Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Of Pelicans and Men

I’m a day late on this post.  Sorry.  I kept thinking yesterday was Sunday.

Of Pelicans and Men
by Jon Stark

When I was a boy I went to a camp for a week or two each summer.  It was a splendid place and unlikely the sort of experience that modern children would care for – we played outdoor games, carved shrunken heads from apples, and sang a lot of silly songs.  One of them was about a polar bear named Percy.  He lived in the land of ice and snow where the temperature dropped to 40 below.  Eventually he wound up in a zoo but that was okay because he met his girlfriend there.

This story is not about Percy or the camp.  It’s about Jorell.  Not Superman’s father (still not a fan of DC), no, this Jorell is a Pelican.  Pay attention because in actuality, this story isn’t even really about a Pelican but you’ll have to figure out the true meaning for yourself.

Jorell was tired.  He had been flying for what seemed like a very long time – and it had been, in fact, a very long time – and his wings were tired.  His chest was tired.  His neck was tired.  (Yours would be too if you had to hold up a beak – bill? – like his.)

“Let’s stop to rest,” said Jorell to his mother’s back.

“Can’t stop now, Dear,” she said.  “We’re out over the ocean.”

“We can float on the ocean.”  Why this simple fact always eluded his mother, Jorell didn’t know, but every negotiated rest stop started with the same argument.

“We’ll lose our bearing, Dear,” she said.  “Let’s go a bit further.”

“We won’t lose our bearing.”  Jorell sped up a tad to fly next to her.  “The beach is a straight line, we can follow that.”

His mother shook her head.  “I don’t know about that.  A stop here isn’t on the schedule.”

“It looks very nice down there.  Probably even some fish. Let’s just rest for a little while.  It’ll be fine.”  Jorell pulled ahead and then began to descend.  His mother was not happy, but instinct forced her to follow him.

They glided closer to the waves.  The swells broke as they approached the beach and it was very pretty.  She could see activity.  “I don’t think that’s a good place to stop, Dear,” she called.  “Looks like sharks.”

Jorell looked.  Could be sharks, but could be dolphins too.  Or cloud shadows.  “I think it’s fine.  Let’s go closer for a better look.”  They went a bit further down.

A young boy on the beach looked up and saw them.  He pointed and shouted excitedly.  “Pelicans!”  Lots of people looked, from the sand, from the edge of the water, from the decks of their rented condos.  They liked pelicans.

The boys mother looked dutifully before pulling him away from the edge of the water.  “I told you not to go in there.  You’re uncle said there were sharks.”

The boy scowled.  “He isn’t even here.  I haven’t seen any sharks.”  It was true.  Nobody had seen any and people were starting to go further and further out into the water.  Some of the older kids were even body surfing.

Jorell hollered over his shoulder.  “No sharks, Ma.  Look, even the people are in the water.”  The coasted over the beach.  Sand pipers flitted about.  Crabs dug in.  People pointed up.  Jorell’s mother had to admit that everything looked normal.

The pelicans glided between the swells and settled onto the water.  Jorell sighed in ecstasy and immediately went to sleep.  His mother was too nervous but soon the rocking waves and aching muscles overcame her better judgment and she too nodded off.

“See?” said the boy.  “The pelicans are floating out there.  No sharks.”  His mother had to agree.  The birds wouldn’t have settled in if there were sharks in the water.

“Okay.”  She said.  “You can go out there.  But be careful.  There’s an undertow.”  He cast a last, ‘are you for real?’ glance at her and dove into the water.

A trio of dolphins was slinking along the coast, fearful of the sharks that frequented the beach.  It was dark and tiring work and they wanted to play.  But it was too dangerous.  The splashing of the children near shore caught their attention.  “The people wouldn’t be in the water if there were sharks.  Let’s jump some waves, Dudes.”

People generally think that dolphins are smart.  I’m not sure why.

It turned in to a bit of a party, just off the beach.  People jumping and splashing, dolphins hopping wave, and pelicans hanging out, snagging the stray fish and catching some zzz’s.  It was just the sort of thing that a shark, groggy from sleeping in and hungry after a late night out with the guys, dreamed of.

But Roy, the hungry and hung-over shark, stayed back in the deeper water.  What did those people, dolphins, and pelicans know that he didn’t?  Was it a trap?  What horrible fate awaited him?

His stomach grumbled.  Then he caught the smell of something in the water.  One of the people must have stepped on a shell.  Hunger rose.  Caution fled.  A shark is as a shark does and Roy was, above all else, a shark.  

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