Saturday Stories #2
Once upon a time in a land where pelicans flew in V formation over a quiet bay, the fish were gone, as if they had gone on strike and refused to show up for work.
The pelicans were perplexed.
“This is perplexing, Poppy,” Percival, a pelican, pouted to his wife. “If we can’t find anything to eat, well, we won’t have anything for lunch.”
“Poppycock,” Poppy said. “The fish can’t all be gone.”
“All. Gone. See for yourself,” he said, and she did.
She looked and looked and looked and looked and looked.
“I don’t see any fish!” Poppy gasped. “It’s as you said.”
“I’m as perplexed as can be,” said Percival, and all along the V formation, pelican heads nodded.
“Posh. They’ll be back,” said Perry, his cousin. “They always come back.”
Peregrine, wife of Perry, shook her head.
“You’re always so positive, Perry,” Peregrine said. “One of these days you’ll see how perilous our plight is.”
Meanwhile, in a secret fishy place where fish went on steamy days:
“I’m telling ya, they mean to kill us,” Frank, a fish, was saying. “They mean to eat us for lunch.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” said Phil, his friend. “They seem like such friendly and noble creatures. Why would they want to kill us?”
“Oh, I don’t know – because we’re delicious?” Frank snapped. “It’s simple – they need to eat something, and we’re handy.”
“There are a lot of us,” Phil conceded. “Maybe we could spare a few families? More room for the rest of us, you know.”
“Are you volunteering your family to be sacrificed?” Frank would have raised an eyebrow if he had one.
“Of course not. Phyllis would kill me.”
“Except you’d be dead already, gone down a pelican’s throat.”
“Well, there’s that,” Phil said. “So what do you suggest we do about this, Frank? We don’t want to get eaten, and the pelicans are hungry.”
“We don’t know for sure that’s what the pelicans intend to do,” Felix said, joining the conversation.
“You’re such a trusting soul, Felix,” his friend Felicia said. “But I’m afraid Frank is right. I haven’t told anyone this, but Fred is gone.”
Phil gaped. He looked like a fish gasping for air, mostly because he was.
“Fred?” Phil said. “How? When?”
“It was last night, just before sunset,” Felicia said. “I saw Fred and was just swimming over to say hello, when I saw a pelican diving toward us. I tried to warn him, but there was a big splash, and he was gone. Gone. I saw the pelican flying away smiling.”
Nobody said anything for a full minute.
“This is a nightmare,” Phil said finally.
“We have to do something,” Frank said.
“I’ll go talk with them,” said Felix.
“What?” Felicia said. “Are you nuts?”
“They have to know they can’t just swoop down and eat us whenever they get the urge,” Felix said.
“Sure they can,” Frank said. “That’s what pelicans do.”
“Well, they have to change their ways,” Felix said. “We have families to consider. I’m going to go see them, explain the situation and make them see reason.”
“You can’t reason with a hungry pelican!” Phil said. “Felicia just told you!”
“I feel horrible about Fred,” Felix fretted. “But that’s why I have to put a stop to this.”
And before the others could say another word, Felix swam up and away, toward the surface of the bay.
He swam and swam and swam and swam and swam.
It was a steamy day, so in some ways it made sense to assume the fish were just avoiding the oppressive heat. If it weren’t for the fact that no fish whatsoever were visible, the pelicans wouldn’t have been perplexed and they would not have suspected the fish were on strike. But with the bay apparently completely empty of fish, the matter was cause for quite a bit of conversation.
“They’ll be back,” Perry said. “No worries.”
“When will they be back?” Percival demanded.
“By suppertime. It’ll be cooler then, and they’ll come out.”
“I hope you’re right,” Percival said.
“Oh! There’s a fish now!” Peregrine cried. And she was right.
“Thank goodness. I’m starved,” Percival said, and dove toward the water.
Felix saw the great bird speeding from the sky toward him, and he smiled his most conciliatory smile.
“Hey there, friend,” Felix said. “We need to talk.”
Percival plunged into the water, scooped Felix up with his great scoop of a bill, and swallowed.
“Mmm, that’s good,” Percival said, winging his way back up to the flock.
That night, a coyote ate Percival.
A few days after that, a farmer shot the coyote.
The fish and the pelicans never did settle their squabble.
Frank, the fish, and Peregrine, the pelican, looked at each other and then stared up out of the screen.
“What the hell was that?” Frank said.
“Yeah,” Peregrine said, forgetting for a moment that Frank looked delicious. “What kind of story are you writing here, anyway? What’s the point?”
The large man with the fingers paused in mid-sentence.
“It’s absurdist fiction,” he said. “You do know that pelicans and fish can’t really talk, don’t you?”
“Animals talk in fiction all the time,” Frank shouted. “But usually the stories have a point!”
“Nobody says a story has to have a point,” the writer said. “Look, it’s been nice talking with you, but I’m on deadline.”
“Ever hear of karma, buddy?” Phil said, pushing past Frank.
“Are you threatening me, Fish?”
“The name’s Phil. And no, I’m not threatening you, I’m just asking if you ever heard of karma.”
“Sure I have.”
“Good. Because if you kill us off, I’m going to have my pal Vic pay you a visit.”
“Oooh, I’m scared,” said the man with the fingers. He flourished his hands, and Peregrine snatched Phil up in her bill and feasted.
“I’m so sorry,” she said to Frank. “He made me do it.”
“I know,” Frank told her. “No hard feelings.” He turned to the writer. “I guess you’ll be hearing from Vic.”
“Oh yeah?’ the writer said, and began to type: “At just that moment, Perry appeared out of nowhere, swooped down toward Frank, and –”
“Vic’s a virus,” were Frank’s last words.
“Doesn’t matter,” the writer said, but he began to cough.
He coughed and coughed and coughed and coughed and coughed.
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“Some Days You Eat The Pelican” © 2018 Warren Bluhm Photo: Pelican with fish | Dreamstime.com