Toniwa Toucan
by Pauline Comanor

TONIWA TOUCAN was a stocky little bird, with a multi-colored long beak, who lived with her many relatives in the canopy of a giant tree in the rain forest. They seldom ventured into the upper air where falcons, hawks and eagles waited, or onto the dangerous forest floor. They were content to stay in their special canopy.

It was a splendid place, complete with a swimming pool that was formed when the giant leaves caught the rain. Towina's home was inhabited by many pollywogs that turned into friendly frogs. The canopy was adorned by leaves and ferns. She could look out from this giant height at the edge of the forest and see the Amazon River, rubber and palm trees, and little houses made out of palm fronds. When summer came, the ola bird and the tamaron sang at the same time each day.

Toniwa might have been very happy, but there was one problem. No one would play with her. That was because she had cheated once when she was playing catch with the other toucans. She pretended that she had caught the ball (which was a nut) when it really had gone over her head and bounced off of a leaf. Somehow this small offense became exaggerated. “Cheater, cheater,” the other toucans would call her, and she would sit away from the others, forlorn and droopy.

She thought about this for a very long time, and finally decided to fly away. Perhaps she could live with the children she saw come and go out of the little palm-thatched huts. She would play with them, and never go home.

One day, right before dawn, before the others awoke, she flew down from the canopy to the forest floor, a place she had never been before. It was dark and misty. A giant centipede tried to sting her. Frightened, she closed her eyes and flew as fast as she could out of the forest. Tired now, she stopped to rest on a fern. A green and lavender butterfly fluttered by and pirched on her beak. “Can I help you,” the butterfly asked, “you look lost.”

“I’m not lost, they are,” she said, “They’ll never see me again. I’ll find others to play with as soon as I catch my breath.”

“What is play?” asked the butterfly, “I like to fly, is it like flying?”

“No,” said Toniwa, “I fly too, and it’s nothing like that.”

“Oh,” said the butterfly, “excuse me.”

“If you’re not running away,” said Toniwa, “what are you doing flying out here, which is neither here nor there.”

“Foolishly chasing a blue cloth that people lure me with,” said the butterfly. “If they catch me they pull my wings off and use them for decorations.”

“But then how could you fly?” asked Toniwa

“They don’t care,” the butterfly replied.

“Is that what the outside world is like?” asked Toniwa.

“Sometimes,” answered the butterfly with a sigh. “Your canopy is safe, that’s why birds build nests high in trees. Butterflies are not as fortunate.”

“I guess I was wrong to leave,” said Toniwa. “It’s time to go home and say I’m sorry for cheating. Maybe then they’ll play with me again.”

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