Stork's Fable by Allison Hufford

There was once a stork who fell in love with a woman.

“She’s the most beautiful woman in the world,” he told himself, and every day he’d sit outside her window and watch her stir as the sun rose and painted her face a golden hue. One day, the stork mustered enough courage to knock on the woman’s window with the tip of his beak and tell her how much he loved her.

“You are the most beautiful woman in the world,” the stork said to the woman. “And I wish to marry you and live out the rest of my days happily by your side.”

“You are very sweet,” the woman told him. “But I’m afraid we can never be. Human beings are only meant to be with other human beings, and storks are only meant to be with storks.”

Dejected and ashamed, the stork flew off into the clouds and sulked alone for three days.

“She must love me,” he told himself. “For like she is the most beautiful woman in the world, I am the most beautiful stork. If it is our differing species that tear us apart it must be because she believes only another human can bear children with her. For that she is sorely mistaken!”

The stork, being a stork, had access to all the great baby manufacturing stations in the world, so the very next day he bundled up a newborn in a white sheet he himself had spun from the clouds and delivered it to the woman’s windowsill.

“Oh my!” cried the woman when she opened the window, and she took the baby inside. The stork was pleased.

“She must love my gift very much,” he told himself. “And because she is the great love of my life, I shall give her more.”

For the next year the stork flew every day into the clouds and back again to the woman’s bedroom window, always with a new sheet and a new bundle. The trip was a very long way and eventually the stork grew tired and ill, but still his love sustained him. Finally, when the last shredding feather had fallen from his wrinkled pink wings, the stork realized he could fly no more. He settled himself on the woman’s windowsill and tapped and tapped and tapped until she came to him.

“My love!” cried the stork. “It is so wonderful to see you after so long! May I ask how you have been?”

He waited for her declarations of joy and fulfillment, so that he could lay claim to all the unexpected happiness the last year had granted her with and she would, finally, realize her undying love for him.

“Oh, it’s been terrible!” the woman cried. “I have three hundred and sixty five babies and every day they cry for food, every night for attention! I have not slept a wink for months—my eyes are sore and my hair is falling out in clumps!”

The stork could not believe his ears.

“But you have children!” he proclaimed. “A beautiful family all your own! That is every woman’s dream!”

“Not mine,” the woman told him. “I wanted to be an accountant.”

It was then that the stork really looked at the woman, and it was then that he truly began to see her. In each arm she held a screaming infant, with a third strapped to her chest and a forth to her back. Five or six toddlers tugged at the hem of her dress and behind her twenty or so more were busying themselves finger painting on the walls. The woman’s face had once been pale and smooth but now it was purple and shriveled; she’d gone from a sweet apricot to an ugly, sour prune.

“You used to be the most beautiful woman in the world!” cried the stork.

“And you the most beautiful stork in the world,” said the woman, and he remembered his fallen feathers and the pink, leathery skin exposed beneath.

“I still love you,” the stork said, because after a year of dedication what more was there to do? “I would still gladly spend the rest of my life by your side.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” the woman said. “I’m afraid motherhood doesn’t leave much time for dating.”

Then she closed her window and proceeded to tend to the three hundred sixty five children she’d never asked for.