Sammy giggled while Toby licked his ears and cheeks. He endured a smothering hug from Grammy and fished a snicker-doodle from the cookie jar. He stuffed most of it in his mouth and gave the rest to Toby. “Wheresh Gwampy?”
Grammy smiled and tousled his hair. “He’s out on the deck, I think.”
“Grampy, what are you doing?”
His grandfather put his finger to his lips, and then motioned for him to come closer. Sammy snuggled close to his scratchy wool jacket that smelled of wood smoke and machine oil. Grampy’s open palm rested on his knee. Some black seeds lay in the bottom of his cupped hand.
Sammy whispered, “What are you doing?”
“Shhh…watch what happens.”
Sammy watched the seeds, but they didn’t seem to be doing anything. A breeze rustled the brown leaves left over from summer. Some birds chirped in the branches. Toby bounded across the lawn after a squirrel, and it skittered up a nearby tree. It chattered and swished its gray fluffy tail.
Then WHOOSH ! A tiny bird swooped to the porch railing and chirruped at them. It had a black cap and a white belly. Its wings were gray with white stripes. It hopped to Grampy’s hand and snatched a seed, and then flew away. Perched on a nearby branch, it held the seed between its feet and hammered at the hull.
“He ate right out of your hand!”
Grampy shifted his position a little bit and set Sammy between his legs. “Chickadees are curious little fellers. They love black oil sunflower seeds—almost as much as you like ice cream!”
Sammy saw another chickadee flit closer. It fluffed its wings and sang, “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!” It hopped from one branch to another, cocking its head this way and that.
Grampy stretched his arm out on his knee again. Within a second or two, one bird swung down and perched on the edge of his finger. It picked up an empty hull and tossed it out on the ground. It chose another seed and flew off again to eat it. Immediately, the second bird zipped in for a snack, as if he was waiting in line for his turn.
“Grampy?” Sammy whispered. “May I try?”
Grampy dumped a few seeds into his little palm. Sammy put his hand on Grampy’s knee, but his arm shivered a little. The chickadees stayed in the trees and chirruped at them. One swooped close, but didn’t land on his hand—not even on the porch railing.
“They’re scared of me, Grampy.”
“Let’s make you invisible.”
Sammy laughed. “How are we going to do that?”
“Go ask Grammy for one of my old coats and a hat, and we’ll see if we can trick the birds into thinking you are me.”
Sammy returned, with the sleeves almost dragging on the ground and the hat over his ears. Grampy held his lips tight, and his eyes twinkled.
“Perfect! Now sit on my lap and put your hand inside of mine.”
It was so cozy with Grampy’s arms around him, that Sammy didn’t shiver at all. He saw a different kind of bird walking upside down on the tree. It had a long sharp beak. He hoped that one wouldn’t poke at his seeds. The squirrels chased each other from one tree to the other, chattering and swishing. Toby snuffled around through the piles of dead leaves.
Soon, a whirr of wings brought the chickadee to the railing again. Sammy held his breath. The little fellow tipped his head from side to side. With a flick of his tail, he flew to their hands. Sammy flinched a bit, but it didn’t hurt. The little claws felt like the bristles on Toby’s dog brush. He could feel the tiny beak touching his skin as it searched for the best seed.
When the bird flew off, Sammy giggled. “That was so much fun! Can we do it again?”
“I don’t know about you, but my tailbone is getting cold. That’s enough for today. After all, we don’t want fat birds.”
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