The sun is blinding as I bob and sway with the waves. bop.bop.bop.up.down.up.
The water is warm and I hear my friends and family squawking all around me, diving into the water and shooting back out again. I’m not hungry– I have already eaten my fair share of poor, helpless fish this morning.
My Mamma paddles up beside me and tells me to be careful; you never know what kind of dangers lurk both above and below the water.
I’ll be fine, I tell her. I didn’t hatch yesterday. Though, as she likes to point out, repeatedly, it was only three weeks ago that I took my first breath of air and dove into this vast, sometimes frigid, and admittedly, dangerous ocean that is our second, (or should we say only?) home.
We spend the majority of our days floating on the ocean surface and diving head first into it to catch our meals, and when were not in or on the water, we are perched within reach of it. So basically, yes, the ocean is our home, and always will be.
My best friend, Zoe, and I have decided that today we are going on a little adventure. But shh, please don’t tell mamma. We just want to venture out to the deeper water, away from the shore a little bit to relax and see what kind of fish and other creatures are out there. What could go wrong? We have wings. We can just up, and fly away, no harm no foul. Or I think that’s what they say. Who are they anyway? I mean is it the older pelicans of our flock, or what about those two legged, standing creatures that catch all our fish? Oops nevermind, back to the story.
I see Zoe up ahead with her papa and squawk to get her attention. She hears me and swoops over. I think she’s beautiful.
Almost ready? I whisper conspiratorially.
Yes! Lets go, she replies. We have to attempt to do this as stealthily as possible so as not to cause alarm with the parental units of the flock. We slowly let our bodies drift away from the shore, chatting, pretending not to have a care in the world so as not to arouse suspicion.
At last! We are far enough away that we can’t make out the sandy bottom of the ocean and the shore is barely in sight.
Eek the water’s a bit colder way out here, isn’t it? says Zoe.
But something else has caught my attention. The water a few yards away looks black and thick and there’s something playing in it. I paddle a little closer, some of the black water clings to my feet. Gulp. That object I spotted is definitely not playing. It’s a dying fish, surrounded by many more that are already dead. By now the black water (what is this stuff anyway? It’s so sticky) has spread to my chest and the tips of my wings… something tells me this is not a good thing.
Zoe! Stay back, don’t come any closer! I shout to her over the swells.
But it’s too late. She’s already struggling to determine what is stuck to her beautiful wings. She frantically preens her feathers to try and rid herself of the tarry mess, but something tells me that that is not the best idea either.
Wait, don’t preen. Whatever this stuff is, we probably shouldn’t be eating it, I tell her.
But its gross and it’s sticking to me and I can’t fly with this on my wings and I’m cold, she replies frantically.
It’s okay, stay calm. Let’s start swimming back to shore. Our parents will know what to do. We try paddling back to shore; the black water is following us, holding us back. The dead fish surround us as we try to get ahead of the mess. As we get closer to shore we can see groups of those two-legged creatures standing by our flock, on our pier, our beach, our rocks. The flock looks a little jazzed. I wonder what’s going on over there.
My Mamma swoops over to us as soon as were within sight.
My goodness, what is all over you? Where were you? What did I say about going out into the deep water?
Its okay Mom, I’m fine, we need to figure out how to get this stuff off of Zoe.
A booming voice sounds out, ZOE!!.
My darling, where have you been? You’re a mess. What have you gotten yourself into? What has this foolish young pelican done to you this time?
Evidently, Zoe’s papa is not my biggest fan.
It’s okay, daddy, we just got distracted and swept out to the deep and then we saw these dead fish and this black water that’s sticky and I don’t know what to do because I shouldn’t preen, but it’s gross and I can’t fly and it’s making me cold and and and…
Hush, hush, darling, it’s okay. We’ll get you cleaned up.
A few days passed but Zoe wasn’t getting any better. No one could figure out how to get the mysterious black “water” off of her. Because she was dirty, she wasn’t eating (it’s a bird thing) and she couldn’t regulate her temperature. The black tarry stuff had made her feathers clump together leaving her skin exposed, so she was either too cold or too hot, burning in the sun.
Who would have thought our savior would be one of those two-legged creatures? She took Zoe up in her arms and brought her down the beach a little ways. She set her down and started gently scrubbing her with this green liquid stuff. The black tar seemed to melt away. When the human was done, Zoe waddled and squawked her way back to our flock and stretched her wings.
Then, I decided it was my turn, now or never I guess. I did my best to swoop/waddle over to the human and let her work her magical powers on me. The black oil, as they call it, melted away from my feathers too, and soon enough, I felt clean again. I shook my wings, did my best to thank the two-legged creature with a squawk and flew back to the rocks.
When I got back, Mamma told me that Zoe’s brother, who had gone out in search of more fish days ago, had been found. He had floated onto shore, covered in black tar.