Without further comment, here is Chapter One of What Happened to Margalo
Tap-tap-tap. Ralph Summer stood at his father’s work table in the cool, dim basement carefully hammering the last nail into his birdhouse. The afternoon sunlight cast a broad beam through the window well above him, and in the light, bits of stirred-up sawdust danced on their way to the floor. Ralph always wondered, when he saw the dust floating in the light, if the other 1300 cubic feet of air space in the basement (he had calculated it one time) also swirled with specks that you couldn’t see without the sunshine, or if really all the dust pieces flew to rays of sun just so they could dance in it. One could never really be sure about such things. He had tried once surprising the dust in the corner with a flashlight, and there they all were – the little specks twirling about in its beam. But perhaps they all came to it, as to the sunlight, and laid down again when he turned it off. It would have to be a mystery. He turned back to his work. Tap, tap, tap until the silvery nail head came even with the grainy wood, and running a thumb across, you could scarcely feel the bump to tell you it was there – that was how you knew a nail was in good.
It was Saturday, and Ralph loved to spend his Saturdays building things. Several weeks ago, he had completed a boat, and it had taken him six Saturdays to finish. Now he was building a birdhouse from instructions that he had found in a book from the library. He had put in the last nail – there had been twenty-six tiny nails in all – four connecting each side wall to the floor, three connecting each of the roof panels to the walls, four connecting – well, anyway, it had been a good deal of nailing and he was satisfied that it was done. His little sister Leona had helped him count and line up the nails, and was now carrying an extra nail back to the open box of nails on the work table. Now, Leona, it must be explained, was not a normal little sister. She was quite, well -- miniature. Since her birth three years before, Leona had grown only half an inch, and now was two and three-quarters of an inch in height. She looked a bit like a mouse, some thought, but Ralph (whom you would consider a rather normal boy) was sure she was not a mouse, as she hadn’t any tail, except a little furry bit as short as a teddy bear’s tail, which Ralph had seen when she was born. He never saw it now because she kept it modestly concealed under the miniature doll’s dresses she wore. Now Leona was standing on tip-toe on top of the workbench to peer into the bird house opening. “May I go in?” she asked in her clear, tiny voice.
“Sure,” Ralph replied. "The glue isn't quite dry yet, but it's safe." He offered Leona his hand and lifted her to the entrance. Leona neatly dropped into the birdhouse feet first and disappeared. “Sit tight” said Ralph, as he turned the bird house so that the light from the window shone into the hole.
“Oh!” he heard Leona exclaim. “How pretty. I think I will just sit here for a bit”. Ralph began to clean up. He placed the hammer head on its pegs, put the wood glue bottle on the shelf next to the crinkly curled up caulk bottles and crusty, dusty cans of leftover paint, and he put the nail boxes on the shelf below the glue. Then he swept the sawdust from the work table into the trusty orange dustpan that always hung with its accompanying brush on a nail under the work table and brushed the dust into the trash bin.
Leona was coming out of the bird house. He saw her tiny brown forefeet appear once more in the opening, and soon her pink nose and bright eyes followed, and she hopped to the work table before Ralph could offer his hand. “Very nicely done,” she said, briskly wiping the sawdust from her paws. “I wouldn’t mind living in it myself, except that it would be hard to get my bed through the hole.”
“The birds are very clever about their beds” said Ralph. “They bring them into their house piece by piece and build it inside - thick twigs and thin grass, scraps of thread, dry leaves, dog’s fur and lost feathers- all sorts of things they bring to stack and weave together for their nests. Nearly the whole house can be stuffed with the accumulated materials, and the eggs and babies rest in a nice soft bed.”
Ralph walked over the to the old wooden high chair under the window-well. The high chair had been his when he was a baby, and now was kept in the basement to be handy for when the his grown married cousins, or the Hildens from church came for dinner and needed a high chair for their baby. But right now, its patient wood tray was holding the library book, lying open to “How to Build a House for Bluebirds and Sparrows” The birdhouse was ready to be painted, if he followed the instructions in the book from the library, but Ralph didn’t want to paint it. “ Why would a bird want to live in a painted house?” he said.
“It wouldn’t” said Leona. “If I were a bird, I would want to build a nest where no one would notice me, so my eggs would be safe.”“Well, I’ve never seen a robin with a painted nest, or a woodpecker with a painted hole in an oak tree. A bird house should look natural, so the birds will know it’s a safe place to live.” said Ralph decidedly.
He looked at his finished bird house, sitting new and empty on the work table and wondered what bird might find it and want to live in it. The world was such a large and beautiful place, full of shady trees and shadowy bushes, and tall grasses, and snug dry eaves and all manner of places for sensible birds to raise a family. Would one of them think his new little bird house a suitable home? He hoped so.