The little, lost fawn opened her eyes and took in the sight of the tall, long grass. As it swayed in the African breeze, the last rays of the sunset beamed across the savannah and wrapped the small of her back in a warm, motherly hug.
And oh, how she needed a hug. As she watched a beautiful herd of gazelles leap and bound in the distance, she longed for her mother to find her.
“Psst, help me!” chirped a sudden, shrill voice.
The fawn lifted her head from the ground and saw a grey and golden-toned bird perched on the tree just above her. “What’s wrong with you?” She asked. Her voice was squeaky and sweet.
“I’m stuck!” The bird chirruped, “help me, please!”
The fawn blinked her eyes – attempting to clear them of the clouds that still lingered from birth.
“What are you?” She asked.
“I’m an oxpecker, of course,” the chirpy bird answered.
The fawn stared at him blankly. “Oh, an oxpecker,” she said thoughtfully, “am I an oxpecker, too?”
The oxpecker laughed. “Of course not.”
“Then, what am I?”
The oxpecker flapped his silvery wings. “You’re exactly what I need, little one! Please, help me!”
He wiggled his foot, which was stuck in a tightly-wound string.
Alarmed, the fawn’s newly-born heart swelled with an overwhelming desire to free him. There was, however, just one problem.
“How do I get to you?” She asked.
“With your legs,” he replied.
The fawn looked around her. The tall, long grass still swayed in the breeze. However, as the sun quickly dropped into the horizon, the sticks and the leaves cast giant, lanky shadows that seemed to become the limbs of the earth.
“Are those my legs?” She asked, nudging her head at the grass and the shadows.
The oxpecker let out a small laugh. “Of course not,” he said, “look underneath you.”
The fawn gazed down at the entanglement of strange, scrawny knobs that were curled and folded under her torso. She sighed. “Oh, these,” she said, “I’m sorry, I want to help you, Mr. Oxpecker – I do – but I just don’t know how to use these things. I’m afraid that I’m stuck on the ground.”
“Don’t be silly,” chirped the oxpecker, “It’s easy. It comes from your will. You must desire to move them.”
The fawn paused in thought. I want to get up, she said to herself. I can get up.
She felt a tingle of energy move toward her two front legs, and the first one popped out from under her. She braced her wobbly weight on top of it and looked up at her new, feathered friend. “Like this?” She asked.
“That’s it!” He trilled.
Having made a bit of progress, the fawn again paused. She watched the long, tall grass sway before her and imagined that she, too, was tall. Suddenly, her second front leg shot out from beneath her and met the acute, slanted angle of the first. “I’m doing it!” She exclaimed. Her heart began to pound.
“Yes, yes!” Chirped the oxpecker.
However, the fawn’s excitement suddenly vanished. She looked up at the little bird – who sat high on the branch – and back at her hind legs. “I…I don’t think I’ll be able to reach you,” she said, “I don’t think I’ll be tall enough to help.”
The oxpecker flapped his wings. “You will be, little one! I promise, keep going!”
Despite his encouragement, the fawn felt a great sense of despair wash over her. What if he was wrong? What if she wasn’t big enough to save him?
The tall, long grass swayed in the breeze, and the little fawn couldn’t help but feel very small. She bowed her head in great sorrow. As she did, the oxpecker seemed to get farther and farther away.
Suddenly, the beautiful herd of gazelles reappeared and leaped past them across the bare, open plain. The fawn watched in awe as their graceful contours rose and fell against the flat, shapeless land. She observed their thin, elegant legs and bronze, golden hide. She looked down at her own skin, which was similar in color. She looked at her own legs – at those knobby little things that felt so clumsy and weak – and began to imagine herself running along with them.
“I’m one of them,” she said. She looked up at her friend on the high, high branch – then felt a twinge of sadness. “But if I am one of them, there’s no way I’ll reach you.”
The oxpecker flapped his wings at her. “You must try, little one. I know that you can. Please, I need your help.”
The fawn watched as the lovely gazelles danced in the last of the sunlight. Suddenly, she realized something. I must get to them, she thought, for if I can learn to move as quickly as they do, perhaps I can run to get help for my friend.
The long, tall grass swayed in the breeze, and the fawn again began to imagine that she was long and tall, too. She began to believe she was strong.
Though it took all of her might, she managed to pop one of her hind legs out from under her. She felt a surge of exhilaration course through her veins as she did.
“That’s it! You’re almost there!” Chirped the oxpecker.
With her head bowed low, the fawn used the final ounce of her will to nudge her last leg into position. Then, she looked up at the oxpecker, and sighed. He still seemed very far away.
“Straighten them out!” He peeped.
Carefully, awkwardly – she tiptoed her hooves inward until her legs were upright. However – even then – she was too short.
The long, tall grass swayed in the breeze.
“Now lift up your neck, little one.”
The little, lost fawn – the tiny gazelle – raised her neck up…