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Hector was a thoroughly unpleasant little boy. He didn’t go outside to play nicely; he went out to chase birds.

He would chase sparrows in the garden; he would chase pigeons in the streets; and he would chase ducks by the river.

His favourite target, however, was the herons.

When he saw a heron standing peacefully at the water’s edge, he would grin wickedly.

“HEROOOON!”

He would yell and rush towards them, startling them into the air. As they flew away on great, wide wings, he would laugh and shout after them.

Once they were gone, he would sit under the bridge chucking sticks and stones into the water until the herons came back, so he could chase them off again.

“You shouldn’t do that, you know.”

Hector looked up, startled. He hadn’t noticed the woman until she spoke. She towered over him, a slim but imposing figure in black clothes, with bright red hair.

Hector folded his arms and looked up at her stubbornly. “Do what?”

“Hassle the herons,” she said. “They don’t like it.”

“Oh yeah,” Hector said, “And what are they going to do about it?”

She smiled. “You’ll see,” she said with a glint in her eye, then she turned and walked away.

“Bah,” muttered Hector. “Bored of stupid herons anyway.”

He wandered home slowly, stopping to run at a bunch of ducks and to throw a really big stick into the water just for the hell of it. He wasn’t in any hurry, anyway, since his mother was out for the day.

He opened the back door and stopped on the doorstep, his eyes wide in shock. His mother’s kitchen – her pride and joy – was in complete disarray. The cupboards were all open, the pots and pans were everywhere. He picked one of them up; it was muddy and a single feather clung to it.

He was still staring at it when his mother got home.

“Hector! Look at this mess, what did you do this for?”

“I didn’t,” he protested, “It was the herons!”

“Herons?” His mother clipped him around the ear and shoved him towards the stairs. “I’ll give you herons, my lad. You’re going to bed right now, without any supper!”

From his bedroom window, Hector looked out towards the river, where the herons stood peacefully by the water’s edge.

© Kari Fay

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