I watched Fern’s toes wiggle lazily as we sat under a shady willow that in combination with the breeze off of the river cooled our sweat-beaded brows. The languid branches acted as a curtain forming a natural tent for our relaxation.
Just visible out in the sun bobbed a red winged blackbird. In a blur of feathers that was becoming a common occurrence for me, the bird became a young woman with her blue-black hair streaked with two lines of yellow and red. She pushed through the branches and looked at me with unfocused eyes.
“You must go home now and bring him to me here,” stated the girl flatly and mysteriously.
“Bring who to you?” I frowned.
“Her boyfriend,” replied Fern when I looked at her for help.
Her boyfriend...? “Oh! You must be Tom's girl.”
“I had to come home. Here. He wouldn't come with me,” the bird girl tried to explain.
“I can bring him here? I don't even know how to get back,” I looked at Fern. “Which is something I've been meaning to ask you since we arrived here this afternoon.”
“I will show you,” said Fern.
“I must go now!” interjected the blackbird girl just before she changed back and flew away.
“Come,” beckoned Fern as she pulled on my arm. We walked across the stretch of grass back toward the sheer cliff of the bluff where we had first appeared near its unassailable surface.
“We don't try to climb and then jump the way we got here, do we?” I wasn't sure I could do that again, especially when Fern had to force me over the first time.
“No, no,” she said and pointed to an indiscernible spot on the cliffside, “we walk straight in here.”
We were standing about ten feet away, so I slowly held my hands out in front of me and walked toward the place she seemed to be pointing. Before I could get near enough to touch the rock, my hands blurred to almost invisibility.
“You can close your eyes if you want to,” prompted Fern.
“Let's just go,” I said.
We walked forward together into dizziness and a wind that pulled me up into a nauseated disorientation. I opened my eyes when I felt like we had arrived back and saw that we had in fact returned to Minnehaha Park. Fern was lying next to me in some grass well away from the park's cliff edge where we had entered Fern's world earlier.
Fern sat up and said, “You go get the boyfriend. I'll wait for you over there.” She pointed to the edge of the cliff. I nodded that I understood.
As I made my way to Tom's house, I wondered why I was going along with this idea of bringing Tom over into that other world I had only just discovered myself today. If anyone would believe me, it would be Tom. After all, his girlfriend is a red winged blackbird. How insane is this? How insane am I?
Thomas Mayfield answered his door on the third knock. He just stood in the doorway and looked at me blankly.
“I have a message from your girlfriend. I think you said her name was Jenny?” I was surprised her name even occurred to me.
Tom ushered me into his living room. “How have you heard from her?”
“She bobbed up to me and changed right before my eyes and told me to bring you to her.”
“That is strange. If anything, I’d expect her to come to me herself.”
I told him about Fern taking me to her home in another world, and that was where Jenny was. “I’m suppose to bring you to her there. Fern insisted I do so.”
“Look,” said Tom, “Jenny told me she had to go home for a while. I thought maybe she was trying to find a way to break up with me. I mean, how can someone humdrum like me last with someone magical? I thought that was it.”
“Tom, I don’t know the hows or whys. I am only doing this because Fern thinks I should. It sounds like Jenny still wants you. At least, I think so.”
“Is there some kind of time difference? I mean, what day do you think this is? How do you know you weren’t gone longer than you think?”
I was beginning to think he was making excuses. “It’s Sunday, right? The twenty-eighth? Just come with me and see.”
At the edge of the cliff, I held a tree branch out over the edge. The end was blurred into invisibility. “Now you do it and see it’s no trick.”
I handed him the branch and he gingerly extended it over the edge.
”You’re going to hate me for this,” I thought as I gave him a push…