Scarlet Macaw story
a girl learns of the story of the scarlet macaw, a bird that encounters many animals of the forest in order to learn a valuable life lesson
Note: This story is fictional, but the animals mentioned really are native to Central America.
I saw the bird fly over my villa in the morning. And the morning after that. And the morning after that. It was truly a beautiful bird. It had bright red feathers, with streaks of blue and yellow, and long black beak. It looked like a regular parrot, except it was a little bigger and when it flew in the air, it looked like a fireball in the sky.
"What bird is that?" I asked my mom as we were heading to the beach. I was twelve years old, and was spending the summer at our villa in Belize. The weather was gorgeous with summer sunny skies and warm nights.
"That's a scarlet macaw," she said.
"It's a bird," she said, as if that would quell my curiosity.
"It looks like a parrot," I said, looking at it with interest.
"Well, then maybe it is one." My mom was not familiar with animals of Central America. She didn't know that a scarlet macaw is a kind of parrot.
"I would like one as a pet," I said, more to myself.
My mom sighed. "No. Now, do you have your snorkel goggles and swim cap?"
I looked at my hands which carried those two items. I had on my light blue swim suit, which matched the color of the shore water. "Yeah, but do I have to wear the swim cap?"
"You don't want to catch a head cold."
"In this weather?" I retorted. It was like ninety degrees out.
"No arguing now. Get in the car and put it on."
I sighed. I put in on reluctantly and got in our jeep. It was me, mom and dad inside. I looked forward to the beach, to swimming in the water, and seeing some fish!
When we reached the beach, I ran to the water and immediately swam in. I saw some older kids swimming all the way up to a sign in the water a few feet from shore, that floated and said 'Boundary line, do not cross.' I wanted to go all the way to the sign like them. But my legs were a little weak, so I was unable to push through the current to move forward. I was stuck swimming around and staring at the tropical fish in the water.
When I stuck my head out, I heard my mom call out, "Don't swim any further! Just stay there! I want to get a picture of you!"
She took out her phone and snapped some shots. I did my best to smile, but I knew I looked dorky with my goggles and swim cap. It was then that I looked up at the sky.
I saw the scarlet macaw again! It was flying high in the sky. I wished I had a camera so that I could take a picture of it. It flew over me and circled around where I was.
As I stared at it, a rush of water pushed me so that water got into my mouth. I choked and removed the goggles and mouthpiece as I tried to cough out the water.
When I recovered, I saw a girl my age right next to me. She was also treading water and had seen me cough.
"Are you alright?" she asked me.
I turned to her. "Yeah. I'm fine."
"Did you see the scarlet macaw in the sky just now?" she asked.
"I did." I wondered why she was asking about it.
"Do you know the story behind it?"
I gave her a confused look.
"No? What story?"
She swam over to me. She had brown hair and was wearing regular pool goggles. She looked way cooler than me, as she wasn't wearing a swim cap.
"Everyone who comes here knows the story of the scarlet macaw," she said, as if this was an attempt to make me feel like I was dumb for not knowing.
"I'm not a tourist. I come here every once in a while. My mom and dad bough us a villa that we stay at when we come here," I said matter of fact-ly. "But I've never heard of any story of any parrot."
The girl looked at me with a shocked look. "I'm not a tourist either. I come here every summer too. But I know of the scarlet macaw. And it's not just any parrot."
I was beginning to get irritated at her. Why was she acting like she knew everything? Who even was she?
She saw my face. "I know what you're thinking. But let me tell you about it. It's so interesting. I heard this from a soothsayer in town."
This got my interest. "What did he say? The soothsayer?"
She swam away from me back to the sand, before I knew it. I swam after her. "Wait!" I called out. "I want to know the story!"
Once we reached the sand, she sat down and motioned for me to sit next to her.
I wondered what my mom was thinking. Who is that girl you're talking to, she must be wondering. Little did she know I was about to listen to a lifechanging story.
"The story is this," the girl started.
Once there was a scarlet macaw living on the highest tree of a forest in Central America. He thought he was the most magnificent creature of all. He cawed every morning, waking up all the critters of the forest, big or small. Everyone started to get irritated at the macaw for making such a ruckus in the morning.
He'd tell them, 'I am the greatest creature of the forest, so everyone deserves to hear me out.'
The critters rolled their eyes and ignored the macaw. The magnificent creature flew around the forest cawing some more.
Later that day, the macaw was getting food from a papaya tree. He wanted a bite of papaya, a staple fruit it needs to eat. When its beak leaned forward to get a bite of one papaya hanging from a branch, a spider monkey intercepted and grabbed the whole fruit into her hands.
'Hey!' yelled the macaw. 'That's my fruit. I was here first. It's mine!"
The spider monkey laughed at him. 'No it's not. There are so many other fruits on the tree you can have. This one is mine.'
'No it's not! I was nipping at it first. It's mine. You have no right to grab it with your hands.'
'Well I don't have wings like you to reach the fruit easily. So grabbing it is the only way to get it.'
'And I don't have hands like you to take a whole fruit. I have my beak only to get whatever portion I need,' argued the macaw.
'How do we settle this argument?' asked the spider monkey, exhausted from their quarrel. 'I have my children to feed. I don't have time to fight.'
'Let's ask the wise Mr. Sloth. He'll know what to do,' decided the macaw.
The spider monkey swung from tree to tree and the macaw flew high. Finally, they reached the wise sloth, the wisest animal of the forest.
'Mr. Sloth, we come here to ask you of something. Help us settle an argument,' said the spider monkey to the sloth.
Mr. Sloth hung from a branch, his eyes were closed and his large claws held on to the tree as dear as life.
Upon hearing the spider monkey, he opened his eyes. 'Yes?' he asked.
'We want to ask you your opinion over a quarrel spider monkey and I are having,' started the macaw. 'This is what happened. I was reaching for a piece of papaya fruit at the papaya tree. I was there first, mind you. Suddenly spider monkey came out of nowhere and grabbed the fruit from my reach. Now tell me, who should the fruit really belong to? I say it belongs to me.'
Mr. Sloth turned his head around slowly and hoisted himself on top of the branch, so that it faced the two animals in front of him.
'I think you should decide among yourself who it should belong to,' was his answer.
'But I need the fruit for my children! I have a family to feed,' argued the spider monkey.
'But I was at the fruit first. I was just about to take a bite when she grabbed it from my sight. So I need it more,' argued the macaw.
Mr. Sloth sighed. 'I see. First we must ask ourselves--who really needs it the most.'
Both the spider monkey and the macaw yelled, 'Me!'
Mr. Sloth looked at both of them with serious eyes. 'The fruit of the papaya tree belongs only to one who deserves it. Think for a second. Do one of you deserve it more than the other?'
The two animals looked at one another. 'Well...no. Not personally. but I need it for my children,' said the spider monkey.
'And you, scarlet macaw? Do you have a family to feed?'
The scarlet macaw didn't say anything. He shook his head.
'Then the papaya should go to the spider monkey. After all, she needs it for her family.'
'And what about me?' asked the macaw.
'There are plenty of other fruit on the tree. You can take any one of them. Now don't disturb me. I need my sleep.' Mr. Sloth closed his eyes, indicating the conversation was over.
The spider monkey smiled as she held the papaya fruit in her hands. 'Told you so!' and she went off, swinging from tree to tree, off to feed her family.
The proud scarlet macaw was furious. How dare his pride and honor be ruined? How can Mr. Sloth allow the fruit to go to spider monkey? Didn't he know that the macaw was the best animal of the forest and that he was entitled to the papaya because of this.
In his anger, he flew around the forest, cawing angrily, disturbing the peace and quiet of other animals. Everyone held their ears, trying to drown out the sound of the cawing.
But the scarlet macaw didn't stop. He spent the whole day cawing and bothering the spider monkeys.
The next day, the macaw woke up to find a piece of papaya fruit on his branch. Where did this come from? he wondered. He took a small bite and started eating the fruit.
Suddenly, the spider monkey appeared in front of him. And next to her was her children, as well as Mr. Sloth, and the other critters of the forest whom he had disturbed earlier.
'Look there! The macaw has stolen a piece of my fruit and is eating it! Does everyone see that?' cried the spider monkey.
Everyone gasped and glared at the macaw.
'What? No! I found it here next to me when I woke up and so I was eating it! I didn’t know it belonged to you!' he cried.
The animals started chattered, and yelling in protest.
Thief!' yelled a toucan.
'Conceited parrot!' a viper called out.
'Fruit stealer!' said a dart frog.
'Prideful!' a blue morphio butterfly cried.
'No good!' yelled a male spider monkey.
The macaw couldn't believe his ears. He didn't know the animals thought of him like a prideful animal or a thief or a no good-er! He assumed everyone didn't say anything to his cawing every day because they considered him the greatest!
'I'm no thief! I won't stand you all accusing me of taking the fruit when I didn't.' The macaw turned to the spider monkey. 'Here! Take it back! It's only fruit after all!' he said tossing the unfinished fruit to her. He couldn't bear the sight of it anymore. 'I can find fruit elsewhere! There are so many fruits in the forest after all! Now leave me alone!'
That's when Mr. Sloth held his paw up. 'Did you all hear that?' he asked.
All the animals nodded. 'Did you hear that?' Mr. Sloth asked again, looking at the macaw. 'Those were the words of an animal who had to learn a lesson. To not be so prideful and think too much of himself. I knew when I decided that the fruit should belong to spider monkey that the macaw would not be happy about it. He'd continue to caw that awful caw and not understand why spider monkey needed it more.'
'But she stole it from my reach. I was just about to take a small bite of it!' protested the macaw. 'But it doesn't matter anymore. I now know that I am not seen in the same light by you all, as I see myself. To you all, I am prideful, annoying and think too much of myself. I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused everyone. I won't do it again. I can always get fruit from other trees in the forest.'
The apology from the scarlet macaw seemed to satisfy everyone, especially Mr. Sloth.
'I'm glad you owned up to your mistake. I purposely had spider monkey place a piece of fruit on your branch so that you learned this lesson. Now, everyone go back to where you were! The show's over!'
All the animals went off and Mr. Sloth asked the macaw to fly over to his tree so that they could talk some more.
As the macaw listened to life stories of Mr. Sloth, he appreciated being a macaw even more. He learned that sloths had it harder than macaws like him. Sloths couldn't fly, they moved very slowly and they slept and ate all the time. Imagine that! Imagine sleeping all the time! They weren't able to see the world beyond their tree.
Mr. Sloth also pointed out that spider monkeys needed fruit to feed their young, whom needed to learn how to swing from trees, something macaws didn’t need to do. The macaw was much more privileged in that way.
Only after this incident, was the scarlet macaw much more appreciative of nature, animals and even humans. That is why to this day, macaws fly over humans to observe them and see how their lives are also so much different than theirs. Humans couldn't fly like macaws. They walked on two legs.
Learning all this made the scarlet macaw more down to earth and simple. He spent the rest of his life making friends with all the animals of the forest, who learned to become his friend.
"And this was the story that the soothsayer told me,” finished the girl.
"That is some story. Wow," I said. I was in awe. I imagined a forest full of animals, talking and coming to life in the way that the girl described. I was glad that the scarlet macaw learned his lesson at the end. I now appreciated the scarlet macaw even more, and considered it more than just a regular parrot flying in the sky. I couldn't wait to tell my parents this story.
"Now want to swim up to that sign?" she pointed to the board in the water that some new older kids were treading in front of.
Secretly I wanted to go, but I knew I'd get in trouble. "I would, but my mom wouldn't like it," I said, turning back. My mom was on her phone, sitting in a beach chair, either engrossed in a text or scrolling through Instagram. My dad was next to her sun bathing, face down.
My mom hadn't seen me and the girl on the sand.
"Come on, just for one minute. It won't be long," she said.
I groaned. "Fine." I followed her into the water. I swam with her to the floating board. I felt my legs and arms get tired as I swam on.
The girl and I had now gotten right in front of the sign. Other kids were swarmed around it. My friend, the girl, touched it. "Look! I touched the sign!" she yelled to the older kids. As she was celebrating, I looked in front of me.
There was a huge wave approaching. It was heading towards all of us! I let out a scream as the wave knocked over the sign so it fell face first in the water.
A loudspeaker sounded. Most likely from the lifeguard who sat perched on his chair. "Get away from the board and head to shore! I repeat! Heavy waves approaching! Everyone swim back to shore!" he yelled.
Everyone started screaming and started swimming back as instructed. I did my best to swim back, but I felt my feet fall under me from the new wave that was approaching. It hit the back of my head like a bus. I screamed.
"Help!" I yelled.
I felt myself sinking in the water, water invading my lungs. I flailed in the water, then somehow darted my head up. Where was the girl? Where was everyone? I was now in the middle of the water away from people, away from the sign! To my horror, I was in the middle of the ocean! I then realized the heavy wave must have propelled me forwards so that I was far into the ocean than I should have been!
"Help!" I called. "Help me!"
I tried my best to tread water but I felt my legs and arms giving in. As I was about to sink in the ocean, I felt something lift me up. I was now flying out of the water into the air. What the heck?
I looked up, wondering what was holding me up. To my shock, I saw that it was a scarlet macaw! The same one I saw circling our villa and the same one circling the sky moments before the girl told me the story.
I felt at peace now. The macaw didn't talk like it did in the girl's story. But it did look down at me, as if telling me ‘It’s alright, I've saved you now.' It brought me back to shore. It placed me gently on the sand. I opened my eyes.
Everyone had surrounded me, including the lifeguard who was doing CPR on me to get the water out of my lungs. I coughed it out eventually. Everyone, including my mom and the girl cheered.
"Are you alright?" asked my mom, holding me in her arms.
"I'm alright," I croaked.
"Luckily the lifeguard got you from the water in time," said the girl, who was genuinely worried. "I'm so sorry that I asked you to come in the water."
I shook my head. "It's okay. It was an adventure. And it wasn't the lifeguard that saved me. It was the scarlet macaw. It lifted me high in the air and took me back to the sand."
The girl gave me a confused look, as did the lifeguard and my mom and dad.
"You must have been dreaming," said my mom. She then turned to the girl. "You shouldn’t have asked her to go in the water. She doesn't know how to swim that well besides what she's learning in school."
"I'm sorry, ma’am. I know it was my mistake."
My mom nodded glumly. Then she lifted me up to my feet. "Let’s go home," she said. She held on to my hand and my dad held on to the other and helped me take a few steps.
I then turned around. "Wait!" I called out to the girl. "What's your name? I didn't ask you that time. My name is Julie."
The girl smiled at me, her brown eyes twinkling. "My name is Scarlett," she said.
And with that, she walked away from me.
That evening, when we were having dinner at the villa, I told my parents about the story Scarlett told me about the prideful scarlet macaw.
"She sure has a wild imagination," said my dad, smiling after I finished telling it.
"It's not her story, she heard it from a soothsayer," I said.
"Soothsayers? Who believes in those anymore?" my mom asked, scrunching her nose.
"I do. I also believe that the scarlet macaw saved me from the waves today."
My parents did their best to not laugh at me. I didn't find it funny at all.
"Maybe you were dreaming," my dad said. "You had your eyes closed for a little while before coughing out water."
"I wasn't dreaming," I insisted. "It was all real."
Afterwards, I lay down on my bed, reading a book. I then looked out my window. Perched on the railing of the small balcony outside was a scarlet macaw.
"Thank you for saving my life," I said to it aloud.
It stared at me a long time before flying away.