But Can You Fly?

By Alice Jacoby


Everyone has until Saturday to become a bird.

I went to my teacher. He wore a long saffron- colored robe. The hem dragged on the floor. I could see that he was in a hurry. I tugged at his sleeve.
“Will we have to learn how to fly too?” I asked.
“You ask too many questions,” he said. I noted once again that his voice sounds like an echo and that each time he speaks to me it’s like he’s calling way down to me from the top of a tall building and I am in the basement.
“Right now,” he continued. “You just have to become a bird. You’ll have plenty of time later to worry about learning how to fly.”

As I rode home on the A train I thought about many things, but tried mainly to focus on the kind of bird I wanted to become. It was clear that an Eagle was too large, but then again, a Sparrow was too small.

On the ten o’clock news tonight the president was making plans to go to war against evil.
Meanwhile I was heading over to the Japan Society to see a Japanese film. I loved the sound of Japanese, unlike French or Italian or even German which I knew I might some day learn to understand, here was a language I knew I would never understand, and for some reason this fact comforted me.


After work I walked into Starbucks. I knew that I desperately needed a grande mocha cappuccino but I couldn’t decide between it and a hot cider.
Many people in Starbucks were beginning to sprout feathers. I could see that some people had attached feathers to their clothing with scotch tape, others with staples.
How silly, I thought, why don’t these people realize that you need much more than feathers to become a bird?
I finally decided on a tall café mocha with decaffeinated coffee and soymilk.
“Make that heavy on the chocolate,” I said.

The president came on TV. tonight. He spoke about restoring traditional values. He likes to use words like “sacrifice” and “evil.” He wants to see only good in the world and to stamp out evil. He suggested stoning all the evil people, that and burning them alive at the stake. This would rid the world of evildoers and restore traditional values but there is some disagreement here because some people, particularly the United Nations feel that this would only create martyrs and dead heroes. Just think of what happened with Joan of Arc? She was made into a Saint, wasn’t she?
But the president is a believer. He believes in good, but we must stamp out evil first in order to have only good people in the world.

Meanwhile we all need to become birds so we can fly away if evil dares to smite us.


All day at work today I wondered what kind of bird I could become. Most of my co- workers are now covered with feathers. I even met someone at the water cooler who has a long yellow beak. “What about flying,” I said. “But can you fly?”
“Not yet,” he answered nasally, opening his beak. “But I’m sure the President will show us how to fly as soon as we are good enough.”

On the way home from work I stopped at Starbucks. I was the only one there who wasn’t covered with feathers. If I’m asked why I’m not, I’ll say I’m still not sure what kind of bird I want to become.

At home I sent an-mail to my teacher. I asked him what I should do. Should I cover myself with feathers too? I asked him. He replied with an instant message. He said he thought there was a bird that had no feathers but he wasn’t sure what it was called. He thought this particular bird might be extinct. He seemed to remember that such a bird existed at the time of the dinosaurs but I should check this out on the Internet. Perhaps, he suggested, if I could just flap my arms up and down, put my feet together and hop, I might be able to pass for a bird. As for himself he had already flown far away to his home in the clouds and he wasn’t sure if or when he would be back.

At midnight I heard on the TV news that the President had declared war.

Tomorrow morning early I’ll see if I can become a featherless bird.