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Jonathan's Tales

by Tom Kissack 2 months ago in Short Story
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The Parrot and the Woodpecker

The Parrot and the Woodpecker

The Parrot and the Woodpecker (and an introduction to Jonathan's Tales).

Once upon a time…… there lived a very well-travelled parrot nicknamed the Chief, a veritable kingpin in his own world (1) . The Parrot used to sail the seven seas (2) perched on the shoulder of a very bad pirate, a Captain Pirate actually, who led a fearsome and rather bloodthirsty crew. This quite terrible bunch of dastardly old salts (3) had a current focus of ransacking all around the West Indies (4) looking for treasure, as much loot (5) as they could get their grubby, gnarled, and somewhat typically for pirates, over tattooed hands on; everything was in their sights (6), anything worth a bob or two (7) they prized and would stop at nothing to get what they deemed a pirate’s just rewards (8) after risking life and limb (9) and lo and behold (10) anyone crossing them, for they terrorised without mercy everyone they met.

One early evening, it was becoming dark in early Springtime, they landed upon a town, and much to their delight noticed a small copse leading from the beach, close by. Stealthily using this as cover, they crept silently up to what they thought were unsuspecting inhabitants, and finally breaking cover (11) the pirates raced up the main street intent on plundering and pillaging and laying everything to waste (12), the Chief shouting at his top voice, “Shoot ! Shoot ! Take everybody out, !” All was going to plan for this menacing bunch of pirate thieves, then unexpectedly they ran into difficulty. The locals in the town were, after being robbed by every pirate ship that passed, sick to their back teeth (13), and resolved to lie in wait for the next raiding party. Alerted by lookouts, a prearranged group immediately rallied, and being well prepared and heavily armed, pounced on the marauding pirates at mid-street point. The pirates thus assailed and faced with an unexpected volley of fire coming their way, beat a hasty retreat (14) running pell mell (15) in high panic back through the woods to their ship, firing indiscriminately in all directions, but mainly at the locals giving chase. One pirate running like the wind (16) in blind terror (17) as bullets whistled past his ears, spun around to face his attackers, and still with his forward momentum now reversed in faltering backwards steps lost his footing. The pirate toppled over just as he was firing. His aim misplaced shot high in the tree dislodging a nest on a topmost branch. The nest thus disturbed from a place chosen with great favour by two parent birds with “love” in their hearts, as all birds have in the Springtime, came swirling and spinning down, landing almost on the Captain Pirate’s head, prompting him to shout, “WHAT’s THIS !!?? Are these blackguards up the trees as well ?” He started immediately shooting skywards. The Chief a little more sharp-eyed that the Captain Pirate yelled, “Stop Sire! It’s just a nest, look Eggs ! Eggs ! I like Eggs !” The Captain Pirate dropped his gaze to the ground where the parrot was pointing to the nest, “Well I’ll be blowed, eggs (18) ! I haven’t had an egg for ages.” Snatching a glance briefly along the path they had raced along back towards their ship, and noting the villagers were now falling back to the town, having in their minds successfully repelled the “visitors”, the Captain Pirate addressed his number two, his most loyal lieutenant who had remained faithfully by his side as they escaped ambush, saying, “Jack, get one of the lads to pick up the eggs. Let’s make haste to the ship. ” His Number 2 turned to a pirate next to him, “You ! Pick ‘em up !” The pirate instantly obeyed this command, picking up the eggs and putting them in his hat.

With the skirmish with the locals now ended, perhaps best described on the pirate’s side as an embarrassing rout, the pirates mostly all managed to get back on the ship with thankfully minimum casualties. Those injured were taken to the sick bay for the ship’s doctor to patch up (19) as best he could. Once aboard, the Chief immediately exclaimed excitedly as he hopped from one foot to the other on the Captain Pirate’s shoulder, “Eggs for breakfast ! Eggs for breakfast !” The Captain Pirate, who was privately quite relieved for his crew’s deliverance from the unexpected attack by the wretched villagers, although too proud to make comment on this, said, “I’m tired, I’m going to bed. Come on Polly.”, employing a pet name only he was allowed to use for the Chief. “But what about the eggs ?” said the Parrot. “We’ll have ‘em for breakfast,” and turning to the pirate who had took possession of the eggs, and had followed them to his cabin door, still holding them in his hat said, “Leave the eggs in the hat on my table there and we’ll feast on them tomorrow.” The pirate did as he was told and then left the cabin, the Captain adding, “We all need a good night’s sleep now. Polly, let’s get to bed.” But given this desire to slumber was understandable with the day’s excitement still fresh in his mind, much to the Captain’s Pirate’s dismay, the very next morning came to soon.

It was just after dawn when the whole ship was awoken by an unfamiliar, rather strange noise…“Knock, knock, knock” echoing all around the ship in persistent waves. The Captain Pirate hearing this snapped his eyes open, rushed to the window and, swinging it open, by now in a fine temper at the rude awakening, shouted abroad, “SHIVER ME TIMBERS AND SWING A CUTLASS TO THE MUTINOUS SCOUNDREL MAKING SUCH A RACKET ! WHAT’S GOING ON ! IT’S STILL THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!” Then, initially scanning the ship’s deck, he turned his glance upwards to the vicinity of the noise, and saw a silly bird, high above, bashing his nose against the wooden mast. “POLLLLLLLLY ! COME HERE ! NOW ! The Parrot who had, despite the noise, been trying to enjoy a blissful slumber awoke at the Captain’s shouting and flew to his shoulder. The Captain noting his trusted Chief was now alongside him, pointed to the bird on the mast and exclaimed, “WHAT’S THAT !!” his voice filled with furious irritation. “It’s a bird, Sire”, replied the Chief matter of factly, and I must concur Sire, it’s making such a blooming racket.” “Well Polly, I’ve had enough of this….. yes, yes, well described, RACKET, already.” The Captain Pirate, who kept a minimum of three muskets by his side even whilst sleeping, whipped one out from his waist belt and fired at the bird and missed it once, but the second shot took a wing off. The bird strangely didn’t mind and just carried on pecking because he was hungry, having just been born, he was, in fact, massively hungry. The Captain eyed the bird and realising little headway had been made (20), as the bird continued pecking, fired again taking the second wing clean off . “Ha !” proclaimed the Captain in delight, “All sorted !“ The Chief who had remained in silent approval of what he judged the Captain Pirate’s first action at warning off the bird, was a little horrified at seeing the ensuing mayhem. “BOSS !! BOSS !! THAT’s NOT VERY NICE !” said the Parrot looking at his Captain. “Well, I can’t stand it, if the bird carries on like that, it‘ll be enough to wake the dead !” The Parrot was far from assuaged at his Captain’s defence of his actions, and still a little shocked at the treatment of the only other avian on the ship, commented further, “Maybe so Sire, but you shouldn’t blow him apart like that. He’s, he’s… after all a bird like me you know.” The Captain glanced sheepishly at his friend, and in a more apologetic tone said, “Look, I’m sorry Polly, but anyway, I’ve shut him up now.” And sure enough, it was plain to see she had. The bird having lost both his wings gravity interceded, and she dropped from her original pecking position high up, and was now lodged on the main cross mast, just sitting there, still as a statute, sadly completely wingless.

The Captain Pirate once again made to retire to his bed, but being a light sleeper by nature, and I must let you into a secret, all pirates that have any sense to survive, only ever sleep on the edge expecting an attack at any time, decided to busy himself settling upon where their next destination was, and took out his sea map to study. About to cast his eye upon the chart, he looked over at the hat lying on the table and shouted, “Polly, get those eggs underway, take them to the cook, I’m starving,” Polly obeyed his master in double quick time (21) himself relishing the prospect of eggs for breakfast. Unbeknown to him and the Chief there were other things beyond the ship afoot (22) quite in tandem with all the unfolding drama of a wood-pecking bird. A sea fairy had by chance been in the ship’s vicinity. She was by nature a kind soul, and whilst chatting away19 to the dozen (23) to her friend Sammy Seagull, both riding the waves up and down as they discussed the manifold unkindness’s often seen in this world, she was startled to observed the proceedings of wings being cruelly removed from a poor bird, right in front of her very eyes. Turning to look at Sammy with no little indignation she declared righteously, “I quite agree with that parrot’s comment, it is not very nice in any stretch of imagination (24) blowing a poor bird’s wings off.” Resolving to intervene, she flew over to the mast where the Woodpecker was sitting still as a mill pond (25) and touching his shoulder asked kindly, “Where do you come from ? You don’t belong on a ship!” The Woodpecker after his recent ordeal was immensely thankful someone was being friendly, for he was doubly sad, sad at losing both wings of course, and strangely, sadder losing a past anchor on life, her history was no more. With tears filling her eyes she replied, “I know I don’t belong here, I, I don’t know what happened. I was having a happy time living in a tree, waiting to become me, so comfy in my egg, talking to my siblings all the time through our shells, talking non-stop about what it would be like on the outside once we had hatched. But now, now I’m the only one, all my brothers and sisters are about to be fried for breakfast.” Sorrowfully shaking her head, she ended with the comment, “I, I.. have no idea why I hatched out so quickly.” The Parrot whilst all these shenanigans with the Captain and the strange bird on the mast was going on had started to have deep misgivings about what happened, and having delivered the eggs to the cook, decided to fly over to the bizarre bird whose seemingly habitual behaviour was quite beyond his ken (26). Landing next to him without initially seeing the diminutive sea fairy on the other side of the bird, the Parrot opened the conversation a little haphazardly, “Ermm excuse me, what are you ? Or maybe better, who are you ?” The Woodpecker turned to the newcomer and replied, “Well, I don’t know who I am, or what I am, but YOU,” said in a tone of unbridled accusation, “Obviously took me from where I was, and that might be a clue.” The Parrot then noticing the frowning sea fairy sat the other side of the bird decided to prevaricate on his ownership of what had happened, in fact somewhat unashamedly indulged in a downright lie at the other’s accusation, “ What ? What ? I HAD absolutely nothing to do with this, I didn’t take you ! I-” The Woodpecker could not abide the Parrot’s plainly mendacious refutation and blurted out, “What ? What ? I heard you shouting about eggs, you, you … bad b…..” But his sentence was foreshortened by the sea fairy who interrupted the Woodpecker, annoyed at the Parrot’s lame denial of any responsibility for bringing the Woodpecker on board, “Don’t argue you two,” said the sea fairy, “I’m going to give you both a second chance to make things right.” Turning her glance directly to the bird with no wings she said ,“Just to set the record straight (27) and answer this Parrot’s initial question, you’re an actual Woodpecker, did you know that ? I know you are a Woodpecker as I was observing everything that was going on, and might I say that there are not many bird species having such a peculiar behaviour as pecking at wood. Now, let’s bring your wings back.” The sea fairy touched the Woodpecker on both shoulders with her wand. The lost wings were instantly restored, and immediately the Woodpecker started going, “Bop, bop, bop” on the mast. “Waitttttt !” shouted the sea fairy, “You carry on like that and you’ll get blasted again.” “Indeed, you will,” said the Parrot, “Why do you peck like that, you are truly a silly bird you know.” The Woodpecker already in the doldrums (28) , having lost both wings once and quite petrified at the thought it might happen again took umbrage (29) at this insult, and with a voice full of hurt shouted back at the parrot, “NO, NO I’M NOT a silly bird !” The sea fairy smiled and then sighed, “Now both of you stop this. I’m not going to go into why you peck like that. But be careful, the Captain Pirate will have a mind to blow your wings off again.” The Woodpecker looked back in alarm across the deck to the Captain Pirate’s cabin and her faced filled with fear, “Oh !, Oh !” she exclaimed softly, not realising she was suffering a delayed reaction to having her wings blown cleanly off, and in this melancholy mental state she resolved to try to stop pecking the mast, quite against her nature, but nevertheless she tried..

The sea fairy then left thinking as she flew away, another good day’s done and dusted (30), and with that the parrot took his own cue (31) and also parted company with the Woodpecker to re-join the Captain Pirate in his cabin. Flying though the open window he landed on the table next to him. The Captain Pirate glanced at his Chief, but resumed studying a sea map, thinking silently where next to seek our fame and fortune ? The Chief mindful of his boss’s preoccupation nevertheless felt a compunction to chat. “You know, she’s not a bad old thing that bird, she’s got her wings back.” The Captain Pirate stopped what he was doing and threw a glance of incredulity and surprise at his Parrot, “What ?” he exclaimed, “WINGS BACK ? How can the bird have her wings back ? I blew them both off !” But seeing his friend’s studied silence and half scowl at these words, and clearly noting the parrot’s implicit criticism of his previous actions became angry, picked up a musket lying next to his maps on the table and leaning closer to his Chief with a menacing glare shouted, “BACK!! You say Polly ? What do you mean BACK !? Well in that case, let’s BLOW EM OFF again !” Polly had already had enough of his friend’s lack of compassion concerning his own species and momentarily lost his own head (32) , Right in front of him was an irresistible target to expend his own anger upon, thus in a brief and momentary lapse of sense he snapped (33), lurching forward he delivered a sharp peck on the Captain Pirate’s intrusive protruding nose. “Ouch, ouch Polly,” shouted the Captain Pirate stepping back and rubbing his nose before glaring at the Parrot, “Shall I blow your nose off too ? “ “NO, YOU WON’T, I’m your friend. Now listen, listen up,” said the Parrot, “That is there a Woodpecker.” “I don’t care what it is. It could be a steamroller or a juggernaut, it could even be a star, it’s making such a racket, or rather was…..” the last word trailing off the Captain Pirate’s lips as he strolled over to the window and looked out upon the mast, noting the Woodpecker was once again with wings, but thankfully sitting in discreet silence, he sighed and returned to his maps. The Parrot observing the Captain hadn’t fired immediately another broadside at the poor Woodpecker, shrewdly perceived a little chink (34) in the Captain’s Pirate’s hostility to the only other bird on the ship,. He was pleased to discern in the Captain Pirates quizzical ending of his last statement, and more importantly, staying his hand (35) after seeing the offending bird’s quiescence an opportunity. So, not being nicknamed the Chief for nothing, he resolved a little tactical persuasion as a first attempt to protect the Woodpecker. Polly glanced archly at his friend and flew over to his shoulder. Adopting a rather conspiratorial tone, always a winner with any and all pirates, as conspiracy, without fail, feeds pirates’ imaginations, softly whispered in his ear, “I think we should go to the next island, and leave her there. She’ll be alright on her own. She’s not a bad sort you know, it’s just, well she’s… she’s got a bad habit of knocking wood.” “Ay, OK Polly, seeing as the bird is quiet I agree that’s a plan I’ll weather (36) for the time,” said the Captain Pirate walking back over to his chart still spread across the table, “Mind you, I can’t abide that noise so if you can keep her quiet to the next island, we have a deal.”

The Chief, satisfied he had for the time being saved the skin (37) of the Woodpecker from further physical abuse, bid his boss goodbye saying, “I’m just going over to the sick bay to check how the men caught amiss in our retreat are doing.” The Captain, initially frowning at the Parrot’s use of the word “retreat”, a word suggesting they had not yesterday had a too successful day’s undertaking, quickly dismissed the negative, but we might add, truthful point of view and decided to focus on a characteristic he quite admired in his best friend, “Ay, Polly that’s you all over, a sterling turn of thought, report back what state my men are in under the doctor’s administrations.” “Ay, Ay, Captain,” squawked the Parrot as he flew out of the window actually not on the stated mission he had professed to his boss.. The Parrot made haste down to the doctor’s sick bay, flew in the window and took in the scene, the doctor fully occupied attending the previous day’s wounded pirates, re-dressing their seeping wounds. The Parrot left it a few seconds then said, “Excuse me doctor.” “Yes, yes, what’s up Polly ?” the doctor focusing on his patients needs more than the newly arrived parrot. “Do you know anything about Woodpeckers ? They are very silly birds I think, all they do all day is knock wood. I mean… FANCY THAT ! Well at least I can speak, well she can speak as well the Woodpecker that is, but fancy knocking wood ALL Day !” The doctor stopped what he was doing and turned to look at the Parrot, “Ahhhhhh,” said the doctor slowly, quite puzzled at the question, “Where have you seen a Woodpecker ? ” “We’ve got a Woodpecker on board.” “A woodpecker on board ? How can we have a Woodpecker on board Polly ?” “Well, Doc, it’s, it’s a long story, but we, we got these eggs, and this one hatched and the others were eaten.” “What do you mean the others were eaten ?” exclaimed the doctor. “Well not eaten yet, the others are about to be eaten for breakfast” said the Parrot half laughing. “Ahh,” said the doctor, “So we have a Woodpecker on board.” “Yes, yes, that is what I’ve been trying to tell you,” said the Chief, “But the real question I’m dying to know is why does the Woodpecker PECK?” The doctor was about to tell the Chief why, when a patient crashed through his door. The poor man being in a semi coma, had just awoken up and found himself in great pain, having taken multiple shot wounds, in fact, being in the vanguard of the charge through the town, the brunt of the first volley fell upon him when they were ambushed yesterday. The patient staggering across the room said weakly, “Doctor, I think I’ve bought it (38) , before passing out on the floor, his pain managing to render him unconscious. The new arrival stopped the doctor dead in his tracks (39) from responding to the Parrot’s question. “I’m sorry Polly, look I’ve got to deal with this, but as an aside I am rather more concerned about another matter, the forecast is very bad,” ”What forecast ?” said the Parrot. “The weather forecast silly, I think the bell’s (40) changing, winds about turned in the last few hours several times, and it’s quite fresh, there’s going to be a storm,” and then after a short pause exclaimed half in humour, “We’re all going to drown Polly!” “What ? What ? DROWN ! I won’t drown Doc, I’ll fly.” laughed the Parrot rather too heartily for the doctor’s taste.

After this quite irreverent jocularity at the expense of everybody (41) but the parrot himself, the Parrot left the doctor’s quarters and returned to the Captain to tell him the news. “CAPTAIN ! There’s a storm brewing.” “Yes Polly, I’ve noted it’s getting a little choppy, winds cranked to a gale almost, won’t be long before it hits us.” The Captain, like all pirates when faced with such meteorological dangers, their lives on a rack (42), can’t help thoughts running through them on the nature of events besetting them. We have already broached how conspiracy theories have a special resonance with pirates, capturing their imaginations. Despite the Captain being a practical man by nature, a no nonsense, shoot from the hip (43) and take prisoners later type, but like all pirates he had he could not fail to notice the ship heaving in the winds and a thought came to him, well not just one thought, a rather persistent stream of thoughts crystallising in a nagging suspicion that bringing a female, any female, even a bird on board, was inviting bad luck. “Polly, I’ve been thinking, I really don’t want this Woodpecker on my ship with this storm raging, can’t abide multiple things going on. And besides it might be because of the fact she’s not one of us, I mean you know we sailors don’t like females on board, damned bad luck you know (44). So, I think I’ll shoot her wings off now, and that’ll be her out of the way, we can then forget about it Polly.” “Noooo, Nooooo, Nooooo !” pleaded Polly, “She, she might be useful sometime, you, you never really know.” The Captain was about to give short shrift reply (45) to the Parrot’s comment when his cabin door swung open. The third pirate in chief entered, “Captain, the main mast’s done for, its splitting up the cross trees (46), we think you should seek different quarters before it snaps and topples to deck, as I’m afraid the direction of landing is a dead cert (47) on your cabin roof.” “Ay, thanks bosun, tell the men to get ready with the boats, it’ll be a messy business if we leave the “Old Girl” (48) to her own devices in this devilish storm, but wait my word.” The Captain strode onto his deck, vacating his cabin just in time to see the ship’s lofty mast crash down on his quarters plunging straight downwards, smashing a hole through the hull below, the boat in sorry complaint heaved upwards a little on its stern as water gushed through the gape.. That was enough for the Captain Pirate and he screamed to his crew, “Abandon Ship !” So, the pirates made haste to drop the two small boats in the swirling, angry sea below. Then, one after another leapt over the side to land in various states of awkwardness and injury on the yawing boats, some regretfully completely missing the mark (49) , and once in the briny had little chance to make a fist (50) of saving their skins.. In fact, it was a strange night as actually most of them didn’t survive, they all drowned, but as luck had it the Captain was delivered to safety alongside the Parrot, both being washed up on a beach on a deserted desert island, and so we join them after the storm, the Captain prostrate on the sand half unconscious.

When the Captain regained consciousness he looked around and saw his Parrot circling above before landing next to his friend. “Ahh Polly, what a business that was, well at least we’re all right. “ “What Sire ? We’re not all right, have you seen this island ?” “What do y’ mean this island ?” “Well for starters, we got a boat here, maybe in a dozen pieces having crashed into those rocks, a boat mind you with nothing in it, no food, scouting around this island has absolutely nothing to eat, well apart from me, are you going to EAT ME ? ” The Captain looked at his friend and protested, “I DON’T eat parrots !” “Well, you might if you get hungry.” The captain sighed and looked around “What do you mean there’s no food ?” “There is no food, look there’s just trees. There’s no berries, no fruit, it’s just sand and a few trees. And worst still, those trees are not native (51) here, they’ve been planted by sailors.” “Ahh yes,” said the Captain expansively, “ It’s the old custom, whenever you go to an island you plant trees, so if you every get shipwrecked there’s wood a plenty for a new mast” “Yes, yes,” said Polly a little irritated, “ It’s all very well, but you can’t eat wood. We’re gonna die, you and me, and I’ll, I’ll probably die before you as you’ll eat me.” “I’ll never eat you Polly,” the Captain said compassionately looking his friend squarely in the eyes.

As the two friends were discussing their rather melancholy predicament a noise arose high above them, a “bop, bop, bopping”. “Whatttttttt ! NOT AGAIN !” shouted the Captain looking up, “THAT STUPID BIRD’s BOPPING IN A TREE ! HE’S BOPPING !!! I’M GONNA BLAST ‘IM !” That said, the Captain immediately realised his stated intention was not in his remit (52) , and added, in a less belligerent sadder tone, “ But I can’t, I haven’t got my muskets. All lost in the storm. Can’t blast him now.” Then suddenly the bopping stopped. The parrot cocked his ear (53) and heard the Woodpecker say, “Yummy,” followed by a smacking of lips several times. The Parrot shot an inquisitive glance up the tree and then turned to the Captain, “Why’s she saying ‘Yummy’ ?” The Captain Pirate having been silently reviewing his situation and in the process was, minute by minute becoming increasingly dejected at his, and the parrot’s future prospects, especially as he could not avoid his fate taring him in the face with a selection of human skeletons in easy view scattered along the shore, “NO fruit,” intoned the Captain sorrowfully shaking his head, “Nothing like that, NO Cheese, NO Wine, NO Rum…. And somebody’s saying YUMMY ? What’s she saying ‘Yummy’ for ? “ The Parrot prompted by the Captain’s comment mirroring his own question, decided to investigate further the stray comment from the Woodpecker, but in his mind’s eye (54) he knew he was clutching at straws (55), thinking they were surely done for (56). Despite this unusually negative view from Parrot who rarely saw life, except in terms of a glass half full (57) he knew anything was better than doing nothing. So, he flew up to the Woodpecker and tapped her on the shoulder “HEY, YOU two wings, you can thank your lucky stars (58) you still have ’em, but more importantly, why are you saying ‘Yummy’ ?” The Woodpecker smiled, “It’s because I’ve just caught a beautiful grub, there’s ants here, there’s bugs too, there’s everything, larva as well, look, ah, wait, wait a minute I can hear one !” The Woodpecker put his ear to the bark, “Wait, wait, we’ve gotta go down a bit.” Hopping a couple of steps below, the Woodpecker immediately began “bop, bop, bop, bop bop. “. Seconds later the bark fell off revealing a juicy larva. The Woodpecker caught it in his beak and turning to the Parrot said, “Do you want it ?” The Parrot needed little prompting and abruptly grabbed the grub, gulping it down in one go (59) I’M STARVING ! I’m STAAAAAAARVING !” Having enjoyed such a gastronomic delight, the Parrot regarded the Woodpecker shrewdly, “I said you were a stupid bird, you’re not a stupid bird at ALL ! Your gonna save us !” And still in quite misbelief that the Woodpecker was a gift to them said, “Errr, how many can you, larva I mean ?” “Well, the Captain won’t have the larva, as you know.” again smiling, not answering the Parrot’s question directly before continuing, “He’s a human.” “Yes,” said the parrot, “He’s human, but he’s also got to survive.”

So, the Woodpecker all morning and all afternoon peck, peck, pecked the bark all along its length, and the result of his labours was a little cap full of all the delicious bugs and larva. They both took the bounty down to the Captain. The Captain was sitting on his backside looking very morose. Seeing Polly, he looked up and exclaimed, “The only thing we’ve got her is water ! NO food, I’m gonna die, might as well move over and take my place next to the other skeletons, no doubt I’ll be keeping them company in time.” “No, you’re not Sire,” said the Parrot, “My friend, might I add, intelligent friend, not stupid friend, sorry about that Woodpecker, my intelligent friend offers you dinner !” “What ?? !!!! ” and the Captain Pirate hearing this news perked up immediately, “Dinner !! Excellent ! What we got ? Pork Chops… Chips ? Anything like that ??” The parrot, his expression dead pan (60) said, “No Sire, bugs, and larva.” And presented the cap for the Captain’s delight. The Captain looked down at the swirling pit of bugs, some trying to crawl out of the cap and screamed, “YUKKKKK !!! YUKKKKKKKK…. That is DISTGUSTING !” “Well disgusting, yes” laughed the Parrot, “It’s either them or you eat us ! And we’re not letting you eat us, cos we can fly.” Polly then fell into fits of laughter. The Captain again said, “This is disgusting”, but looking once again at the cap full of bugs, hunger propelled him to pick one up. Placing the bug in his mouth his poor face instantly contorted in a grimace. The Captain was naturally deeply reluctant to swallow it, and the bug left to his own devices (61), managed to wedge himself in a small gap of the Captain’s crooked uneven teeth. Therein he started to wriggle and write around in a futile attempt to escape. “Just SWALLOW it, “ said the Parrot rolling his eyes (62) in disbelief at the Captain’s antics. “SWALLOW IT ! “ blurted the Captain’s muffled reply, a comment that would have been shouted from the roof tops (63) except the Captain had his lips half pursed not knowing whether to do the deed or spit the offending bug out of his mouth. “Yes, do” said the Woodpecker, Then the Captain bit the bullet (64) and with twisted face dropped his head slightly back, closed his eyes tightly, and gulping the bug down in one, uttered strange sounds from his throat as the bug disappeared southwards. Then snapping his eyes open, shaking his head, he excalimed “Yukkkkkkk” whilst wiping his mouth with his hand trying to dismiss the memory, before bashing his tawny tattooed brutish fist on the soft sand several times. The Parrot chuckled to himself, knowing the worst was over, the Captain would after all survive now. As we approach the end of this story we might reflect on the significant part played by the Woodpecker, a clever, kind and, yes, intelligent bird that his two shipwrecked companions alive.

Eventually a ship came, dropping anchor a little off shore; a small rowing boat was lowered with half a dozen men aboard, pirates for sure, moved slowly to the beach; one pirate, of quite an unusual height and girth, a monster of a man, a patch crossing one eye, was clearly observable standing up cupping his hand over his one visible eye as he took in the scene, the Captain Pirate jumping for joy, dancing, shouting, and waving, “By Jove, We’re saved Polly, we’re saved Polly !” As the rowing boat slid on the sand several pirates dragged it away from the surf. The tall pirate obviously the one in authority jumped off the boat and shouted “Aha ! Captain Spotty Foss, as he was known in pirate circles, “You look a bit thin,” “THIN ! THIN, I’ve been on grubs and larva for the last 4 weeks.” “But at least you survived,” said the other in sympathetic reply, “Your lucky, look around you,” “Yes” I’ve seen all those skeletons, poor blighters, they never survive on this island do they.” “The only thing that survives on this island are the trees, and a couple of birds by the looks of it” laughed the tall pirate good naturedly. The Captain Pirate, the Parrot and Woodpecker joined the tall captain’s crew. Eventually the Captain Pirate with the two birds now best of friends, got a new ship and all three sailed away forever and a day (65). The Captain didn’t mind the Woodpecker now, daily he shouted “Come on Woody, peck, peck, peck”, for that noise was one the Captain Pirate never forgot, and by it each day he set store (66) that he was there not only by the Grace of God, but also through, and by, a strange noise, a strange bird had by nature an incline to make.

As we leave our happy trio to chance their arms (67) in adventures, exciting and wondrous, we might reflect at the conclusion of this story the presence of an age-old principle, ‘The Law of Unintended’ (68) A law whereby things happen prompted by events or actions that can be either beneficial or deleterious, but not intended. As we saw it was never an intention for the retreating pirates to do nothing with the eggs, but eat them, Fortunately for the Captain Pirate and the Parrot, the Woodpecker’s unexpected entry into our story was just the ticket (69) to save their day (70), an event in this instance most beneficial. And we might finally remember the cautionary words of the Parrot concerning not only the aforementioned Law, but, in fact, having a broader relevance in everybody’s life, “You never really know !”

And that’s the story of the Parrot and the Woodpecker !


A brief note about the notes below : Although many of the annotated grammatical words, idioms, sayings, metaphors and proverbs have often a range or multiple explanations, I have as author, for purposes of brevity, chosen to select only the explanation specific to the example in the story.

1. Kingpin - Noun : A person or thing that is essential to the success of an organisation (page 1).

2. The Seven Seas - Phrase : All the oceans of the world (conventionally listed as the Arctic, Antarctic, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans) (page 1).

3. Old Salt - Noun : Someone who has sailed for a very long time (page 1).

4. West Indies - geographical area : The West Indies is a group of islands off Central America, extending in an arc from Florida to Venezuela, separating the Caribbean Sea from the Atlan-tic Ocean (page 1)

5. Loot – Noun : Private property taken from an enemy in war (page 1).

6. In one’s sights - Idiom : Being the focus of one's attention and desire for possession or achievement (page 1).

7. Worth a bob or two - Idiom : "Bob" is old British slang for a shilling. " To cost a bob or two" means to cost quite a bit of money (page 1).

8. Just Rewards – Saying : A deserved outcome or result (page 1).

9. To risk life and limb : Phrase : If someone risks life and limb, they do something very dangerous that may cause them to die or be seriously injured. (Page 1).

10. Lo and behold – Phrase : The lo in the expression probably originated from the shortening of the word look, commonly seen in Middle English texts. Its presence in literature can be traced to at least as early as the 18th century. The literal meaning of the expression is "look and see", and it is always used as if in the imperative.

11. Breaking cover : Phrase : If you break cover, you leave a place where you have been hiding or sheltering from attack, usually in order to run to another place.

12. Lay something to waste - Idiom : To destroy or ruin something completely or utterly (page 1).

13. Sick to 0ne’s back teeth - Phrase : Extremely annoyed, fed up and tired of something (Page 1).

14. Beat a hasty retreat - Phrase : To withdraw quickly in order to avoid something unpleasant (Page 1).

15. Pell Mell – Adverb : In a confused, rushed, or disorderly manner (page 1).

16. Running like the wind - Phrase : Meaning to run very fast (page 1).

17. In blind terror - Phrase : Completely lacking awareness or consciousness of what was happening (page 1).

18. I’ll be blowed – Phrase : (UK old fashioned informal) an expression of great surprise (page 1).

19. To patch up – Phrase : To give quick and usually temporary medical treatment to someone (page 1).

20. To make headway - Phrase : To move forward or make progress, so in this instance to do the opposite. (page 2).

21. Double quick time – Adjective : Very quick (page 2).

22. Something afoot – Phrase : If you say something like a plan or scheme is afoot, it is already happening or being planned, but you do not know much about it. (page 3).

23. Chatting 19 to the dozen – Phrase : To speak rapidly and without stopping (page 3).

24. By any or no stretch of the imagination – Phrase : Used to emphasise something is not true or does not happen (page 3).

25. Still or calm as a mill pond – Phrase : a mill pond is a reservoir of water behind a dam used for driving a mill wheel, and is normally very calm and not choppy (page 3).

26. Beyond someone’s ken – phrase : Not withing the range of what someone knows or under-stands (page 3).

27. Set / put the record straight – Phrase : To provide the facts about something that people have a false understanding or idea about (page 3).

28. In the doldrums – Phrase : Depressed, dull and listless (page 3).

29. Took umbrage - Phrase : If you say a person takes umbrage, you mean that they are upset or offended by something someone says or does to them, often without much reason (page 3).

30. Done and dusted – Phrase : an expression to mean to successfully complete something in in-formal contexts (page 4).

31. Take one’s cue from – Phrase : Follow the example or advice of another (Page 4).

32. To lose one’s head – Idiom : To become very upset and angry (page 4).

33. Someone snaps - Phrase : If someone snaps, or if something snaps inside of them, they suddenly stop being calm and instead become very angry because the situation has become too tense or difficult for them (Page 4).

34. A little chink in one’s armour – Phrase : If you say someone has a chink in their armour, you mean that they have a small weakness in their character or ideas (page 4).

35. Staying one’s hand – Phrase : To stop or prevent someone or oneself from doing something (page 4).

36. To weather something – Phrase : To bear up against or, in the case, accept, and come safely through a storm or crisis (Page 4).

37. Save someone’s skin – Phrase : Rescue someone form danger or difficulty (page 4).

38. Someone has bought it – Phrase (slang) : Used to say someone has been killed, and in this instance, the pirate felt he was dying (Page 5).

39. Stop dead in one’s tracks – Phrase : To stop suddenly (Page 5).

Jonathan’s Tales - Introduction

Jonathan’s Tales are a compilation of bedtime stories born of a memory, an unexpected prompt of my late daughter. I met her mother several years ago and this kind Christian woman, in a generous attempt at consoling me on our tragic mutual family loss, said my daughter as she grew up often commented to her that she held the bedtime stories I told her in fond remembrance when she was a little girl. I realised with regret that I had not kept a record of these many stories. It was coincidentally at the time that I had begun telling my young son the same. After reflecting on the mother’s comments, I resolved not to lose the ‘treasures’ of these stories a second time, and started to record them on my phone, telling my 6-year-old son this will be my gift to him, a gift of remembrance, for there will come a time in the future when his Daddy will no longer be around, but he can whenever he misses me, turn to these stories and remember the joyous and happy times we had at bedtime.

Jonathan’s Tales, comprising 17 tales in this first volume (as yet unpublished), transposed from the unedited audio versions numbering nearly 100 stories, are a product of my imagination, told to my son after his bedtime preparations, and he, snuggled in bed, arbitrarily drew from his head a dual subject and gave me several minutes to construct a story. A note upon the difficulties of constructing a story out of, shall I say, ‘thin air’ and ‘on the hoof’, such stories, in a quest to imbue them with a childlike ‘magicality’ are both dynamic and changing, not just as the story line tends to have a life of its own, but in Jonathan’s Tales, the many interactions of my son whilst telling them, render unfocused minor errors of both names introduced, and real-world facts inevitable, as the author grasps for a reality beyond.

The stories gave me much pleasure to bequeath my own imagination to my son, whom as I said often interacted with the stories, sometimes vociferously protesting at the unfairness of the many and main villainous characters therein, sometimes so enthralled with the storyline he was quiet until the end, and not infrequently as I came to the end of the story, I heard a gentle buzzing sound as my son had fallen into deep slumber. I could not love my son more than I did at such times.

The Tales were recorded in the audio span a broad range of subjects. Since their original recordings I have subsequently arranged the Tales, and catalogued, in total, some 90 Tales, a list included at the end of this introduction under three broad themes : stories involving animals, magical fantasy stories involving humans and, finally, what I have entitled inanimate stories, involving non-living things. Within these subjects a degree of poetical license has been inevitably exercised in respect to real world facts, requiring the more discerning reader to temporarily suspend their belief. And that is not, might I say the end story, for I still have opportunity to add further to these Tales at the behest of my son, now a few years older, but still the magic shines within him, and recently I have !

One concluding point in general terms, I told the stories to my son with three aims : entertainment, of which he, by his reactions seemingly derived much pleasure; erudition, to increase his knowledge on specific items of facts, or to whet his appetite to seek out more information (the many notations referenced at the end of the Tales act as a starting aid and can be a good learning source for students of the English Language), and finally, didactic, a way of subtly introducing a broader morality into my son’s life.

As commented above Jonathan's Tales Volume 1, which comprises 17 Tales, I provide a preview of the stories listed below, is the first of potentially another two, or even 3 volumes, of stories already told and recorded, the full list of the current stories, some 90 in total, are included at the end of this introduction. Many of the Tales have a fantasy and / or magical element, and mostly conclude with a morality end commentary, a few in humorous close, what could be seen as tongue in cheek satire. They encompass a varied and broad range of subjects, directed by my son's arbitrary, if not simplistic commandment for me to tell a story on a binary theme.

Concerning the general aim of introducing my son to broader themes of morality I focused on the following : themes of individual triumph over adversity; the importance of what I might call the Eternal Verities of Love, Truth and Honesty; the Celebration of Difference, Kindness to others, and within that kindness, a gentle spirit of Forgiveness of ills visited upon hapless individuals, leading to a catharsis of personality change in hitherto selfish individuals, and finally, the awesome power of Friendship. For instance, in the audio, “The Squirrel and the Fish” we can see a concluding emphasis on the celebration of difference and acknowledgement that too often difference is weaponised against those standing apart; and contrasting this we might observe mutual support, friendship, kindness and love in the dangerous situation a young dog faces in the “Dog and the Frog”; the story line changes in the “Elf and the Watch”, where we see individual weakness both transposed and elevated in the unfolding of verities of Truth and Honesty to a greater reward for the individual and those around him; and finally in the “Orange and the Grapefruit” there is an underlying message of how all conflict, described as open warfare in the latter part of the story, setting aside an author comment that in some circumstances in order to defeat a broader evil, conflict is necessary, that in any and every case, all warfare is mutually destructive, and especially so, if focused on, and conducted on a personal level of dual antagonism. Many of Jonathan’s Tales, initially not apparent within the reading until the concluding paragraph, highlight the range and host of themes mentioned above, in subtle and differing ways.

Preview of Volume 1 (unpublished)

Jonathan’s Tale Volume 1 (A selection of 17 Tales from 90)

Note : All the tales have an original audio version.

The Dragon and the Window

The Watch and the Book

The Glass and the Jumper

The Snowflake and the Rock

The Dog and the Frog

The Pumpkin and the Book

The Rock and the Balloon

The Elf and the Watch

The Butterfly and the Turtle

The Cup and the Trousers

The Hammer and the Shoe

The Frog and the Potato

The Hen and the Mirror

The Book and the Door

The Treasure Chest and the Phone

The Cup and the Swiftness Potion

The Water and the Ice

List of all 90 Jonathan’s Tales with Legend

AO – Audio version only currently (author working on print version)

PV – Printed version available

PV, JK 1 – Printed version, Tale included in Jonathan’s Tales Volume 1 (17 Tales)

Animal Stories

The Parrot and the Woodpecker (PV)

The Crocodile and the God (AO)

The Bat and the Mouse (PV)

The Bear and the Turtle (AO)

The Bunny and the Mouse (AO)

The Butterfly and the Turtle (PV, JK 1)

The Cat and the Dog (AO)

The Cat fighting the Tree (PV)

The Chicken and the Pigeon (PV)

The Cow and the Shoe (PV)

The Duck and the Cup of Water (AO)

The Duck and the Egg (AO)

The Cheese and the Sponge (PV)

The Frog and the Potato (PV, JK 1)

The Lizard and the Frog (PV)

The Lizard and the Phone (PV)

The Mouse and the Shark (AO)

The Octopus and the Squid (PV)

The Pig and the Sheep (PV)

The Polar Bear and the Camel (PV)

The Reindeer and the Cat (A0)

The Robin and the Black Mole (A0)

The Squirrel and the Fish (AO)

The Shark and the Cat (AO)

The Tiger and the Light (PV)

The Tiny Turtle and Tiny Chicken (PV)

Magical Fantasy involving Humans

The Dragon and the Window (PV, JK 1)

The Book and the Door (PV, JK 1)

The Book and the Door 2 (ghost story) (AO)

The Book and the Glasses (PV)

The Card and the Medicine (AO

The Carpet and the Trousers (PV)

The Cup and the Angry Book (PV)

The Cup and the Swiftness Potion (PV, JK 1)

The Cup and the Trousers (PV, JK 1)

The Cupboard and the Glasses (AO)

The Dog and the Frog (PV, JK 1)

The Egg and the Spoon (AO)

The Elf and the Watch (PV, JK 1)

The Giant Pig and the Man (AO)

The Glass and the Jumper (PV, JK 1)

The Glasses and the Light (AO)

The Hammer and the Shoe (PV, JK 1)

The Hen and the Mirror (PV, JK 1)

The Light and the Carpet (PV)

The Moon Rock and the Cheese (AO)

The Mouse and the Book (A0)

The Note and the Credit Card (A0)

The Ox and the Bull (AO)

The Panda and the Polar Bear (PV)

The Pear and the Shirt (PV)

The Pig and the Cat (PV)

The Pig and the Egg (PV)

The Pumpkin and the Book (PV, JK 1)

The Cheese and the Sponge (PV)

The Robot and the Curtain (PV)

The Rock and the Balloon (PV, JK 1)

The Shark and the Coffee (PV)

The Shell with the Spike and the Star (AO)

The Snowflake and the Rock (PV, JK 1)

The Sword and the Shield (AO)

The Tarantula and the Carpet (PV)

The Treasure Chest and the Phone (PV, JK 1)

The Turtle and the Phone (PV)

The Watch and the Book (PV, JK 1)

The Watch and the Light (PV)


The Bed and the Chair (AO)

The Book and the Phone (PV)

The Cap and the Mushroom (AO)

The Car and the Window (AO)

The Cactus and the Tree (A0)

The Chair and the Sword (AO)

The Cup and the Drawer (AO)

The Cup and the Toothbrush (PV)

The Egg and the Magnet (PV)

The Fire and the Water (AO)

Humpty Dumpty (PV)

Reggie and the Fish (AO)

Snakes and Ladders and the Monopoly Deal (AO)

The Ink and the Box (PV)

The Lemon and the Cup (AO)

The Notebook and the Light (PV)

The Orange and the Grapefruit (AO)

The Portrait and the Statute (AO)

The Ruler and the Ink (PV)

The Tesla and the Lamborghini (AO)

The Time machine and the Teleporter (AO)

The Toilet and the Toothbrush (PV)

The Vacuum and the Ghost (AO) needs end editing

The Water and the Ice (PV, JK 1)

Short Story

About the author

Tom Kissack

I am the author of Jonathan's Tales, told to my son at bedtime, after he gave me a binary subject theme, recorded initially on audio, and transposed to enriched stories thereafter, some 90 plus tales.

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