THE AUCHENSHUGGLE BIRD
“Billy! What are you doing up the tree?”
“Come down at once, you’ll hurt yourself!”
“No I won’t, mother. Look, I’m a bird.”
Billy Muir flapped his arms up and down vigorously.
Mrs. Muir screamed.
“Don’t do that, Billy, you’ll fall!”
“Don’t worry, mother, birds can’t fall.”
“Come down now, Billy, your tea’s ready. I’ve made your favourite: beans on toast.”
Billy laughed loudly.
“Ha ha! You’re being silly, mother. Birds eat worms and slugs and snails. Bring me some nice fat juicy worms, please.”
“Alright, Billy, stay up there. But just wait till your father comes home.”
“Hello, Billy,” said Mr. Muir when he came home from work. “Mother says you’re a bird and want worms for tea.”
“Yes, that’s right, father. I don’t mind if they’re fried or boiled or just as they come from the ground.”
“OK, Billy, I’ll bring you some.”
“What are you doing, Gordon?” Mrs. Muir called to her husband as he dug worms from the compost heap.
“I’m giving Billy his tea, Mary. What do you think I’m doing?”
“You can’t feed him worms. It’ll make him ill.”
“It’s what he wants, Mary. Isn’t it, Billy?”
“Yes, father. It is.”
Mr. Muir gave Billy a soup plate full of worms.
“I’ve added a few slugs, too, son.”
“Thank you, father.”
“Don’t encourage him, Gordon. Get him down now.”
“No, Mary. It’s what he wants to do. It’s his ambition to be a bird. We should support him.”
Mrs. Muir gave an exasperated cry and fled indoors.
“She’ll come round, Billy, don’t worry. Is there anything else you want?”
“Yes, father. I need a nest.”
“Of course, son, I’ll make you one.”
For the rest of the evening, Mr. Muir gathered twigs, leaves, bits of moss and grass and passed them up to Billy who, using only his mouth and feet, deftly constructed his nest. It was nearly dark when they’d finished.
“Goodnight, father,” said Billy.
“Goodnight, Billy,” said his father.
Mr. and Mrs. Muir were woken early in the morning by loud whistling from the garden. Mr. Muir looked out of the bedroom window.
“It’s Billy,” he said to his wife. “He’s jumping up and down and flapping his arms. I think he’s hungry. I’ll go and dig up his breakfast.”
“Gordon, don’t you dare! Get the ladder and get him down!”
Mr. Muir ignored her and went downstairs to feed his son.
“Good morning, Billy, did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you, father. Do you know I can see right over London Road to the river from up here?”
“Hello, Mr. Muir, what’s your Billy doing in that tree?”
It was the neighbour, Mr. Crawford.
“Good morning, Jock,” said Mr. Muir. “Billy’s a bird. Isn’t that so, son?”
And Billy broke into a series of melodic trills, whistles and warbles.
“That’s beautiful, Billy, but I’ve got to go to work soon. I’ll see you when I get back. Watch out for next door’s cat!”
“Ha ha! father, you are funny.”
When Mr. Muir came home that evening he passed queues of people all the way up Causewayside Street and along Easterhill Street.
Mrs. Muir was distraught.
“The Herald has been round talking to the neighbours and taking pictures of Billy. And look at all those people out there.”
“Yes, Mary, I saw them. Our Billy is famous.”
“Gordon you’re not taking it seriously. I can’t stand it anymore. We’re becoming a laughing stock. It’s got to stop. Now!”
Mr. Muir looked out of the kitchen window. Billy was now hopping from branch to branch and twittering. The crowd was cheering and clapping.
“Mary,” said Mr. Muir, “what if we charged everyone sixpence to see Billy and sell cups of tea for tuppence or with a cake or biscuit for fourpence? In no time we’d have enough to buy a house in Bearsden or Milngavie.”
“Billy!” called Mr. Muir. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes, father,” chirruped Billy, flapping and bouncing down from the top of the tree.
“Billy, mother and I are moving to Bearsden next week. Will you be alright here or do you want to come with us?”
“I’ll be alright, father.”
“What will you do, son?” asked Mr. Muir.
Billy looked up into the sky.
“I’ll be flying south soon.”
“Are you happy, son?”
“Yes, I’m happy, father.”
“I’m proud of you, son.”