Short Fiction for Children: A Soccer Ball for Thisper

Note:  I wrote several fantasy stories about the birds in our backyard for my kids in the 90s.  This one follows what I think of as “the Goldilocks plot”–looking for something “just right.”  I asked my oldest what we should name the mockingbird and he said “Thisper.”  I think he actually said “Fish-bird,” but I had trouble distinguishing between his “f” and “th” sounds, so Thisper became the name.


A Soccer Ball for Thisper

A young mockingbird named Thisper sat in a tree and stared at the black and white ball whizzing around the backyard.  Kick! Whoosh! Thump!  Thisper didn’t miss a move. The children called the game “soccer practice” or “soccer” for short.  From the time he was a newly hatched chick, Thisper had watched these children and dreamed of playing soccer too.

HONK! HONK! The children stopped playing and ran to a waiting car.  Usually when soccer practice was over, Thisper would sigh and snuggle down in the family nest dreaming of soccer.  Today was different. Today Thisper planned to make his dream come true.

When he was certain everything was safe, Thisper fluttered to the lawn and hopped over to the ball.  Cocking his head to one side, he studied the ball.  He decided to kick it right in the middle of a big black spot.  He lifted his foot, held out his wings for balance and kicked the soccer ball as hard as he could.

“OW! OW! OW!” Thisper hopped around the yard in pain.

“What’s the matter?” Little Cap, the chickadee, fluttered to the lawn to see what was wrong with his friend. He thought Thisper must be crazy. What bird would try to kick a soccer ball?

“Ow! Ow! I hurt my foot,” Thisper said.  When his toes started to feel better, Thisper explained what he was doing.

“Soccer looked like so much fun that I just had to try it myself!”

“But that ball is too big!” said Cap. “You’re much smaller than a boy or girl.”

“I know.” Thisper hung his head. “But I still want to play! Maybe I can find something more my size.”

Thisper and Cap hopped around on the lawn looking for a bird-sized ball. Cap was distracted by a pile of sunflower seeds beneath the bird feeder and forgot about the search until Thisper suddenly whistled in delight. “A pinecone!  Why didn’t I think of it before?”

Cap looked over at Thisper just in time to see him once again lift his foot, raise his wings, kick with all his might—and yell, “OW! OW! OW!”

Thisper hopped over to Cap and sighed. “Too prickly!”

Cap felt sorry for his friend and tried to cheer him up.  “Look how far you kicked that pine cone! If we find the right ball, you’ll be great.  Let’s keep trying.”

“OK,” Thisper replied, and the two friends hopped and fluttered around the yard.  Thisper soon found a golf ball lying beside a clump of weeds just off the patio.

“I found it! Look!” called Thisper to Cap.  “It’s perfect! It’s not too big. It’s not prickly. I’m going to give it my best kick yet—OW! OW! OW!”

Cap cringed as he saw his friend again hopping around in pain. The golf ball didn’t even turn over.

“Too hard!” Thisper almost started to cry.  “I don’t think I’ll ever find a ball that’s right for me.”

“If you’re willing to try again,” said Cap, “Come see what I found by the birdbath.” The birds fluttered over to an old ping-pong ball lying in a patch of clover.

“It’s the right size,” said Cap. “It’s smoother than an egg. And look.” Cap gave the ball a little push with his beak and it rolled over easily. “It’s not hard like the golf ball.”

“I don’t know,” Thisper said, carefully looking it over. “Maybe there’s another bad surprise we haven’t thought about.”

After hesitating a moment he added, “But I really, really want to play soccer. This could be my best chance.”

This time, Thisper just gave the ball a little nudge with his toes. To his delight, it rolled smoothly and easily, zigzagging through the clover. Then he tried a harder kick. His foot didn’t hurt at all! He was finally brave enough to kick that ping-pong ball with all his might. The ping-pong ball was just the right soccer ball for a little bird like Thisper.

“I can play soccer!” Thisper called out joyfully, chasing the ping-pong ball across the lawn. “Cap, come play with me!”

The next day Thisper saw the children again. They were on the patio bouncing an orange ball with black stripes and tossing it into a net with no bottom.  “Hmmm,” Thisper thought . “I wonder what game we’ll be playing next?”




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