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The Professor and the Birds

Christmas Short Story
by RL Williams

Based on The Man and the Birds
Original Author Unknown
Retold by the Late Paul Harvey for Decades

The Professor and the Birds adaptation by RL Williams

Editor’s Note: The Professor and the Birds short story is based on the classic Christmas story titled The Man and the Birds. The origin and author of The Man and the Birds is unknown. The late Chicago based news broadcaster Paul Harvey retold this story for decades on his Christmas radio broadcast.

According to Mr. Harvey, “the story was originally published by United Press International by Louis Cassels, a longtime friend of mine and colleague. He and I tried for many years to trace the author of these words. We never could and it occurs to me that maybe some things are supposed to be written without credit to any particular individual …”

For 2017, the 20 year anniversary of the Holiday Short Story project, I wanted to do something different and special. Instead of a new story, I decided to do a contemporary adaptation of The Man and the Birds. It is my hope that The Man and the Birds, a powerful yet simple Christmas story, will continue to be told for many years to come and will not be forgotten.

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, tells the true story of what Christmas is all about. It’s a fable, a fictional story, a myth based on false beliefs,” Professor Rey stated.

“The story of a higher power, or ‘God’, coming to earth as a man can’t happen, didn’t happen, and makes no sense. Why would a powerful ‘God’ need to do that? Those that believe it expect you to believe it based on faith alone, not facts,” he explained.

“I prefer the factual, the concrete, the observable universe instead of the fictional faith based storytellers,” he said in summation.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight, Christmas Eve, for my ‘Truth About Christmas’ lecture,” he added.

“I’ll end it tonight, not with a ‘Merry Christmas’ but rather with a more appropriate ‘Happy Holidays’. Good Evening,” he concluded.

The twenty or so people in attendance quickly exited the small auditorium.

Soon after, Professor Rey locked the doors and left. As he walked to his car, the wind picked up and snow flurries began to fall.

The drive home was uneventful except for the traffic jam caused by parishioners waiting to enter a church parking lot for a Christmas Eve service.

“If these people only knew the truth,” he though out loud as he slowly passed the church.

Minutes later, he pulled into his driveway, opened the garage door, parked his car, and went inside to the warmer confines of his house.

After a light dinner, Professor Rey went over to the large living room window and noticed that the snowfall was getting heavier.

He settled into his easy chair in the living room next to the fireplace.

“Time to catch up on some of my science journals,” he decided, as he opened up one of the magazines to an article titled ‘Rewriting the Axioms of Quantum Theory’.

After a few pages of reading, he glanced up at the living room window and noticed the snowfall was now the heaviest it had been all evening.

Not long after he returned to his journal, he was startled by a loud popping sound in the direction of the window.

Then another pop, a thud, and yet another muddled pop.

He quickly got up and went to the window to investigate.

At first he thought that maybe someone was throwing snowballs at his window.

Turning on the outside lights and looking around he saw something unexpected.

A flock of birds was huddled miserably in the snow on the ground.


“They must have flown into the window during the snowstorm,” he figured.

“Well, I can’t let these poor birds freeze out there. Let me see what I can do for them,” he decided.

The professor put on his coat and boots and went outside.

He tried catching the birds but when he got too close they would flutter away.

He tried approaching them very slowly but once again, when he got too close they scattered.

“Hmmm,” he looked around, thinking about what he could do.

Noticing the garage, he had an idea.

After opening the garage door, he backed his car out and parked it in the driveway.

With the light on and a small portable heater now going in the garage, he figured that should provide a nice warm temporary place for the birds.

“That should do it. All I have to do is get the birds to go into the garage,” he smiled with confidence.

He went back to where the birds were and tried to coax them in the direction of the garage.

The birds just did not want to go in the direction he wanted.

He tried shooing them in. He tried walking around and waving his arms and gesturing to them.

The birds scattered in every direction, every direction except toward the open and safe garage.

“What else can I do?” he questioned. “Any move I make seems to frighten them away.”

“I think I know the answer, food will entice them in,” he reasoned.

He went back into the house and returned with a few slices of bread that he broke up into smaller pieces.

He sprinkled the pieces of bread in a line leading to the warm lighted wide open garage.

But still, the birds did not go in. They ignored the bread trail.

“I don’t get it,” he thought out loud. “I’m not trying to hurt them, I’m trying to help them.”

“But I guess they don’t know that,” he sighed.

“They must be afraid of me,” he realized. “To them I probably seem like a giant and powerful and terrifying creature. Someone they don’t trust and someone they don’t understand.”

He spent a few moments pondering the situation.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought, “I could walk among them, speak their language and tell them that they could trust me and if they would do what I suggested they would be safe and ok.”

“If I could tell them that I wanted to help them and that I was not going to hurt them,” he reasoned.

“But to do that,” he paused with a sigh, “to do that I would have to become one of them so that they could see and hear and understand...”

The snowfall had now stopped and Professor Rey stood there, silent, looking down at the birds.

Moments later, church bells began to ring in the distance.


He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fideles, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

As the bells continued to echo the true story of Christmas, he sank to his knees in the snow...


Merry Christmas

Help continue this Christmas Story tradition. Your donations of any amount are appreciated! Thanks from the author, RL Williams.

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