Scottish Crossbill


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“Njihia, what are you doing under there?”
“Just drawing, Baba.”
As Njihia crawled out, he pushed his glasses up his face, and his father smiled at the resemblance. “That’s a great bird, son, what is it? A finch?”
Njihia shrugged.
“Baba, he’s been drawing them all over the place. He even drew one on my Biology book!” Ciru leaned out the door to glare at her little brother.
“Is that right, Njihia?” The little boy nodded and bowed his head. “What do you say to your sister?”
“Sorry, Ciru.”
“At least it was Biology and not History, right Ciru? Would you like some wrapping paper to cover it?”
She shrugged. “Nah, it’s not that bad, I guess. But don’t do it again!”
“What have we here, Jay?” John grimaced at his colleague’s plummy English inability to pronounce Kikuyu names. “I say! Is this a Scottish Crossbill?” Njihia shrugged. “Have you been learning about British fauna at school?”
“Birds and animals,” translated John. Njihia shook his head.
Grace looked over his shoulder. “That’s strange. All the children were drawing these today. It’s like a fad. Kids sitting in little corners, scribbling these little birds. I didn’t know that’s what they were, I thought it was a competition.”
“These birds are endemic to Britain. He’s captured an amazing likeness, the colour, the crossed bill.”
“But why would a class full of Kenyan kids start drawing it? There must be some British kid showing the others a picture.”
“Not that I know of,” shrugged Grace.
“Well, where are they getting this idea? It’s not like kids are known for their ornithology. And why an English bird?”
John waved his hand impatiently. “Where did you learn to draw this, Njihia?” The little boy just shrugged again. “How can you not know?”
“Njihia, go and play now darling.” Grace frowned at John as she walked past him.
Joseph was staring at his phone. “Look at this. I was googling the crossbill to show you how well he’d done, and it’s all over the news. Kids everywhere drawing the same thing. This is very strange, John.”
John could feel the hairs on his arms rising as he checked facebook, to see pictures from old school friends all over the world uploading the same picture. Sri Lanka, Canada, Japan, South Africa, USA, various reds, various poses, all distinctively the same bird. Even his nephew in the UK, just two, had made a scribble which somehow had distinctive crossbill features.
He marched into his children’s room. Ciru was doodling in the corner of her notepad, reading her textbook.
“What the hell is this?” She jumped and looked at her paper. A delicate biro picture of a fat, fluffy little bird betrayed her. Behind her, on the floor, Njihia was surrounded by dozens of pictures and was scribbling at another one frantically. “Stop that, Njihia. Stop!” John snatched the picture out of his hand, and stared at Njihia scribbling straight onto the floor below. “What are you doing? Stop that. Just stop it!”
“John, put him down!”
Grace rushed into the room, grabbing his arm. He’d been shaking his little boy, his hands trembling beyond control as he put him back down. Njihia, tears flooding down his round cheeks, chest shaking with sobs, picked up the red pen, and sat down at another piece of paper.

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