(Gold Award winner for Stage 2 in the BOSTES NSW 2015 WriteOn Competition! The official anthology of winners - including this story - is available from the BOSTES NSW Shop.
Background to the WriteOn Competition: NSW primary school students are invited to write a 500-word narrative of any type, inspired by the photo on the right.)
Hi there! Look at me! Most people can’t get their eyes off me, nor can they stop saying things like “awwwww!” or “it’s so cute!”
I’m a seal. The staff here at Tamarama Wonderland calls me Flippers (though mum really named me Iceberg), and I live in a large pond with mum, dad, auntie, uncle and my two brothers. I can do many marvelous things with my big glossy flippers, but there are just a few things I can’t do.
I can't fly. That's why I’m jealous of Airem Scarem, a weird wobbly creature also living in Tamarama that the humans call an airship. Even though he can’t fly all that well either, the humans he carries and those watching from the beach still wave their ridiculous arms in bird-imitation excitement. Except for Airem Scarem, everything seems great until we get neighbors one day…
“Maaarrpphhh!” I complain as the large fat Eskimo squishes against me, snoring louder than an avalanche.
Life in the seal pond is a breeze until the three Eskimos decide to take up residency with us. YES, here in the seal pond! With an igloo and sharpened icicle spears and everything. Apparently it’s the new park attraction for the school holidays – as if I were not attractive enough already!
“Zzzzzzz…..” he goes again. I heave myself and give the annoying human ten sharp slaps with my flippers. Ha, take that! Finding another place to sleep, slowly I drift off into a deep sleep….
The wind raked my clothes and a fierce storm was brewing and it was chucking giant waves this way and that. Clothes?? I stared at my flippers but saw that they had turned into human hands. I was floating above the frenzied sea with its inky black waters rising up and down below me. If I hadn’t felt so scared I would have felt glorious. I was flying!
I felt a jolt and realized I wasn’t soaring alone. I was riding in Airem Scarem! “Maaaaaaarrpphhh!” I shrieked with mixed emotions: I was scared, I was nervous, I was exhilarated!
From behind came the sound of soft frightened breathing. Whirling around, I saw a big plump Eskimo crouching behind me, holding on to the airship for dear life, still clutching an icicle spear.
Before I could reassure him, the airship suddenly began to sink towards the ocean, whose waves were waiting to swallow me into a whirlpool of darkness. Cold water raced up my ankles, my hips, and soon I was fully submerged and struggling for air.
Surprisingly, in the next blink my vision began to strengthen underwater. I was a seal again! I paddled easily for shore, seizing my Eskimo pond-mate as I passed. Then a dark shape descended upon us and I could only think “KILLER WHALE!” and I screamed and tried to swim but then…
“Marrpphh marrph maaarph!” I wake up panting, flippers still flipping frantically. Wow, am I glad it’s just a nightmare!
Paul let Bindi the snake-necked turtle out of her enclosure to saunter around. According to the local pet shop, this kind of exercise would help to condition her gastrocnemius muscles. Whatever that was.
As Paul whistled and made himself breakfast, Bindi wandered around the dining room, minding her own business. Such as how she hadn’t had breakfast, how she was ravenous, and turtle pellets tasted like cardboard (she had personal experience of both).
Five minutes later, a loud shredding sound alerted the turtle owner to trouble. Running into the living room, Paul saw that the naughty turtle had ripped a massive tear in the wallpaper PLUS she had pooped all over the lovely, comfy sofa! Mouth open in horror, he grabbed the struggling criminal and dumped her in the hallway before returning to his (now cold) breakfast.
The day had NOT started well for Paul.
Bindi the Turtle wasn’t finished with her “exercise”. Waddling into her master’s office, she used that marvelously long neck to pull a photograph from a shelf.
It was an A2 sized, black-and-white photograph taken in 1934 during the Great Depression. In the image, several young kids – including Paul’s grandfather – were cheerfully parading along a brick wall. Granddad was now sadly senile, and the photo reminded the family he hadn’t always been that way. Restoring its faded pigments had cost Paul hundreds of dollars, and whenever he looked at the simple joy on Granddad’s face, he would smile wistfully and wish he had actually known the boy in the picture.
But Bindi didn’t have a mouth to smile with. She didn’t really care about any of the people in the photo either. The photograph was torn, ripped, shredded and scrunched under Bindi’s unforgiving beak and sharp claws. Mercilessly she mutilated Paul’s loving memory, gouging great holes in the glossy paper. She was so intent on her task that she didn’t hear Paul’s horrified screams, although she did feel somewhat alarmed at being thrown several metres across the house onto the recently pooped-on sofa.
Paul had had enough! He snatched Bindi up, and several forms of gruesome and ghastly punishment ran through his mind.
However, Paul wasn’t the only one that was ticked off. Bindi had been separated from her prey once too many, and it was time for tempers to clash. It was time for Turtle to meet Man in epic battle. Or at least for Turtle to meet Man’s fingers!
Paul yelped as he felt Super-Villain utterly defeat her foe. Sometimes he really hated Bindi! Tossing her into the enclosure and slamming the door in her face gave him great satisfaction, and he walked away, determined to finish his breakfast (despite the flies).
But Bindi was smart, Bindi was intelligent, Bindi was resourceful, Bindi couldn’t think of any more words with which to describe herself. With typical reptilian patience, Super-Villain waited till her luckless owner had gone. Then she ate the lock, and began her resolute crawl towards Paul’s passport…
Nose twitching. Ears swivelling, side to side. Whiskers quivering, picking up even the teensiest little vibration. The wonderful scent! Oh, the redness of its stretched, ripe skin. It is a dream for every rat worth his salt. Careful now. Don’t get discovered. Careful little steps, pit-pattering across the kitchen table. I freeze, cocking my round, grey head, sniffing the air. Good. The cat is still outside. Keep moving.
Every inch of my minute rodent body is tensed and coiled, ready to spring at the first scent, the first shadow, the first vibration of anything that could be dangerous. Now just to tiptoe past the speckled green snake curled up behind the glass; humans keep some really WEIRD pets! All clear, not even a flick of the tongue from that foul serpent. Creep along the table top, almost there! The bowl of tomatoes stands ahead, virtually glowing with deliciousness. From this distance, the waft of heavenly scent nearly bowls me over.
Come on, come on. Grab just ONE tomato, don’t get carried away, just ONE. Or maybe two. One more can’t hurt. Just ONE more? I wobble, my arms full of tomato. I can’t crawl like this, I look more like a red bowling ball than a rat. Maybe… ah! An idea!
I manage to stumble off the high table and to the entrance of my hole. My cheeks are sore, the 5 tomatoes inside my mouth are stretching them to the maximum. I keep thinking, I’m not a bloody chipmunk! I spit the tomatoes out. Quickly, quickly, roll them into the hole, into the larder. Gods! The larder’s almost empty! I can still cram in at least… I do a quick calculation, while eating one of the tomatoes. Another 5 tomatoes at least, I reason. No, 6! On account of the one I just ate! Okay, got to climb back onto the table, and grab 7 more tomatoes, just in case I run out. Maybe 8, actually. Or 9. They can be kept in the living room. Good. Okay.
Oh no. I cower behind the glass of tomatoes, shaking so hard I can hear my teeth banging together. No, no, no, I’M TOO HUNGRY TO DIE! The cat blinks and regards me with a cold, acid green eye. I notice only too well that slowly, inch by inch, the dreaded razors on the cat’s paws are sliding out of their sheaths. In my fear, I’ve already devoured 2 tomatoes. It’s called stress eating. Slowly I slide back across the table, carrying the remaining 7 tomatoes that were left in the bowl. The cat is crouching, ready to pounce. I keep backing up, placing one foot deliberately in front of another. That is, until one of them hit thin air. AHHHHH!
I land on the floor, just in time to see the cat pounce a second too late. The cat has jumped right off the table and it is only in mid-air that he realises his rodent snack has escaped. I watch as the cat, soaring gracefully in mid-pounce, face-plants in a pot plant that is right in his path.
I roll the tomatoes into the living room, shaking like a sack of jelly. Phew. I won’t go outside again, not after a risk like that! I won’t even go outside for a … wait. Is that a CREAM PIE OUT THERE! MY LARDER IS EMPTY! I’ve got to go, my appetite is calling me!
The Sunny Zoo
The animals at the Sunny Zoo enjoy their many freedoms, including having access to the Internet and a blog.
(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017