sea birds coo
ocean fog perturbs seashells
sun greets dawn
By Laura Breidenthal
In her mind’s eye, Mel could see a perfect image of Penelope: the thick black necklace around her throat, the ruffled gray feathers on the crown of her head, the jaunty red bracelet around her leg, the blunt orange bill tipped in black, as though she’d fallen into an inkpot. And so she stared into Jackie’s camera and began to tell the tale.
Legend tells of a love so great that even the sea could not contain it. It all started with a wee plover named Penelope, who was a bit odd, even for a plover. She was jumpy and skittish, and clumsy, too. Sometimes, when she was hunting, she tripped over rocks and fell on her face in the most undignified manner.
Mel began to pace slowly down the beach, turning so the rosy glow of the sunset was at her back. Jackie followed her with the camera.
But as much as our Penelope was strange, she was also beautiful. Males came from all across the continent to court her, singing and flying in desperate circles around her head, but she paid them no heed. That is, until the day she saw him.
Mel gazed directly into the camera for dramatic effect. Offscreen, Jackie stifled a laugh.
This new male was named Jamie, and he was the handsomest plover in all of England. A posh lad from the south who just happened to be passing through. But Penelope took one look at him and fell instantly in love.
Now of course, Penelope went and made an enormous fool out of herself. We are all fools in love, you know. She chased Jamie all around the beach, but he wasn’t giving her a speck of attention. She tried all sorts of fancy flying maneuvers, but the other plovers just laughed at her.
“Rude!” said Jackie.
Penelope knew she had to do something special if she wanted to win Jamie over. Perhaps she could bring him a smooth, round stone or a bit of polished sea glass. But in the end, it was a worm that did the trick. Our bumbling huntress foraged for days without rest, until finally she caught a worm so long you could have laced your boots with it. And when she brought it to Jamie, he knew that Penelope was the one for him.
“Because we all know that food is the way to a lad’s heart!” Jackie chimed in.
“Food is the way to anyone’s heart,” said Mel.
Jackie turned off her phone and faced out toward the sea. The sun had practically vanished now, the first pinpricks of starlight beginning to appear in the indigo sky. The wind picked up, and the shushing of the waves swelled to a gentle crash.
“Do you think your bird is really out there somewhere?” Jackie asked.
Mel nodded. “It’s possible that something could have happened to her, but it’s also possible she’s alive and well with the man of her dreams and we just didn’t see her. I’d bet my hat on it.”
Jackie squinted at Mel’s threadbare stocking cap. “That hat is worth 2 pounds, tops.”
“Well I’m not going to bet my binoculars on it. Those were expensive.”
Jackie laughed. “I suppose it’s time to head back. Your mam will be up a height if we don’t get you home before nine.”
Mel shook her head. “Can you believe she thought we were going to hang out with boys tonight? As if! I keep telling her that all the lads at school are boring and loud, but she still thinks I’m trying to catch one of them.”
“You wouldn’t want a boyfriend?”
“Naw, don’t really see the appeal to be honest.”
Mel sighed deeply, scanning the northern sky until she found the Plough. Everything in her life was changing, but at least the constellations were reliable. “Let’s stay a few more minutes. Just until the rest of the stars come out.”
“Alright, Mel. You sit and enjoy the stars,” said Jackie. “Don’t you worry, I’ll get you home with a minute to spare.”
About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at https://www.instagram.com/shivelywrites/.
About this chapter's featured poet: Laura Breidenthal, who studied Associate of Arts, English at Pasadena City College, has been writing for a number of years starting at a very young age. Her first influence was her father, who encouraged her and her siblings to read and write often. Laura became more serious about writing when her middle school English teachers noticed her potential after reading some of her creative writings and poetry. Their encouragement and direction drove Laura to continue with writing and further improve her skills all throughout her high school years and to this day in college. When she is not on the piano, reading, or constructing a piece of writing, Laura enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and traveling—these experiences out in the world among various people, nature and environments provide Laura a lot of inspiration for future compositions.
Follow her on Insagram @d.s.weave