Caged by Ellen Mae Franklin




Bolt upright, tangling all askew in sweat soaked sheets Trend reached out a shaky hand. He ran it over a mop of light, yellow coloured hair.




Trend moved to the edge of his bed. The sheet snagged around his leg and with a heavy thud the boy fell to the floor. Memories, dream induced was a hazy reflection. The breeze blowing through the open window sent a shiver through his thin body. Trend wondered which star was his mother. Would she be watching him now? Did she know he lived?


He tried to stand. I have to shut the window I’m freezing, but of course Trend couldn’t. He fell to the floor, just another dark shape on the ground. Grunting he dragged his body a few inches. How could a one legged boy walk to the window? So strange to think he could feel the other one, as though he had two legs, only the pain lancing up a tender thigh failed to keep the wishing dream alive. He closed his eyes; sleep rarely came to him these nights for memories haunted the shadows, as much as they did the bright sunlight days.


The boor opened bringing with it a shaft of hallway cheer. A silhouette filled the doorframe. It stood there motionless.


Trend spoke, hidden from his brother’s sight having fallen from the warmth of his bed.

“Jeremy, please help me? I’m afraid.”

The shadow moved and became the bookworm. “You fell out of bed again? Are you all right lad?”


“I’m cold and I can’t get to the window to close it. Will you help me?” He knew he sounded pitiful, but how else was he supposed to feel. Could run before this. I was the best in the school, they were proud of my medals and trophies in the downstairs cupboard. Look at me now mother. Just look at me lying on the floor, unable to help myself get back to bed.


His brother placed the book he held on the top of a chest of drawers. Jeremy was a tall lad with ginger hair wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a kind smile. His older brother by some many years and studying to become a teacher, he was staying for the week while their father travelled for business. “Here, place your arm under mine. That’s it, now put your weight on your good leg and push.”


“It hurts Jeremy. It hurts so much.” Tears slid down a very sad face and the young boy felt more sorry with each passing day. He was only twelve, so young to have lost a leg and a mother.


“I know Trend, but if you don’t start doing things for yourself this other leg you have been left with … well it will just waste away. You don’t want to be a cripple confined to a wheelchair all your life now, do you?” Jeremy was a patient man, yet something in his voice tonight showed the strain of Trend’s constant misery. It wasn’t that he resented his brother’s newly dependency, he just wished

their lives could go back to normality. But that would never happen. The accident had changed all that.


With Trend back in bed and Jeremy back to the familiar haunt of his room after closing the window, keeping the cold draft at bay, the young lad reached out. He stretched as far as he could to turn the bedside lamp on. It had been the last thing his mother had given him.


When he had seen it, he had laughed a little, complaining that he was too old to have such a girly looking addition to a boy’s room. She had smiled in that quiet way of hers and had flicked on the switch anyway, banishing the dark. He remembered as more tears of his mother bending down to kiss him gently on the forehead. Goodnight my little man. Those words were always the last ones he heard before he had gone to sleep, but not anymore. There would never be a mother’s endearment to send him to sleep again.


Trend closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep, but it wouldn’t come. Only the stark memories of that terrible night rode the fringes of slumber and that day began all over again, memories as vivid as a waking day. Rain and wind, a nasty winter’s day by all accounts, a school day, then the bell rung. A rousing cheer from all the rooms signaled the end class and like everyone else, Trend rushed to an exit to find his mother’s car.


In the distance, thunder rumbled overhead and lightning lashed the sky, a storm was imminent and there she was waiting with a worried look. She waved and called out something, but he couldn’t hear. Running to escape the worst of the rain, the young boy pulled the door and climbed in.


“It’s so wet out there.”


“It often is when it rains dear.” Her voice was distracted and Trend frowned.


“What’s wrong?”


“Nothing Trend, not a thing. I just want to beat the storm. I think we are going to be in for a rough one sweetheart and with your father away and not coming back until tomorrow, I need to make sure the house is all locked up tight for the night.” Without another word she put her foot to the pedal and the car moved off.


They were so close to home, but the storm was quicker, it moved so much faster than a car and yet, they were so close. It could have been a cat or a dog, he didn’t know for it happened so fast. Maybe it had been a broken tree limb collected by the wind and tossed into their path, or had it been bad luck that got in the way? It didn’t matter now because nothing could turn back the clock.


He had woken up in hospital, broken and bruised, missing a leg and a mother. His father sat beside his bed with red eyes, swollen from crying and twisting a handkerchief in hopeless grief in his large hands. These were memories he didn’t want, but they were his nonetheless and would stay this way till his last day.


Trend pushed himself up and sitting looked out the window. He eyed the moon with envy, it was free just like the billions of stars that glittered with lost hope. Calling to him and he wondered like his did every night which one was his mother, for he was sure she sat up high watching her son with love.


I wish you could hear me. I want to fly not feel like a bird with a broken wing, sitting in this bed. I am a cripple, did you know that your one legged useless son just wants to be free.


The stars didn’t answer and the evening carried on without so much as a creak. Everyone was asleep in the world, even his bookworm brother would be snoring into a spine of some loved text. He was the lucky one.


Sighing Trend flicked the switch off, plunging his room back into the dark and closed his eyes once again. Sleep did come in the early hours and for a short time the boy forgot.


It wasn’t until the early afternoon when bars of sunlight woke him. Trend woke and scrubbed the remnants of sleep away with the back of his hand.




He knew his voice sounded shrill, but he was hungry and worst of all, he needed to pee. He called again and the usual sound of footsteps walked the hallway.


The door opened and Jeremy stepped into the doorframe. “Hey sleepy-head, you’ve slept most of the day away.” He kept one hand out of sight in the hall.


“I didn’t get much sleep last night and I have to pee.”


“I’ll help you in a minute, but there is something I need to show you first.” Jeremy grinned and carried on. “Since you refuse to shift from the bed and this stinky room.”


“It’s not stinky. I open the window.”


“Of course you do and then you get cold, can’t close the window, and fall out bed,” laughed his brother. “Dad says that if you don’t leave soon you’ll grow roots and start to sprout leaves.”


“I will not. It’s just that my leg that hurts; you know the one I lost. I can’t do anything anymore.”


Jeremy slowly bought his other hand into the room. A birdcage swung to and fro, and inside on a perch sat a brightly coloured canary. Its bright eyes watched the room and the boy in it.


“What’s that?” There was a spark of excitement in Trend’s voice. “Is it for me? A present?”


“It is. Dad and I thought it would give you some company while this pity of yours dries up. You can’t mope about in this room all your life.”


The bright little bird began to sing and for a little awhile its tune took Trend’s mind away from the pain.


Over the coming days they became good friends, the bird and the boy, so much so, that the feathered creature spent more time out of his cage than inside of it. Trend would watch it fly about the room, envious of the bird’s freedom, but he never closed the door.


You’re such a lucky fellow. You have wings as well as two legs and you can fly. It was wishful thinking and one that didn’t go unheard.


Trend thought he had been dreaming. One of those rare moments when you get caught between the sleeping world and the waking, but as he opened his eyes he heard it again. A voice, unfamiliar and strangely high-pitched.


“Anyone can do it if you believe.”


The boy pushed himself up and looked to the doorway. There was no one there. “God, I am going mad.”


“No madder than the average boy I should guess,” and the words were followed by a trill.


Trend’s eyes widened. He lifted his hand and the bird jumped from the windowsill onto his hand. “Birds don’t talk.”


“If you wish it enough they do and haven’t you been doing a lot of that lately? Wishing I could talk. Wishing you could fly?”


“You can talk.”


The canary sang a few notes and lifted a wing. “I thought we had just established this. Of course, I can talk. You asked me to.’ The little fellow cocked his head. “But the question that should be on your lips and on my beak is – do you wish to fly?”


“Can you make that happen?”


“No, but you can. Next time you look up at your mother.”


“What do you mean?” And Trend’s eyes strayed the window.


It was late afternoon but boys are will be boys, impatient to a fault and he fidgeted for the rest of the day. Pushing the food – Jeremy gave him around on his plate and waiting with heavy sighs for his father, and brother to fall asleep.


Like it did every night it fell to darkness and the stars came out to blanket the sky, Trend searched for the star he believed to be his mother. The canary flew from the top of his cage to alight on the boy’s head.


“You are looking at the wrong star. It is the one to your left.”


Trend grumbled, but after a few minutes found a glittering jewel that shone a pale pink.


“Yes that’s it. That’s her. Now make your wish, but put your heart into it boy else she may not hear you like I did. Getting me to speak was an easy one, flying, now that is something else.”


Trend closed his eyes.


“You don’t need to close your eyes. It doesn’t work like that. Just wish.” He began to sing.


“Won’t your singing mess up the wish?”


“Not at all. I personally think it adds a certain finesse don’t you?”


Trend turned back to his wishing.

If you can hear me, please if you can I just want to be free. I want to fly.

The boy unlocked the window and pushed it open. Would she hear him better? Mama I want to fly.


Eventually, the boy fell asleep. Exhausted by all his wishing and the sun rose bringing with it a new day. The canary whistled and sang, Trend woke, and opened his eyes. Everything looked a little strange. It was like looking through fluted glass so he lifted his arms to rub them clean. Shocked Trend found he had no arms and instead two wings brushed up against a sharp beak.


The boy went to call out and found instead, there was nothing but a squawk. The boy had become a bird and the canary on the windowsill hopped from one foot to the other.


Come fly with me. Come fly with me. The canary spread his wings wide and leapt off the sill into the world outside. He caught the breeze and rose to great heights.


Trend watched him catch the wind and marveled at the bird’s flight. With hesitant hops the boy turned bird crossed the bed and leapt up onto the sill. The smell of spring awaited him and with a wonder born of long awaited yearning. The little pale dusty, yellow bird, once a boy with a missing leg and a heart of hurt decided that he would follow the canary.


The sound of familiar footsteps held him still. It was Jeremy and without so much as a knock his brother entered the room.


Where was Trend? The bed was empty. “Have you fallen out again? Hang on little brother and I will just close the window.”


Jeremy didn’t wait for an answer, precluding that Trend had dragged himself under the bed. He hurried across the room and saw the bird on the windowsill.


The boy now bird jumped back in fright as Jeremy yanked the shut.

The boy turned bird was trapped, back inside the room where he had felt so much like a prisoner. He opened his wings and took to the air, reveling in a brief flight of feeling free, but Jeremy was quicker.


“Ho there little bird. How did you get out of your cage?” His large hand closed over the small, feathered body, capturing him into a suffocating grasp. Placing the bird into the cage, Jeremy swung the grilled door shut. “That was lucky. Trend would never have forgiven me if you flew away. We had better keep a closer eye on him letting you loose so much.”


He lifted the cage and placed it on the bedside table. “Now to the boy. Trend you haven’t said a word since I came in. Have you fallen asleep on the floor? This is beginning to become a habit with you kiddo.”


There was no answer. How could there be, the boy had become a bird and now, as wishes come true will be locked forever in a cage.


Ella Mae Franklin (Carol Bond)

Ella Mae Franklin (Carol Bond)

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