In the Eyes of The Beholder: A Short Story


Avetis Dermenjyan is a 12th grader in Mr. Gough’s creative writing class who has a talent for wrtining amazing stories

In The Eyes of the Beholder

A peahen trotted in a forest. The ground was moist under her feet. The rivers ran numerous. Their currents flowed down the slant of the mountain, sprouting streams like arteries. Green residue followed the streams.

She dipped her feet in the water, the current made her slow, she wobbled across. The other side had a pebble bed. She stepped over them. They clinked when she did. She bent herself to the pebbles. Her round beak sifted through debris, until she saw a grub, then she struck. It bent, it twisted, it struggled. She swallowed the grub. This was the jackpot she thought, and she settled to pecking in the pebbles. 

A couple hours flew away. The afternoon was bright and hot.

The peahen continued her stroll with a full belly. Along the way she admired the scenes of shrubbery, the fallen tree trunks, the polka dotted mushrooms projecting their heads, the weed patches here and there. There was a great raw order of the jungle. It was the grime on the roots, it was the bones in the dirt, it was the scent of dung that gave this entire animal, with spring growth, with rot, it’s perfection in elusiveness. And what better way to characterize elusiveness then to realize its unpredictability. 

This was just that, a faint love song that caught her attention. She looked behind her, then ahead. The love song continued. It came from her left. She deviated from her path in search of the fluty noise. It became louder gradually. Then she  saw something, a small green bird with a blush of orange, dancing around calling, “Oh madam,” and singing to another.  

He sang on a tree bough, a verse, 

Won’t you come to me and give me all your company, 

A drop of your honey, enough to fill me with glee! 

An’ don’t worry how long! 

Just know it will keep me quenched until the next season! 

He flapped his wings. She made her decision and they met in embrace of each other under a sepia curtain.

“How marvelous!” said the peahen. She giggled. 

“Some are true gentlemen! They radiate this passion to serve, why if I was just like those birds then there would’ve been a fight! But oh my! What’s this! Another one? Why that’s splendid!”

 The sound was close by. Another bird danced around his pad of twigs and leaves. She did not wish to disturb him. She sought a bush of weeds to hide in. She sat in the bush, observing him from a distance even with the obscure picture. He called her, he called for the little lady. She hopped over to observe. He outstretched his wings and was swinging back and forth. 

Then he said, “Hello little beauty,” in that deep voice, “have the other boys been playing nicely with you? No? Then pick me and I will make sure you are the happiest lady in the jungle!” She hopped around him, he reacted and clicked a chitin chip above his breast. 

“And she accepts again! I must say this, it’s magic! Pure magic!” The peahen whispered, “Say! What do I have to do to have the boys swooning  like that? What kind words! How righteous!” She absorbed as much as she could see. They were being intimate now. She cautiously walked away.

“My, my, what sights,” she looked back down. 

But then she complained, “But it’s unfortunate that many of us do not have the luxury of such things. We must be living in a world where people are too cowardly or too indifferent to ladies.” She looked up at a clear blue sky. She squinted at the ball of flame. “But say, I have been on my feet for too long, yes, I believe a rest is in order, perhaps I’ll forget all about it.” She took a look around. There were many fallen leaves, fibrous and as large as the branches, and many fallen boughs. She took the boughs and stacked them to make a bed frame. Then she took the leaves and laid them in layers. When she was sufficed to stop she laid on her bed and said, “yes, I shall rest.” She laid her beak down.

She woke up from the nap, not without the tossing and turning, to a sound of a rattle. She opened her eyes one after the other . “What noise!” She asked, “who is this?” She rose. A couple paces away from her stood a peacock.

He said, “hey there lady,” he stretched his tail feathers like a cloak in the wind, and she saw from them a variety of colors, blue on one side, green on the other, a little yellow and a little purple all around. 

“My word! who are you?” she said.

“Sir Colorbutt m’lady,” Then he tried to kneel. He tripped and fell. He continued even on a limp leg. “oh, dear, please excuse that m’lady, please do, how embarrassing, very embarrassing.” 

Of course our peahen was disinterested in his beauty and show. Instead she asked, “But what of your leg, what has happened to it?” She saw his retracted gnarly leg.

“Aye, m’lady, I was afflicted by my condition at birth–”

“Then Sir Colorbutt I am sorry,  I can’t have my gentleman in the state like yours.”

“I understand m’lady,” he hung his head in defeat. They crossed paths. Sir Colorbutt  limped away.

“What a fellow, he pursues a lady in spite of his abnormality. He is just wasting a lady’s time is all I can say. I mean, how am I going to care for cocks with limp legs like his? Sure they may have pretty colors but what will happen if they try to attract others? And if these girls are not as wise, and they accept? Then we’ll be dealing with an entire generation of  hampered cocks!” She continued on a tirade until, “And I say–”

“Hello there fine dame!” A voice called out. It was deep and rustic. She turned to it. Behind her stood another peacock. It had great thick legs with a large beak. But then it spread its tail feathers. They were brown and gray feathers. 

“My name is Sir Strongman,” he said. 

She sighed. Strongman sensed it and said, “what’s wrong? Why does the pretty lady sigh? Does she not like what she sees?”

“Well, good sir, if you want to know so badly, I met a young peacock just before you…”

“I see.” 

“Well, he had many more prettier colors than you.” She saw him nod.

“I see, I see, I shall leave then.”

 “I think it’s best that you do.” She dismissed another cock!  But she was determined to get her love. “Well, I’ll be damned! If those birds could get their lovers why can’t I? I deserve good men just like them. Am I not entitled to the same luxuries as those other ladies?” She spent some time brooding over the idea. She found another  stream in the time being. She followed beside it. It opened up to a larger river, splitting her side with rocky precipices on the other. The current was lazy. She observed the river. 

Then closer to her were a pair of legs and tail feathers. She bumped into another peacock. The startled cock jumped back and spread his feathers. Like the cock before, he had  a strong stature, and like the first he had a tapestry of feathers. 

“My, my, well, are you not going to introduce yourself?” She blushed.

“No,” he folded his tail back. He resumed to dip his sharp beak into the water and sipped.

“What do you mean ‘no’!”

“I mean no. Now beat it, can’t you see I’m drinking here?”

 She gasped, “How dare you!”

“How dare I what?”

“How dare you talk to a lady like that!”

“Oh! Oh! Okay. I am so sorry. Please beat it, your highness.”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“Well it’s what you’re gonna to get sweetheart!”

“But, but–”

 He mocked, “But, but–” 

“You were supposed to, I don’t know, sing me a love song, do a little dance. You were supposed to be my happy ending.”

“Lady, get a grip on yourself… Look, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen your own reflection but come, come look into the river.”

Reluctantly, she starred in the river. A homey, bland colored peahen stared back at her. “Sorry sweetheart, I want my sons to be more handsome than I. Seems like you didn’t make the cut huh?”

“You’ll regret this!” She pulled away in a sudden rage.

“I don’t know, I think I dodged a bullet!” He cried out at last.

She scowled. She made a fit when she said, “oh this is it! I have had enough. Enough of wasting my time. they are not worth it! How superficial!” She burst into tears and left him. She whined, then cried, whined and cried.

And before she knew it, the sun had set. And to replace it, little balls of flame buzzed through the air. They flew in singles, a lot in pairs, and most in clouds. Especially hovering like clouds when she came across a pond. She took notice of it. She wanted to see her reflection again. “Am I really that ugly?” she said.

She saw herself. “Doesn’t seem odd,” through the reflection she saw a massive tree, erect in a spiral. “Well the sun has set, at least I can find a shelter. What was a man going to do anyways, sing me a shelter?” She found the base of the tree. She mounted it and climbed. Once she saw herself in a comfortable spot, she bundled herself on a bough. 

The little flames were there too. 

She saw silhouettes moving about. She called out to a firefly and whispered, “Hello friend, would you be a dear, an’ please sit where those birds are? Yes right there. Tell your friends too.” 

The fireflies did as were told. She saw the same birds as before, across from her was the bird with the orange blush with a newly found wart on its wing. It didn’t matter to his lady; she loved him the same. What of the other bird then? He was below him. He was sharing a worm with his lady. He clicked his chitin a couple more times. But his other qualities were his black plumage and a hint of emerald on his breast. Very boring, very bland. But what did it matter? 

And why am I expounding upon otherwise arbitrary details? Well, let’s wait until morning, then you’ll be convinced as to why. 

The crack of dawn brought chirps, and animals zig-zagging across the ground. The peahen woke up. She saw the ladies all by themselves. 

“So they didn’t stay? Well then how very noble of me to assume those men were gentlemen at all! I bet they–” But just below her she saw something.

They were birds, a single pair at first. This was a pea-cock and his pea-hen. Then our peahen’s face became cold, and she was aghast. She recognized that peacock. It was limping on its stroll.

 Then a second pair came along. This was Sir Strongman and he had found an elegant little pea-hen that suited his fancy. 

The last one did not come with one, not two, but three peahens gawking at each other to walk alongside him. They tried to talk to him, he would turn the other cheek, and they would then try harder to please.