By Margo Wayman
A tiny fish darted under the green, leathery looking lotus that was floating on top of the lake. It swam in and out of the slender reeds that swished back and forth as the delicate waves rolled in on the shore. Raida, the coral-pink flamingo, stood on one leg, the other tucked up underneath her feathered belly. She stood very still. Slowly she dipped her long, curved beak into the crystal blue water, nudging the lotus pad up on one side. She wanted to eat the little golden fish, but it was too fast for her, swimming quickly away to safety.
Up on the sandy, desert shore, a dirty-skinned jackal crept up, hiding behind a flowering hibiscus bush. Hed been watching the flamingo as she stood in the shallow water of the lake. He was thinking how delicious it would taste, pink feathers, long spindly legs, and all. Akrams lair was surrounded by tall cypress trees. Early that morning, hed only been able to think about how hungry he was. Now, here was gazing at the soon to be feast standing before him. He crept closer to the edge of the water. Raida had her back to him, so she couldnt see him. Closer and closer he crawled, placing each paw down softly on the hot sand, one step at a time. He was about to pounce at the flamingo when, much to his dismay, Raida turned around. Akram leapt off the hot sand, towards her, but she was too fast. She flapped her long wings and flew off into the sky. Akram splash-landed in the water! He jumped up, coughing and choking. A reed from the bottom of the lake was sticking out of his ear. He reached up and pulled it as he slinked onto the shore. He shook himself. Water flew out of his fur, going in all directions. He looked up in the air and watched as his meal flew away, becoming a small pink dot lost in the vastness of the azure blue sky.
Raida was frantic. That had been a close call. The jackal had almost caught her. She turned her head back and looked down at the jackal, as he ran along the lakeshore, following her. Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my. Here I go up in the sky. My legs are long. My beak is curved. Its a good thing I can fly! she squawked. After a few more minutes of flying around, she wondered, He doesnt think he can catch me, does he? Maybe Id better hide somewhere for a little while, just to be safe. She flew through the puffy white clouds, looking for a secure place to hide. Ah, theres something. Hmm, what is that pink granite structure? she questioned, as she swooped down towards it. This is nice. She landed in a beautiful garden filled with fragrant, crimson-red rose bushes. She walked over and sniffed them. How wonderful, she smiled. Lets see now, where can I hide? How about over there, next to that building? It looks like it might be an ancient tomb. The pink flamingo walked over towards it, found a nice spot in the shade, and sat down. Ill be safe in here, she said, feeling confident. Soon she was asleep.
Akram, ran, and ran, and ran, never letting the pink bird out of his sight. It looks like shes headed for that mausoleum, he growled. Ill find her. How hard can it be to find a coral-pink-feathered bird? After stopping for a drink from the river Nile, which flowed from the lake, he arrived at the mausoleum. He could smell the roses. He hated roses. He hated all flowers. Quietly, he snuck through the gate, and entered the garden. Red roses! Ugh! he snarled, hitting the bush with his paw. Now, where is that flamingo? I know she came in here, he said, sure that he was in the right place. He walked around, looking behind each bush, and wall, until he spotted something pink. Aha, theres that bird. This time shell not get away. Akram slinked towards the sleeping flamingo. When he was just a few feet away, he let out a loud sneeze.
Raidas eyes opened wide. She jumped up. Whos there? she asked. The jackal sneezed again. Raida spotted him. Oh no! she cried out. Seeing that she had nowhere else to go, she flapped her wings and flew up into the deep blue sky.
Come back here! Akram roared. Ill get you! he warned. He dashed out of the garden, threw open the gate, and darted on to the hot sand surrounding the mausoleum. He chased after the pink bird as it flew away.
Raida flapped her wings. She tucked her long legs up underneath her as she flew away. He found me. How did he find me? she wondered in disbelief. Now where will I hide? she wondered, gazing down at the desert below. She flew around in circles for a while, flying over the lake, the hills, and the Nile River. Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my. Here I go up in the sky. My legs are long. My beak is curved. Its a good thing I can fly! She spotted some ruins from above, that werent far from the mausoleum. She flew down, landing near the ancient crumbling buildings. Raida could tell that this place had been long abandoned. She noticed its thick walls were made of mud bricks. Many of them were still covered with old, cracked, paintings. This looks safe, she uttered, walking inside through the old walls. She found a shady place again, and sat down to rest. Soon she was sleeping.
Akram hadnt taken his eyes off of the flamingo for one moment. She had flown around in circles, and, much to his delight, landed in the building not far away, still on the west bank of the Nile. What luck! he sneered. He made his way to the old ruins. He ran up the broken steps and went inside. Ill bet that bird is sleeping in the shade somewhere, he smiled, his sharp teeth poking above his gums. He looked around in the places that were out of the sun. Ill find her. He went from room to room, searching, and quickly spotted the pink- feathered bird, curled up in a ball, sleeping on the dusty floor. Her long neck and beak were resting on her back. There she is, the jackal laughed. He moved towards her. Slowly, slowly he crawled. He didnt see the sharp stones on the ground until he stepped on one. He let out a loud howl, waking the flamingo up.
Oh no! she cried. Howd he find me again? she whimpered. She stood up, stretched her wings, and flew up into the air, leaving the howling jackal below. He was jumping around, holding on to his sore paw. Trying to catch her breath, Raida huffed and puffed, Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my. Here I go up in the sky. My legs are long. My beak is curved. Its a good thing I can fly!
Ill get you! he screamed after her. Akram watched as she flew off. He dashed outside to watch her. Again she flew around in circles, high above the river Nile. Where is she going this time? Im hungry for some flamingo, the jackal drooled. He saw her land up in the northern hills of the west bank. Aha, shes gone to hide in some of the ancient tombs, he said, running through the sand towards them. I can taste that flamingo already.
Raida spotted some holes, indenting the hills that sat behind the ruins shed just left. She flew down to them and landed. The sand was very hot up there, so she quickly went inside on of the caves. This looks like some kind of tomb. There are a lot of them around here, she muttered to herself. But at least its cool in here, and surely the jackal wont ever think to find me here. She lay down next to a wall that was covered in hieroglyphics and closed her eyes.
Akram didnt know which one of the tombs Raida had gone into. He started looking through one, then checked each of them out. They all were much the same, being covered with paintings and strange writings. Hours passed, and he began to get tired. Hed not been able to find the flamingo yet. One last tomb, he snarled angrily, entering through the hole in the side of the hill. He walked back through a long darkening tunnel. There were a lot of small statues, broken, and leaning against the walls, more paintings and writing, and this cave even had a sarcophagus in it. He didnt see the flamingo until he tripped over her and fell flat on his snout.
Raida woke up. What was that? she asked. She looked over and saw the dirty jackal. Not again! Leave me alone! she cried and ran out of the cave. He found me at the mausoleum, the ancient ruins, and now in these old tombs. Where can I go now? Hell never leave me alone! She flew up into the sky, looking down for another place to hide. Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my. Here I go up in the sky. My legs are long. My beak is curved. Its a good thing I can fly! She was tired of being chased. She saw a quarry, and swooped down for a closer look. She spotted what looked like an obelisk, lying on the ground. Nowhere to hide there, she said and continued flying. She spotted the town, Aswan, off in the distance. Theres a town. Ill find peace there, she sighed, flying towards it. She landed in the souk. There were shops and stalls galore, selling scarves, leather goods, baskets, fruits, falafel, and jewelry. Raida landed near a stall that sold pistachios. She walked around, touching everything. There were so many colors to be seen. Surely the jackal would never find her here.
Akram picked himself up off the floor inside the tomb. He rubbed his snout. The flamingo had escaped again, and this time he hadnt seen where she went. He didnt even dust himself off. Then, feeling discouraged, he trotted out of the cave, down the hill, giving up on having flamingo for supper that night. I might as well go into Aswan. Maybe I can find a mouse, or a chicken to eat, he sighed, and headed towards the town. When he came to the river, he had to hide in a felucca that was sailing across to the east side.
The flamingo was having fun. She tried on some scarves. Most of them didnt look very good with her coral-pink feathers. She tried on some gold chains, looked at a leather handbag, and some woven reed baskets. The sun was beginning to set in the sky, setting it ablaze, with different shades of purples, pinks, and bright oranges. She put some of the baskets down and looked up at the clouds. The setting sun gave the sky the appearance of a canvas of beautiful colors. She was so caught up in the beauty of twilight that when she put the other baskets down, she knocked a bottle of perfume over. It fell to the ground. The glass bottle shattered into many small pieces. All of the perfume flew onto her feathers. She grabbed a scarf and tried to wipe it off.
The jackal ran into town. He looked around for a mouse, or anything else that he could eat. He rummaged through the garbage cans in the alleys, went into the narrow streets that ran behind the buildings, and darted from shop to shop, searching for something, anything, to eat. The sun was gone behind the horizon as he came to the souk. He looked towards one of the shops, and to his surprise, saw a splotch of pink. What luck! The flamingo is here! He began to drool with hunger again. He wasnt going to take any chances this time. Instead of creeping up sneakily, he ran as fast as he could, into the crowded souk, knocking things over. He leapt right up next to Raida. He stood in front of her, snarling angrily. He was about to gulp her down when he got a whiff of the perfume all over her. What is that horrid smell? he asked. Perfume? I dont want to eat a flamingo that has perfume on it! He snarled and growled in anger. He would just have to settle for a mouse! He pushed the flamingo out of the way, and ran off in the opposite direction.
Raida was relieved. She stood up, brushed her feathers off, then a huge smile came across her beak. Hmmm, she thought. Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my. I dont have to go up in the sky. My legs are long. My beak is curved. Now I never have to fly! She happily strolled over to the perfume shop, and bought a bottle. Later that night, after shed had a falafel, she flew off to the lake with the perfume held tightly in her wing.
From then on, each morning before she went to the lake, she dabbed some fragrance on her feathers. This will keep the jackals away, she smiled. And so it did.