Mira and Elroy

Photo by Christine Crott

There once existed a magical body of water in a faraway kingdom, rarely visited by mankind. Schools of fish, a turtle and assorted water creatures lived happily within the pool.

One summer day, a lovely red bird swooped down from the blue sky and dipped her copper colored beak into the water. Mira spread her crimson wings out full length and the reflection appeared like a scarlet angel to the citizens of the pool. Such a vast proportion of redness was something which none of the fish had ever seen before. The color was so new, so different, compelling, so alluring that curiosity vanquished their fear and several younger smaller fish paddled up to the surface for closer look.

Underneath the surface, an elegant blue angel fish with swirling purple wing like fins floated furtively behind a large rock. Here was Elroy the largest and oldest fish in the pond. Elroy crept out from behind his stone shelter. He glanced up warily and at that precise instant Mira peered down into the pond. Their eyes met.

“How beautiful…” they each thought. Both recognized love for the first time.

Elroy was overwhelmed by this unfamiliar emotion and the fish swam rapidly away from Mira’s mesmerizing splendor, splashing the gorgeous bird in his hurry to escape.

With a majestic ruffling of her rosy feathers Mira flew off into the sky.  She did not return for three days. Elroy thought about nothing except Mira. It certainly did not help Elroy’s growing obsession to hear so many fish exclaiming over the beauty of the red bird. Elroy was miserable with helpless longing.

 Mira’s Eye View

Mira’s world was the sky, the endless sky. Sometimes the sky’s vastness made Mira feel anxious. She envied Elroy’s world. The pond had a bottom, an end. Mira had seen clearly down to the muddy floor. Mira perceived the water as sky. The Redbirds were not swimmers and their experience with water began and concluded with drinking sips of it now and then.

“How safe and beautiful is my darling’s skydom” thought Mira.

Her home was in a large red tree. This was shared with numerous brothers, sisters, aunties uncles, cousins and a few non relatives. Mira was known to fly away to solitude frequently. Her mother sisters and aunties lectured constantly about “settling down, making a nest and laying eggs.”

“For more birds!” Mira would mutter under her beak. “Just what this tree needs –more birds…”

Mira was infatuated with Elroy. She thought of Elroy as “The One fashioned from evening sky by purple twilight”

Four mornings later Mira flew to the pond. Elroy rushed to the surface and poked his nose out of the water. He could not help himself, nor could he even begin to disguise his joy at beholding Mira. Elroy jumped into the air, using his powerful fish tail as a propeller. He executed a graceful double somersault which unfortunately ended badly in a thunderous belly flop. Again the pretty bird was thoroughly soaked and Elroy swum off in deep embarrassment, despising his fishy clumsiness. But he swam back up to the surface again in a few minutes

“Such a tail he has” sighed Mira flying in slow circles above Elroy’s home. “I must bring him a present!”

Mira appeared with a yellow plump flower dangling from her mouth and this she dropped in front of Elroy’s face. The happy fish devoured the offering and it was the most delectable delicacy that Elroy had ever tasted.

Mira opened her long narrow beak to emit a short shrill song. It sounded like this…

“I am mmmmmmmmmmmm Miraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” The sound was fine music to Elroy. Once more he leapt into the air, wishing that he could make some small sound or sing a little tune in reply. “Mira Mira Mira” Elroy chanted the name in his head, rocked on waves of sheer seventh heaven.

Bird and fish ogled one another for several long minutes and then at exactly the same time fish and bird turned reluctantly away to their respective dwellings.

Mira’s inquisitive mother asked Mira where she had been and why she was away for so long missing dinner.

“Oh Mother, I was sky studying” explained Mira with a large half truth.

Sky studying was an honored bird’s religious experience. And it was condoned and avidly encouraged. The sky with its different levels had different clouds, airs currents etc. The clouds changed their shape and palette constantly and the sky was divinity to the Redbirds. Birds would spend an entire lifetime in the earnest study of clouds and sky. Still all of the skies mysteries remained unsolved and intact, ever leaving a bird full of revere and wonder.

A bird of course could only fly so high. Above them would still be miles and miles fathoms of unexplored unreachable sky.

Mira’s mom Burrda had an uncomfortable feeling about her daughter. All this talk of devotion to sky study was certainly news to her. Mira had never shown much interest in Skydom before.

“I wonder what that young bird is really up to.” pondered Burrda.

Her mother decided that Mira must be kept busy and to this end she employed her sister.

Mira was surprised when Auntie PickPick asked for help with her newly hatched nestlings. Auntie PickPick was as picky as her name and poor Mira flew here there and everywhere on endless errands. She had absolutely no chance to visit Elroy’s Pond.

Elroy’s Pond

In Mira’s absence Elroy became increasingly despondent. He stopped swimming and spent much of his time concealed behind the rock. His friends could not cheer him up and Elroy’s depression was affecting the livelihood of the pond, the cycle of life within the watery world lost its ordinary rhythm. The other fish spent a lot of time fussing around the angelfish. Guppies were left on their own getting into mischief and not attending fish school. Cleaning of the pond and algae eating were not attended to. The pond began to appear murky.

The Pond Elders assembled without Elroy and discussed the situation at great length. This meeting dragged on for two hours and Elroy stirred from his deep melancholy to notice the strange silence of his surroundings. He knew that something was wrong! The blue angelfish swam to the center of the pond and his bewildered eyes saw the gathering of pond creatures. Elroy swam rapidly towards them.

Carl, a large bullfrog was the residing judge over the Pond Meetings. He was known to be quite even handed in  his judgments, as fair as a simple bullfrog could be.

“That redbird is the problem, the intruder, the interloper,  the  alien  and therefore the Bird shall be banished and not welcomed in our pond (nor in the sky above our pond) for the good and safety of all concerned. Any sightings of the Redbird must by law be reported immediately and the bird shall be splashed and drenched with water until she either drowns or departs!” Carl decreed.

Carl looked around at all in the small assembly. “Does any fish or animal have anything to say?”

Fish cannot speak, so to speak, but they have the ability to communicate telepathically often with the use of bubbles.

“You can’t mean that Sir!” protested Spotty who was a close friend of Elroy’s.”We must not chase away Redbird. Elroy loves, her calls her Mira.  Maybe they belong together”.

“What?” croaked Carl “A bird and a fish-whoever heard of such a thing!”

“Well why not” put in a small goldfish. “There is always a first time for everything”

“I think the red bird is pretty” said a green angelfish.

“Well,” added a pale grey fish. “I think it is Elroy’s business who he loves!”

“I tell you a bird could never love a fish!” exclaimed Carl

“Elroy is way out of line!” agreed the turtle.

“Are you talking about me?” demanded Elroy, bursting in on the conversation.

All stared at Elroy dumbfounded. Spotty was pleased to see his old pal out of bed. Elroy appeared remarkably healthy too with his wonderful tail swishing out from behind him like a ballerina’s costume. His eyes were bright with temper. “Are you talking about me behind my fins? ”shouted Elroy. The angelfish opened his mouth to display tiny razor sharp teeth.

“Not only about you,” explained the faithful Spotty. “Carl and the others are just deciding what to do about your romance with that bird you call Mira.”

“I call her Mira because that is her name,” snarled Elroy.

“Now now Elroy.” Began Carl.

Elroy turned on the bullfrog angrily. “Just what business is this of Yours Carl?” he demanded. “Why I ought to bite your skinny leg-you pompous old-just what is going on here?”

“Er…well we were having a Pond Meeting that is all,” said Carl leaping out of the pond. The bullfrog turned to confront Elroy’s wrath from the safety of the land. ”Your infatuation with this bird has gotten out of hand Elroy  and you know it!” admonished Carl. “Pond life is begging to suffer.”

“Nonsense!” cried Elroy. “It is gossip and fish interference that has caused any problem here. Why can’t you all simply mind your own business.”

“We only mean to help you Elroy” said Carl quietly “and after all you are head angelfish.”

Elroy addressed the small crowd of pond animals and fish. “I will say that I am sorry to all of you for causing worry about nothing. I love Mira and I in tend to be with her one way or the other. If you were really my friends you would help us, not swim in judgment. I love her, can’t you see that?”

Elroy wept although no liquid streamed from his eyes. The angelfish cried behind his eyes and maybe that kind of dry weeping hurts the most.

“I believe that there is a solution to this er.. a predicament,” said Carl speaking tactfully. “Elroy, do you still say that you are unwilling to relinquish this doomed love affair?”

“I cannot.” answered Elroy sadly.

Carl was moved by the passion he saw in Elroy’s unblinking eyes but he remained unmoved in his verdict. The bullfrog spoke the rest of his judgment delicately.

“Elroy, you will have to retire from being Head Angelfish. Perhaps Spotty could replace you. Then  pond life can continue on as before and you Mr. Elroy are hereby released from all Pond responsibility. Well I am afraid you will have to find your own answers. You must know of course that if you actually leave the pond you will die.”

“We are taught that in roe school!” said Elroy

“Then what will you do dear Elroy?” inquired Carl with concern.

“I will simply wait for her,” declared Elroy. “Yes I shall wait for as long as it takes!”

“And what if she never comes back here?” asked Spotty.

“O didn’t you hear Spotty you are to be made head angelfish”

“Elroy” sniffed Spotty “How can you think that I  would accept with you putting it like that!”

“Take it easy my dear friend.” said Elroy. “I truly want you to be head angelfish. Yes I really do. My life is riding a different wave now. Why who knows I may be leaving the pond. Mira may carry me away.” Elroy laughed with glee.

Carl hopped off to his own dinner shaking his head in sadness.

The rampaging hunger that consumed Elroy’s fish soul and the desire to see his lady bird love would not be slackened. Seven days passed and Mira did not come to the pond. Elroys’ thoughts twisted further out of reality and he all but ceased to breathe. What did he care for breathing? What was life without the hope of Mira’s love? Just her presence at the water’s edge or hovering so gracefully above it, just her attendance was all that he hoped and prayed for! “Only once more look at Mira and I can die a happy fish.” thought Elroy.

Carl and the turtle and most of the other fish stopped trying to reason with Elroy. Spotty wished his dear friend the greatest of life’s blessings and tried with all of his fish heart to be non judgmental regarding Elroy’s unusual choice for a mate. But every single morning Spotty and the turtle pushed Elroy to the surface in the hope that Mira would return and see Elroy.

Mira’s Torment

Mira’s family kept close watch over her at all times, giving her no opportunity to visit Elroy. She told no bird about her heartache.

“Hail beautiful sky,” prayed Mira with all of the devotion that she could muster. Her thoughts always returned to Elroy. “He has such incredible feathers” (of scales she knew nothing). “And I can see both eyes with one look! I wonder what he thinks about me. I do believe that he loves me! I wish that I was not so big compared to him! I hope that he admires my extra long wingspan. I heard his friend call him Elroy.” Mira put her head under her wing and sighed deeply, singing his name under her breath. “Elroy, Elroy, Elroy!”

Her wistful reverie was rudely interrupted.

“Miraaaaaaaaaaaa” squawked Auntie PickPick. “I need you to watch my nestlings! Whatever are you doing sleeping in the daytime?”

Mira flapped her wings in irritation and awkwardly alit from her perch. “Sorry Auntie” said Mira and busied herself singing songs and telling stories to the baby redbirds. The stories were all about a grand angelfish and although the little ones had no idea what an angelfish was they listened attentively and soon were lulled to sleep.

 

Elroy’s Vigil

Spotty took on the role of head angelfish and did his very best. Elroy may have been gratified to learn that every creature in the pond missed him. Fish friends brought him food or he would have perished. Basically Elroy was left to to his own solitary misery. He became something of a legend, an underground romantic hero. Some of the younger female fish were terribly impressed by the high drama of this doomed love affair. Parents used the story of Poor Elroy Who Had-Fallen-in-love–with-the Red One from the Sky and Fallen From Grace to scare their progeny away from foolish love affairs.

Pond life trickled along. Elroy became a shadow of a fish. He was emaciated in body and even leaner in spirit. His fins drooped. His brilliant colors were fading paler and paler each passing day. The summer was nearly over and still there was no sign of Mira. Elroy never ceased to believe that she would return. He never stopped waiting. Every single morning Elroy’s friends lifted him to the surface to watch for. Mira. Their faith persisted even as Elroy watched the land trees begin to change into their autumn apparel.

Carl alone remained skeptical but he kept his doubts to himself.

Now there came flocks of noisy migrating birds, flying high above the pond but there was no Redbird in sight. The air grew colder. By September’s last days Elroy was in a sorry state. His eyesight was dim and his body convulsed uncontrollably. His friends were filled with sorrow and could only swim nearby, helplessly watching their old leader die.

Still each morning the turtle Spotty and three or four others pushed Elroy to the surface of the pond.

 

Mira’s Gift

Mira awoke from a vivid nightmare in which a school of fish gathered around Elroy who appeared to be right at death’s door. Mira knew in her heart that she must at any cost return to the pond. The red bird flew to a distant corner of her world to the remote dangerous marshlands. She landed on the ground under a tall blue tree. Mira pecked and searched and finally pulled up a long stringy blue weed from the depths of the soggy ground. This strange plant was sacred to the Redbirds and probably not known to the fish world.

So as the small fish pond continued their daily sky watch yet prepared for the worst, Mira made her graceful appearance out of the blue. She carried the long stringy blue plant in her beak. This Mira dropped directly into Elroy’s wide gaping mouth and he gulped at once swallowing the curative weed. Elroy fell asleep and Mira flew away with a hopeful heart.

Spotty and a few of the others fluttered Elroy’s sleeping form back to his homestead rock. Hope reigned in the depths of that small body of water. Elroy awoke after two days.

“O tell me that it was not a dream!” were Elroy’s first words to the crowd gathered around him. A cheer rose up from the assembled pond creatures because they knew Elroy was going to be alright, if his strong shout was any indication.

“No it was not a dream. Mira did return” said Spotty “It really happened! Mira flew over and..”

“As a matter of fact,” interrupted Carl. ”We watched her feed you a strange plant and it appears to have restored your health. It would seem that this lady bird of yours loves you very much after all Elroy. Please accept my sincere apologies.”

“O Carl,” said Elroy. “I know that I have been selfish about this. I have doubted all of you and you stood by me. I see that now. Will you all please forgive me?

“There there quiet now,” said Carl soothingly as he was speaking to a guppy. “You just rest now Elroy.”

“Mira loves me!” sang Elroy to himself transported on waves of rapture. “She loves me! Mira loves me!”

 

Mira returned to the pond many more times, always with a gift of a plant or flower.

The fish and the bird gazed with loving eyes upon each other and began and ended each visit with fish nose touching orange beak. This kissing ritual was exhilarating to both of them. The pond inhabitants would cheer for their love.

They were the inspiration for many bedtime love stories

Mira’s family never met Elroy, never visited his pond and grew to believe that Mira was a serious sky study student who required time for herself. The Redbirds allowed her to fly off on her own.

The tale of Mira and Elroy will continue to unfold beyond our understanding and with no further telling.