It’s New Year’s Day, and Harold’s very important yearly delivery is scuppered by a series of less than fortunate events.
Will Harold be able to deliver a grandfather’s message to his granddaughter in time? WE HAVE TO KNOW!!
Story by George Young © 2017 All Rights Reserved.
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The Homing Pigeon
By George Young
As it was with every New Year’s Day, Harold the Homing Pigeon was flying across Taiwan.
Harold’s yearly journey took him from his owner’s rooftop in the North West of Taiwan, all the way to the very South East of the island, where his owner’s granddaughter lived.
In his claws, Harold was carrying a small, tightly rolled up piece of paper, which was tied up with a piece of thick gold string.
Just as Harold made his usual turn from Taichung to Nantou, a gust of wind came rushing up and under his wings, blowing the piece of paper right out of his grasp.
“Oh no!” said Harold, as the paper fell into a nearby park.
Harold swooped down from the sky, and landed close to where thought the piece of paper landed.
“Are you looking for something?” Asked Olly the Owl, who – although it was the middle of the afternoon – looked like he was just woken up from a deep sleep.
“I’m looking for a piece of paper that I need to deliver,” replied Harold.
“At the start of every year, I fly from Hsinchu to Taitung to deliver a message to my owner’s granddaughter,” Harold fanned himself with his black-striped wing, “and today I’ve lost that message!”
“I think I saw where it landed!” came a voice from under a nearby tree. It was Joey the Kangaroo.
“Really?” said Harold. “Please show me where!”
Joey lifted her tail and pointed it towards the park’s playground.
“I saw something fall from the sky and land right under that swing!” Said Joey, always eager to help.
Joey had hardly finished her sentence by the time Harold had reached the swing set. He moved his neck forward and peered under the swing.
Unfortunately for Harold, the piece of paper managed to escape its gold string, and land in the only puddle in the park.
The crisp bright white paper, and the message contained within it, had unfurled into the water, and was quickly becoming nothing more than a pile of dark brown mush.
Harold quickly grabbed the clean end of the message with his beak, and with a quick tug, pulled part of the message out from the puddle, as the other part disappeared into the water.
“Oh NO!” cried Harold, as he stared at his only remaining piece of his once-precious cargo.
“What am I going to do now?” said Harold. “The message is ruined!”
“Now now,” said Olly the Owl, “there’s no use getting upset about what you don’t have.
“All that is in the past,” Olly said as he picked up the gold string that was lying next to the puddle of water and handed it to Harold. “Let’s see what we can do with what you have, shall we?”
“And what do I have, exactly?” said Harold, who was visibly upset with the whole situation. “I have a tiny scrap of a message that my owner sends to his granddaughter every year.”
Harold turned his head to the grey-blue sky, “I may as well leave and never come back.”
“If you leave now, who’s going to deliver this message?” asked Olly, pointing to the piece of paper that Harold had now placed in his claws.
“Isn’t it better that this granddaughter gets at least something from her grandpa? Something is better than nothing, is it not?” Olly loved to end his sentences with questions.
“That bit of the message could be the most important part!” shouted Joey, as she hopped next to the swing.
“Alright alright – I’ll finish what I’m sure will be my last delivery, and THEN I’ll leave and never come back.” Harold said, as he finished tying the string back around the remaining piece of paper, which was a complicated job when you only have wings, a beak and two claws.
As Harold launched back into the sky, Joey couldn’t help but give a final piece of advice:
“Just be honest about it!” shouted Joey, “you can’t go wrong with being honest!”
Harold, needing to make up for lost time, flew as fast as his wings could take him.
“Faster! Faster! I must go faster!” said Harold as he saw the sun setting behind him.
With almost no delay at all, Harold landed on the red roof of a house in Taitung. It was the house where the granddaughter lived.
Breathing heavily from all the fast flying, Harold dropped the message into a light brown wooden delivery box that was attached to the side of the house.
The delivery box was a rather fancy contraption: it had the tiniest of bells that was attached to a thin wire, that in turn was attached to the lid of the delivery box, so that whenever Harold made a delivery, the package would cause the little bell to ring.
The tiny bell made a surprisingly large “ding-a-ling!” as Harold dropped off his delivery.
Harold heard footsteps within the house as he quickly flew away and hid within the branches of a nearby tree.
A little girl opened the front door of the house, and opened up the wooden delivery box.
Harold, still panting from the high speed workout he just had, looked on in fear.
“Oh no,” said Harold, “she’s going to get so upset when she sees the message – oh what a fool I am to listen to that silly owl,” beads of sweat started to drip from his face, “How on Earth was I supposed to-”
The girl ran into her house and into the kitchen.
Harold couldn’t help himself – he had to find out what the little girl was going to do with the message.
“Is she going to report me to the Homing Pigeon Head Office?” Harold said to himself, in a panicked whisper. Harold didn’t normally worry too much about anything, but today was not a normal day.
“I’m going to lose my Flying Licence and never work as a Homing Pigeon again!” thought Harold, “Whatever am I going to tell my parents? I suppose I could work as a postman, but then I’d have to get a driver’s licence, and it’s going to be very hard to hold a steering wheel without any hands-”
And with that, Harold saw the little girl appear in the kitchen, where she placed the piece of paper on the table.
Harold peered closer into the house, so close that he bumped his beak on the kitchen window pane, which thankfully didn’t draw any attention to him from the little girl, but did scare away a little rat, who was most likely waiting to get inside to eat some New Year treats.
The little girl then took the thick gold string, and carefully placed it in a glass jar that took pride of place in the middle of the kitchen table.
“What is she doing?” Thought Harold “Why is she keeping the string of all things?”
Harold leaned his head even closer to the kitchen window.
This time, Harold’s beak pressed firmly enough on the window for it to open suddenly, causing Harold to tumble into the kitchen and onto the kitchen table.
The little girl turned towards the sound of all the noise, only to see Harold sprawled dangerously close to the glass jar.
“Harold?” said the little girl, “is that you?”
Harold quickly placed himself upright and dusted himself off.
“Hi Maggie,” said Harold, as calmly as he could.
“I thought I saw you hiding in that tree!” Said Maggie, “why did you rush off so quickly this year?”
“Well,” said Harold, “I was actually feeling a little bit bad about the message that I delivered to you.” Harold swallowed hard before continuing, “I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that-”
“Why would you feel bad?” Maggie asked. “You delivered the string safe and sound!”
“The string?” exclaimed Harold, “but what about the message? I dropped it in a puddle! The message was ruined!”
“No silly!” said Maggie, “every New Year’s Day, my grandpa sends me a gold piece of string to show that, however far away from him I am, we’ll always be connected as family.”
“String?” Harold was puzzled as he glanced again at the glass jar – he noticed now that it was full of pieces of gold string: some of different lengths, and some more faded than the others.
Maggie pointed to the jar. “My grandpa used to send these pieces of string to my mum, and now, he sends them to me. He says gold string from Hsinchu is the luckiest.”
“Hasn’t your granddad heard of email?” came a voice from just outside the window. It was the little rat, who had made her way back onto the kitchen window ledge, and apparently couldn’t help but get involved in this strange situation.
“Go away, rat!” shouted Harold, who pretended to be angry with the intruder, even though secretly he both welcomed the interruption, and was in fact thinking the same thing.
Maggie let out a soft laugh, “It’s tradition, silly!” she said, “I guess family traditions can sound strange to other people sometimes.”
“But,” said Harold, still a little confused, “what about the message?”
Maggie smiled gently at Harold, “the string is the message! Grandpa tied it around a rolled up piece of paper so you can hold it and deliver it more easily.”
“That’s nice of him.” said the little rat.
“Be QUIET, rat.” said Harold.
“So,” added Harold, who was still trying to take this all in, “The owl was right? I’m not fired?”
“There’s an owl?!” squeaked the little rat as she scuttled to safety. She was very afraid of owls.
“Well,” said Maggie, “I don’t know who this ‘owl’ is, but of course you’re not fired! Thanks to you, my new year once again starts with a good luck charm from my grandpa. Thank you!”
“Oh my!” cried Harold, “that’s such a relief!”
Not wanting to overstay his welcome or push his luck, Harold started to make his way back to the kitchen window.
“Thank you for making my year start off happily!”
“Happy new year, Harold!” said Maggie, “and see you next year!”
And with that, Harold took flight into the Taiwan sky, ready to make his way back home.