Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
There are many myths surrounding the giant storks which roost on top of houses and other high places in Europe for part of the year. They are thought to be birds of good omen, and to harm one brings harm to the person who harms it. In this story, set in 1956 in the Hungarian countryside, Zoltán is an eight-year old boy, living with his mother on his grandfather's farm (his father is a political prisoner). He is in the habit of wandering the countryside with his small rifle, taking potshots at various wild animals. One day he wounds a stork and soon gets stuck in a quagmire (literally) from which he must be rescued by his grandfather, who rescues the crane at the same time. Zoltán falls ill, and imagines many things while he is being nursed back to health, including that he can talk to the farm's animals. The crane, too, is recovering. During a brief revolt against the Communist puppet government, Hungarian political prisoners are released, including Zoltán's father. He knows the hated rulers will assert their power again, and that he will be imprisoned again. He and his family make plans to escape to more permanent freedom, and cross the border just as the crane is well enough to fly again for the first time.