Totally Storked“Recalculating…” said Juice for the fourth time. “Really, Juice, C’mon! I thought you hummingbirds were the best navigators,” said Faro impatiently. “You storks couldn’t find your tail feathers without us hummingbirds! Recalculating…turn left in 500 feet,” Juice commanded. “Turning left! Aren’t we there yet?” asked Faro. “In point seven miles your destination is on the left!” Juice added. “Okay, I see it. Cool, bird, this one will be E..Z..!” exclaimed Faro. “Good! We are only 4 minutes from home, which means I will be home for supper! Cherry made her famous fried brown spiders in sugar glaze sauce! HUMMY!” said Juice.“Be quiet Juice!” Faro warned. Faro circled the plain white house on the left with the black shutters and brick walkway. The address matched the one that was attached to the velvet pouch around his neck. He flew high to get a bird’s eye view of all the entrances. On the ground floor of the two-story home, Faro saw his window of opportunity.The huge gray stork landed on the sill of the open window. He turned his head to the side so he could get a better view inside. Perfect! He saw the woman who was to get the special delivery asleep on the plaid couch across the room. This was going to be EZ!Faro used his long legs to step silently through the open window and onto the floor. He moved slowly across the room and cocked his head from side to side to search the rest of the room for humans. The sleeping woman was the only one home. Faro approached her cautiously. Juice flew from his perch on Faro’s back and treaded air in front of the velvet pouch. Juice pulled at the bow of the pouch with his straw-like beak. This pouch contained the magic glittery powder known as the baby powder. Once the bow was undone, Juice returned to his perch on Faro’s back. Faro needed to sprinkle the baby powder over the woman and give her a gentle stork kiss on the hand to start the magical process that will make her a mother. Faro was careful not to make a sound as he stepped next to the sleeping woman. He poured the baby powder out of his pouch and let the powder glide through his feathers onto her, the powder lit up, flickering as it hit her body. Faro whispered quietly, “Your life is about to change. Congratulations, you are now a mother.” Faro leaned over to add his magical stork kiss. Just as Faro puckered his beak and pressed it to the back of her hand the woman suddenly awoke and nearly punched him. “AHHHHHH!!!! “What the….STORK! There is a STORK in my living room! Wait…this means…I’m pregnant! Yes! Oh thank you, thank you!” the woman called after Faro as he flew out back out her window. Faro looked back at the house and said, “Oh yeah, that’s going to leave a mark”. When a stork kiss is interrupted like that, it often means the baby will have what is called a stork kiss or a birthmark. Chapter 2When Juice and Faro arrived back at the grounds, everyone was busy working as usual. Some storks were in the garden using their talons to poke holes in the earth. The hummingbirds were following behind them, dropping seeds into the open holes, and flapping their tiny wings wildly to blow the dirt back over the seeds. Other birds were gathering nesting materials while others were on guard against predators or intruders. Flying school was in session now and the little birds looked excited but scared as the teetered just feet above the ground on the launching branch. Faro swooped around to drop Juice off. Juice was his favorite navigating hummingbird and Faro was thrilled that Juice was his partner. They had been working together for four years in this new country and Faro could not have adjusted to the new landscape without him.Four years ago, Faro and his flock were forced to leave their homeland across the ocean and migrate to the east coast of America. The stork’s leader, Boro, had arranged with the local hummingbirds to help the storks navigate this new land. Faro perched next to a large cedar tree Juice called home. Faro knew Juice and Cherry’s nest was inside but had never seen it. The nest was hidden by dozens of branches. A stork simply could not fit. There were hundreds of little nests in the tree’s inner branch structure and Faro knew it just had to be magnificent. As Faro flew back to his own modest nest, he saw his best stork friend, Kurg, perched waiting for his return.“Took you long enough,” teased Kurg.Kurg fluffed his handsome pure white feathers. Faro’s own feathers had been permanently damaged in the oil spill back in his homeland. Faro’s head feathers stuck out and were uneven and his tail feathers had grown back darker than the rest of his body. Faro tucked his tattered feathers against his body as a habit to hide the frayed edges. “Go kick some tail feathers in the Stork Off tomorrow,” said Kurg.The Stork Off was a contest between all delivery storks in which they had to complete the most complicated and difficult deliveries of baby powder of the year. The first stork to accomplish their delivery and make it back to the grounds won a new luxurious nest. Having the best nest in town pretty much guaranteed you could get the best girl bird. In town and in this town the prettiest bird was Cici. “Yeah, I’m totally storked bird! I bet Cici will be real impressed when I win the Stork Off this year,” said Faro.“You two are from two different types of eggs, Faro,” said Kurg. “Cici’s one rotten egg.” Cici was the most beautiful stork in the grounds but she paid no attention to Faro. Cici liked birds that had nice things and winning a brand-new nest would surely get her attention. “We’re just from two different parts of the nest but she’ll notice me,” replied Faro.“Why would you want her attention, Faro? Cici is one cold bird. Just go out and win that new nest and time will tell what girl bird you share it with,” said Kurg. “I think you should take a bottle of your fancy brewed fish wine, Kurg, and wrap it up for my nest warming party because I am going to win the Stork Off,” replied Faro. Chapter 3All the birds gathered around and in the Oak tree to wait for their leader, Boro, to announce the start of Stork Off. “Hey Faro,” called Toonela as she and Cici landed on the ground near him. Toonela was Cici’s sister. She was always talking to him but who paid attention to Toonela when there was Cici. As Cici tucked her long graceful wings, Faro couldn’t help but notice how perfect and beautiful she was. Faro always got beak tied when Cici was around. He could never seem to form a full coherent sentence when he liked a girl bird. “Hey Cici, we are going to win the best nest in the land. I mean, not ‘we’ as in me and you,” he motioned to her then back to himself. “I mean we, as in Juice and I. Not that Juice and I will be in the same nest because that would be cracked. We’ll win separate nests. The best stork nest and the best hummingbird nest,” Faro said as his feathers ruffled in embarrassment. He tucked his feathers back into his wings.“Why are you talking to me delivery boy,” snapped Cici. Toonela smiled at Faro and said, “Good luck today, Faro. I think you and Juice have the best shot at winning. I helped to make the winning nests myself and I know you will love yours. I hope when you win that you will invite me to your nest warming party.” “Do you think your sister will come to my party, Toonela?” whispered Faro.Toonela’s smile faded but she wasn’t able to answer, as Juice appeared out of nowhere, like usual. “Faro, they are about to sound the canary. You ready,” asked Juice as he perched up for the ride. “As ready as Big Bird in a spelling contest,” said Faro. “You totally storked to win this Juice?” asked Faro. “We better because Cherry already has plans for decorating the new nest and if we don’t come home winners, she is going to be one sour Cherry,” said Juice. Juice flipped open the card attached to the velvet pouch, which contained the new mother’s address. “Frog snot! We got a ‘last known’!” A ‘last known’ meant that the address given was the woman’s last known address and she no longer lived there. This meant they had to track her by any means possible. Most of the time the wildlife in the area gave them good clues but they didn’t have time to buzz around. Chapter 4In order to get to this delivery’s last known address they had to pass through Buzzards’ Bay. Buzzards’ Bay was named correctly, Faro thought. Buzzards made him nervous. They were the bullies of the bird world. Faro and Juice flew under radar and as quietly as possible. Juice was whispering directions instead of his usual chorus. “Where you off to long-legs?” a Buzzard appeared out of nowhere and squawked. “Just minding our own bees wax,” Juice said nervously.“Well you are in our Bay and you need the password to get through,” said another Buzzard.“Beetle Juice,” tried Juice.“Don’t know the password then you will have to play the game, birds,” said the biggest buzzard in the group.“I sure would like to play with you all but I am working and need to travel through fast. We will be out of your feathers in a crows call. I promise,” pleaded Faro.The buzzards closed in and Faro was forced to land. They were surrounded and it was clear they were going to have to play along with the buzzards. The problem was the buzzards never played fair. They always made up games that storks could not win. This was no exception. “Alright stork, here’s what you do. You fly your big-feathered butt down that pipe over there and grab the plastic cup at the end with your skinny talons. Once you have the cup then you can fly back,” the leader buzzard explained. The buzzards were all snickering when he added “but at no time may you exit the pipe until you are at the finish line. Good luck with that one storkey.” Faro checked out the pipe and shook his head. “Juice, I can barely fit in this pipe. How am I going to turn around without exiting the end of the pipe? I just won’t fit!” complained Faro.“Fly backwards” suggested Juice.“Hummingbirds can do that but storks can’t!” stated Faro.“Listen Faro, there is nothing to it. You just reverse your wing swing. You can do it!” explained Juice. Juice demonstrated how he flew backwards and repeated, “Reverse your wing swing.” Faro took a few moments to try reversing his wing swing. They were surrounded by beady buzzard eyes and there was no other way to fly on but to play the game. “Come on your storkness! If you don’t start now, you lose!” demanded the scrawny buzzard.Okay, Faro thought, I can do this, reverse the wing swing, I can do it!Faro swooped down the pipe and gripped the cup easily. He hovered in the air for a moment and concentrated on Juice’s words. Reverse your wing swing. Reverse your wing swing. Abruptly, his left wing started to rotate backwards! With one wing going backwards and one still going forward he was thrown off center and right into the side of the pipe. His beak banged against the side making a hollow echoing sound. “Ouch!” Faro complained. He corrected his left wing and hovered in the pipe as he recovered. The buzzards all started laughing and hopping up and down. “You aren’t no hummingbird storkey! You can’t fly backwards!” one buzzard called. Yes I can, thought Faro. I can and I will because Cici will only notice me if I win today! Faro’s determination doubled and he concentrated harder. Reverse my wing swing. Reverse my wing swing. His large wings paused in mid-air for a moment as he strained with concentration. Slowly both wings started to move in the opposite direction. It felt so strange but Faro stuck with it and soon he was backing out the pipe flying backwards!“Wow bird, we are impressed. If someone had told me a stork would fly backwards, I would have told them to stop pulling my tail feathers but you did it! Storkey, you can fly in our Bay today but there will be a new game tomorrow. An even more challenging game,” said the biggest buzzard. There was no doubt there would be another game a stork was sure not to win tomorrow but today, Juice and Faro were free to fly at will. Chapter 5“You have arrived at your destination,” Juice exclaimed. “We’ll have to split up. You talk to the creatures in the trees and I’ll take the ground ones. Let’s see what clues they give us on this ‘last known’,” ordered Faro.Juice flew from tree to tree asking any squirrel, bird, caterpillar, even bee he saw. The tree creatures all described what the woman looked like but Juice was confused about the descriptions.“Your sure Mr. Bee?” asked Juice.“As sure as a honeysuckle on a summer’s day” assured the bee.“So you are saying that the woman who lived there is about as high as that stop sign over there and has a beard?” stated Juice.“Yep! Ask any bee in the hive! I swear on my mother’s honeycomb!” demanded the bee. “Now buzz off!”Juice found Faro and relayed the description. “Well as strange as that is, it does make sense. The neighbor dog said that she left with a lot of people who drove colorful trucks out of town. You thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Faro. “Circus” Juice and Faro said in unison. “How are we going to find where the circus went? They only stay in one spot for a weekend and then move on. We could be chasing them from town to town all day,” exclaimed Juice.“What would Big Bird do?” asked Faro. “You and that big yellow bird, you are such a loon!” joked Juice.“Big Bird is an international superstar, the most famous bird in the world! He…oh never mind! Big Bird would use one of the human devices to find the circus,” explained Faro.“I bet Big Bird doesn’t go after a bird that is a total cob when her sister is obviously in love with him and is sweet as sugar water,” said Juice under his breath. “That’s it! Alright, turn left in 500 feet.” Faro soared high above a large building remaining out of sight. The large sign on the building said GPS. Juice flew down and bravely entered the busy store. He emerged a few minutes later with the address of the circus. This was going to be EZ!“The humans never even saw me!” said Juice proudly. “How did you learn to use their thing-a-ma-jigs?” asked Faro. “Watching Big Bird,” teased Juice.Chapter 6Juice navigated Faro right to the circus grounds and they were overwhelmed with the size of their grounds. They flew above the crowds searching for the woman described by her former animal neighbors.“We are looking for a very tall woman with a beard? You sure that bee wasn’t full of wax?” asked Faro.“This seems to be the place we’d find her though. I’ve seen all different types of people, even ones with metal spikes in their skulls!” said Juice.“Wait there she is! As tall as a stop sign and she has a beard. We found her!” said Faro with excitement.The bearded lady was surrounded by people. There was a line to see her and it didn’t look like they would get an opportunity to be alone with her anytime soon.“What’s the plan Big Stork?” asked Juice.“It seems to me that we fit right in, don’t you think Juice,” said Faro with a smirk.With that, they started searching for a disguise for Faro so he could get close to the bearded lady without being discovered. “What? You are a stork so, naturally I thought of baby giraffe,” said Juice apologetically.Faro looked at himself and had to laugh. Juice had smeared mud on his feathers to give him spots and wrapped a pair of man’s pants around his tail feathers to give the illusion of back legs. He looked like the runt of the giraffe family. Faro wandered around the people surrounding the bearded lady. He inched closer and closer to her plotting to sprinkle the baby powder on her when she was distracted and then plant the his stork kiss on her cheek pretending to be a curious young giraffe sniffing her. All was going according to plan until a rambunctious child came barreling towards him saying “Guraff..mama…Guraff.” It was only an instant but it felt like slow motion as the excited child grabbed his fake back legs to give him a hug and ripped them right off. The child’s eyes widened with fright and you could see the scream coming. As the scream built in the child’s throat, Faro looked over at the bearded lady and she was staring right at him. Her face was expressionless, mostly because it was covered by the beard.“Penguin spit! This is not going to be EZ!” sighed Faro as he flew away. Chapter 7For their Plan B Juice and Faro decided to start with the mice. The mice told them the bearded lady liked cracked corn. The mice said to ask the raccoons. The raccoons said she lived in the blue trailer and she never woke up when they tipped her garbage cans so she must be a sound sleeper. They said to ask the monkeys. The monkeys were too busy tossing banana peels into the crowds and betting on which human would slip on it to answer any questions. They said to go bother the swan because the bearded lady and her had a special bond. Faro approached the beautiful swan and was nervous. Surely, a beautiful swan would not talk to such a funny looking bird like himself. He still had mud stains on his already battered feathers and looked frightful. “Mrs. Swan, may I bother you?” asked Faro shyly. When the swan turned around Faro lost his breath. She was the most beautiful bird, besides his beloved Cici, to ever fly the sky. “Why sure but it wouldn’t be any bother. Please call me Geela,” she said. Faro went on to explain to Geela his situation and found that she was one of the nicest birds he’s ever met. Together they came up with a plan to get him close enough to the bearded lady to give her the gift of a new child. “The bearded lady’s name is Elizabeth,” said Juice as he rejoined Faro and learned of the new plan.“Well, Elizabeth is going to have one lucky kid because everyone here sure loves that bearded lady and are so excited to hear she will soon be with child. They all are going to help, even the monkeys,” explained Faro. “I cannot believe how nice Geela is and she is so beautiful!”“Not every beauty is a beast, Faro,” said Juice.“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Faro.“Why you get all dodo bird around Cici when her sister, Toonela, has obviously fallen out of her nest for you,” Juice said with frustration.“I’m not all dodo over Cici!” demanded Faro.“L-O-V-E as Big Bird would spell. It’s obvious! You stutter like a woodpecker when you talk to her when you should be all Woody the Woodpecker around Toonela. She’s the real catch,” stated Juice. Just then, a baby elephant sucked up some of his bathwater with his trunk and sprayed Faro from head to toe. As a crowd of all sorts of animals surrounded Faro to transform him into Geela, he thought of Toonela. Toonela was sweet, nice, and beautiful herself. Why had he not noticed her before? He felt ashamed that he often ignored her when her sister was around and she probably felt a lot like he did when Cici ignored him. Could she really be in love with him, the funky-feathered bird? In a few minutes, the transformation from that funky-feathered bird into a beautiful swan was complete. Faro looked at himself after the transformation was complete and said, “So this is what the ugly duckling felt like!”Chapter 8Every day before her second act, the bearded lady would visit the swan. Faro waited patiently in the swan’s giant nest and kept his back to the door. When Elizabeth, the bearded lady, entered he kept his head down.“Hey Geela, how is my beautiful girl?” cooed Elizabeth.When Faro turned his head to look at her she immediately recognized him through the disguise. “You are the stork from earlier,” questioned Elizabeth as she approached him.“You aren’t afraid,” asked Faro.“I’ve been waiting for you for a long, long time, Mr. Stork,” replied Elizabeth.All the animals gathered to watch as Faro opened his velvet pouch. Elizabeth bent her head back as Faro sprinkled the baby powder over her face. She had the biggest smile under that beard as she giggled with joy. She then held still for the stork’s magical kiss. “Congratulations Mommy,” Faro said happily. The whole crowd of animals erupted into dances of celebration. “We would love to stay but we have 6.3 miles to fly and a contest to win. Not to mention we need to get out of this circus before we get caught by the ringmaster,” Juice said as he mounted his perch.“Don’t worry about that little buddy. We can get you out,” said Elizabeth motioning to all her animal friends.“Ready guys?” she called. All the animals erupted into hysterics and ran out into the human crowds. All the humans started running for cover as everything from mice to elephants came running towards them. Juice and Faro were behind the stampede. They paused to say thank you to Elizabeth and give her good wishes before flying off for home. Chapter 9“We made it! Your destination is in point six miles,” informed Juice.“You really think Toonela likes me?” asked Faro quietly.“If she doesn’t then I’ll eat a fish,” replied Juice. “You really should give her a second look, Faro, she is a wonderful bird.”“But if we win the contest, Cici will notice me and we’ll live happily ever after,” said Faro.“Do you really want to be with someone who only noticed you because you have a nice nest? Toonela likes you with all your crazy feathers just the way you are. She even likes Big Bird!” said Juice.Faro and Juice swooped into the grounds and there were crowds gathered around cheering them on. “You’re first! You’re first!” yelled Toonela.“Who is that good looking bird? He is the winner of the best nest?” asked Cici.Faro and Juice were in such a hurry that he didn’t realize he still looked like a swan. The pair swooped through the winning tree branches and were surrounded by dozens of birds in celebration. They had won the Stork Off!“Hello mister, I do not think we have met,” Cici said batting her long beautiful eyelashes. Just then, Faro realized that Juice and Kurg were right. The only reason Cici was talking to him was that he looked like a beautiful swan and had just won the best nest in town. Faro wanted true love like Juice and Cherry. He wanted to be with some bird that would love him no matter what. That bird, it seems, was Toonela all along. “Hi Cici, it’s me Faro. It’s a long story but I had to do some undercover work,” said Faro. Faro just then realized that he had spoken a full sentence without stuttering. As he looked from Cici to Toonela and back again, he knew that Cici was not the bird for him.Faro moved closer to Toonela. “Hey Toonela, Kurg is bringing wine brewed by fish. I mean fish brewed wine, ah, to my party because I’m having a party. Do you like Big Bird,” stuttered Faro, just like a woodpecker!