Mikey never liked bedtime. Bedtime meant he had to say farewell to a day that still had living left. He knew it did, like knowing how to breathe, or knowing he could run faster than the neighbor boy. Sure, the sandbox was all played out. The rope swing had swung itself dizzy and every car in the toy box had rolled at least a small way across the carpet once or twice. There had been crashes, and some rescues, too, with fire engines whirring and beeping their way to the scene. Mikey could still see a fire engine on its side on his bedroom floor. It’d had an accident, too.
No, the day still had a fresh taste to it, though the sun had gone to sleep and the moon drifted on silent tracks across the sky. It wasn’t fair.
Bathed and brushed, pajama clad and teddybear’d, Mikey shimmied into his sheets, wiggling toes testing for openings. Mama always tucked him in tight though, and finding no escape, those toes relaxed into a long stretch.
“Mama,” he asked as his head sought the perfect spot on his pillow. “Do birds yawn?”
Mama gazed at the open window with a smile that Mikey saw an awful lot after he asked questions. It was Mama’s question smile, he figured. He wondered if he had a question smile, too, or if that was special to Mama, like super heroes and x-ray vision. Mama had that, too.
“I don’t think so,” answered Mama, pulling the thick blanket up to his chin. “Why do you ask?”
Mikey knew that yawns are something you do just before you go to sleep, and first thing you do once you wake up again. It’s like the doorknob on the door to dreams. Or like the coat Mama makes you stop and put on so you can go outside, and when you come back in she makes you take it off again.
“Birds don’t wear coats,” murmured Mikey, wriggling slightly to find just the right spot. “I guess birds don’t s… heeeaaaawww,” he yawned, “sleep,” he finished.
Mama gazed out the window again, but she didn’t notice the owl perched in a tree, just awakening from a good day’s rest and taking to the air, thinking about how satisfying that little boy’s yawn had looked. The owl opened his beak wide and drew in a lovely helping of night air on his way over the harbor.
A cat resting on the deck of a boat lifted an eyelid at the sound of the owl’s wings and watched the yawning bird with interest. He rose, arched his back and stretched his joints – front paws first, and then a good long stretch for each back leg. Sitting back and coiling his tail into a tight circle, he tilted his head back and had himself such a good long yawn that he had to blink for a bit to discover in what ways the world had shifted and started anew, for something was better, he could tell.
“Did you see that?” asked the youngest member of a pod of whales passing underneath. She swam faster to catch up with her mama. “Did you see…” and the rest of her question was lost in a yawn that just wouldn’t stop. Every time she thought she was done a new yawn came over her. “Aah,” she sighed at last, “that feels better.” The other whales laughed their deep beautiful laugh as each of them caught the yawn, too.
On a distant beach where daylight still glowed, an ancient sea turtle emerged from the waves. “You’ll never guess what I just saw,” she announced to an audience of penguins. “A whole pod of whales swimming along, just yaw-aw-aw-aw-ning,” she said as her head tilted back and her jaw opened wide. “Oh, that’s better,” she said.
The penguins had never seen anything so funny as this old yawning turtle. They slid on their bellies and had a good laugh before they realized that they were yawning, too.
The sun, beaming down, stretched with a warm chuckle and yawned in the sky, and it wasn’t long before the clouds caught it up and had to tremble out a little rain when they realized how nice it felt.
A hyena carried it to a watering hole, where the yawn was shared by crocodiles and pelicans alike, though the crocodiles put the pelicans to flight before they were quite finished. A cheetah caught the yawn and spread it across a wide plain, very quickly. An elephant, a lion, even a tiny jumping spider caught it then, and shared it.
Clear to the other end of the blue sky, where dusk painted with her rich colors, the yawn spread faster than the wind (which enjoyed a nice yawn as well). Soon the stars were gasping in delightful draughts of stardust and exhaling happily.
The moon, surrounded by her chorus of sighing stars, yawned wide and smiled a fresh beam of silvery dreams onto the sleepers below.
Mama, gazing out the window, covered her mouth as she tried to hide her yawn; a funny thing that mamas do. How very sleepy she felt.
“Everybody needs sleep, honey,” said Mama, turning back to Mikey.
Mikey, though, was already far away, snuggling in the soft arms of sweet dreams.