The grandfather loves telling stories. He told them to his children and tells them still to his grandchildren. And they love listening. They all find his stories fascinating. Now, at a zoo in London, the family watches the exhibits with interest.
“Grandpa, look at this!” Says Melonie, the youngest, to her grandfather. “Look at the pretty pink ones!” She points to the flamingos, who gracefully stand close to one another on one leg, some reaching their long necks down to drink from the pond. The grandpa chuckles lightheartedly.
“Yes, aren’t they gorgeous?” He says, watching his granddaughter gaze at them, a smile on his face. “You, know, a flamingo used to be a beautiful woman once?” He says.
Melonie doesn’t glance at him, but smiles, eyes still on the graceful birds. “Really?” She asks.
“Of course,” says grandfather.
Melonie reaches over to her older sister, Alexa, and taps her on the shoulder. Alexa looks up from the information tablet attached to the fence. “Alex, do you know that the flamingos used to be a pretty woman?” Melonie asks eagerly.
Alexa, knowing that grandfather told Melonie this, glances at grandpa with a smile. “No, I didn’t know this,” She says. Melonie giggles and spins back around to grandpa. “Grandpa, how did it happen? How did a woman turn into a bird?” Melonie asks seriously.
Grandfather gestures toward a bench facing the flamingo exhibit, and they both sit. Alexa follows and sits down next to them. She, like Melonie, is eager to hear her grandfather’s story.
Grandfather sighs with content.
“Very well,” he says, and the two girls lean in close. He begins.
“A long time ago, when they were still wearing robes,” he says, “there was a fine young lady named Ruby. She had flowing black hair that was braided down her back. She was beautiful. She was also ambitious. She did everything herself. She built her own house, which she prized as her biggest project. Then one day as she was making dinner for her visiting brothers. She left the fire unattended for one minute, and soon, the house was burning. Her hard work was being destroyed,” says grandpa.
Melonie’s anxious eyes widen.
“Melonie and one brother made it out of the house, but she heard the cries of the other coming from inside. She risked her life and ran into the burning house. She burnt the bottom of one of her feet, and grabbed her brother and threw him out of the house just before the flames engulfed her,” he says.
Alexa puts her hand over her mouth. But grandpa holds up his finger, signaling that the story is not yet over.
“Ruby had done such a good deed in saving her brother that, instead of burning and dying, the flames turned into beautiful, majestic pink feathers, surrounding her. Her foot remained burnt, and she hardly ever walked on it,” he says, and both the girls eyes flitted to the flamingos standing on one leg. “She emerged from the flames bright and glorious. Her name, Ruby, was changed to Flamingo, meaning flame-colored,” says grandpa, finished with his story.
Alexa and Melonie both smile.
“That’s a pretty story grandpa,” says Melonie.
“Maybe I ought to save you from a fire, Mel,” says Alexa, giggling.
“Not if I save you first, Alex!” They say, and Melonie starts chasing Alexa, both of them giggling now. The flamingos continue to stand where they are.
“In my eyes,” grandpa whispers as he watches them run around, “you are both already the most beautiful flamingos I have ever seen.”