Sarasota Winter

A chilly breeze kicked in as autumn arrived in Toronto. The days grew shorter and colder. Ruby was waiting for the right moment to move to her family’s winter spot in Sarasota, Florida. Her eyes were glued to the dawn sky. When the yellow light shone on her, she shook off the last remnants of sleep and zipped due south. Never before had she been more focused on the journey.

She flew through the chilly streets of Toronto, the Mississippi riverbanks, the Appalachian Mountains, all the way to the temperate town of Sarasota. As she got closer and closer to her destination, the excited feeling of relaxing on the nice flower beds made her daydream. She continued on course for the secret winter home that had been in her family for generations but became utterly confused. All the trees, bushes, and flower fields were gone. Instead, there was a large building with many people wearing stylish clothes. As she got closer she read the sign: Westfield Mall. Surely this was just the wrong place, right? After many attempts to retrace her steps, she kept returning to the commotion of the mall.

Ruby perched in a planter of flowers and then realized they were all artificial. She was dog-tired after weeks of traveling and no longer cared. She was about to nap when a Bernese Mountain dog barreled toward her. Its wet nose sniffed Ruby’s cheek and its tongue drooped with the smell of cinnamon.

“Whoa, Lucy, come back here!” cried the dog’s owner. “Sit!”

Lucy sat. Ruby rarely met an obedient dog but she liked the big furry ones. The man who shouted ruffled the dog’s fur and fed her a treat. Then he inspected the planter Lucy had been sniffing.

“Well, what do we have here? A red-throated hummingbird. How are you, little one?” The man was middle-aged and wore a navy-blue tracksuit. Ruby had studied human behavior for years in Toronto. Her gut told her any man who was nice to a dog would be nice to a bird and decided to ask.

“Excuse me, sir. Do you know what happened to the flower fields that were here last year? I’m looking for my winter home.”

The man just smiled, not having understood. “Poor thing, you came all this way, but Mayor Brown built this mall on top of your winter home.”

Ruby sighed. Deep down, she knew this day would come but nothing could’ve prepared her to hear the news. The last thing she remembered was the man’s concerned voice as the world turned sideways.

When she opened her eyes again, she was in some kind of gazebo. All around her were birds of paradise swaying with the wind.

“Oh, you’re awake,” said the man. “It’s not the home you remembered, but you’re welcome to use my backyard till you go back north.”

Ruby perked up. It wasn’t what she expected, but until spring came again, she was happy just to have a place to stay.

Written by Shawn Hsieh