I’ve been on sabbatical writing essays unsuitable for this blog and so I offer this 500 word “flash fiction” to prove that I am still alive and well! I hope that you enjoy it.

Seven-year-old Mary walked reluctantly to the piano. When she got there, she averted her eyes, and she turned to catch a glimpse of the last of pair of her class mates holding hands and walking, crocodile style, off to recess. How she hated this part of the music lesson when Miss Grey attempted to address her musical ineptitude. She didn’t know what ‘tone deafness’ was but had overheard her teacher discussing this with her mother. She began to feel hot and put one hand up to her neck to twist a stray lock of hair. She dearly wanted to suck her thumb but knew that this was forbidden.

“Come closer dear,” said Miss Grey as she put her hand on Mary’s shoulder.

“I’m going to play two notes, and I want you to sing along cuc-koo’, ‘cuc-koo’.” Mary gave Miss Grey a distressed blank look, for in her embarrassment at being singled out again,, she didn’t understand what was wanted.

“Let’s try – cuc–koo, cuc–koo” urged Miss Grey accompanying the words with notes on the piano. She chose the octave above middle and gently tapped G followed by C to accompany her singing; G-C, G-C; cuc-koo, cuc-koo.

Mary panicked and said, “Cuckoo. Cuckoo,” in a monotone child’s voice.

“No dear,” urged her teacher, that’s what you did last week. ‘sing the notes, can’t you hear the difference?” ‘She demonstrated “Cuc-koo, cuc-koo.”

But Mary didn’t get it even though she could hear the tone change she was far too flustered and frightened to do anything more than murmur, “Cuckoo, cuckoo”. She knew that when someone was referred to as being cuckoo it meant that they were very silly. Did all this mean that she was silly, did Miss Grey want her to chime like a cuckoo clock to announce her stupidity? Again, she gave a monotone “cuckoo, cuckoo.”

After a few additional attempts, Miss Grey escorted Mary back to her school room to join the other children. Here she relaxed and happily joined in the mathematics lesson.

When school was out Mary overheard her teacher explaining her deficit to her mother. She feared a reprimand and, feigning ignorance, skipped ahead as they walked home. Their route passed up a steep lane overhung by chestnut trees laden with spring blooms standing candle-like erect. They both paused when they heard the distinct call of a common European Cuckoo. They looked up but couldn’t see the bird among the profuse chestnut leaves.

“Do you hear the cuckoo? said her mother “they are active this time of year looking for nests to put their eggs in. They are known as brood parasites because they are able to trick other birds smaller than themselves into raising their chicks.

When the Cuckoo called again Mary’s mother responded with a laugh as she mimicked the bird. “cuc-koo, cuc-koo”. “Do you think that the bird understands my voice?” she asked.

Mary paused and then, feeling joyfully uplifted, joined her mother and bird in perfect mimicry, “cuc-koo, cuc-koo”

10 thoughts on “Cuckoo

  1. Dear Jane,

    I agree with Paul’s observation. Place a person in a stifling environment and see the joy (and creativity) exit.

    During my school days, I hated music because instead of getting us to enjoy it, my music teacher turned the contact periods into a chore. Thanks to my elder daughter – who is a trained soprano (a hobby for now) – I am not only a proud father but also a fairly regular attendee of concerts (both Asian and Western).

    Lisa, my two daughters and my son are natural musicians. They pick up instruments and, within hours, dish out quite entertaining numbers.

    About 15 years ago, I heard the piano downstairs and assumed it was my elder girl, Alicia. When I came downstairs, it was my son Adamson on the keyboard. Apparently, after plonking around a bit, he got the hang of it and started playing. After all these years, I still can’t believe it.


    • Your stories of your inherently musical family are delightful – thank you for sharing. Obviously you created the right environment for them to flourish without inhibition. I bet that they are all artistic as well!

    • I agree, often children’s actions have to be carefully unwrapped to discover their ,often irrational fears. For example my husband says that for a while when he was a young boy he believed that his peace loving passivist father who never said unkind things about anyone was really Hitler living a new life in hiding!!

  2. Hi Jane!

    Good to read your words, and I enjoyed the flash fiction. Sometimes nature itself can hold wonders, and it simply takes the right mentor to bring a sense of what is possible into the world.

    One ‘caged’ within the confines of an instructor in a class holds no comfort; nay, best to immerse one’s soul in nature herself, allowing a freedom to unfold, a blossoming of sorts.

    Thank you for stopping by my post, and it remains my pleasure to peruse your content.

    Nice little story, filled with poignant passages!

    Warmest wishes,

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