By Margo Wayman
Frothy whitecaps bubbled and foamed on top of the windblown waves. The normally cobalt blue waters of the river were now a chocolate brown color, as they mixed with the mire and mud on the river bottom. Pamal, the pelican, was fighting for balance as he flew, colliding against the wind, trying to fly in a straight line, without much success. The pouch, or bottom part of his long loose beak, flapped back and forth as the force of the howling wind beat against it. Seeing it was useless to try to fly any further, Pamal headed towards what was left of a broken-down abandoned wharf. All that was left of it were several cigar-shaped columns of algae-covered wood, jutting straight out of the churning water. Pamal perched on one of them. The wind wasnt blowing quite as hard down at water level.
All the energy he had used flying, had made him feel very hungry. Pamal looked into the murky water. He could see his reflection now and then, noticing his strong legs and brown feathers. He also could see fish swimming around, making their way to the surface to scoop up the bits of decayed vegetation that had been brought up by the agitated waters. Some fish wee golden colored, others olive green, and still others grayish silver. Pamals mouth began to water. There were so many fish and he had them all to himself. There wasnt another bird in sight.
Pamal spread his wings and took off from his wooden roost. He didnt want to fly very high up, just enough so that he could see all the fish from above. He swooped down, opening his mouth as he descended, so that he could scoop up as many fish as possible. He dove into the water and caught over a dozen fish in his bill. He tried to fly away, but couldnt, as the fish weighed too much. He climbed out of the water and onto the wooden column again. The fish were wriggling about in his beak, trying to figure a way out. His picketed-beak moved from side to side as the fish darted about, flapping their tails and fins in madness as they struggled. There were so many fish that several were barely inside his beak. Pamal had to hold his beak tightly shut.
A curious crocodile was watching Pamal in action. He studied the situation. Here was a big brown pelican, fat, juicy and delicious looking, and it couldnt fly. On top of that, its beak was filled with plump, wriggling fish. The crocodile slunk into the water from a patch of thick reeds and made his way towards Pamal. He sloshed his tail back and forth as he fought against the strong current, making his way to where the bird perched.
Pamal saw the crocodile coming. Panic overtook him. How was he going to get away? He tried to flap his wings, but couldnt move. He knew he could fly if he let some of the fish go, but he was too hungry to do that. He jumped off his perch, into the shallow water and started running up the riverbank. He waddled clumsily and was just barely out of the water when the crocodiles jaws snapped shut, catching one of his tail feathers in his teeth. Pamal ran onto the sand. The crocodile turned and swam away.
Pamal stood there, trying to catch his breath. Whew! That was close. The fish were still jumping about, making it difficult for him to concentrate. One fish actually slipped right out onto the sand. Pamal couldnt open his beak any further to pick it up. He stood helplessly as the fish wriggled its way down the mud into the river and freedom.
Just then, Pamal felt some hot air blowing on his feathered back. He turned slowly. There stood a huge hippopotamus. Its cavernous mouth agape; its tree trunk-like teeth ready to devour him. Pamal gulped, swallowing a few fish in the process. He tried to flap his wings and take off, but he still had too many fish in his bill to allow him to fly, so he waddled away, as fast as he could, running through the sand, away from the starving hippo. He could feel the ground shake as the hippo thudded after him. Pamal ran, and ran, and ran, and didnt stop until he was sure he was safe.
He stood there, trying to catch his breath. He knew hed be able to fly if hed just let a few of the fish go. But he was too hungry. Instead, he just gulped a few more down. Another fish slipped out of his mouth, landing with a thud in a patch of bright red flowers. It wriggled about and made its way down the muddy bank, into the river and swam off to safety and freedom. Pamal finally caught his breath. The fish were still wriggling madly, wanting release, but Pamal held his beak tightly shut. He had just finished gulping down another fish when he heard this grunting noise behind him. He was terrified, wondering what it might be. Slowly he turned around. His eyes bulged out, his wings came out to fly away, but he still couldnt fly. How was he going to get away from the hyena? It was baring its sharp and dangerous-looking teeth, its eyes had a burning stare, it looked very hungry, and very fast. Pamal flapped and flapped. He was able to get a few feet off the ground. The hyena ran after him jumping up, trying to catch the delicious-looking pelican in his greedy jaws, but Pamal was able to stay just out of the hyenas grasp. Several fish fell out of his beak, landing on the hyenas back. Seeing he would never catch the pelican, the hyena stopped and gobbled down the floundering as Pamal escaped.
Pamal kept on flying. He couldnt fly fast and he couldnt fly high, but at least he was off the ground. He turned around to see if anything was chasing him. THUD! He ran right into something. He fell to the ground. His beak fell open and all the fish flew out all over the ground. They wriggled about until they made their way down to the river and into the water. Pamal stood up. He must have collided with a wall. He rubbed his sand-filled eyes with his feathered wings and saw a mighty gray elephant standing in front of him. Its enormous ivory tusks were pointed right at Pamals fragile body. Its snake-like trunk was waving about madly. Its huge ears were flapping back and forth. The elephant was clearly angry at Pamal for disturbing him. Pamal stood still for a few moments, not sure what to do. Then, without another moments hesitation, he flapped his wings and flew off into the sky. He had no more fish in his beak so he could fly way up, into the air, where he finally felt safe.
The wind had died down a little bit, enough for him to fly against it quite easily. He turned into the wind and headed towards the sea, where there are no crocodiles, no hippos, no hyenas and no elephants!
Last Updated: June 28th, 2011