Even great things
begin small. Behold, a tree shall flourish from
a tiny seed; a molehill shall become a mountain.
Is this not proof of the existence of magick?
Translated from Storia Di Incanto;
Great Oak Welcome
later, birds of all shapes,
sizes, and colors landed upon the large elm
outside of Davey Boehms window. After settling
into place, they burst into song if one could
call it singing. On this particular morning,
their song didnt offer the gentle melody of
normal bird warbling. In fact, it didnt have
any musical qualities at all.
birds grew louder and louder, as if each were
trying to outdo the other. Of course, they
hadnt intended to make such a racket. Later,
they were a bit embarrassed about letting their
little party get out of control. The birds were
excited, thats all excited and more than a
little curious about the person they had come to
At first, this rather perplexing
cacophony was lost on Davey. He was fast asleep,
having arrived late at night after a long and
tedious trip from New York. Besides, he was
having a pleasant dream about baseball and in no
mood to be disturbed.
In reality, Davey was not very good at
baseball or any other sport, but in his dream,
he was a legendary homerun hitter who had just
stepped up to bat with the bases loaded. Fear
showed in the pitchers eyes as the ball leapt
from his hand, low and outside. Stepping into
the pitch, Davey swung with tremendous force and
sent the ball soaring. He dashed towards first
base as the fielder ran desperately backwards.
The crowd cheered wildly, but then the cheers
suddenly changed. Instead of yells and gleeful
shouts, they became peeps, chirps, and
cawcawcaw. Davey stopped running and looked
towards the stands. No one was there.
Hey, whats happening? he yelled, but
the sound coming from his mouth was nothing more
than a gurgling, frog-like croak. Suddenly, his
eyes popped open and he found himself sitting up
in bed. The strange noises from his dream still
rang in his ears. Only now, they came from the
raised window near his bedside. Slowly, his
brain stirred into wakefulness and the bliss of
baseball faded away.
Initially, Davey didnt know where he
was. His eyes grew wide with shock as he
surveyed the dimly lit room. Everything seemed
blurry and unfamiliar. With fumbling fingers, he
pulled his glasses onto his face. The room
greeting his eyes was not his snug little
bedroom in New York City. The sleek modern
furnishings and colorful wallpaper of his
forty-second floor condominium were gone. This
room was larger and filled with country-style
In one corner of the room, a stack of
suitcases sat idly. Resting on the floor beside
them was his computer, Friday, so named after he
had read Robinson Crusoe two years ago.
However, Friday was not showing its smiling
screensaver face the one he had animated from
a picture of a giant lizard with a flickering
red tongue. Instead, Fridays monitor was blank;
its brain disconnected.
Davey flopped down with a groan and
pulled a pillow over his head while yesterdays
events roared back into his mind. He remembered
standing at the airport as his parents boarded a
big jet bound for China he also remembered
sitting between his aunt and uncle for what
seemed like forever as their pickup made its way
to North Carolina. By the time they reached
Great Oak, he was a weary bundle of nerves.
He went right to bed as soon as they
arrived well, almost. First, he and his uncle
put his belongings in his room. After that, he
was so tired he could have slept anywhere
despite his anxiety. No question, fate had
turned his life upside down.
weeks ago, Davey had come home from school and
found his parents waiting for him. He
immediately knew something was up because of
their guilty glances. What followed was a
conversation so traumatic, he remembered it word
for horrible word. It started when his dad
announced they were going to China for an
entire year. His company wanted him to
evaluate some furniture factories that it was
thinking of buying.
The news left Davey stunned, but as he
grasped the importance of his dads words, he
leapt excitedly into the air. Im going to
China! Im going to China! he shouted
repeatedly while jumping around the living room.
A picture formed in his mind, one of him dressed
as a modern day Marco Polo riding a white horse.
Davey Boehm, Great Adventurer, read the
caption under his picture.
His dad quickly put an end to that
fantasy. Im sorry son, but you will be staying
in the United States.
Very funny, Dad, Davey replied,
positive he was kidding. Yet the grim look on
his fathers face belied the idea. As the
shocking truth sank in, Davey tried everything
he could think of to change his dads mind.
No, not a chance, his dad invariably
responded. The part of China well be going to
is rather primitive. Its too dangerous for a
Besides, you have school, his mother
Why cant I go? It cant be all that
dangerous or you wouldnt risk it. If
its school youre worried about, Ill attend
school in China.
Much to Daveys chagrin, his father shook
his head. Ive already checked that out.
Theres not a single accredited school for
American children in the whole of Kansu
Province. You cant be absent from your studies
for a year.
Davey was truly befuddled. What will I
do while youre gone?
Then his mom chimed in again. Well, your
dad and I have come up with a great idea. Youre
going to live with your Aunt Sally and Uncle
Bill in Great Oak. Weve discussed it with them
and theyre thrilled. You can continue your
schooling there and get better acquainted with
them at the same time.
A big, incredulous scowl formed on
Daveys face. Mom, I just started seventh grade
at my school here. I already know everyone and
dont want to begin over somewhere else.
His dad shrugged as if it was no big
deal. The middle school in Great Oak wont be
much different from your private school here.
Youll quickly make new friends. After all, its
only for a year.
Davey glanced at his mother with pleading
eyes. Mom, why cant you stay here with me?
His question had a childish, whining tone, which
he hated. He preferred more adult-like
His mother, whom he could usually talk
into anything, offered no help. Im sorry
Davey. Your fathers career depends upon the
success of this trip and he needs me with him.
Well be busy all the time, attending social
functions, hobnobbing with the local
authorities, and entertaining the plant managers
and their wives. Dont worry, youll like living
in Great Oak. We wouldnt send you there if we
had any concerns about it.
I dont want to live anywhere except New
York. Im not going to North Carolina. Ill be
miserable there and Im just not going! Davey
shouted, knowing it was a mistake even as he
said the words.
His dad reacted by laying down the law.
Son, youve never been to Great Oak, so dont
tell us how miserable youll be. Spending time
in a small town will let you enjoy a simpler
life, one focused on the outdoors. It will get
you away from your computer and into activities
that will put some muscle on you.
Daveys face turned red; it always did
whenever he became terribly upset or angry. In
this case, he was both. Whatever you say Dad,
he thought. He had heard his fathers toughen up
speech before. Feeling indignant and helpless,
he shut himself up in his room for the rest of
the evening. The picture of the great adventurer
had faded from his mind. Replacing it was an
image of a boy dressed in overalls, a goofy grin
spread across his face. This time, the caption
read, Davey Boehm, Country Bumpkin. He
was sure it was a premonition.
Davey sighed as he looked around his new
bedroom. So here he was, stuck in North Carolina
for a year with Aunt Sally and Uncle Bill, two
people he barely knew. Oh, they were nice enough
all right. It wasnt that. However, they werent
his parents. Plus, he was missing out on China.
The whole thing made him scream, which is
exactly what he had done at his parents until he
was blue in the face. Still, it hadnt done any
good. Their decision was final end of story.
Feeling dejected, Davey threw his pillow
across the room. The clock on the bedside table
stared at him with big red numbers, proclaiming
it was 6:00 a.m. Phooey, he said aloud. Liking
the sound, he said it again, only louder this
time. With so much noise outside, there was no
point in trying to sleep. It sounded like a mob
was out there.
Davey climbed out of bed and walked
towards the window. A gentle breeze fluttered
the curtains like sails on a boat. He pushed
them aside and peered cautiously out. The rising
sun flashed in his eyes, making it hard to see,
but the birds in the tree saw Davey perfectly.
As soon as he appeared, they erupted into a
chorus of sound so cheerfully loud it was
tree where they perched stood near the house,
some branches practically touching the siding.
As Daveys vision cleared, an incredible sight
appeared before his eyes. Birds literally filled
the tree, hundreds of them, all lined up on the
branches. They werent merely sitting there, no
indeed. Every bird was staring straight at him.
Davey didnt know what to think. While
the sight of so many birds startled him, it
didnt surprise him entirely. Over the past
several years, unusual things like this had
happened to him with increasing frequency.
Whenever he walked along the street, dogs and
cats would approach him. They would wag their
tails and circle him as though he was a long
lost friend. In Central Park, squirrels and
rabbits followed him around, three or four at a
time. Sometimes, a whole gang of them would come
up and sit quietly beside him while he was
reading on a bench or sailing his model boat in
the pond. Odd, he thought whenever this
happened, how very odd.
At first, it had only been four-legged
creatures, but lately birds had started to pay
Davey this special sort of attention. He could
hardly sit outside anymore without one or two
birds fluttering around overhead or even
perching on his shoulder. Last month, right
after his thirteenth birthday, a severe cold
kept him in bed for a few days. On the very
first day, seven ravens crowded onto the sill of
his window. They stayed there the entire day,
often pecking on the glass as if reminding him
of their presence. This seemed particularly
strange because he had never seen ravens in New
Although these interactions with birds
and animals seemed random and irrational, Davey
felt like they werent. He didnt know why they
were happening, but he was certain about one
thing. They were occurring for a reason. He
tried discussing it with his mother several
weeks ago. They were in Central Park, and he
noticed her studying him while five squirrels
sat nearby as he innocently ate an ice cream
cone. She had a strange look on her face, as
though worrying about something. Suddenly, he
stared into her eyes. Mom, why do you think
birds and animals like me so much?
She looked pensive, as if thinking it
over. Finally, she sighed. I dont know. Maybe
something about you attracts them. There are
some strange genes mixed up in your little body
most of them from my side of the family.
Naturally, her answer prompted more
questions. I dont understand. Animals and
birds dont act the same way around you, so how
could it be genetic? Has anyone else in your
family had these experiences?
She shook her head. Im not sure,
perhaps my grandmother did. It may sound
strange, but theres a lot about my ancestors I
dont know. Look at it this way. Genetic or not,
you have a special gift, one which may come in
handy some day.
Her remark made Davey even more curious.
Ive always wondered about your family. We talk
about Dads parents and grandparents all the
time, but all you ever say about your relatives
is that theyre all dead.
His mother frowned, clearly regretting
the subject had come up. When youre a little
older, well have a long talk about them. For
now, all you need to know is that they were
people of a different sort.
Davey found this confusing because he
didnt understand her meaning of the word
different. Did she mean different in a good way
or in some other way? He didnt like the latter
possibility, so a veritable flood of questions
poured from his mouth. However, she wouldnt say
anything more, leaving him worried. She was
keeping some terrible secret from him. He was
sure of it.
Now, looking out the window of his aunts
house, Davey thought about his mother, missing
her and wondering what she would say about this
weird gathering of birds. They were really
raising a racket almost demanding his
attention. There must be a reason why they
are here, he thought.
As he watched them, his imagination came
up with an answer. The birds were some sort of a
welcoming committee just stopping by to say
hello. He didnt know why birds would do such a
thing, but he liked the idea. His bad humor
gradually faded and he smiled. All right, he
said, sticking his head out the window. Hello
and thank you for coming. But if you dont mind,
take the volume down a bitand not so early next
At the sound of his voice, the birds grew
silent and just stared at him. This is too
bizarre for words, he thought. Then he
noticed a cluster of ravens at the top of the
tree. They seemed somewhat aloof from the rest
of the birds, as if they had a more important
role in this little drama. For a fleeting
moment, he had the ridiculous idea that they
were the same ravens who had perched at his
window in New York. The ravens stared at him as
though awaiting his acknowledgement.
This prompted Davey to embellish his
remarks. Really, I mean it. Hello to the
robins, the finches, the mockingbirds, the blue
jays, the woodpeckers, and a very special hello
to the ravens at the top. You werent in New
York recently by any chance? Davey watched the
ravens closely when he said this. Did I see a
flicker of recognition in those beady eyes?
he continued. I was a little homesick this
morning, but I feel better as a result of your
gracious welcome. So thanks for being here. Ill
look forward to seeing more of you during my
visit. The birds broke into song again as
if applauding Daveys words. This time, there
was even a little melody in their warbling.
Finally, with several nods of his head and a
wave towards the ravens up at the top, Davey
quietly shut the window. Rolling his eyes, he
sighed heavily. I am totally losing it, he
All of a sudden, a different sound
startled him a low scratching noise, which
came from somewhere nearby. Davey looked back at
the window, thinking the birds were pecking on
the pane. To his astonishment, not a single bird
was in sight none on the tree and none on the
windowsill. He froze in his tracks, listening.
There it is again, he thought. Now, he
was sure the sound came from somewhere inside.
He made a running dive for his bed and began
The scratching became louder, accompanied
by a clicking sound. Thats when he realized the
bedroom door was banging against the door latch.
The way the door pushed against the latch made
it obvious that something big was trying to get
into the room.
Davey grinned from ear-to-ear because he
guessed what it was. He started for the door
with an excited shout, but one foot caught in
the bedding and he tripped. Instead of reaching
the door, all he succeeded in doing was falling
on his face near the doorway. At that exact
moment, the door swung open.
A large golden retriever stared down at
him. Davey was sure the dog was laughing, black
eyes crinkling at the corners, tail flopping
back and forth. Well hello, Davey said. Are
you part of the welcoming committee?
Woof, barked the dog.
Ill bet you planned on waking me up.
Sorry, but the birds got here first. Davey sat
up and began rubbing his elbow where it had
banged against the floor. Did you see me fall?
I was doing a stunt mans trick in case you
didnt know. Just call me Dangerous Dave from
Woof, woof, the dog replied and then
licked him in the face.
Davey grabbed the dogs collar and
wrestled him to the floor. The friendly
retriever played along, licking him again. A few
minutes later, the dogs ears perked up and his
head turned towards the door. Davey heard his
aunts steps on the wooden floor downstairs.
Bristol, where are you? Time for breakfast,
she called. The dog rose, stared at the open
doorway, and then looked longingly at Davey.
You must be Bristol, Davey said.
Well, youd better go eat.
The dog licked him one last time,
twirled in a circle, and ran out the door, his
claws clattering on the floor in the hallway.
Davey smiled wistfully as he watched him go. The
animal's presence put a slightly different slant
on things. He had always wanted a dog, but his
condominium in New York didnt allow them. Now,
he had Bristol, which made his spirits rise.
He turned and surveyed his new bedroom
with less pessimistic eyes. It was kind of nice
actually. The peaked roof of the house cut into
parts of the ceiling, creating some interesting
angles. A small wooden desk sat in an alcove on
one side, a good home for Friday. Alongside the
desk was an overstuffed chair, an inviting place
to read, and behind the desk were two large
windows covered by denim curtains.
the curtains aside, he looked down on an
expansive back yard. Large trees, so tall they
towered above the house, stood everywhere. Their
leaves shimmered in the morning light as they
twirled in the soft breeze.
Wow, what a great backyard, he
thought. Some of those trees look climbable
too. He had always wanted to climb a tree,
yet never had the chance mainly because the
only trees in New York were in the parks; it was
against the rules to climb them. First thing
after school, Im going to climb a tree, he
School! Davey exclaimed, almost
shouting. He had just thought about school. The
moment had arrived the day when he would start
a new school. Ever since his parents had decided
to ship him off to North Carolina, he had been
dreading this day.
Davey readily admitted he wasnt a very
popular kid at his old school. He pretended it
didnt matter to him, although it did. You
can't change the way others feel about you, so
dont worry about it, he often told himself.
In Daveys opinion, his problem was that he was
short for his age, thin, and worst of all,
nearsighted. He wore thick eyeglasses, which
gave him tunnel vision. This effected his
coordination and made him a terrible athlete.
Sports were an important activity at his school,
so being a poor athlete was not a distinction he
Since Davey felt physically inferior to
most of his classmates, he was a loner. Oh sure,
he had a few friends, but they werent close
ones. Mostly, everyone treated him as though he
were a nerd. They called him nicknames like the
brain or computer head because he was a top
Still, making good grades
gives me some status, he thought.
Besides, he had a quick wit and sometimes made
clever wisecracks in class ones making the
other kids laugh. That had raised his popularity
Then there was Alice Sterling, a cute
dark-haired girl whom he secretly liked. For
some reason, she had spoken to him twice in the
last week. All she had done was ask about a
homework assignment, yet she could have asked
anyone. Instead, she had picked him, which meant
something. Davey believed it meant she liked him
too, but hed probably never find out now. He
groaned with exasperation. He liked his old
school and knew where he stood among his
classmates. Having a place in the pecking order
was a source of comfort, even if it was
somewhere near the bottom.
In Daveys mind, a school in a small town
would be completely different. He would be a
total nobody in an environment where how far he
could throw a football, or hit a baseball, or
spit tobacco juice for that matter, were the
important things. What he was good at wouldnt
mean anything. His sense of humor would probably
be over everyones heads, or worse, get him
punched in the face.
With his gloom
returning, Davey opened his suitcases and began
unpacking his clothes. He tried to think about
Bristol and climbing the trees in Aunt Sallys
back yard, but anxiety over his new school kept
creeping into his mind. It was going to be a
disaster. He was sure of it, a complete and