By Manelle Oliphant
Chervil stared at the piles of notes on his desk. The solution was there. He just had to find it. He grunted and shuffled pages full of scribbled sketches and misspelled words until he saw his original idea. He stared at the mechanisms he’d drawn the night when the idea first came to him. It had made sense at the time, but the next morning the solution had gone.
He closed his eyes and tried to put his mind back in the moment. He’d been half asleep when the image appeared in his mind. The water ran down the hill toward a waterwheel. As the wheel turned, a device in the stream directed water toward the garden plot. The trick was getting the device to turn on and off by itself.
Tap, tap, tap. Cheveril opened his eyes.
Zeki perched on the sill tapping the pane with his beak. Cheveril sighed. He’d been close he was sure. If Zeki hadn’t interrupted maybe he’d have figured it out. He waved the owl away. Zeki shook his head.
Cheveril set the page down to open the front door. He stepped outside for the first time that day. The strain in his upper back relaxed a bit as he took a breath.
Zeki perched on the stool by Cheveril’s chair. “Whew. You stink. Don’t tell me you’ve been at that desk since this time yesterday.”
Cheveril shrugged. “So what if I have?” The truth was he’d wanted to work through the night, but he had to stop for a short nap. He planned to keep going until he figured out how to water the garden by machine. The rain didn’t come quite so often in high summer and he’d save himself and his neighbors from having to hike to the garden plot every day.
Zeki crossed his wings in front of his chest and stretched up to his true height. He wouldn’t be chased off like he had the last few days. “If you have, then it’s definitely time for a break. You promised you’d help me practice.” The annual forest talent show was in a few weeks and Zeki planned to sing while Cheveril accompanied him. “Go on. Get your guitar and lunch. It won’t kill you to spend some time outside.” He sniffed. “A few nearby plants might not survive though.”
Cheveril smirked and drew in a long breath. He was a little hungry. “Okay, a few times through the song then you have to go.”
Zeki smiled. “It’s a deal.”
Cheveril ducked back inside. From the pantry, he grabbed a pitcher of lemonade, a loaf of bread that wasn’t dried up or moldy, and a wedge of cheese. On his way out he picked up two glasses and a knife. He took these outside before he snatched his guitar from the front room and sat down beside his friend.
It did feel nice to get outside, but he was still anxious about the project that sat unfinished on his desk. His stomach grumbled so he served up the light lunch first. Zeki enjoyed the bread the most. Cheveril cut a large slice of cheese and ate it with a chunk of bread. As, he sat in the dappled sunlight chewing his body relaxed. He took a deep breath. A small break wouldn’t hurt anything.
When they’d finished the meal Cheveril tuned his guitar and struck a few chords to get his mind and fingers ready to go. He looked at Zeki. “I’ll start with the intro.”
Cheveril played the first few bars of “Forest Friends and Family,” the song Zeki had chosen to sing. It was a favorite among their neighbors. Cedar the fawn, who well”¦ loved his forest friends and family, had written it a long time ago.
Zeki started the first verse. His warbling whooo, whooo of a voice joined with the guitar. Cheveril’s mood lifted even more.
Cheveril let his fingers take over. His mind wandered as he listened to Zeki sing. When the song ended Cheveril smiled. “That was great. You don’t need to practice. You know the song by heart.”
“Didn’t you hear how I came in late on the third verse?”
“Well, I did. Let’s do it again.”
They practiced the song a few more times until Zeki pronounced his performance good enough. “Let’s go through a few more songs just for fun.”
Cheveril found he wasn’t as reluctant as before to continue so he agreed. Together they sang, “Green Clearing” and “The Stupid Squirrel”. The latter was a playful song where any animal could be substituted for the Squirrel who did something silly in each verse. It was a song many forest animals taught their children to stay safe. Zeki and Cheveril sang it as “The Stupid Black Bear”. By the end, they both chuckled as they imagined a huge bear covered in a poison ivy rash.
They began the song, “Blue Bird Sky,” another one Cheveril’s fingers knew by heart. Again his mind wandered as he played and sang, but this time it wandered right into his current problem, danced around and came out the other side with the perfect solution.
Zeki screeched out his last word as he cut his voice off. “What?”
“I know what to do!” Cheveril handed the guitar to Zeki as he ran indoors. Out he came with a few pieces of paper and a pencil. He ran up the hill toward the garden.
Zeki set down the guitar and flew after him. When he caught up, Cheveril was already on his knees scribbling away.
“I knew there had to be a clock involved. I just couldn’t figure how to connect it to my device. But if it rotated like the clock, it could reset each day. All we’d have to do is wind the clock!” Cheveril held up a paper with some scribbled drawings.
They looked like random shapes to Zeki. “Fantastic! Maybe now you’ll have time to take a bath.”
Cheveril smiled. “I’ll consider it.”
The pair walked back to Cheveril’s front door. Zeki helped clear the remaining food from outside before he left. “I’ll see you later.”
“Come by tomorrow, and we can practice again.”
“So willing all of a sudden?”
Cheveril scratched the back of his head. “Well, I don’t know how but it might have helped.”
“Good. From now on I hope you remember I’m wiser than you, and you should always listen to what I have to say.”
Cheveril smirked. “Only when you dream will this be true.”
Zeki laughed as he flew toward home.
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