Short Story: Yellow Bird Lady

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About this Short Story

Written by
Lucy Douglas

Narrated by
Flora Montgomery


A third helping of my Peruvian travels in 1982. How I loved that place.


  • 997 Words
  • 34 Comments
  • 68% Community Rating
  • 25858 Views

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Quinine pills. Water purifying tablets. Swiss Army knife (try and work out uses for at least half the shiny sharp things). 6 dozen green balloons. Folding camping stove. Tin mug.

My packing list for my six month journey to Peru in the early nineteen eighties didn’t quite match up to those of Shackleton and Livingstone. They probably hadn’t been helped by their mothers, and if they had been, their mothers probably didn’t insist on half remembered readings of conquistadores trading with Caribbean natives, or Frenchmen bartering wampum with Red Indians.

“Balloons, darling. They won’t have balloons there, and they’re so light. They’ll love them.”

My mother was new to the pleasures of working for the World Wildlife Fund, and often came home proudly bearing loot from various fund-raising events. Her conviction of the lack of balloons in darkest Peru was unshakeable.

Balloons. Quite.

~ ~ ~

I soon found my feet in the thin air of the dusty Andean slopes around Cuzco, where the sun would…

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John Simmons said "A touching, nostalgic story. We see the wonder of a simple thing like a balloon, experienced for the first time through the eyes of a child, and we realise how far small acts of kindness can take us in this world. The Peruvian setting is well described but it’s the Quechua children you remember and the hope in Gloria’s story."
6 years ago

Dennis STONER said "You paint the most beautiful picture, Lucy and your passion for Quechua shines through like a beacon of hope."
4 months ago
Ena Majumder said "Beautiful narration portraying the simplicity of life"
6 months ago
Ezaddin Naser said "It's very good"
1 year ago
Colette Nevin said "What a lovely, true tale of a world that is fast disappearing as deforestation, materialism and modernisation takes over. It made for great listening, and brought nostalgic feelings of clinging to experiences that the modern world glazes over. The Yellow Bird Lady is immortal!"
2 years ago
Samira Shaeri Afshar said "Beautifully written and I like it"
2 years ago
Luna Luna said "Beautifully written. It kindles love and goodness in the heart. The simplicity and the subtle poignancy of the Peruvian setting is endearing. My children would love it especially the Quechua children that they would want to befriend!"
3 years ago
Carol Price said "Listened to this today. I loved the rhythm of it and the descriptive quality. The innocence and the thirst for knowledge that is universal in children is beautifully described."
3 years ago
Giovanna Bertino said "Few pages from a travel journal that take the reader across the ocean and up, to the sky. Lovely and intense when you write: "I soon found my feet in the thin air". I don't know if it's a true story but I've got a question to ask: how can you fly balloons without helium, so heavy to carry along? Best wishes Giovanna"
3 years ago
Youstina Thabet said "i found it a bit boring"
3 years ago
Jon Radlett said "ELC Reading Group: We loved this story, but we would like to know more details. We are curious about how the balloons floated?"
4 years ago
Dora Bona Guest Editor said "I loved the optimism in this story too, and it's the first audio story I've listened to on Shortbread. It was beautifully narrated, the lovely voice-over perfect for the tone of the tale. Cheers Dora"
4 years ago
Julian Fields said "An uplifting story (no pun intended) and a lovely view into another culture. Well done!"
4 years ago
Carol Wight said "I enjoyed the portrayal of the children. I wish there had been a little more plot, but this was good."
4 years ago
Genevieve Brunet said "the story was nice and for a french women easy to understand. I loved it."
6 years ago
Priti Sugand said "Touching story with a Revealation - the things we take for granted in our life possess the power of revolutionizing somebody else's world."
6 years ago
David Green said "A tame travel story, very nice, good listen. Thank you"
6 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor said "I read this from the Friday email weeks ago and cannot believe I forgot to come on Shortbread and comment - found it beuatifully described and amusing and...something else! I'll listen to it this time. Great writing...many thanks Adam"
6 years ago
Elena Nicol said "I loved it! Is it based on your own experience? I had a short story about the parrot eyed doctor in brazil because they kids so her once with make up, so the colours in her eyes resembled a parrot, very much like you, the yellow bird lady! Ldet me see if I can find it somewhere in the miriad of cds and diskettes! Well done, girl."
6 years ago
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Patsy R Liles said "This is a heartwarming story in a day and time when the world is so full of strife. It is written with such natural outflow as to make you stay with each line and word. The rewards of having read Yellow Bird Lady are numerous. Thank you,Lucy.--Patsy"
6 years ago
Lucy Douglas replied saying "Thank you so much, Patsy, for your kind comments, and also to everybody else who commented below."
6 years ago
Alison Bacon said "I'm new to Shortbread. This came to my inbox today and I loved it - beautifully written memoir with a nice story structure, great touches of humour and a big 'Aw' effect. Thanks Lucy. AliB"
6 years ago
John Slater replied saying "I'm sure Gloria did, enjoyed."
6 years ago
Debi Yazbeck said "I love this story. It has a delightful emotional impact. I really like that you gave Mom such credit."
6 years ago
Kirsty Pilcher replied saying "I agree - and funnily enough I did the same when I visited Kenya and spent time in an orphanage - I took balloons. So simple so effective and so easy to take with you - and they gave huge pleasure to them as well as to me, seeing their little faces. Lovely true story...."
6 years ago
L Adlem said "delightful!"
6 years ago
Susan Lather Stuebner said "Very sweet! Thank You for sharing. Have you written more about your time in Peru, besides the train trip with the dead man next to you?"
6 years ago
Lucy Douglas replied saying "Hi Susan, glad you enjoyed it. There are two others on Shortbread, 'Degrees of Theft' and 'Five Star Dirty Dancing'. Hard to believe what I got up to in those days, I'm a pillar of society now!"
6 years ago
Susan Donim said "Came across this again through The Time Machine feature. The first time I read this the last paragraph left me feeling very emotional! And the second time was no different! There is something quite simply beautiful about the effect one life can have on another, and how interconnected all of our lives truly are. This is captured brilliantly in this simple yet very effective story. So beautifully written and the conversation between mother and daughter at the start has me laughing every time."
6 years ago
Lucy Douglas replied saying "Hi Susan, thanks for this - it's lovely to feel you've touched a spark in somebody else, either through life itself or through writing about it, isn't it! My mum is just like that, by the way ..."
6 years ago
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Lucy Douglas replied saying "Well thank you, Dr. John. Maybe it's the old adage 'write about what you know' ... I had the most wonderful time in Peru for 6 months and it meant a great deal to me and it looks like that comes through."
7 years ago
Mark Patrick said "Hi Lucy, great descriptions of your time in Peru. The oranges, and balloons, and Chagga beetles, put me right there. I liked the last snippet about Gloria and her balloon. That would make a very good story, non-fiction or fiction, or a mix of both. Thanks"
7 years ago

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