Mrs. Brewster put the morning mail on the Mayor’s desk marveling at a huge puffy manila envelope. Now what could be in that? she wondered as she laid the paper knife beside the pile and went to get her boss’s morning coffee.
With a little grin lighting his face, Mayor Myles moved his desk back so that he was facing his beloved forest again and then he read the long list of names again. It was from the papers he had removed from the envelope. His grin grew wider when he saw the teachers’ names at the bottom of the final sheet. The other mail was left unopened.
He heard a soft tapping on the window and looked up to see a little sparrow sitting on the window sill regarding him with bright eyes. Bird and man regarded each other for almost a minute, and then with a final tap of her beak, the sparrow flew away.
“Hmm, that was strange,” the mayor said to himself.
Not so strange, if he only knew. Stranger things were about to happen.
The next day, Sophie left for school earlier than usual, saying, “See you, Dad” as she rushed out the door, “soon.” Mayor Myles packed his briefcase carefully, giving a thick pad of papers a loving pat. Here was Exhibit A to show to his councillors.
“My,” commented his wife as he gave her a peck on the cheek before leaving, “you look happier than you have for a long time.”
Mrs. Brewster handed him a list of people he was to call when he arrived at his office in the town hall. One of them was the editor of the town newspaper ,The Sentinel.
Midas heard it first. He dropped down like a sack of coal near the fern nest where Munro was dozing.
“What is that ruckus?”
“Huh?” asked the dove sleepily, forgetting that he wasn’t speaking to Midas. And then he heard it too: a whispering, a murmuring, a swishing through the ferns.
Louder and louder, a marching sound with laughter and chattering and then Midas and Munro saw them. Sparrow-Girl was leading a small army of children, all carrying poster boards and balls of string. And they saw taller people bringing up the rear.
Midas flew up to his tree condo and Munro hid in the ferns until Sparrow-Girl called him softly. “We’re here, Munro, to save the forest. Come out and watch.” And watch the fascinated dove did, from a middle branch of a nearby fir.
The grade sixes, the grade sevens and the grade eights from Sparrow-Girl’s school tied their posters to the trunks of as many trees as they could. The teachers supervised and helped those who had difficulty reaching around some of the huge trunks. They took pictures with their digital cameras and smart phones. Then all of them stood around admiring their work.
The printing on each poster board was the same.
However, underneath was the name of the student who made the poster. Each child had adopted a tree.
Sparrow-girl smiled up at Munro and then left with the crowd of very satisfied children.
When all was quiet, Midas flew down.
“What on earth was all that about?” he asked Munro who was looking around at the signs on almost a hundred tree trunks. He was as mystified as Midas.
All over the town, the evening Sentinel was no sooner tossed on doorsteps than it was whisked inside with eager hands. An ambitious reporter had lost no time recording the story of how the children had saved the forest from being removed to make way for condos. It was a kind of Pied Piper legend in reverse. MAYOR’S DAUGHTER LEADS THE SCHOOL CHILDREN DEEP INTO THE FOREST SO THAT EACH ONE COULD ADOPT A TREE! read the headline. Just before the march, the story read, the mayor had received the petition signed by every student and teacher from grade six to grade eight and even by the principal. He immediately took it to his councillors and they all decided that the Canadian Condo Company had to look elsewhere for land to develop.
No town could go against its children, was the consensus.
Midas and Munro found it hard to sleep that night. The posters tied to the trees made strange noises in every stray breeze. Midas gave up and flew a few kilometers north to another stand of Douglas Firs on the other side of a small river, but Munro stayed in his nest of ferns because deep in his little heart he knew that Sparrow-Girl was behind this strange thing that had happened and that she or Thunderbird would come in the morning and explain it all to him. And he was right.
The morning sun was glinting off needles, yellowing leaves and the posters when Sparrow-Girl came skipping into the forest. Munro hopped as quickly as he could to meet her. She stooped and picked him up.
“We’ve saved the forest, “ she crowed. “ The trees can make oxygen for us and take away the carbon dioxide forever and you birds will have a happy home for as long as you live, and maybe Megan can come back. Thunderbird can go and get her.”
Munro eyed her with love as she prattled on and he stroked her cupped hands with his little beak. How he loved her!
“Look what my father gave me,” she said, and she showed Munro a delicate bracelet on her right wrist with tiny shiny charms attached to it. “He said the forest owed it to me.”
“What about all the posters?” Munro asked after admiring the jewelry.
“The kids will come and take them down soon,” she said, “the trees don’t need them now.”
“Good,” said Munro. “They’re just a bit scary.”
Sparrow-Girl laughed and set Munro down on a low branch.
“Can you turn into a sparrow again?” he asked.
“Sure,” Sophie said. “But I have to go to school now, and there is going to be a big party at the town hall tonight to celebrate. My father is so happy to have his forest back.”
Sophie pulled down a poster and rolled up the string.
Something fell from her wrist and fell into the ferns.
“Bye,” she called as she hurried away, “see you soon.”