Of a Feather

It’s said that the feather of the male peacock resembles eyes. Indeed, there are myths about it. They’re wrong. Those orbs you see spotting those feathers are fruit. Not just any kind of fruit, either. They’re inspiration fruits.

It goes back a very different time, when all animals spoke to each other, rainbows showered down on the world like waterfalls spreading their colors, and new ideas grew upon branches in little glowing fruits. The peacock was around back then, but was a very different sort of bird. Shy and drab, peacocks generally stayed to the trees and let the other birds flit about with their bright colors and fancy songs.

The creatures of this world were close to what you’d recognize today, but still taking shape one way or another. One such creature had four legs but only walked on the hind two, giving them a better reach at those delicious glowing fruits that inspired dreams and ideas. They ate, and ate, and soon began shaping the world even as the world shaped itself. The other animals didn’t know what to do about these greedy upright humans.

A great meeting was convened. Leopards and serpents and spiders and bears; all animals were summoned. Even the shy peacock, hiding in the trees. The only animal not invited, in fact, was the human.

“They are greedy,” argued the kangaroo. “We should kick all of the low hanging fruit from the trees so that only animals who can fly, climb or jump can reach it easily.”

“They can climb,” said the squirrel. “I’ve seen them do it to get to good, ripe ideas.”

“We should show them that we all have equal rights to the fruit,” said the koala. “They would surely leave some for the rest of us if they knew it was important.”

“I don’t know,” said the raven. “I’ve seen them cart away whole baskets full to share with their families, leaving none even in the top branches.”

“It isn’t fair,” said the elephant. “I remember a time when the fruit was shared by all.”

“Excuse me,” said a tentative voice.

The voice wasn’t quiet, but it was one that hadn’t been heard often. All the animals looked around for the speaker. A large bird colored vibrant blue poked its long neck out from the branches of a tree.

“We peacocks spend time in the trees,” said the peacock. “We eat many of the ideas before humans get to them, and we have an idea right now.”

“Go on,” encouraged the marmot.

“Well,” the peacock said, “we could hide them, and protect them.”

“A shy bird like you?” the lion scoffed.

Just then a peacock dropped to the ground and spread his tail feathers wide, arcing into a fan. He looked much larger than before, and when he strutted toward the lion it wasn’t just the lion who took a few cautious steps back.

“I am shy, yes,” the peacock said, turning circles to address all of the animals large and small, “but I am not without defenses. You never once thought of me or my kind when coming up with solutions. Admit it.”

There was a general murmur among the animals. The peacock had a point.

“The humans wouldn’t even begin to guess,” he continued. “Especially when they can no longer find their inspiration fruits.”

Another murmur passed through the crowd, until at last, the frog announced their decision.

“Show us how this will be done, peacock, and promise that should there be need for inspiration you will make this fruit available, even to humans.”

The peacock flew back up to a nearby inspiration tree and began devouring the fruit. One by one it swallowed the colorful fruits down until there were none left. When the bird landed on the ground it seemed woozy and weighted down. With a shudder, colorful patterns began to emerge on its dark tail feathers. The other animals murmured their approval.

The humans were upset, naturally, when they found the inspiration trees barren of fruit. The day after that they began to worry, and the day after that they knew that something was wrong. Nowhere could they find those sumptuous ideas that had come to them so freely.

‘Well, no matter,’ they decided. They had eaten enough of the fruit to have some ideas that led to other ideas and on and on. Humans moved away from the forests with the other animals and set out on their own adventures. Never once did they notice that the shy bird, the one with the long neck and tail feathers that had lived in the trees mostly, had suddenly burst into bright, vibrant color and seemed much more protective than it had been before.

The inspiration trees, with no fruit meeting the ground to take root, eventually died away from this world, but the ideas passed from one generation of peacock to the next. Human eyes don’t get to see it, but from time to time an animal will seek peacock out and request to have one of the inspirations contained in their feathers. The ceremony is solemn, and careful. And the descendants of that peacock have kept their promise. They don’t shun the world of humans. Not at all. They can be found around lakes and residences, making themselves available should someone come forward with a suitable need.

Written by W. C. McClure. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Also, please help support this indie author by buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!

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