Hello to all! I thought you would enjoy a sneak peak of “Cheeper,” so here’s the first chapter for you to read and review. Does it leave you itching to read more? Are there any mistakes or potential improvements you noticed? Your feedback is always welcome!
Chapter 1: Storm
Shimmering rays of late afternoon sunshine beat down on green rows of soybeans. An occasional gust of sweltering air stirred the tall grasses alongside the field. As the sun sank lower and lower on the hazy horizon, stately trees began to cast shadows on a little, blue house on top of a hill near the road. The winding road did not end at the little, blue house, however. It continued on its course, crossing a meandering creek, passing a corn field, and sailing by a few more houses before it trailed off into a bumpy field trail.
It seemed that nothing was stirring this summer evening in the quiet valley, but a careful observer would have detected a slight movement high up in the tree. There by the road above the creek, the piercing sunlight rested upon a nest of sticks and mud built snugly into the fork of two branches. Inside the nest, a small, naked bird, not more than a week old, laid his head back and opened his beak as wide as he could in anticipation of the juicy meal he knew would soon be dropped down his throat.
There were a few others in the nest, just as pink and naked as the first, but they were content to wait quietly for their food—unlike their hungry brother, who continued his silent plea. Soon a fluttering sound was heard, and a large, feathery form alighted on a nearby branch. Though all the baby birdies were still as blind as could be, they knew who the fluttering had come from. Instantly all their little heads popped up—each beak opening as wide as possible. All begged to be the first to receive whatever their mother had brought.
The red-breasted mother robin, a fat worm dangling from her yellow beak, hesitated for a moment above the nest as if unsure which of her demanding offspring to serve the morsel to. She finally gave up trying to decide and shoved the worm down the throat of the nearest squirming baby, who swallowed the large mouthful in one frantic gulp. His hunger finally satisfied, the little baby robin settled down quietly beside the others in the nest.
Soon another form alighted on the edge of the nest, and tucked a bug into the gaping mouth of another youngster. Father and Mother Robin, who had been finding and fetching food for their family all afternoon, hopped wearily onto a higher branch where the mother softly began to sing a sweet song of thanksgiving to the Creator. The little ones dozed contentedly in the nest, secure in the knowledge that their parents were near. The mother robin’s singing seemed to revive her tired spirits, and she trilled each tune with greater gusto than the last. Soon the father robin joined in and the two sang a lilting lullaby in beautiful harmony to their slumbering children.
Suddenly they stopped. A bank of angry, dark clouds was snaking its way across the sky, hiding the sun from view and plunging the little valley into eerie shadows. The humidity was even more oppressive now, and the air held an ominous feeling. Mother Robin peered anxiously through the leaves at the approaching storm and Father Robin cast a worried glance at the babies in the nest. In the distance, a streak of lightning stabbed at the earth, and an angry rumble of thunder shook the air.
Splat, splat, splat. The first large raindrops made tiny craters in the dusty gravel. More raindrops followed, faster and faster until suddenly a torrent of rain broke loose over the valley, pelting the blue house, the dusty road, and the nest in the tree with huge, cold drops. The robins raced to the nest where the mother hurried to fluff her warm wings over her babies. Safe and warm in the dark hollow of the nest under their brave mother, the baby robins listened to the sounds of the storm that raged outside. They could hear the rushing rain, the booming thunder, and the howling wind, but the nest had been well built and did not leak a drop.
The branch began to sway as the wind blew stronger and stronger. Mother Robin bent her head to its blasts and clung tightly to the sides of the nest. Father Robin hung on a tossing branch overhead, keeping his balance and hovering protectively over his family. They had been through storms before, and usually they soon passed. But this time the storm seemed to be possessed with strangely wicked intentions—a frightening fury that drove it on and on. The wind rose from a howl to a shriek, and all the occupants of the nest could hear the tree groaning under its pressure. The air became thick with twigs and leaves that the wind had torn from other trees.
Suddenly a sickening cracking noise exploded from the tree. The robins and their babies felt themselves falling as the tree broke under the strain of the wind. With frightened squawks, Mother and Father Robin took flight and rose above the falling limbs, where the currents of racing wind pulled them far from the scene.
An instant later the tree hit the ground with a crash and the baby robins were thrown from the safety of the nest. Before he even knew what was happening to him, the persistent brother robin felt himself hit the muddy gravel with a force that knocked the breath out of him. Everything blackened for a moment. He lay there gasping as the cold rain washed over him, reviving him slightly. Slushy balls of icy hail fell all around him, and the shrieking wind stabbed his naked body with cold. The baby robin could hear other trees cracking, and twigs and branches showered to the ground all around him.
He seemed to fade in and out of consciousness. How long he lay in the rubble of the fallen tree being washed by the floods of rain he did not know. Was it only minutes? Or hours? Or maybe days! His body numbed with the cold, and he ceased to hear the ferocious storm that raged around him. Instead he wondered where his mother and nest-mates were. Thoughts of warm sunshine dancing on the nest filled his mind, and then everything went blank.