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Dinner With Henry 51: Winifred's Quest

By Bruce Memblatt

Winifred sat in her crib playing with her wing. Questions filled her mind. The sun was rising over Delancey Street, sifting through the shutters in the nursery. She turned on her side and pulled on her wing and then she giggled, when she saw the shadow of her father's head appear over her crib.

Then she looked at him, her blue eyes twinkling, and she said, "Daddy, does everyone have wings?"

Henry pulled in closer, straightening his wing, and he said, "No, not everyone, but birds do and insects do, and poultry does."

Winifred scrunched her little nose and giggled, "Are we like chickens, Daddy?"

"Not exactly, Winifred," Henry smiled, "we're not like chickens."

"But chickens can't fly, and neither can we, and we both have wings. Why can't we fly?" Winifred said and then she stretched her tiny legs.

Henry pulled a chair over to the side of the crib, and sat down next to Winifred and said, "Because we're half- human and too heavy to fly."

"What about fish? Like my gold fish. They have fins. Are fins wings? Can fish fly?"

"They can fly in the water. I guess you could say fins are wings for fish."

"But they can't fly in the air like birds?"

"No, honey, just in the water," Henry said, feeling a headache coming on.

Then Winifred stretched her little arms and she said, "How far can birds fly?"

"I don't know."

"Where would you fly it you could, daddy?"

"I don't know ... maybe to Paris?"

"Where is Paris?"

"It's in France."|

"How far is France?"

"Three thousand six hundred and twenty-four miles."

Then Diego entered the nursery. Their heads turned as she called, Henry, Henry, something is in the kitchen. I think it's a cockroach. Come kill it."

Henry paused, squinting at Diego, and he said, "But a cockroach is a bug, isn't it?"

Casually, Diego tossed her hair and hushed, "A cockroach is a cockroach, just go and kill it, Henry."

Then Henry stood from the chair and began to walk to the door.

"The Raid is under the sink!" Diego cried.

Henry cringed and made his way into the kitchen.

Watching her father, Winifred cooed and she began to play with her wing again, giggling. Then she turned and looked up at Diego and said, her blue eyes twinkling, "Mommy, does everyone have wings?"

Diego pointed her finger in the air and said, "No, only you and your father and your grandmother and Aunt Elvira have wings."

"But what about bugs and insects and poultry?" Winifred said, curling her little fingers.

"Poultry aren't people. I thought you meant people. Here, honey, hold still while I straighten your hair."

Winfried's lips pursed. "Please don't straighten my hair, Mommy."

"Okay."

"I have a wing -- why can't I fly?"

"Because you need two wings to fly."

A confused look appeared on Winifred's face and she said, "Oh." And after a brief pause she said, "Why do I only have one wing?"

"Because you're half-bug, one half of two is one."

"Where would you go if you could fly? Would you go to Paris?"

"No," Diego breathed, "I'd go to Berlin and become a singer."

"A singer like Andre?"

"No not like Andre. Can I leave now?"

"Just one more question, please."

"Okay."

"Where do wings come from?"

"I don't know, Winifred, I have to go." Diego said marched toward the door.

Winifred watched her mother leave, and then she resumed playing with her wing. Cooing she rolled over and pinched it with her little hand when she heard Andre's voice.

"Hello little, Winifred," Andre said as he looked over the crib and grinned.

"Hello, Uncle Andre. I have a question."

"A question?" Andre said with a puzzled look on his face.

"Yes, does everyone have wings?"

Andre quivered and his hands shook. "Oh my, I have to be so careful how I answer because you are young and impressible. If I answer it wrong, I could do untold damage. Are you sure you want me to answer a question, little Winifred? After all I'm merely a chef, what do I know about wings and things?"

"Please Andre," Winifred said with a longing twinkle in her eye.

"Aw, look at the look in your eyes. You want to know things. You are so inquisitive. I will attempt to answer your question, Winifred. The answer is no."

"That's all, Uncle Andre?" Winifred said pointing her little fingers, "just 'no?'"

Andre covered his face and said, "Well, I figure I am safe with short answers. That way you can't misinterpret anything and have your childhood destroyed like mine was!"

A look of shock came over Winifred's face; she was about to cry when Andre said, sweat pouring down his brow, "Wait, no! I was just kidding, Winifred. Please, please, ask me another question.

"Okay," she said and began to coo again. "My daddy said birds and insects and poultry have wings."

"Yes indeed, poultry does have wings. And you know, Winifred I can make the most delicious roast chicken. And sometimes I cook chicken wings."

A shocked looked returned to Winifred's face , her hands frozen.

Andre began to shake. "Oh no! I have done it again! See? This is why I wanted to stick to short answers. See what I have done! Who knows what damage I have caused to your young psyche! But if I may, speaking of things that fly, some dinosaurs had wings when they roamed the earth many years ago."

Winifred's little eyes open wide. "What are dinosaurs?"

Andre waved his hands and said, "They are large animals that lived on the earth before us."

"What happened to them?"

"An asteroid struck the earth and killed them all."

"Oh my! Do asteroids have wings?"

"No I don't believe asteroids have wings, little Winifred." Andre sighed.

"Then how do they fly?"

"Well, like the earth, they sail through space, where there is no gravity."

"Gravity?"

"Yes, if there was no gravity we would all fly."

Then Winifred pursed her lips and said, "I hate gravity. "

"Can I go now, please?"

Winifred grinned. "Okay, Uncle Andre."

Winifred watched Andre as he left the room twitching. Smiling, she returned to playing with her wing, cooing and gurgling, making cute baby sounds, when she spotted Shakespeare standing at the side of her crib.

Then she scrunched her little face and said, "Hi, Uncle Shakespeare!"

"Hiya, Winifred," he said.

"Shakespeare, I have a question, does everyone have wings?"

Shakespeare scratched his head, and he said, "Love looks not with eyes, but with the mind. And therefore is wing'd cupid painted blind nor hath love's mind of any judgment taste. Wings and no eyes figure unheady haste. And therefore is love said to be a child. Because in choice, he is oft beguiled." Then he waddled away.

Winifred watched Shakespeare as he closed the door behind him. Then she reached under her pillow and pulled out a crayon and a piece of paper, and with her little hands she began to write.

"Dear diary,

"I have been desperately trying to figure out why I have a wing. The adults don't seem to be of any use. They each tell me something different. Shakespeare said wings confuse. They sure do."

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-08-01
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