I Whistled and the Sky Danced
By Lillian Norma Gillingham
Bernice woke up tingling with excitement. Today was the day her older brother was going to teach her how to whistle. Ever since she could remember, Bernice followed her brother everywhere. At first he didn’t mind but now that he and his friends were 10 years old, he didn’t want her to play with them anymore. Besides, his friends teased him every day.
“Is your little sister coming with us again?” Or “Can’t she just stay home today?” Or “Doesn’t she have her own friends?” they always asked. One day they even said it to her.
Bernice had always tagged along with Robert so she couldn’t understand why his friends would not want her with them. When they went fishing, Bernice went fishing too. When they went swimming, there was Bernice splashing around in the water pretending she could swim. When they rode their bikes to the baseball field, she rode as fast as she could to keep up with them.
Robert had never minded having his sister with him. However, now that he was getting older, it wasn’t cool to have a little sister tag along all the time.
Robert had been teaching her how to ever since she asked him how to tie her shoelaces when she was only three years old. He knew how badly Bernice wanted to whistle so he made a deal with her. “If I teach you how to whistle will you stop tagging along with us?”
Bernice had never tired of being with her brother. He had taught her how to eat spaghetti one by one without getting her face all dirty. He taught her how to make shadow animals with her fingers and how to ride her bike when she outgrew her tricycle. But now he was going to teach her the best thing of all. How to whistle!
Up until now, no matter how hard she tried, Bernice could only blow silence. She wanted their dog, Mutt to come to her just the way he did for Robert when he whistled for him. And when they were hiking in the woods, she always knew how to find her way back to Robert because she could follow his whistle. She longed to be able to whistle back to let him know where she was instead of having to yell to out to him.
Bernice wanted to continue playing with her brother and his friends but what she wanted more than anything in the world was how to whistle. Besides, she thought if she could whistle like Robert and his friends, they would want her back, so she agreed.
Straight away right after breakfast, they went up to the bathroom to practice in front of a mirror.
“You have to hurry and learn this fast because Joey and Tim will be here soon. We’re packing a lunch and going even farther in the woods today to build a new fort,” Robert told her.
“Okay,” said Bernice, “I’m ready.”
“Look,” said Robert, “all you have to do is tuck your tongue behind your teeth like this, pucker your lips and then blow through the tunnel.”
“Like this,” he said as he whistled just to show her how to do it.
“Easy, Peasy,” Robert smiled encouragingly. He always said “Easy, Peasy” whenever he showed her something new to do and so she always learned to do it quickly.
“Easy, Peasy,” she smiled back at him. But this time it was not Easy Peasy. Bernice puckered up her lips, curled her tongue and blew. Silence was all that came out. Robert showed her again but this time more slowly. Bernice took a deep breath and tried even harder. Still no sound. She blew and blew, each time getting redder and redder in the face.
Finally, Robert could take it no longer. He laughed, “You may not be able to whistle but you’d sure be good at blowing up balloons!” Robert had never laughed at her before when she was learning things, so she felt hurt. It hurt her so much she started crying.
Robert hadn’t meant to make her cry. He told her to keep practicing and if she didn’t get it by the time he got back, he’d show her how to whistle with her fingers.
Determined to learn, she kept at it. Pursing and curling and blowing until her whole face hurt, she spent most of the morning in front of the mirror.
“Why don’t you leave it for a while?” her mother suggested. “Read some of your books to me while I work on your quilt.” Bernice loved reading so she gathered up an armful of books and plopped herself down in the middle of the den with her mother. She read until lunchtime.
As soon as she finished her lunch, she went back to the bathroom to try whistling again. A sharp little sound came out. She couldn’t believe her ears. She tried again. The same thing happened! She ran downstairs to show her mother.
“Wonderful,” her mother said as she hugged her. “Now what am I going to do with a whistling girl? I know. After you’ve helped me with the shopping, you can whistle your brother back for supper.”
Bernice was so excited she whistled all the way to the grocery store, up and down every aisle and all while she and her mother were putting away the groceries. As soon as they finished she threw on her jacket, skipped out the back door, ran up the garden path and into the woods to show her brother that she could whistle. Off she went on the familiar path. She whistled at the trees, at the flowers and even at a rabbit that ran across the path in front of her.
On and on she went, whistling at everything in sight. Finally, she broke into the clearing she knows so well. Bursting with pride she raced right into the middle, whistling to the right, whistling to the left and all around. The boys were nowhere in sight so she stopped whistling and called out to them. “Robert, Joey, Tim,” she called out to them at the top of her lungs, “I can whistle!”
She ran to all their hiding spots but they weren’t anywhere to be found. Then she remembered Robert had said they were going to a new place that Tim had found earlier that week. She had forgotten he said that was where they were going to build their new fort. Feeling confident, she set off on one of the side paths to find them. After about half an hour, she started to panic because it was getting dark. She whistled, she called and she whistled.
No one answered. It was getting cooler so she pulled her jacket tightly over her shoulders. It was a bit scary so she began to run back home. All of a sudden she stopped. Where was she? Everything looked the same but different. She couldn’t tell in the dark just where she was. Somehow she had taken a wrong turn. Not knowing what to do, she sat down on a rock to catch her breath.
Robert had always protected her so she knew he would come looking for her. Pulling her jacket even closer around her she looked up at the sky and saw a wondrous sight. She’d heard her parents talking about the Northern Lights many times but she’d never seen them herself. It made her so happy, she started to whistle. As she did, the lights in the sky moved. She whistled again. They moved even more. Now she couldn’t help herself. She was so excited she forgot all about being lost.
With her head thrown back, she got up from the rock and moved to the rhythm of the sky.
“We’re dancing!” she shouted up to the sky. She was so entranced by it all that she didn’t even hear Robert come up behind her.
“What are you doing?” Robert called out.
“Oh, Robert!” Bernice shouted as she threw her arms around him. “I whistled and the sky danced!”
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