Thunderbird by Anna Marie Laforest
It was the job of great Thunderbird to call the Rain.
Thunderbird would sing and roar, and roar and sing, until Rain, who was always off playing somewhere, heard Thunderbird and came running back.
Thunderbird had a great wingspan, about thirty city blocks wide; his feathers were dark blue and even more powerful than his beautiful voice that sang and roared for the rain.
These great blue feathers created the west wind that pulled the weather in from the mountains. These great blue feathers would shape the wind into spirals, dots, or straight lines, depending on Thunderbird’s mood.
Now, as you know, hidden among Thunderbird’s beautiful blue feathers were his children, little bolts of light, sharp as knives, but lazy. They preferred to sleep in their father’s feathers most of the time.
When Thunderbird called the rain and Rain was out playing a long way off, Thunderbird became angry and swept his great blue feathers so dramatically that his children, the little bolts of light, would be shaken down to the earth as lightnings, to find the turtles and strike stories on their backs.
Those who could read, like the butterflies and the birds, loved the stories carved on the turtle’s backs.
Thunderbird’s children were great storytellers, even though they were lazy.
The turtles did not mind being struck by the little bolts, first because their shells were tough and meant to be carved, and second because each story granted the turtle another hundred years of life.
Turtles love life, even though none of the other animals have been able to discover what they do besides lumber around and carry stories.
One day, a very hot and dry day, Thunderbird heard the prayers of the thirsty animals and decided to call in the rain.
But, alas, when he opened his mouth to sing, not a sound came out. He opened his mouth to roar, but again not a sound. Or maybe just a rasping.
Thunderbird gathered his wings together, took a deep breath, and tried again.
No. Nothing. This made Thunderbird very angry, and he swirled around flapping up a great wind, but no matter how he tried to sing and roar, he could not, and so there was no rain.
“Little ones,” he said to his children, “wake up. You must help me. You must stretch your wings and grow bigger. You must call out, all together, so Rain will hear us.”
The little light bolts came out from among the great Thunderbird’s feathers, and looked at him in fear.
“No,” they said. “We can’t.”
“You must,” he said.
“But we are not big enough to roar and sing,” they said.
“Please try,” said Thunderbird, his voice now turning into a click-cluck-cluck.
Thunderbird panicked as he heard himself sound more and more like a common hen than a great Thunderbird.
He was so angry now that all the children threw themselves down onto the earth by themselves, and tremblingly carved stories onto all the turtles, starting their stories from the very beginnings, and fearing to go back.
Thunderbird now had no voice at all, not even a hen-cluck. What shall I do, he thought? A tear formed in the corner of his eye.
By and by, Rainbow floated over. “Hi Thunderbird,” she waved. “Where is Rain today? Usually I follow him, but I think he’s good and lost.”
Thunderbird could not answer but pointed with his wing to his throat.
“Ah,” said Rainbow, understanding immediately. “The feathers on your neck have turned pinkish grey. Your great blue energy is gone. You must have some poison in you.”
Thunderbird felt even more panic and rage. After all, Thunderbirds are supposed to be the most powerful ones, as they are as wide as 30 blocks and can call Rain.
Rainbow said, “Hold very still, Thunderbird. I will suck out the poison and replace the blue in your throat.”
Rainbow twisted herself and all her colors up into a spiral, like a slinky, and stretched herself very thin. Then she twisted herself into Thunderbird’s throat and sucked out the pink and grey. She had to untwist and spit the pink and grey out three times before she was satisfied that she’d gotten all the poison out of Thunderbird.
“Do not talk yet, Thunderbird,” she warned. “Wait until I replenish your throat with some new blue.”
Thunderbird, as eager as he was to be powerful again, stayed quiet for Rainbow.
Rainbow widened herself until her stripe of blue was as wide as 30 city blocks. She arched herself over Thunderbird and sent blue energy down onto him. The blue settled into Thunderbird’s throat and into his feathers and made him more beautiful than ever.
Rainbow flattened herself to normal size again, and said,
“Now you can roar and sing, and sing and roar, to your heart’s content.”
Which Thunderbird did.
Rain came running as soon as he heard Thunderbird, and said,
“Why didn’t you call me earlier? I was really getting bored.”
Thunderbird thanked Rainbow, who graciously bowed.
This was the only time a Rainbow appeared in the sky before the Rain, and the animals noticed it.
“Are you writing all this down,” the turtles asked the lightning bolts.
Then Rainbow folded herself back behind the Rain, and Thunderbird swirled his feathers around in a grateful dance from west to east. As he did, he noticed that one of his children was still hidden in his wings. The little bolt was chirping like a birdling.
“What are you doing?” Thunderbird asked her. “Why didn’t you run away like all the others?”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” said the little boltling. “I will go now if you wish.”
“Ah,” said Thunderbolt. “Stay here, the storm is over. For this I thank you, and I name you my successor. Stay here and grow to be the next great Thunderbird.”
Even though I am a girl-birdling? wondered the little boltling.
“Yes,” said the Thunderbird.
And Rainbow waved to them both.
She shone her brightest colors down to the animals for the rest of the day. Which all the animals remember, thanks to the stories carved on the turtles’ shells.