Fritii snapped out of her doze, startled. Between the warmth of her six nestlings, her grandmothers’ quilts, and the spring sun streaming in through the knothole, it had been near impossible to stay awake. Her little ones were sleeping–finally, after emptying all of the nearby caches–and her exhaustion had finally overtaken her.
She recognized her son’s approaching voice, and relaxed slightly. Only slightly, however–Peter recently had been developing a lot of hare-brained ideas about starting a delivery business with that goose friend of his. Which would mean hiring Hunters. Which made her uneasy. Her boy had promise as a Soothsinger, but was only fledged a year ago, and had much to learn about the world. She prayed the business fantasies remained just that.
A flutter of grey feathers in the entryway settled themselves into the familiar shape of Reet, her mate. Fritii lifted her feathers in affection as he moved into the nest, holding something in his bill.
“MA!!” A second flurry of grey feathers obscured the cavity’s entrance as Peter landed beside his father. “MA! Pa and I got you–a beetle bun! The first one of the year!!”
Fritii raised her crest in pleased surprise. “A beetle bun, darling?” She hadn’t had her favorite treat–crunchy and nutty on the outside, soft and juicy in the middle–since last year’s beetle harvest.
“YEAH!!” Peter raised every feather on his body until he looked almost perfectly round. “The baker migrated back two days ago–we got in before even the bluebirds!”
Reet stepped into the cavity with the bun, still steaming. “A little quieter, Peter,” he said softly. “Your little siblings are sleeping.” He leaned in, setting the bun on the edge of the nest, and gave Fritii’s brow a brief, affectionate touch of his bill. “Why don’t you go visit some of the caches for your mother? Only come back with your crop full!”
Peter’s eyes lit up. “Okay!” In a moment he was gone, and blessed quiet filled their nest cavity.
Fritii closed her eyes and lowered her crest. “Thank you, brightheart,” she whispered. “Peter is a good fledgling, but also a loud fledgling.” None of the nestlings had awoken, mercifully.
“It’s likely Bronk’s influence,” Reet said good-naturedly, and nudged the bun, steam rising from it temptingly, towards her. “Enjoy, love. You deserve it and more.”
Happy Mothers’ Day, everyone! Bring your mom a beetle bun–she’ll love it!
(Fun fact: tufted titmice sometimes do hang around for a year to be “helpers” with their parents’ next breeding season! They do not exchange currency for insect-filled pastries, however.)