watched you. Your parents are human. You are their pet. What brings you to our woods?”
Zack bobbed his head in agreement. “I was adopted by human parents from the pet store. They built the house at the edge of these woods. I’ve made many friends, like Bob and Bella Bluebird. I met them when Daddy built a bluebird house for them. They live in my backyard.”
Ricky stepped forward. “I live in a hole next to Farmer Fulmer. He leaves food out for us when he gathers his crops.”
“Please don’t eat me,” Sammy said. “We just wanted to make new friends, and to meet our neighbors.”
Henrietta studied each of them. “I see you have good intentions for exploring my land. You bring good tidings of kind people and wonderful friends.” She flew to a high branch and called out with a loud voice. “Our guests have arrived! Let the celebration begin!”
“What?” Zack asked as animals began to appear from the trees around them, bringing fruits, berries, and vegetables for a feast. Henrietta flew to the ground next to Zack.
“I’m sorry if I scared you. The truth is that we heard it’s your birthday, and we wanted to have a party for you.” She bowed to Bob and Bella. “Thank you for bringing him so we could have this celebration.”
“You set this up?” Zack asked.
Bob and Bella smiled. “Surprise!”
“Happy Birthday!” Ricky said.
“Welcome to our new friend and neighbor!” Sammy said.
The squirrels threw their sticks in the air and began to dance. “Hooray for new friends and birthdays!”
They laughed and danced for hours, until a small hawk flew in. “Scout Harry Hawk, with a traffic report. Zack, your mommy and daddy are on the way home. I’ll guide you back to your house.”
Zack bowed to his new friends. “Thank you for the wonderful party. I hope I see you again soon.”
“You certainly will!” Ricky said. “We’ll be sure to visit often!”
“Please be sure to visit us as well!” Henrietta said. “Now go, before your parents get home and worry!”
They flew through the forest. Fortunately, they hadn’t gone far since they walked most of the way. Bob and Bella helped Zack back into his house and cage, pulling the latch tightly shut and closing the window as the garage door opened. Zack dashed to the back of his cage and peeked out, as if waking from a nap.
“Hi Zack, did you have a good day?” Daddy asked, opening the door. Zack stepped on his finger.
“Hi Zack!” Mommy said, giving him a kiss and patting his back. She frowned slightly as she pulled something from his feathers.
“What is it?” Daddy asked.
“A leaf,” Mommy said. She looked at Zack. “My goodness, that’s strange. What have you been doing today?”
Zack looked out the window at Ricky, who winked and hopped into the woods. It had been an interesting day indeed.