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The Misunderstood Magpie.

The Misunderstood Magpie.

When I was a little kid, my dad would drop me off at my grandparents's house every day before he went to work. As he’d leave, I’d say goodbye to him in English and then say hello to my grandpa and grandma in Japanese. I’d usually be welcomed with a warm bowl of udon or fried rice that my grandma had made my cousins and I for lunch. We called her Bachan. My grandpa would often have a special dessert of sliced bananas covered in condensed milk for us. We called him Jichan.

I spent a lot of time with my cousins at Jichan and Bachan’s watching Studio Ghibli films, building Bionicle sets, and playing in the backyard. There wasn’t much in their backyard except a handful of pine trees, some squirrels, and a few magpies, but there was always lots to do. I’d get excited when the magpies joined us because my mom had told me that the magpie was a special bird and a symbol of good luck in Japan. Sometimes, me and my cousins would throw pieces of bread for them to eat as they zoomed to the grass in flashes of blue, white, and black.

I always loved playing in the backyard with my cousins. We’d often scream to the top of our lungs as we raced across the grass from one fence to the other. One time, we accidentally knocked a panel out of the fence, leaving a big hole that exposed the neighbour’s backyard. Jichan thought it was funny and fixed the fence himself, but the man next door got mad at us.

The neighbours actually had a boy who was around the same age as me. Although we made his dad angry, two of my cousins and I would still go over to play with him in their backyard. The boy had blond curly hair like his mom, who was a nice lady that would pour glasses of red Kool-Aid for us. The boy’s father was usually working in his new greenhouse. It was made of glass and reflected sunlight, letting him grow all kinds of plants. He’d always tell us to keep away from the greenhouse so we were sure to keep our distance.

While we were playing together one day, a magpie flew down from the sky and sat on the branch of a pine tree in their backyard. The neighbour’s boy jumped up with excitement when he saw the magpie. Just as I was about to tell him what my mom had said about magpies, he began to explain how his dad told him that magpies were bad birds. The boy was taught to hit magpies with stones if he ever saw them. As he ran to grab stones for the four of us, I got nervous because I didn’t want to see the magpie get hurt.

When the boy came back from his mom’s garden and handed each of us a stone, I could tell that my cousins didn’t want to hit the bird either. But the boy didn’t notice and quickly let his stone go, just missing the magpie. When he saw we weren’t joining in, he looked confused and asked why we weren’t helping him. Not wanting to cause any trouble, my cousins followed the boy with much lighter throws that didn’t make it to the tree.

As the three of them turned and waited for me to throw my stone, I didn’t know what to do. I wondered what my mom would think, but the boy said it was what his family did all the time. I looked up at the magpie then back at the boy. I was hoping the magpie would fly over to Jichan and Bachan’s, but it didn’t move and the boy was starting to look annoyed. Thinking fast, I took a step towards the magpie and whipped my stone as hard as I could.

Bang!

My stomach dropped as the stone hit the glass roof of the greenhouse. I had tried to aim just right of the tree to make the boy happy while secretly avoiding the magpie, but the stone had soared to the other end of the backyard. The four of us went quiet and stared at the spot where the stone had landed, hoping there was no damage to the glass. My cousins looked as scared as I was and the boy glanced over at me in shock. I was about to tell him it was an accident when someone suddenly shrieked from inside the greenhouse,

“Who threw that stone?”

I felt tears coming from my eyes as the dad stormed out of the little glass building, his face as red as the tomatoes he was trying to grow. The boy instantly pointed at me while my cousins looked down at their feet. I tried to explain what had happened as the man jogged towards me, but he kept screaming at me to get out of his backyard. Not knowing what else to do, I sprinted out of their gates and cried all the way back to Jichan and Bachan’s.

I spent the rest of that day with Jichan, drinking tea and watching my favourite Studio Ghibli film, My Neighbour Totoro. After that, I didn’t play with the boy on the other side of the fence anymore and never found out if the stone left a mark or not. Jichan thought the whole situation was quite funny. I think the magpie in his backyard did too.

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