In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion reads the paper
Sin, like a journey, begins with the first step; and wisdom and experience teach that it is easier to resist the first temptation than later ones, when a pattern of transgression has begun to develop. This is demonstrated in the story of the lark. Sitting in the high branches of a tree safe from harm, he saw a traveler walking through the forest carrying a mysterious little black box. The lark flew down and perched on the traveler’s shoulder. ‘What do you have in the little black box?’ he asked.
“Worms,” the traveler replied.
“Are they for sale?”
“Yes, and very cheaply, too. The price is only one feather for a worm….”
[Eventually] The man with the worms came no more, for there were no feathers to pay for the meals. The lark no longer sang because he was so ashamed of his fallen state.
This is how unworthy habits possess us—first painfully, then more easily, until at last we find ourselves stripped of all that lets us sing and soar. This is how freedom is lost. This is how we become enmeshed in sin.
-Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Pastor Sullivan, lost in a comfortably worn wing-back chair and a book, looked up and cast his eyes around the room, but he was otherwise perfectly still. Not even a breath. The noise had been so faint—if there had been a noise at all—it would’ve been lost if he made any sound. He paused for several beats, listening for further evidence.
He sunk back into his book, but before he could complete another sentence, there were four more tiny staccato knocks: Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. It seemed the sound was real and it was coming from the front door of the small manse. Pastor Sullivan fought his way out of the chair and crossed over to the room. “Coming,” he sung out seconds before opening the door wide.
No one was there. Or no one seemed to be there.
He peered up and down the tree-lined street across a beautiful fall day. Old oaks and maples pushed out north and south from the church’s lot, arcing over the road, dropping their leaves and creating a golden, orange, and red tunnel, and cool, earthy air seeped past the clergyman into house behind him. He reflected on the scene and the mystery of the faint knocking and was about to return to his chair and book when he happened to hear a small, pitiful little cough coming from the doormat.
He looked down and said, “Pardon, I didn’t see you there.”
Standing in front of Pastor Sullivan was a grotesque, mangy animal, not more than four or five inches high, holding out a knobby arm-like stump as if to beg. The creature was draped in blotchy, pale pink skin, with sporadic tufts of useless plumage stuck to him here and there. It was as if he had been stripped naked, left out in the sun, frozen through a winter, splashed from the gutter, and then rolled in ashen filth and refuse. The skin under the eyes sunk, leaving thin red crescents just under the cornea, and the animal did not look up to the man before him, but stared forward into space.
He coughed again and then feebly chirped, “Please, money or food, please.”
Pastor Sullivan dropped down to one knee to see into the animals face, “Why you’re a bird!” he exclaimed with surprise and pity.
“Yes, a lark.” The bird was still not making eye contact, but staring into the man’s shins. “Money or food, please,” he returned to topic and held his featherless wing out again.
“Well, come in, come in. Let’s see what we can do.” The Pastor held out a straight finger at the lark’s feet, the bird hopped on, and the two of them went back into the small house together. They reached the kitchen and the priest set the bird down to perch on the back of a chair pulled up to the table. “I think I might have something that will do,” the man said as he mixed some meal up with a bit of water and set it before the bird, who, looking dispossessed, hopped down to the table and started pecking at the mash.
The Pastor sat with a silent concern while the bird greedily ate.
When his stomach was full, the lark began to look nervous, shifting his eyes from side to side, wondering how to get out of the manse as quickly as possible. “Well, thanks,” he chirped out without making eye contact and turned away to start a sort of frantic and crippled hopping toward the door, flailing his featherless nubs.
“Now hold on, hold on!” Pastor Sullivan got a step or two in front of the bird and bent down into his path. “Stay, rest a while. You’ll be hungry again soon, you know.”
“No, no, I need to be going. I really need…” Though he clearly had no place to be, the Lark seemed more desperate to leave than he had been for food.
“Now, you didn’t even tell me your name!” the priest gently chided.
The bird stopped his flailing shuffle. “It’s Leonard,” he said looking back to the floor.
“Well, Leonard, it’s nice to meet you. You seem a bit cold and the sun is going down and it’s getting chilly out. It’s no place for a bird in your shape, certainly not. You came here for help, my friend. Now what kind of man of the cloth would I be if I didn’t let you sit by a fire, warm your bones up, let you rest for a bit, and get another meal into you before you take off.”
Leonard stood frozen. He looked so tired, wavering in indecision.
Pastor Sullivan jumped in to sway. “Don’t worry, my son. The Lord provides for all my wants and needs, and there is plenty to share. And when you’ve gotten warm and have your fill, you can hop out and on your way soon enough. The whole blasted world will still be out there. It’s not going anywhere.” Leonard nodded a bit and the man held out his finger again. The two walked over to a chair close to the fireplace where the lark was left to perch on the arm while the priest started fussing with kindling.
Leonard stared into space, not thinking but only noticing things—the tall shelves filled with all colors of serious looking books, the steady tick and periodic chiming of a small mantle clock, a few crackles, and finally the warmth of the growing fire. When he was sure the fire could fend for itself, the pastor took a chair across from his guest. “Now, Leonard, my son, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you get in such a bad way?”
Leonard hesitated, not sure whether or how to start. He looked into Pastor Sullivan’s eyes, searching for any sort of devious motive or air of superiority. But there was something boyish, gentle, and even a little dopey about the man. The pastor didn’t seem to have any expectations or notions what Leonard should or shouldn’t say, only a sort of curiosity about what might happen next. It had been ages since the bird had chirped with anyone except to beg for food and spare change, and the idea of talking seemed possible—but he was afraid of being preached at or misunderstood, and he didn’t quite know whether talking would hurt or heal.
The pastor was being pleasant and patient, waiting with a faint smile and sympathetic eyes. The Lark started to talk.
“I wasn’t always like this.” He paused for a long time. This was the first time he had acknowledged his decline, and he had to let the effect of his admission pass before he could continue. “I used to be a regular Lark, healthy, strong, happy, flying and singing…” He paused again.
“Oh, dear bird, what happened?” The pastor was reliving the tragedy afresh.
“What happened?!” the bird laughed out with a bit of derision. “I happened.” The bird cocked his head toward Pastor Sullivan, and for the first time seemed present. “Do you really want to know what happened?”
“Please. Yes, please,” he tripped over himself to show deference and interest, terrified that Leonard might pull away now while they were at the edge of a real discussion. But Leonard didn’t pull away. In a clear and surprisingly strong singsong he began chirping out his story.
Leonard had arrived in town just ahead of the spring weather. He was two years old, in the prime of his life. On a remarkably ordinary day while he was moving from branch to branch taking in the new neighborhood, he noticed a man walking down the road. He was well kempt—clean-shaven, hair parted and slightly glossy—and dressed in a ridiculously nice suit that seemed quite casual on him. The man walked tall and straight with a sense of urgency, neither looking to his right nor left. He was mechanical yet elegant. He didn’t smile, but his face wasn’t unpleasant. He was confident, handsome, and above all fiercely proud. Leonard was so fascinated by the man that it took some time for the bird to notice the stranger was carrying a beautiful mahogany box with mother-of-pearl inlays.
This did not seem like the kind of person to be trusted—most humans were a somewhat suspect, and there was something particularly odd about this man. The Lark told himself to fly away but was bolstered by the thought that he was a bird, and, if at any time the situation became unsafe, he could fly away unharmed. He decided to indulge his curiosity, and alighted down from the treetops to the roadway, a few steps ahead of the stranger.
“Hello, Leonard,” the man said as if the two met at the same time and place every day, but he didn’t break his pace.
Leonard hopped back a few feet, keeping a steady distance, “How do you know my name?” he chirped out scared but all the more fascinated. “I don’t know any humans.”
“You know me.” The man’s voice and tone was like his pace, relentless, unbroken by any doubt or thought.
Leonard’s stomach dropped and a shiver pushed its way up his short spine. “Leave!” he told himself. But the bird took a few steps back, and countered in his head, “I can fly away at any time. I will leave as soon as I know who this man is and what is in the box.”
“You must be mistaken. I don’t know who you are,” he chirped out.
“I am Lucifer.”
The bird cocked his head sideways, perplexed.
“The devil, Leonard. I am Satan.”
He quickly straightened his head and relaxed. It was a ridiculous thing for anyone walking down the street to say. “The devil wears penny loafers?” Leonard chirped out.
“Stupid little bird. You won’t have a devil with shoes yet you would accept a head-to-toe red devil with a goat’s legs, a man’s body, and a trident?”
“I’m not sure I believe in the devil at all,” Leonard kept hopping back, “but I certainly don’t believe in the devil walking in front of me, in broad daylight, wearing Brooks Brother’s penny loafers.” This was turning out to be much more fun than the Lark could’ve hoped for.
“Just as well. What do you want with me, Leonard?”
“Well, devil… Or should I call you Lucifer?”
“I do not care what you call me now. You will call me master soon enough.”
The bird hopped back a pace. “Well, Devil, what are you carrying in your fancy box?”
“Worms.” He neither broke his stride nor looked down at the Leonard.
“Worms?” Leonard half-laughed, half-chirped. “You have dirty worms writhing around in your fancy box?”
“I said as much.” There was an edge in the man’s voice; he seemed to be getting sick of the exchange.
“Whew,” whistled the Lark. “And I suppose you’ll give me a worm from your fancy box if I give you my soul?”
The man suddenly stopped. His walk had been so steady, so even, that halting was more unexpected and seemed more threatening, than a lurch forward. Effortlessly the man crouched down and hovered over the bird. “No, Leonard, I don’t care at all for your soul. I don’t care at all for you. Keep your soul and the two of you can be miserable together, your soul and body both feeling the weight of the other and hating each other for it. They are twin fools that deserve each other.”
Leonard, who had been prepared to fly away in an instant, found himself captivated, frozen with curiosity and a confused panic caused by the change in pace and tone. He flexed his wings as if to flutter away, but at that moment the man straightened up, adding a little bit of space between them, and softened his face. It was enough to obviate any real sense of danger, and rather than taking off, he jumped a few more inches back and waited to see what would happen next.
The man opened the box and it was filled with worms. Fresh, fragrant worms. “You will find that I am above all things a reasonable man. There are plenty of worms in the world, and I have plenty of worms in this box, so my price must be cheap.”
Leonard was skeptical, not sure what the stranger was getting at, but suddenly happy about getting a real worm from the fake devil. “How cheap?”
“Let’s see,” the man looked Leonard over. It was the first time he seemed to give real thought to the conversation. “I have an abundance of worms; I’ll trade you one for whatever you have the most of.”
Leonard hopped back and thought for a second. Then he plucked a tiny, never-used, soon-to-molt feather out from under his wing, and threw it at the feet of the man. “There you go, Beelzebub,” he chirped out. “One feather. That’s what I have the most of.”
The man pulled out a worm with his thumb and forefinger, and threw it at the bird’s feet. “One worm,” he copied, closed the box, and walked away at his full pace without ever looking back.
Leonard skipped well out of the way and watched the man move on. The devil was definitely crazy and fake, but the worm seemed fine and real. He fluttered back to the wriggling meal in the middle of the road, pecked at it a little, hefted it in his beak. Everything seemed normal, so he threw it back into his throat and swallowed. He waited a minute, prepared to vomit if anything seemed wrong, but it was delicious. He couldn’t have been more satisfied about how things had turned out. “Thanks, Mr. Devil!” he chirped out loudly to the stranger who was by now nearly half a block away. “Come back with your fancy box of worms any old time!”
A day hadn’t passed when Leonard, high in his tree, saw a man coming down the street. The man was far away, a small spot on the horizon, but was immediately recognizable by the way he carried himself and his steady, unrelenting pace. “Too good to be true,” the bird chirped and took off to close the distance, landing, as before, a few steps ahead of the strange man.
“What a relief, Mr. Devil! I was starting to get hungry,” the bird chirped.
“If you’d like a worm, you know the price. We have nothing else to discuss.”
Leonard plucked out another, tiny insignificant feather, and threw it at the man’s loafers. The man opened the box, pulled out a worm, and threw it at the bird’s feet. The exchange was much less interesting this time around, but the worm tasted every bit as good.
Day after day a feather was plucked and a worm was given. Leonard never ate better or had a more carefree spring.
After a month he looked fine, but noticed a slight bit of drag at flight. “Could be something in the weather,” he thought. Another month went by—thirty more feathers and thirty more worms—and flying was getting difficult. Leonard faced facts. “I suppose I ought to start cutting back,” he decided. “No more than one free worm a week. The other six days, I’ll hunt.”
The next morning he got an early start, like the good old days, and starting picking through a neighborhood lawn. He had only been at it for a few minutes when some magpies came down and started crowding the area. “SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!” they said. Leonard didn’t want a fight, so he hopped away to the edge of lawn, close to the shrubs, and resumed his hunt.
He had forgotten how much concentration it took to spot worms and bugs in the grass. He had forgotten how damp and chilly it is before the sun comes up, and how uncomfortably hot it can get after the sun has had a few minutes to steady itself over the horizon. He kept thinking about how magpies are world-class jerks. And as time passed he was thinking more and more about comfortably watching the world from his tree, idly singing away the day, and he kept wondering if the penny-loafer devil was somewhere nearby. Leonard was busy thinking about all these things and more, but he was not thinking about cats.
A streak of black shot out from underneath the shrubs, coming fast over his right shoulder. Lightening bolts of adrenaline fired through the lark, and in milliseconds his wings were out and throwing air behind him. The cat’s foremost paw caught the tip of the bird’s wing just as he was taking off, causing one little scratch, but Leonard knew it was a lot closer to complete disaster than one little scratch. Another centimeter, another few milliseconds, and he wouldn’t have been able to take off.
“Screw it,” he thought as he sailed back toward his tree home, wing stinging with each flutter. He was looking for a meal, not to become a meal. “I’m done pecking around with magpies. I’m done with cats and lawns. I’m a lark. I sing, I fly. I don’t need the hassle.”
With some effort he got back to his home and looked toward the horizon. He needed a worm—not because he needed to eat every day, but because he was alive. Because it was time to celebrate. Because he was still jittery from the near miss, and something in the stomach might calm him down. Because he needed protein for his scratch to heal. Because having a nice worm delivered right to him would put those magpies, who were out working and squawking away all day like a bunch of saps, in their place. He kept looking toward the horizon, but the man and the box didn’t come that day. Or maybe he came while the Lark was out hunting. Regardless, the sun went down with Leonard needing a worm—not because he needed food, but because… because… because…
Leonard didn’t miss many chances for free worms after that day. Over the summer he would go hunting here or there when he felt too guilty, and he hunted for two days straight when his first bald spot appeared, but it never got easier. Early mornings were still damp and cool, magpies kept squawking out like the kings of the lawn, cats always lurked, and—with fewer feathers—flying wasn’t getting any easier.
Eventually the lark had a remarkably hard time getting back into the tree. One day as the penny-loafer devil was walking away out of view, the bird was still jumping and fluttering, trying to make the first branch. Fifteen minutes passed before he collapsed exhausted at the trunk of his tree. Leonard never again had a proper nest, but instead had to seek shelter from predators and the elements by finding places to hide in the dirt, and soon the course earth wore calluses and sores into is sensitive skin. But what did it matter—who cared about having a nest high up in the tree and a few sores as long as there were fat worms delivered daily?
“You’re digusting.” The devil opened up his box.
The lark plucked out another feather. “I don’t give feathers for your opinion. Just shut up, pull a worm out of your box, and get out of here.”
The devil was equal parts pleased and furious. He didn’t like any slight, but he could also see that the bird was miserable. He decided it had been long enough. It was time to begin the endgame. “Leonard, you’ve forgotten your place. I suppose it’s my fault. I’ve been too kind to you all this while and now I’ve spoiled you.”
“And what part of your kindness keeps your from understanding the words ‘shut up’?” Leonard squawked out, not even looking at the silly pretend devil but hurriedly choking down his real worm.
The man snapped his box shut in a definitive sort of way and walked off at a bit faster pace than usual. “Oh, did I hurt the devil’s feelings?” Leonard called out, but the man never turned around, slowed down, or did anything to acknowledge that he had heard the bird.
The next day came and went with no penny loafers or worms. Leonard compensated for his terror with bravado so over-the-top he thought it was sincere. “I suppose he’s trying to teach me some manners. What right does that guy have to teach me about anything?” Monologues like this were running through his head all day. “The fake devil in penny loafers. A big man who walks around the neighborhood in thousand-dollar pants, carrying worms around in his ridiculous box, out to tempt all the birds. He thinks I need him. I don’t. I got along just fine without him and I can be just fine again. If that guy thinks I’ll apologize, if that guy thinks I’ll do anything to stroke his ridiculous ego…”
Another day passed. There were more inner-monologues, but no worms. “I don’t need that guy. I can take care of myself…”
For the next week Leonard did what he could. On the human garbage day he hopped along the streets pecking at what he could in between rushing cars, passersby, stray cats, and bigger birds that had for a long time claimed garbage cans as their personal stash, but this was not enough. He ended every day hungry, tired, hating himself, and wishing for another worm thrown at his feet. Accordingly, he was more relieved than he had ever been when he once again saw the familiar figure crisply walking down the street carrying a box.
He hurriedly hopped out into the road, terrified above all things that the man would pass before Leonard could get his attention. “Haven’t seen you for a while…” the Lark was trying to be casual, but the devil was in no mood.
“What do you want?” he sneered. His voice was filled with loathing and disgust.
“I was just hoping we could keep our deal going. A feather for a worm.” The bird was filled with hope—hope for a worm, but an even greater hope that his efforts weren’t in vain.
“And what if I don’t want one of your feathers?”
“Oh, come on. One feather for one worm. That was our deal. Look, I’ve still got feathers.” The bird plucked a feather from off his back. “Here, you go. I’m sorry about the other day. I was tired. I was worn out. I can see now that I was wrong. I’m sorry. Here, take the feather and no hard feelings, everything can be like it was again.”
“Do you think I care at all about your repulsive feathers?”
Leonard was willing to say anything if only he knew what would satisfy the man. “One feather for one worm. That’s our deal, right?” But the man didn’t seem to care. “Okay fine, so you don’t want feathers. I can give you something else. Whatever you want. All you have to do is tell me.”
The man looked down at the bird and narrowed his eyes, “Call me master.”
It was a creepy request, but Leonard was glad to have something, anything, he could do to try and make the man happy. “Okay, master.”
“I’ve always been better than you. You’ve never been anything more than a stupid bird. You’re weak and revolting, aren’t you?”
Leonard didn’t care anymore. Whatever it took to get a worm. Besides, somewhere deep down the bird thought the man was telling the truth. “Yes, I’m weak,” he looked down at the ground.
“And say you’re revolting.”
“I am revolting.”
“Now tell me that I’m better than you are.”
“You are better than I am.”
“Never, never forget what you’ve said here.” And the man began to walk away.
“Okay! I’ll never forget!” the lark skipped along for a bit, trying to keep up. “I will always remember this. I’ll always remember that I am weak and you are better. Now can I have a worm?”
The man stopped, turned, and spat on the bird’s face from high above. “Why would anyone do anything for a pathetic little creature like you?” And he walked away.
“No, wait! Master! Just one worm, please, Master! I know I’m weak. You are better than me! I know it. I know it’s true. Please just help me. One worm, that’s all.” Leonard hopped along, but he couldn’t keep up with the tall man’s quick strides. He realized he was not going to get his worm. He was left behind and he began to weep.
Leonard wasn’t looking at the pastor as he finished his story, but was only staring vacantly into the fire. Some silence passed between them. Pastor Sullivan struggled to find the right words to say.
He wanted the bird to know there was hope. He wanted the bird to accept help without feeling ashamed. More than anything he wanted the bird to feel loved and soothed. But what could he possibly say? He pushed ahead, hoping the words would come into place. It was an act of faith.
“Leonard, I don’t think there is a bit of difference between you and me.” The bird didn’t look up or respond, but the pastor continued. “There’s no difference between you or me or anyone else, for that matter. I might have done the same thing. I have done the same thing. In dozens of different ways, I’ve done the exact same thing. We’ve all gone astray. We’re all lost. And there isn’t one of us who doesn’t need a hand, a meal, or a second, third, fourth, or thousandth chance.”
“Leonard?” the pastor wondered if his words were finding any mark. He wanted the bird look up, to look over his face for any sort of recognition, but the lark remained fixed on the fire. Pastor Sullivan pulled out his wallet and unfolded a tiny scrap of paper. “Do you know how I became a pastor?” Of course Leonard didn’t know. The old man continued, “I was young and in college. I was studying history, but I didn’t know what it all might lead to. It was just a degree that let me read a lot of books and kept me respectable until some job or life came along. One day I was studying in the library and I left to go home for the day. It wasn’t so late, but it was winter and it was already dark out. As I was walking back to the dorm I crossed the student union building. There was a couple outside. I think they had been drinking a bit and I didn’t hear all the details, but it seems like they got to arguing. Before long the young woman demanded to be taken home. But he didn’t take her home. Instead he balled his hand into a fist and punched her right in the face, right on the left eye, and said something like, ‘You never tell me what to do.’
“I stopped. I remembered the look of shock and disappointment on her face. She tried not to cry, Leonard. Watching her stand there with all the muscles in her face pulled tight, watching her press her lips together and try to hold back her tears was one of the most heroic things I’ve ever seen. And I wanted to do something. I wanted to kill the man. I wanted to jump in and be a hero. I wanted to be an answer. But I didn’t do anything. I started walking again, faster, hoping they hadn’t seen me. Or maybe I was hoping I had never been there. But I kept walking.
“When I reached the dorm I was sick to my stomach. I was sick of myself. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t talk and joke with my roommates. So I shut myself up in my bedroom, trying to be alone as much as possible. The next day I was moving around campus and going through my schedule like a ghost. I finished all my classes and tried to read in the library for a bit, but it was no good. All I could think of was the day before. So I went outside and was out just walking around when I saw this poster pinned up on a pole.” The pastor held out an old creased and worn flyer in front of Leonard:
“That’s why I became a pastor. There’s not much to it,” he gestured to the flyer. “I guess I don’t understand it myself. But this little piece of paper is what brought me where I am today.”
Leonard turned from the fire and looked up at the man, but his expression didn’t provide any real clue about what he was thinking or feeling.
“It wasn’t the concert—I didn’t even go to the concert—and it wasn’t anything about celebrating Christmas. It was something about seeing that baby. Something about looking at that baby and thinking to myself, ‘There is the Son of God. There is eternity in the balance, the Way, the Resurrection, and the Life. And there he is completely dependent upon her, his mother. He can’t feed himself. He can’t keep himself safe from the cold, from Herod’s soldiers, or any other sort of threat.’
“And I can’t explain it, Leonard, but something in me broke. I caved in. And I thought about how we all need help. And I thought about how if mankind ever did anything for itself—if there was ever a single thing we might have done to qualify for our own salvation—it’s all wrapped up in that mother caring for that child. Because she kept him safe. Because she fed him and clothed him and got up in the middle of the night to hold him. And Mary couldn’t beat death or the grave, and she couldn’t go out fasting for forty days and forty nights, and she couldn’t turn away from all the temptations of the devil. She couldn’t do any of those things herself. But look what she did do. Look at the gift and the help she gave so that the Son of God could live on to give his gift and his help.
“I don’t understand it, Leonard. I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say. But I decided that day that maybe there aren’t really any heroes, at least not as we usually think of heroes. But you never know when the simple little thing you might do might lead to another simple thing that another might do, and before you know it the whole world has been changed for good. And so I knew my place. I knew from that time forward I had to be somebody who helped people—not in brilliant flashes where the world is looking on, but in a quiet and steady way. So I’ve never jumped into a burning building and come from the smoke carrying a child in my arms, and I’ve never caught a bank robber, or turned back a storm. But I have listened to some friends when they needed to talk. I’ve been lucky enough to feed some empty stomachs. A few times a year I get to pay a tired, single mother’s rent. At Christmas I’m able to collect enough to toys to make a lot of children smile and a lot of parents cry.”
Pastor Sullivan stopped. He wasn’t sure exactly what conclusion he wanted to make or how he got to this point from where he started. “I don’t know, Leonard. I hate to say it, but for the good guy I sometimes start to thinking I am, if I was back on that campus and I saw that poor…” He started to choke up. “…girl get hit again. Oh, I hope, I hope to God that I would do something different. That I would be someone different. God damn me if I haven’t changed. And may God damn us all if that change isn’t possible.”
Leonard didn’t make any eye contact, but he nodded in a sort of conceding agreement. Finally, he chirped out, “I should be going.”
“Please don’t go,” the pastor leaned toward his guest. “You can stay here as long as you like. I don’t mean to take away your freedom or to bind you down. I don’t think it will take more than a couple weeks to get you well fed, to get you out of the dirt and to let your feathers grow back. Just stay here until you can fly again. Until you can get up into the trees and be safe.”
Leonard didn’t respond—he didn’t even move—but somehow he still seemed unwilling to be a guest any longer.
Pastor Sullivan pulled back slightly. “You don’t have to commit to anything. Go as you’d like, only won’t you stay tonight so you can think it over? At the very least you’re going to need a warm place to sleep and a good breakfast in the morning. It’s just a night. One night and then, if you must, you can be on your way.”
Leonard looked down at his patchy feathers. He looked at the smudges and scrapes across his tender skin. He felt the heat of the fire. He thought about Pastor Sullivan’s offer and wondered what it might be like, how life might change, if he could bring himself to accept the old man’s invitation. He thought and thought, and wondered how he was going to respond.