I don't remember when it started, only that my legs and feet hurt--occasionally at first, then more frequently, then all the time. I could barely walk. Then, it was my wing. I was losing my feathers.
Then the tumor appeared. It wasn't a big deal at first--at least I didn't think so. Just a little bump, an ugly little bump. But it grew, and it grew fast.
"What is this thing?" I wondered aloud.
"It's cancer," Sam One said with a gravity in his voice that I found unsettling.
I swallowed hard. "Am I going to die?" I asked.
I couldn't take it all in. "How soon?" I wanted to know.
"Come on--I need to know!" I pressured him.
"A few months," he said finally.
"A few months? It's not fair!" I cried.
"Hey...you got twenty-one years," he reminded me. "That's far more than most of us get."
I realized how that must have sounded to him. "Sorry."
"I would have liked more than nine years," he confided. "I don't know why I had to leave. Yes, I was jealous of Collin at first...but that would have passed. He's a pretty terrific big bro."
"Yeah, he is," I agreed.
"You have family on the other side, too," Sam One reminded me. "Some you haven't met yet, like Scamp and Red."
"Red?" I asked.
"She's a chicken."
"A chicken chicken?"
He looked at me. "There's another kind?"
He shook his head. "This one was a little red hen who was a companion of Mom's when she was a little girl," he said. "You'll like her."
I was quiet for a little while. "Are you okay?" Sam One asked.
"I'm dying," I said. "What do you think?"
"So...we all go to Heaven?" I asked.
"Of course," Sam One answered. "We didn't screw up the way humans did. We didn't eat that apple--we didn't even nibble on the core when Eve threw it down."
"We?" I asked. "You were there?"
He gave me a light whack with his wing. "You know what I mean--we as in birds!"
"Ah...that we," I said, nodding.
"We didn't even nibble on the discarded core," he said. "Some of us abide by the rules!"
"They're supposed to be the smart ones, but really...when the Great Flood came, the humans didn't take Noah seriously. The rest of us were all in line with our boarding passes."