Fire in the belly

The excitement at Aviary School could be felt for miles. The birds were busy decorating the outdoor premises of their school. A pair of bluebirds was carefully stringing together garlands of daisies. A bunch of magpies were chattering animatedly as they hung up the sweet-smelling garlands of jasmines from one tree branch to another. The Ostriches helped put up the trestle tables and podium which had been lovingly crafted by a group of wood peckers.

Just then, Wiz Rooster flew down near the area where Dazel and her friend Swain the Swan were making a list of the food items for that night.

"Hello, dears! I can see that the preparations for tonight and going very well," remarked Wiz Rooster with a smile.

"Oh yes!" replied Dazel spiritedly. "This annual Teacher's Day dinner which the students throw for their teachers every year at Aviary School is a much-anticipated event. Everyone looks forward to it the entire year!"

"We can't wait for the event to start after dusk today. This is one time of the year when we are able to freely interact with our teachers whom we admire so much. It is also an opportunity to express how grateful we are for all the efforts our teachers put in to mentor us and guide us," joined in Swain.

Just then, Oswald the owl flew up to Wiz Rooster. "Sir, I'm afraid I have some bad news. We might have to cancel our function tonight."

"What happened?" cried Dazel and Swain in unison.

"It's the fireflies, Sir," said Oswald.

"They have refused to come to the Teacher's Day Function and without them there will be darkness. How will we have the party after dusk if there are no fireflies to give us light?"

Wiz Rooster was thoughtful. "Why have they refused to come? Are they upset about something?"

Oswald said, "Maybe, but they did not explain themselves. When I went to tell them that they would be needed tonight, they just refused point blank without a trace of explanation."

"I should go and talk to them," said Wiz Rooster. "I'm afraid we have been taking the fireflies for granted. Ever since I can recall, they have been around to add light and life to our evening and nocturnal parties and gatherings," explained the Rooster. "But maybe we have not been giving them their due respect."

"If you are going, may I accompany you?" asked the curious Dazel, expectantly. "Yes, why not," said Wiz Rooster and the two birds set off. "The fireflies like warm environments and thus they live in the dense Dark Forest, in the region where it is the dampest," said Wiz Rooster to Dazel as they flapped their wings, allowing the soft morning breeze to ruffle their feathers.

"I find it so fascinating that they produce light," said Dazel eagerly. "How does that happen?"

"Well, it is obvious why they are named `fireflies'—they are actually from the beetle family and they produce light of yellow, green or pale red in flashes. The winged insects are the fireflies while the other luminous insects from the same family are commonly called 'glow worms," answered Wiz Rooster, smiling at Dazel's intelligent question. "Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat—what we refer to as`cold light'.

"Why are they created with such a feature, I wonder?" said Dazel encouraged by Wiz Rooster's detailed answer.

"God has made each creature unique. And we must remember that if our unique traits can help make the lives of other creatures easier, it is a great blessing. Imagine what we, in D'Land, would be at night without these fireflies to give us light?" said Wiz Rooster solemnly.

"Each blinking pattern that fireflies emit is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Firefly light may also be a defense mechanism that flashes a clear warning of the insect's unappetizing taste."

"Aren't fireflies nocturnal? Will they be awake right now in the daytime?" quizzed Dazel as they neared the lush, green canopy of the Dark Forest.

"Yes, most of them are nocturnal but when they live in shadowy places like the Dark Forest then they are awake and produce light during the day too," the Rooster answered.

By this time, the two birds had reached the dampest part of the Dark Forest. Wiz Rooster landed under the shade of a thick tree near a marsh. Dazel could see him whisperng to a group of brown and soft-bodied insects with leathery wings.

Wiz Rooster finally walked away from the group of fire-flies. All this while, Dazel was waiting in anticipation wondering if Aviary School would have to postpone their Teacher's Day festivities that night if Wiz Rooster was unable to convince the fireflies to come. "It would be such a disappointment; the moonlight will not be enough to illuminate the evening party," Dazel thought to herself.

When Wiz Rooster bid farewell to the fireflies he had an unreadable expression on his face. Dazel was considerate and patient enough not to question him even though her heart was thumping wildly with curiosity. Once the two birds had flown away from the forest and Dazel could no longer control herself, she blurted out, "So, will they come tonight?" Wiz Rooster smiled, "Yes!" he answered.

Then with a more solemn countenance he continued, "I had to apologize for all the times we have taken them for granted. They felt that they are never invited to any evening event — they are just ordered to come. And their younger generation does not approve of this kind of treatment."

"Yes, they are right!" agreed Dazel. “We must give them their due. They have served D'Land for so long and they deserve to be appreciated for that. Tonight, maybe we can dedicate a speech just for them."

"That's a wonderful suggestion," said Wiz Rooster nodding in approval.

That night, the Aviary School premises was aglow with the flickering of the festive fire flies. Their soft light complimented the floral arrangements and illuminated the tables laden with food and the podium where the speeches were being made.

"At the end of yet another wonderful Teacher's Day celebration, I would like to say a special thank you to my firefly friends," said Wiz Rooster from the podium. "They have dedicated their generations to making all our evening gatherings successful. Let us give them a huge round of applause to express our gratitude for their selfless support and service.”

There was thunderous applause which refused to die down. The fire flies all blushed with pleasure.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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