By Margo Wayman
Najlaa reached up to eat the leaves off a tree. Its branches were dangling over the concrete block fence that she stood by. She had a long neck for an ostrich, and soon noticed it was getting rather stiff from reaching up to the tender shoots bursting from the woody branches. She ignored her discomfort and kept nibbling away. When she was finished, Najlaa went to pull her head down and couldn't bend it. She tried and tried. She moved it to the left, but it was too stiff. She moved it to the right, but it was too stiff. She moved it forward, then backward, but her neck was rigid and wouldn't bend. She had no choice but to walk around looking up into the sky, until the stiffness wore off.
Ramad, a furry ginger and gray cat came walking by. He saw Najlaa looking up into the sky. He wondered what she was looking at. He stopped right next to her and looked up. He saw some puffy white clouds floating by. He watched them as they slowly passed, and noticed they changed shapes. At first, one looked like a lion, then it changed shape to look like a tree. Ramad watched for a while, meowed happily, then lost interest and ran away.
A little while later, as Najlaa stood gazing upward, a cow, mooing and chewing its cud, came by. Adiba noticed the ostrich staring up into the sky. She wondered what she was looking at. Adiba stopped next to Najlaa and lifted her head. A flock of ducks flew above them. She stared at them and noticed they were flying in a V-formation. Adiba let out a loud moo and walked away, her tail swishing behind her as she headed for the field to graze.
Najlaa tried to move her head to the left, but it was still too stiff. She tried to move it to the right, but it was still too stiff. She moved it forward, then backward, but her neck was still too rigid and wouldn't bend.
The puffy white clouds that were floating by soon thickened, turned gray, and it began to sprinkle. Hafiz, the ram, came running by. He was on his way to play with some of the other sheep that were grazing at the nearby oasis. He saw Najlaa standing there, looking up at the clouds. Hafiz stopped near the ostrich and looked up to see what she was looking at. Raindrops fell onto his face. They ran down from Najlaa's beak and long neck and splattered on him. It began to rain harder and harder. Najlaa ran over and stood under a banana tree to protect her from the downpour. Hafiz, getting drenched, let out a loud and angry baa and ran off.
Kalila was swinging through the trees, her long hairy arms holding onto the palm fronds as she moved from tree to tree. The baboon grabbed hold of a clump of green bananas and pulled a few off to munch on. She looked down and saw Najlaa standing under the tree, looking up at her. She waved at her, but Najlaa didn't raise a feather to wave back. She just stood there gazing up at Kalila.
Najlaa tried to move her head to the left, but it wouldn't move. It was still stiff. She tried to move it to the right, but it wouldn't move. It was as stiff as ever. She tried to move it forward, then backward, but it still wouldn't move. What was she going to do? Her neck was so stiff. All she could do was look up at Kalila in the banana tree.
Kalila dropped a banana and it hit Najlaa right in the head. Najlaa couldn't move at all. The banana split open and banana squished all over her head. Kalila dropped another, then another, but finally, tiring of her banana dropping, she swung off to another tree, leaving Najlaa standing under the palm, looking up into the tree.
Najlaa walked over to the cement block wall. She lay her neck on the top of it, to give it a rest. Jibril, the mongoose, was running along the top of the wall and came right up to Najlaa's face. Her beak was inches away from Jibril. Jibril stopped, waiting for Najlaa to lift her head up so he could run by, but she was too tired. Jibril turned around on the wall and ran backwards. He'd have to go another way.
Elmira, the frog, came hopping along the top of the wall a short while later. She saw Najlaa's face laying on it. She stopped and waited patiently for her to lift up her face, but she wouldn't. Elmira simply jumped over Najlaa and hopped on her way.
The sun began to set in the sky. Najlaa, too tired to move, fell asleep against the wall. When Jamal, the donkey came walking by the next morning, he brayed loudly. Najlaa lifted up her head to see what the noise was. Her neck moved! She was able to move it to the left, she was able to move it to the right. She was able to move it forward and backward. She was so happy. She curled her head right down between her legs and laughed and laughed.
She'd had enough looking up into the sky and trees. She walked around all day, looking down at the ground below her and enjoying every minute of it