“The Gardener has told me some of us will be leaving here soon and going to new homes,” Gracie whispered to Mayflower. “I will miss you, my friend.”
“I miss you already,” said Mayflower. “We do not know what is ahead for either of us. But we can trust The Gardener. I am quite sure of it.”
“You have always been kind to me, Mayflower.”
“I think you will be able to stay here in this garden. I’m not sure how I know. But I know. You taught us to dance here. This garden is in your heart, and if the garden has a heart, then you are in its heart as well.
“No matter where we are taken no one can ever take from us what you have taught us about dancing. You really did teach us more than dancing. You taught us we did not have to do things the way chickens have always done them.”
Mayflower dropped her head. Gracie nestled against her and nudged Mayflower’s head up with her own.
“I never intended to teach anyone anything other than how to dance ballet so we could have a dance troupe and all travel to a place called Paris. It is an extraordinary city, a city made of lights. I wish you could come with me. You were my friend when only Bessie wanted to be my friend. I will never forget you.”
“I know everyone says I am friends with everyone, but I do have one special friend, and that is you.”
“Why is that, Mayflower?”
Because we have always been different, the two of us. For me, it is because of being the only one of my kind here. For you, it is because of the feathers on your face not being quite even and because of the lump on your side. But no one sees those things about us now. We are all the same. We are all dancers. What we love, our art, transcends our differences.”
They shared a smile, and Mayflower continued. “Recently I discovered something about the songbirds. Just like The Robin helped you, there are other songbirds that will help us chickens too. There is a chimney swift who has promised to follow me when it is time for me to leave the garden. He will send messages between us. If you ever need to send me a message, just let the wrens know. They are the eyes and the ears of this garden. They will find my friend, The Swift, and he will come to you.
“And I will tell you something else.” Mayflower lowered her voice and moved closer to Gracie so that only she could hear. “There are some chickens who are more than chickens. My friend, The Swift, thinks I may be a Sentinel.”
“What does that mean?”
“A Sentinel can see what others can not see..”
“How does that work?”
“Do you see that dip in the ground there? A tree once grew in that spot. Next spring, you will see crocuses blooming there in circle around a tree that is no longer there. I see it in the color and texture of the grasses.
“Do you see what looks like a path in the grass at the front of the yard and coming around the side? There was a path made by pavers there once. They may still be there, just overgrown with grass.”
“Do you see that young pecan tree there growing at the front edge of the backyard garden and only a quick flight from the house? That is what the songbirds call The Healing Tree for this garden. It came from a seed from a much larger pecan tree that is only a stump now in the back of the garden.”
“Why do they call it that, and how do you know these things?”
“These are scars left on the earth itself. Whatever those with hands do to the earth, leaves a mark. So do the animals like the stray cats that cross this yard. The Swift says reading the marks is what Sentinels do. Those marks are signs of the past which predict the future. It is what we do to keep the flock safe even if we are not leaders of the flock.”
Mayflower remained silent while Gracie considered this revelation.
“I should probably tell you that just like on the earth’s soil, there can also be scars left on someone’s heart, and I can see them on the Gardener’s heart. That may be why you are meant to stay here—to help heal those scars.
“And I will tell you something else not nearly as sad. Our garden once went beyond the fence at the back. It went to the other street where the railroad tracks cut across. There were chickens here once before us and a cow. They were happy. No harm ever came to them. You will always be safe here, my friend.”
The mockingbird sentries swooped over them accompanied by a chimney swift.
“And what about you, Mayflower? Will you always be safe where you go?”
Mayflower did not have time to say any more. The people had begun gathering, and she was gently picked up and placed into a carrying box.
Gracie heart suddenly grew heavy, and she heard a mumbling laugh coming from deep within the shadows of the brambles. High overhead and off into the distance, Mayflower’s Swift soared.