Chapter 6

The Little Differences

Vida sported six pronged feathers in the proximity of what would be a Peridot’s tail. The plumage was sprawling and aquatic. Their colors possessed a certain depth of blue, only to be matched by the depth of blue of Vida’s caboose. Their ears and hind legs were turquoise and lithe. Their chest and front legs were white as snow … which, at the time of their birth, Vida had yet to see. Their face was a mixture of blue and gray, maudlin colors that did not reflect Vida’s mood or spirit. This was a vibrant, plucky companion. No human keeper had seen such a unique Peridot, for up to that point, diversity of the species remained confined to a few colors, a few tails, and a few ruffles around one’s head. Vida’s magnetism charmed many a human, some of whom hoped that their next Peridot would be as beautiful as, if not more so than, Vida.

Vida’s keeper was a potion maker and healer, the same Tawnis who cared for Olo, a mischievous Peridot who had grown up and departed for a habitat far away. The Tawnis had refined her craft consummately. She removed thorns from sides, pebbles from ears, and bad vibes from bilious frowns. After Vida was born, many accused the Tawnis of concocting a special potion that made it possible for Vida to be born. Such accusers were few. Alas, their voices were loud and turned other Peridots against Vida. The Tawnis saw this first hand at the campsite when, during Eshuan, when all were to celebrate the relief of the first summer drought, three Peridots misled Vida into playing hide and seek. Vida hid and no one bothered to find them.

The Tawnis held Vida and cooed sweet-sounding melodies into the night.

Eshuan augured heavy rainstorms that lasted for days. That year, rain descended upon the campsite with great fury. Peridots who reached adulthood and left their keepers found themselves without a home. Dozens of habitats befell heavy gusts and heavier downpour. These Peridots could (and would) return to their keepers, but the instinct to ascend to their habitats gnawed deeply inside them. Every day and every night, they looked upward, hoping.

Humans tried to create new nests for them, but the twigs were weak and porous. These Peridots gestured toward a tree in the outskirts of the campsite whose branches were rich and hefty but too high for a human to climb to. Smaller branches laddered from the ground to the thicker branches, but appeared too brittle for a foot or a hand to lay upon.

Others came to the Tawnis, begging for a solution. Potions couldn’t conjure a nest, yet the Tawnis could not deny their pleas for help. She walked to the large tree with Vida by her side, examined its girth and height, and attempted to scale the tree with Vida on her shoulders. The smaller branches held up just fine, for the Tawnis was of modest stature. But as she scaled higher, the branches dwindled. Halfway, big gaps separated one branch from another. The Tawnis reached for the next branch upward, missed, and dropped to the branch she leapt from. She now hung from it with just her hands! She sloped across this tilted branch, one hand at a time, until she reached the core of the tree and lowered herself to the stub of the branch below her. She perched herself upon it and took a sigh of relief. Then the Tawnis looked around … and panicked. Vida was nowhere to be found. She gazed downward and sideways, and shouted out Vida’s name to which neither a peep nor a creak returned in kind.

Wings flapping against the air drew the Tawnis’s upward gaze. Vida fluttered about, popped and sank in the air, until a final flap of its hefty feathers thrusted the Peridot upon the thickest branch of the tree. A look of fear crept upon the face of the Tawnis. “Be careful,” she said in ancient, simple words. Vida was careful, indeed. They plucked as many twigs as they could find. Down the twigs poured. To greet them, grateful keepers held out their arms. Quickly, they filled.

The Tawnis motioned for Vida to descend to her. They fluttered alongside the graceful wind and drifted downward into the arms of the Tawnis. Together, they scaled down the tree and were met by a gracious Peridot gathering. Toddlers, teenagers, and adults glutted Vida with smiles and tail-wagging. The three who once played hide and seek with Vida tugged at their tail to play another game. And they did. They played countless games of hide and seek. Vida was always found.

It was only a few days when those who lost their homes returned to their new habitats. They left behind a gift for Vida. It was a special habitat, made of the finest and strongest twigs. But Vida declined.

Dear reader, as you know by now, Peridots do not have the gift of words. But there is a unique language between a keeper and their Peridot. This language comprises gestures, actions, eye flutters, tail wags, and knowing glances. Through these, Vida let the Tawnis know for whom the habitat should be meant. The Tawnis declared to the Peridots and humans at the campsite that this new habitat shall be graced by those rare breeds of Peridots whom others don’t quite understand yet. It is a home for introductions, for the chance to accept one another and to learn from each other. Then, when this rare breed is still a young one but slightly older, they leave this special habitat for the warm embrace of their human friend.

The Keepers of Peridots decreed this habitat, “The Little Kingdom for One and All.” Other campsites caught wind of this decree and created their own “Little Kingdoms for One and All.” Future generations would follow suit and abide by one requirement in the construction of each habitat – that six blades of grass, dipped in blue pigment and tied together in a sprawling array, would spring forth from the back of the nest, as a reminder of Vida’s plumage and their gift for air.

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