The Magpie

Photograph by Richard Baxter
Photograph by Richard Baxter

Extract: Turning Point 2, Step 1, Sequence 3, Scene 3

The magpie had been teasing till now, flying at handle bar height and swooping back and forth in front of her. As they got to the busier part of the park, complete with a kid’s jungle gym, a barbeque and dogs catching frisbees and each other’s tails, the noise and commotion set the magpie to resume its normal tendency and fly high, away from the human and canine disturbances. Mildred kept her eyes glued to it as she peddled faster, putting her bike into gear on autopilot, knowing that there was a hill coming up, the path was that familiar to her, from the days of her pink tricycle with its flying ribbons on her handlebar. The magpie was only distinguishable now because of the red speck that was the little bag it held clasped in its beak. Its warble was no longer discernable from that of its black and white brethren and the general sound of people enjoying the sunshine in the park. With her eyes averted from the path and forgetting the elementary rule that what goes up must come down, the downhill of the path caught her by surprise, her feet madly peddling against no resistance, as her bike freewheeled, crashing into a folding card table on the edge of the path, positioned in the unfortunate spot of the first bit of flat after the descent. The table collapsed and toppled onto her, sandwiching Mildred between it and her bike which lay on it’s side, front wheel still spinning.

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The Gum Tree and the Magpie

“I have only one requirement of any bird that wants to pirch upon the generous seating I provide, I expect to be compensated with the preservation of my legacy, in this paddock and beyond. How else am I to remain immortal, than to have my seeds spread? Following years of draught, and destruction of saplings spawned from my gumnuts all around me, I have no choice but to punish those who drop by just for a seat or to peck off bits of my offshoots to build their nests, or worse still, to crush and eat my seeds with disregard for my needs.”

The disgruntled branch of the majestic gum tree was in deep conversation with the magpie, who sat pirched upon him, the branch bowed beneath the magpie’s weight. The magpie had no need to eat, filled up as he was from the more jovial branches above. Being a good listener also won the magpie the approval of the disgruntled branch, who was only too happy to waive his strict requirements for the sake of having an audience.

The disgruntled branch continued. “You understand then, the crimson rosella causes me great offense, refusing to spread my seeds and instead destroying them to feed its greedy belly. It doesn’t have the same sweet song that you sing to me, dear magpie. I see no use for it at all.”

As he spoke, the clouds that had been brewing a storm for some time let loose, the mighty cumulonimbus throwing around its weight. The branches above, who were graced with many more leaves than the disgruntled branch, caught the falling rain and showered their less agreeable neighbour as they shook with abandon. And so it rained and rained, much more than it had rained for years, for there had been a draught, as the disgruntled branch had mentioned in his monologue to the magpie. The ground below, parched for so long now without the rain, didn’t take so well to the deluge, and the rain flooded at the base of the trunk that housed the disgruntled branch and all the others. With enough rainwater pooled beneath him, the disgruntled branch was able to see his own reflection How I have aged, I am bereft of most of my leaves, he thought. At his furthermost extremity, he could see the black and white feathers of the magpie, sitting patiently to listen, occasionally offering his sweet song. As the rain increased its pace, falling in large drops and broadening the pool, the disgruntled branch caught sight of the carefree branches above. They flaunted their beauty, with their abundance of leaves, but there was something else. Shaking a little in disbelief at what he saw, the disgruntled branch was struck by the jewels encrusting every other branch. Ruby and sapphire, as though being full leaved were not fortune enough. “Do you see that, magpie? Do you see how the others flaunt their youth, rubbing it in my face. They’re bedecked in jewels, surely the weight of which will crush me if they break”.

The magpie finally spoke “My dear branch, they are not jewels, they are the red and blue plumes of the crimson rosellas that caused you great offense.”


Write your story from the point of view of a branch with a bird pirched on it (prompt from one of hundreds found on this site).