The Pearl - part I
copyright 2011 by Kendell Kardt
It was probably the sweet, clear sound of William's
bell that first attracted Sally Seagull to the lonely spot where he was
moored, far out in the sea off Nantucket Island. William's bell
was important to him and not only because of the comfort its sound
gave him on the long, dark nights when the ocean was stormy and the
wind howled in his rigging. William knew that his bell was sometimes
the only guide for a sailor lost in the fog, to help him find
a safe channel into the island harbor.
It seemed to William that he had been moored to his desolate spot for a
long time, for years, in fact, but he knew that his job was important.
He was needed. William was secured to the bottom by a chain, so he
couldn't move around much. That was important, too. The chain was
attached to a very large rock called Big Tom, just a few fathoms under
water. It was important that no big ship should come too close to the
spot where William sat. The ship might have run aground on Big Tom and
Of course, William had a light, too. The light was red and
and off in the dark. William was sad in a way when the men from
Coast Guard had installed the solar panel. Until then, he often
company, when the seamen came out to charge up his battery. Now,
the solar panel high up on his mast, they only needed to come once in a
great while, and check to see that everything was working properly.
Now William was lonelier than ever--that is until Sally Seagull
It's not quite fair to say that William was alone. He did, of course,
have Freddy and he often thought he should be more grateful. Freddy was
a flounder who usually came up from the deep bottom once a day to keep
William company for a few minutes. Freddy spent most of his time down
on the sea floor, eating. He seemed to be made for eating down there.
He was very flat, so the heavy pressure of the water on the bottom
couldn't squeeze him any flatter. Also, both of his eyes were on one
side of his head, the side he turned down, to see the food. It made
William smile to think that, while Freddy was a thoughtful friend, his
view of things was a bit 'one-sided'. William never mentioned this. He
would have been very sorry to hurt Freddy's feelings.
The reason William wasn't more grateful for Freddy's companionship was
that Freddy couldn't talk. Most fish can't talk, you know, and Freddy
was no exception. When Freddy came up beside William's big tank, he
would float just under the surface for a while and blow bubbles.
William knew that the bubbles were Freddy's way of saying "Hello. How
are you today, William?" But it didn't help much, because William was always
aware that he had to make up both sides of their conversation.
All that would change when Sally came, because Sally could speak, or at
least she could squawk, which gave William a much better idea of what she
was trying to say.
The weather was very stormy on the day Sally first came. William had
watched her for many minutes, gliding and circling high above him as
the high winds tossed her little body above the foaming ocean swells.
William wanted to call out to her, "Hey! Down here! I'm down here. Fly
this way. You can rest here", but the wind was howling too loud for
words to reach her, so he had to rely on his bell. He rang it over and
over, louder each time, until finally Sally was able to swoop low and
catch hold of William's rigging. Sally had been calling too as she
circled, making the mournful sounds that seagulls sometimes make when
they fly. That day, it seemed to William that her shrill cry was
saying, "Help! Help! I'm so tired. I can't fly much longer!" When Sally
landed on William, she was exhausted. She made just a few little peeps,
to say "Thank you". Then she tucked her head under one wing and fell
fast asleep. William was very happy that he was there to help. All
through the long, stormy night he rocked gently back and forth, up and
down, in the swells, while Sally slept. If he had been able to sing, he
would have sung a lullaby for Sally, but he didn't know any, so he just
rang his bell, ever so softly, in a steady, slow rhythm and hoped she
The morning of the next day dawned bright and clear. The sun glinted on the
waves. The storm had passed. It was a beautiful new day.
woke up, she began talking almost immediately. She was eager to tell him
how, on the previous evening, she had been following a giant cruise
ship out of Long Island Sound, waiting for the crew to empty a
container of kitchen scraps overboard so that she might swoop down and
select something for dinner. The leftovers from cruise ships'
kitchens were, she explained, quite a delicacy for Sally. She
admitted that on many a
day, she was reduced to following one of the big barges of refuse that
haul New York City's trash out to sea. William couldn't help
that Sally's diet consisted mostly of garbage, but ever tactful, he
kept that observation to himself. He saw right away that Sally
very busy life and did a lot of traveling just to find food. He
rather shyly, if Sally couldn't find small fish to eat by diving into
the waves. Sally said that, yes, she knew how to 'fish', but it
was a lot
of trouble, and in her heart, she felt rather sorry for the fish.
Anyway, truth to tell, raw fish didn't taste very good and
scraps, when she could get them, were a gourmet treat.
It seemed to William that Sally went to a great deal of unnecessary
trouble to find the food she liked, but then, she clearly loved flying
far and wide and William, who was mostly content to stay right where he
was, thought he would try to appreciate the difference in their
Meanwhile, Sally went right on talking. She told William how, on the
night before, as she was flying low behind the cruise ship, the sky had
grown darker and clouds lower and the wind had risen higher and higher.
Finally the big waves were reaching up and slapping at her toes and it
began to rain very hard. Sally realized, too late, that this time, she
had flown too far from home and was in real danger of drowning if she
were forced to sit herself down in the mountainous swells and try to
ride out the storm floating in the water. As she talked now, her voice grew
quieter when she described the feeling of hope that surged up in her
little breast when she heard William's bell. How grateful and
relieved she had felt when she had, at last, caught hold of his rigging and
knew she was safe! William was quiet now too. He didn't say anything,
but his own heart swelled with gratitude and love because he had been
there to save her when her danger was greatest.
Sally spent all that beautiful, sunny day resting and talking with
William. They soon discovered that they had lots to share about their
very different experiences of life and both of them felt a deep,
peaceful joy because now they had someone to share them with.
Late in the afternoon, Freddy came up from the bottom and William
introduced him to Sally. She was very gracious, even though she had
never met a fish in person before, certainly not socially. Freddy blew
a lot of bubbles and Sally made sure she pretended to understand each
one. All was well when the sun went down and once more, Sally tucked
her head under her wing and slept, while William rocked her gently on
his big metal arm.
Sally and William spent four happy, sunny days together on that first
visit. They laughed and talked and shared their stories. By the time
Sally left, she felt rested and strong enough to set off on her travels
again. It seemed to both of them as if they would now be friends
forever. It felt as though they had known each
other for a long, long time.
On the morning Sally flew away, she
promised William that she would come again soon, as often as she could,
to renew their conversation. She hinted, with a twinkle in her eye,
that next time she would tell him a lot more about her traveling
adventures, especially about what it was like when, sometimes, she flew
'inland' from the sea. The word 'inland' had a wonderful, mysterious ring
all its own. William wondered what that might mean. He had spent his
whole life on the ocean, floating in the waves. He tried to remember
what it was like when he was a little buoy and big, strong men in
overalls had put him together at a shipyard,
' inland'. But it was far too
long ago and all he could recall was thick, acrid smoke and showers of
sparks flying everywhere as the men 'welded' his mast onto the big tank
that was his bottom. He wanted, now, to know more and he was excited when
he thought that on her next visit, Sally would have more to tell him.
have felt sad now, as Sally spread her wings and lifted her slender
body up onto a light breeze for flight, but he was very happy at the
same time. He felt confident that Sally would remember her promise to
return, and when she did, they would laugh and talk again and she would
share some things about the mystery of life inland. William rang his
bell now louder and louder with a joyful sound as he watched Sally's
graceful shape get smaller and smaller in the morning sky. At last she
was just a speck on the horizon, and then she was gone. But William kept on
ringing his bell long after Sally was out of sight. He was happy. Today
he had something to dream about and that dream would keep him company
until he saw Sally again.