Ch. 18.2 Hatching Day —
“Get out of my nest,” said the Jubjub bird. “Now you’ve got human stink all over my eggs. It’s bad enough that humans throw rocks and shoot arrows at us all the time, but now you’re creeping around at night and sleeping in our nests too.” She flapped her enormous purple wings and squawked.
The bird was as tall as Janine, and twice as wide, with a sharp yellow beak. Janine thought it best to be very polite. She scrambled up. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean any harm.”
Janine backed up until she was against the edge of the twiggy nest. How could she have been so stupid? Six purple speckled eggs sat in the middle of the nest, which was made of branches, lined with feathers, and about the size of a bathtub.
Janine opened her knapsack. “Would you like a lollipop?”
“What’s that?” The bird sniffed suspiciously at the offered treat.
“A lollipop. It’s sweet and delicious, and they come in six flavors. Granny… the witch Connie gave them to me.”
“Connie? Why didn’t you say so?” The Jubjub bird sampled all six flavors, crunching them with her strong bill. “They’re all good, but I like strawberry the best.”
“When I get where I’m headed, I’ll make a bunch and send them back to you.”
“Where are you headed?”
Janine hesitated. “There’s a Tumtum tree near here somewhere, next to a stream.”
“That’s only a few miles to the east, as the Jubjub flies. I’m not sure how long it will take on those puny human legs.”
Just then the six eggs began to rock. Cracks appeared along their glossy surfaces.
“Oh, my. Oh, my,” said the Jubjub bird. “It’s hatching day!”
All the birds in the trees around them took up the chorus. “Hatching day, it’s hatching day! O frabjous joy, callooh callay.”
Janine watched in wonder as each egg cracked open and the baby birds slowly emerged, peeping. They were all purple, with yellow beaks and legs. One had a crest of feathers sticking up on the top of its head.
When they were all out and their down was drying, they began to demand food.
“Oh, my, oh my. You lovely dears, I’ll be right back with breakfast.” The Jubjub bird took off to find some food.
The babies looked at Janine.
“Hungry,” said one. The others took up the chant. “Hungry, hungry.”
Another sniffed at Janine. “Is it food?”
“Let’s eat it now,” said another.
Ch 18.3 Janine Thinks Fast —
“I’m not food,” Janine said hastily. “I’m a person.”
“It talks, so it must be our sister,” said the one with the crest on its head.
“But it’s a strange color,” said another. “And where are its feathers?”
“No feathers? Poor thing. How will it ever fly?”
“If it can’t fly, maybe we should eat it.”
Janine stood up tall. “You can’t eat me. I’m going to fly someday, you’ll see.”
“Silly,” said the crested one. “She’s a baby like us. She hasn’t grown her wings and feathers yet.”
Janine fished around in her pack. “Here, just the thing while we wait. A snack.”
She broke up the rest of the gingerbread and threw pieces into their open mouths. Then she gave each one a lollipop, which they crunched and swallowed down, stick and all.
“Still hungry,” said one, eyeing her again.
“I know,” said Janine. “We’ll sing songs!” She began an enthusiastic rendition of “Six Little Jubbies that I Once Knew,” sung to the tune of “Six Little Ducks.” Janine added verses and named all the babies. When they grew restless, she changed to “The Corner Grocery Store,” which they found very amusing, and then to “Good Witch Connie had a Farm, E I E I O.”
The birds caught on to the words quickly, and soon all the other birds in the area were singing along too. Janine’s voice was hoarse by the time a shadow glided in overhead.
The mother bird landed with a large white rabbit dangling from her claws. “Come children, time to eat.”
The babies began to call out, “Me, me, me!”
Janine gulped. “I’ll just be going now. Goodbye!”
“Bye, sister,” said Cresty, the baby bird who had been friendly to her.
The mother bird threw a round metal object to Janine. “Here. Keepsake. This one won’t ever be late again.”
“Um. Thank you?”
Janine put the object in her pocket. She put on her pack, scrambled over the side, shimmied down the tree, retrieved her dog, and hurried away as fast as she could go.