Talkatoo the Cockatoo; The Lost Millet Tree
By Emily Gu
Talkatoo woke up at 6 A.M. in the morning because she was really hungry. So she flew to the Millet Tree. At this point, she didn’t need to ask for directions, since she had gone to it so much. She flew past Crackers, the snowy owl, and the roadrunner. Later, she learned that their names were Icicle and Dust. She got to the plains, where the Millet Tree was. Except she didn’t see it. She flew around more, wondering if she had gone in the wrong direction. Then she noticed it. A large, gaping hole where it was supposed to be.
Dozens of other birds were gathered around it. There was a large variety, all of which had come in search of the Millet Tree, just like she was. They were all whispering to each other, looking worried. Talkatoo landed and inspected the hole. It wasn’t a perfect hole, and it looked as if the tree had been uprooted. But what could have caused it?
“Maybe it was a tornado?” she heard a sparrow ask a roadrunner.
“Maybe, but I wander around here often, and I sure didn’t see any sign of the Millet Tree,” the roadrunner responded.
Talkatoo was wondering if the tornado had just tossed it really far away, when she noticed the trail of millet clumps. It was about half a mile away, which might’ve been why nobody noticed it. Also since everyone had been staring at the hole.
“Look!” she shouted. “A trail!” Several dozen bird heads turned her way.
“Where? What? Who?” they all chittered among themselves. A few other birds flew up to her height. “Oh.” a pipit said, understanding.
“Wait here,” Talkatoo said. “We should follow the trail, but I need to get my friends here too.” She flew to tell Icicle, Dust, and Crackers about it.
“Help! The Millet Tree’s missing!” she cried when she reached Dust. Dust just cocked his head at her.
“How does a tree go missing?” he asked quizzically.
“Who knows? But we gotta find it!” she said. “It’s the food source of so many birds! Sure, we can eat other things, but it’s the easiest, and frankly, the tastiest food around for miles!”
“Alright, alright. I’ll help you find it.”
“Thanks so much! But I have to get my other friends here too.”
“Okay. I’ll wait.”
So Talkatoo flew off again to find Icicle. She saw her preening her feathers. It had taken longer to find her, since she blended with the snow of the tundra so well.
“The Millet Tree’s missing!” she yelped to Icicle.
“Is this a prank?” Icicle said back, narrowing her eyes.
“No! See for yourself!” Talkatoo said desperately.
Icicle sighed. “As much as I hate going out of the tundra, you sound awfully serious. Fine, I’ll come.”
“Yay! Thanks! But I have to find my other friend as well. Can you wait here?” Talkatoo said.
“Don’t keep me waiting for too long!” Icicle yelled as Talkatoo flew to find Crackers.
She found Crackers eating from his food bowl. It was full of peas. He eyed her warily as she landed next to him.
“Can’t you see I’m eating?” he said gruffly.
“Yes, but this is important!” she said.
“I can’t stand you.” he grumbled, but he came with her. They were old friends now, despite how much he pretended they weren’t.
Talkatoo gathered Icicle and Dust with them as they flew back to the place where the Millet Tree was.
“Huh. You weren’t joking.” Icicle said as her sharp eyes swept over the scene.
“Okay! I’m back!” Talkatoo said to the other birds. “C’mon! Let’s go find the tree!”
Cheers rose from the large group of birds. Talkatoo, her friends, and the other birds started flying (or running, in the case of the ostriches, emus, cassowaries, and roadrunners) in the path of the trail. The golden clumps of millet were quickly eaten by the hungry birds, so they didn’t leave much of a trail behind them.
The first obstacle they came across was a large cliff. Most of them got over it easily, but the birds who couldn’t fly were stuck. Talkatoo cast a worried look at them.
“Don’t worry!” Dust yelled. “We’ll find a way up! Keep going without us!”
Just like that, only the flying birds remained on the trail.
The next thing they ran into was a sweltering desert, much like where Dust lived. Except this one felt a hundred degrees hotter.
Many of the small birds were exhausted and parched quickly, so they had turned back. While Icicle was quite big and durable usually, she was probably boiling in the heat. Her feathers, which were thick and fluffy, now worked against her.
“I can’t stand this!” she yelled after a few minutes. “I’m going home. Good luck.. Or something.” She turned around and flew towards the comfort of her own home.
By now, they were all thirsty and tired.
“Look!” an eagle cried. “An oasis!” Everyone turned towards where they were pointing. Sure enough, there was an oasis, shimmering in the distance.
Please don’t be a mirage, Talkatoo prayed. Fortunately, it wasn’t. Several cries of joy came up from the group. They swooped into the water, taking a refreshing bath. They drank from it until they couldn’t anymore. Even Crackers looked happy.
“Guys?” Talkatoo called out. “This is great and all, you know? But we should keep going after the tree.”
“Sorry, Talky. The desert’s boiling me alive. I’m staying here and going home eventually.” Crackers said, diving into the water.”
“No buts! Just go!” he yelled. She must’ve looked upset, so Cracker’s glare softened. “Look, I’ll make it up for you eventually, okay?” Talkatoo nodded, and gathered everyone else to follow the trail. Only a few dozen of them remained.
They finally reached a snowy place, not unlike Icicle’s habitat. There, they saw a flock of penguins dragging the Millet Tree away, leaving marks that were quickly covered up by snow.
“Hey!” an owl yelled. “That’s our Millet Tree!”
The penguins turned around, just noticing them. They yelped and waddled away. However, one penguin stayed. The one that stayed seemed to be an emperor penguin.
“It may be yours, but it isn’t fair!” the emperor penguin snarled.
Talkatoo was taken aback by his tone. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“Call me Orca,” he said, his tone still unfriendly and harsh. “You guys get all the millet you want, while we have to work for our food and avoid getting eaten by seals! So we’re trying to plant our own Millet Tree, except nothing’s working! We were heading towards our lab when you guys ruined it all!”
“Wait. You have a lab?” she asked.
“Duh. Don’t you ever listen? We penguins are the best researchers in the world! Leave us be and we’ll eventually return the Millet Tree to you.”
“Why don’t you just swim there and visit frequently?” a young falcon chirped.
“Are you dense?! We don’t want to bear the horrible heat every single time we go there! It’s so much better to just find a way to make two Millet Trees. I don’t care by the way, you can take a few branches and go home, but we will have the Millet Tree until we find out how to make it reproduce. Deal?” Orca held out his flipper.
Talkatoo sighed. “Fine. I think it’s better like this.” She shook his hand.
“Now, take a share and skedaddle out of our feathers!” Orca made a weird noise that sounded like a dying mouse, and the other penguins came back. Meanwhile, Talkatoo and the others each took a branch from the giant, golden Millet Tree.
“Good luck!” Talkatoo called to Orca. Orca snorted.
“Sure. See you.” he said brusquely, as the other penguins grabbed the ropes connected to the tree and started hauling it away.
Talkatoo and her group of other birds started flying back. They saw Crackers, who was still bathing in the oasis.
“Looks like you found the tree,” he said, judging by the branches they were holding. “Cool. So where is it?”
“It, uh, was abducted by penguins. They’re trying to study and recreate a tree for themselves. Then they’ll give it back.” Talkatoo replied.
“Shouldn’t take too long. Penguins are masters of science and genetics. Let’s go home now, I’ve had enough of this dull pond.
They also found Dust, who had just entered the desert.
“Man, that ramp was real far from where we were,” he said. “We had to run for a mile or so! Okay, let’s just go back now. At least going back is going to be easier since I can glide.”
They kept going until they had reached the plains, where the Millet Tree used to be.
“I’m heading home now.” Dust said. “Glad you guys succeeded in finding the tree, even if you couldn’t bring it back. See you!” Dust was gone in a flash, running towards the desert. The other plains birds thanked Talkatoo and went back to milling around.
Talkatoo and Crackers headed home. “Thanks for coming with me.” she said to Crackers. He huffed.
“Could never say no to you, anyways. Sorry for bailing.” Crackers said.
“I understood. The desert was sweltering, after all.” she replied.
“Well, it was probably a lot worse for that snowy owl. Speaking of which…”
They had just entered the Tundra and found Icicle munching on a dead rat. She heard a sound and looked up.
“Hey. Sorry for leaving by the way, but I felt like a boiled lobster back there.” she said diplomatically.
“It’s fine. Thanks for coming along for a while, though.” Talkatoo said.
“No problem. I’m kind of busy here, eating this rat... “
“Sorry! I’ll leave now. Take care!” They flew away.
At last, they had reached the farm that Crackers lived on. “Well, that was quite the adventure. See you, Talky. I’m exhausted.”
“Bye!” Talkatoo waved as he went into his little den, made by his owner. Talkatoo flew up to the tree she lived in and nibbled on the Millet. She silently wished the penguins luck.