This is Alice Kim's Web-Based Writer's Portfolio. It was posted and designed by Anthony Hsu (Erwaman). This is the fourth polished piece.

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Fourth Marking Period

The Birdhouse

     “Come here please!” My grandfather’s loud voice boomed downstairs, shaking the wooden banister. I leaped up the stairs two at a time, making hollow thuds. I reached my grandfather, who was sitting at the big leather brown armchair at the window. The dying sun framed his face in a weird halo, and his silver hair looked thinner and whiter. The wrinkles and cracks on his face were deeply shadowed.

     Leaning closer, I caught the pleasant whiff of soap and earth, my grandpa’s unique scent. He sat there for a minute or two, clenching the armrests, then releasing them. His face looked troubled, as he held out his two closed shriveled hands, as brown as the soil he worked in his garden. He didn’t say anything, just lifted his eyebrows and smiled. I loved this game of choosing hands to see what prize was inside.

     “Left, grandpa, left hand,” I ordered, gently pushing the right fist away and trying to open his tight fingers. My grandpa slowly shook his head, and he opened it as carefully as possible. Expecting a reward, I eagerly looked down upon his stretched palm, and quickly recoiled back in fear, for a large dreadful brown bird was laying there, its thin chopstick leg bent in an impossible direction.

     “See this?” My grandpa’s voice suddenly became soft and fluent, as he took the two smallest fingers of his free hand and began caressing the ugly creature’s wings. “This little bird needs our help. I found it on one of my walks around our Oakridge townhouse complex. We must feed it and help it recover.”

     I shook my head emphatically, flashing my hair this way and that. I heard a small sound and realized it was the small bird, crooning and chirping weakly. I still did not wish to help the unattractive fellow. It would only be wasting my time. My grandfather shrugged and stood up, surprising me with his large shadow. He began to walk off towards the door, taking long strides and yet carrying the beast as if it were one of his own children.

     “Wait, Grandpa. Where are you going?” I asked, swiveling around and whacking myself in the eye with my hair.

     My grandpa did not turn back, only said over his shoulder, “To the toolshed. To make a birdhouse for this little one.”

     I found myself standing next to my grandfather as he demonstrated how to build a proper nest.

     “You see, Alice? The sides must be perfect in order to fit exactly under the roof,” he remarked, his fingers flying on top of the stained wood. Cutting and fitting, I soon became interested in the task of making a home for the poor bird. Grandfather let me string the hole on the birdhouse, and we hung it right from the pole supporting our porch. He lifted me up on his weak flabby arms, and I dumped sunflower seeds into the hole, tasting the salty good flavor myself. The bird had a home, and we were tired but satisfied. I named the bird Hemtur, meaning “Protected One” in African.

     Hemtur began to show very rapid progress in health through the week. We woke up every morning to the sound of cheerful chirping. Grandpa would whistle along in the shower, being perfect in tune. I sang words under my breath to fit the melody of the bird’s chirping while I set the table. Suddenly, at the end of the week, Grandpa became very ill. I shuffled my way upstairs to his bedroom, carrying a breakfast tray of eggs and orange juice. I knocked at the door, and a very faint voice answered. Opening the door, I entered the dark room and set the plate on the bedside table.

     “Oh Grandpa,” I exclaimed. “I can barely see, it’s so dark.” With that, I went over to the windows and drew the thick curtains into the little sculpted hooks. I turned around and faced a very thin man on the bed. I could hardly recognize Grandpa, until I saw his smile. He had a wonderful smile, one of those smiles that crinkled up the corners of his mouth and made his amazing light blue eyes squint. I could never be serious when he smiled, but somehow, something felt wrong. I didn’t laugh at his wide beam. Instead, I felt concerned. I quickly went over to the bed and knelt.

     “Grandpa? Grandpa? Are you feeling alright?”

     “Never better.” His hand, cold and clammy, reached up to touch my cheek. I noticed that the skin was very white instead of being as brown as the soil in his garden. “Do you remember Hemtur?"

     “Of course, Grandpa. He’s still here.”

     “Well, the day we found him was one of the happiest days of my life. I got to spend time with my favorite granddaughter, and I also learned a very important lesson, a lesson no human can ever be taught unless they themselves experience it.”

     “What did you learn, Grandpa?”

     “To show compassion and care to every creature, for soon, their lives will bloom with love, and also to tolerate things you may not like at first. Sometimes, you may become pretty close to them.”

     “I don’t understand.”

     “You will, soon, my sweet grandchild, when you are in my place. Someday.” My grandfather’s hand became even colder, as cold as ice, and it dropped down onto my lap. I stared into his pale face, too stunned to move. I heard a soft fluttering noise, and I looked out the window to see Hemtur flying away up towards the cloudless blue sky. Someday.

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