A wooden redbird went begging for bread. Motherless, fatherless, starving and growing weaker, he combed the streets of the city in search of a crumb. There wasn't a morsel to be found. In a plush yard a mother sparrow cracked open grains of millet with her beak and brought tiny pieces of it to the cocked-open mouths of her babies. The baby sparrows chirped. “Sing me a pretty song you funny bird” the sparrow said. “Go on, flap your wooden wings and sing!” The redbird tried to chirp and coughed. The sparrow harrumphed. “Sing you ungrateful bird!” It was the same story everywhere the redbird went. “Birds sing,” the birds would ask, “don't they?”
Oh, if only he could fill the hungry hole in his stomach with a small bit of bread, a scrap of seed, anything, he would sing all day and all night for the birds. Every time he opened his beak out crawled a sour melody. With each cough his wooden feathers grew redder, more urgent with color. He became sicker and more luminous by the minute. When he thought that his feathers couldn't get any redder, he coughed and his feathers grew redder.
But the good people of the town were not impressed by this display and would not squander their good bread on any old so-called bird. They demanded payment in song. And the redbird became hungrier and redder.