There was this baby pelican. He broke out of his shell which he considered to be the hardest thing that he had ever done sort of thing. Well, besides the pieces of shell, all he saw around him were a lot of long, round things all woven together. Looked pretty safe - even at that young age he was discerning. He could tell what was safe and what was not safe. One day he could become an inspector of... well that's for another story. But he was all alone, there was nobody and he knew that there should be somebody because he had heard all this yapping, cooing or whatever pelicans do as he was growing inside the egg. But now, nothing. Was it all an illusion, a dream that he had heard all of this and imagined who was making all of the sounds? He couldn't really be sure - no, he was sure, and now ... just a tinge of fear crept in. Everything wasn't ok because he was ALONE. What was he to do?
He tried to see over the top of the long, round things but whatever was supposed to get him up - those stick like things under him - just didn't work. He could see them trying to straighten up and he could feel himself trying to encourage them but nope they wouldn't work. He looked up and all he saw was blue - how did he know it was blue - well, he didn't know the word but it was definitely blue - and it looked empty - just blue, and there was this silence. There had been times in the egg when everything had been very silent after he had heard this terrible whirring roar - of flapping - yes he could see it or, should we say imagined it, from in there. His whole world had shook and he thought that he was going to be sick or something. So he was used to this. Like before, he would just wait, in there you get good at waiting, and everything would turn out all right. You ask "What's he going to do?" "Does he have a mother and a father?" Well we are getting ahead of ourselves here so let's go back. He knew that in time there would be this terrible sound again and this shaking of his world and then, he would feel all warm and would again hear the yapping or cooing or whatever - you know what I mean. So he waited and he waited... and there was suddenly this bright yellow ball in the sky - he couldn't look at it because it was so bright - much brighter than the stuff which he had been swimming in where he came from - No he couldn't have seen the yellow inside because his eyes were closed but he could imagine things. Right? And he waited.
Well, you can imagine. He was getting more afraid and a little hungry - he couldn't decide which was stronger. And suddenly he heard a sound that went something like beep, beep. It should have been peep, peep but he didn't know that. And then he realized it was coming from him. Humm, sure doesn't sound like all of the sounds he had heard from inside his other world but there it was - take it or leave it. Then the bright yellow thing had disappeared over the top of the sticks that he could not see over, and then it came right back, not so bright yellow thing and it was smaller - Humm, he said to himself, they must have turned down the light for some reason and deflated - to perhaps sleep? But because the yellow thing was not so bright, it was all dark just like he was used to and for a moment he thought that he was back in that other world he had been in since - well ever since he could remember.
Then suddenly he looked up and saw these two small yellow things - very close together at the top of the sticks. What do you think it was. A tiger? No. A monkey? No. A hippo? No, hippos can't get up that high. Well what was it? It was a giraffe. Who had heard the beep beeps and decided to check it out. Just check. You know. Not get involved. Our little pelican said beep beep beep for he was just a little bit afraid. Not much, mind you, because he was strong and had control, and what he lacked in physical terms he made up for in mental things. And, since everything that had happened in his life had been good, he did just one more peep and he started to move those things that he had at the side - you know wings - but he couldn't hear any roar like he thought he would hear. He was just beating his wings through thin air and well, what a dismal turn of events. All he could do was beep, the stilty things under him wouldn't work and his wings didn't make a roar. The giraffe had seen such things before so this was nothing new to her. But, she figured that this was one scrawny looking pelican. What does scrawny mean? It's like very thin, and not getting enough food type of thing - but, she said to herself, kind of cute. And, she added - kind of afraid.
Suddenly all those mothering things started to occur in her. No, that was for a different era. We'll just say that here was someone in trouble and she was going to do something to help. She had heard the beep beeping for two days now - our little pelican did not know that it had been two days because he had been sleeping most of the time. When he became most afraid, he went to sleep which sort of solved the problem immediately. Although this is not always the best reaction. But, that is for another story. So, our giraffe went and brought some grass, but the baby wouldn't eat it. Then she brought some leaves. You know, the most tender ones from high up in the tree. But, the baby still did not seem to be interested. What was she going to do? So she brought a leaf with a large drop of water on it and when the baby opened up his mouth to beep, stuck it in. Well, our baby pelican didn't quite know what to think of that, but it sure helped the parched lips (I mean beak) feeling he had had. But, he didn't like the tough stuff so he spit it out. Our giraffe brought another and another and each time the same thing happened, but by now, the beep beeps were less and the baby did not seem to be as much afraid - he wasn't immediately going to sleep all the time. And, he was beginning to think that this must be his mother. At one point, he said "mama", and suddenly, all the animals laughed.
All the animals? Of course. Here was something unique on the plains and well you know what happens when something is unique - right? Everyone gets interested. Our baby stood up. For the first time he suddenly found that those sticks under him would move and he looked over the side of the woven sticks and he saw animals as far as the eye could see. And, they were all laughing - at him. How humiliating, and he was about to say that that was not fair, but then he saw his savior the giraffe for the first time - Well he just couldn't stop it, he began to laugh also. This was one wise little bird. With that, the tables were turned. Now they saw that he was very smart and while they had to admit that he was little, his intelligence seemed to quite out weight his deficiencies in other areas. He added up the differences: beak-nose, two legs-4 legs, short neck-long neck, horns (and he felt the top of his head)-none, spots-none, tail- well none but who knows, size - well... who knows, but over all, the possibilities were slim. Also, he remembered thinking to himself, whoever was keeping him warm was talking ALL of the time. "Couldn't an embryo get some sleep around here?", he remembered thinking to himself. And, this "mother" had not uttered one sound. Now that just didn't add up either. He was very confused and because of that started to go to sleep. The giraffe, in the mean time, was thinking to herself that this was clearly not enough if the baby was going to get any less thin. She had seen pelicans feeding their babies by bringing fish but that was just out of her league. For one thing, she hated fish - even though she had never tried it - she just knew - you know how that is? So there had to be another way. Find someone who could do this naturally. Like ask the hippo? Yes, we'll ask the hippo.
Well, the Hippo could catch the fish all right, but when asked, he had immediately said no. But, because the giraffe had done so much for him in the past and (well you know how that is) he finally agreed, but there were some problems. First, the food had to be caught - that was easy - but then it had to be diced, sliced, minced and regurgitated and there is no way that that was going to happen. And secondly, once food was in the hippo's mouth, it got swallowed. So, the only option was to not let it stay in his mouth for more than one second, and that took a lot of concentration and a lot of denial and going against the natural order of things for hippos and what not. But, he was willing to try. But this first thing - the smashing dicing, etc., well, he figured that he could come down hard on the food (that's if he hadn't swallowed it) and smash it. He tried that with his foot but it didn't make much of a dent. The fish, in that part of Africa, are very hardy what with surviving the dry seasons, the wet seasons, the tons of silt washing into the lake, and keeping out of the way of a pack of hippos - you have to be tough to survive that situation. So finally, our hippo decided that the only way was to jump in the air, flatten himself out with legs to both sides and come down on it with all his weight. It worked and the baby pelican got his fill and even, so the giraffe thought, smiled a little. Its tough seeing a smile on a bird but you can get a sense of it. This went on for two and half weeks.
The giraffe was trying really hard to not let the little pelican become imprinted on her as his mother (even though he had figured it out, there was still this thing going on inside his brain which said this was his mother or something to that effect) since that is what happens when you are the first thing a little bird sees. But she never gave up and because of that, our little pelican was surviving against all the odds. And the hippo? Well, he had a sore stomach from all that landing.
Just about this time, a zoologist from the runamuck museum back in the U.S. happened upon this scene and could not believe his eyes. Cross species aid society? No way. Way. As usual the National Geographic, the Ornithological Aid society, the Zoological Trip-Them-As-They-Come-Along Society all came running and there was so much flashing of cameras that the baby pelican thought the sky had gone wild, and was about to go to sleep when... he heard this roar of wings, and he looked up and - "MOMMY".
Well, it seems that she had seen the documentary on a laptop, over the back of some explorer, about the penguins at the South Pole and how the females took long vacations while the pop sits on the egg and takes care of the baby until the females return. The only thing she did not think of was that it does not happen in Africa and it especially does not happen to pelicans. It wasn't until she unpacked her bags (uhh, her beak), with the exotic fish that she had brought that everything started to get back to normal.
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY?
First, the world is not always the way it should be, and we are eternally grateful to all those who have made it possible for us to get through it... until the world is back - exactly the way it should be.
And secondly, for haven's sake, don't look at movies "over someone's back". You could get it all backwards.
© copyright 2008 J. Morgan Thomas All rights reserved
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