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Short stories for Children of all Ages: Little Albatross Pedagogical Project  “The Joy of Reading”

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Little Albatross
 

The last snows of winter were melting away. Still, so still sat Mother Albatross, looking out over a grey-green sea. Underneath her, snug in the warmth of her feathers, Little Albatross slept. He was only a few hours old and already strong with life. Far out at sea Father Albatross soared above the waves, his great wide wings beating his way homewards. And he was full of the fish he had caught.

“Welcome home!” cried Mother Albatross, proud as a mother always is.
Still in his dreams Little Albatross smelt fish for the first time. The first time.
“Feed me, Father,” he begged. “Feed me.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” said Father Albatross.
Little Albatross ate all he could, and then slept again.

After that, Mother and Father took it in turns. One would go off fishing while the other stayed behind on the nest keeping Little Albatross warm, keeping him safe. Day by day, well fed, well guarded and warm, Little Albatross grew ever bigger, stronger, noisier, hungrier. Through the softness of his down he was growing fine white feathers. And now his wings were long and wide and wonderful.

But not far away skulked a killer bird, always watchful, always waiting, and always still, so still they did not even know he was there. Then one bright day Mother and Father Albatross looked at Little Albatross and saw how big he was, and how strong. It would be quite safe, they thought, to leave him for a while and go off fishing together.

So away they flew, out over the cliff top, singing again their soaring song, the song of the wandering albatross. They did not see the killer bird beneath them. But the killer bird saw them. He was watching. He was waiting.

“Oh Father! Oh Mother!” cried Little Albatross, who had never before been left on his own. “Come back! Come back!”

But the wind screamed and the waves roared, and they could not hear him. Out over the surging sea they soared, always on the look-out for silver flashing fish swimming below them in the surging sea. One glimpse was all they needed. Down they dived, deep down into the grey-green sea, hunting after fish. Then up they came again, riding the waves and swallowing all they had caught.

That night, Little Albatross slept alone on his nest. He did not see the killer bird skulking closer, closer.

When morning came, Father and Mother Albatross were still wandering the ocean together, still soaring high above the grey-green sea, when they saw a fishing boat beneath them. And look! Following behind were thousands upon thousands of silver flashing fish. A feast of fish! Down they dived at once, without ever thinking, down into the surging sea, where they snatched up fish after fish. Then up they swam, up towards the light, up towards the air.

But they did not know that the fishing nets were closing in around them. They could not see them, until they swam right into them and were at once caught up, held fast and trapped. How they fought to free themselves. How they struggled. But the more they fought and struggled, the more entangled they became. They were helpless now in the nets, and they were not alone. All around them they saw not only thousands of struggling fish, but dolphins were caught up too, and turtles as well.

Meanwhile…

Back on the cliff top, the killer bird skulked ever closer. Closer. And still Little Albatross had not seen him. Father Albatross and Mother Albatross hung in the nets, still living, but only just. When they saw the grey shark-shadow coming up out of the depths of the ocean, they made one last bid to break free. In his greed and in his rage, the shark attacked the nets, tearing them with terrible force.

But he was too late, for the fishermen were already winding in their nets. Up and out of the sea came the nets, filled with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of fish. And caught up in them were all the turtles and dolphins, and Mother Albatross and Father Albatross too. As soon as the fishermen saw them, they freed them from the nets. They could see at once that the birds were too tired to fly off. So the fishermen let them rest.

They looked after them, and fed them strong again. By the time they flew off that evening, the whole crew was there to wave them off. By now the killer bird was circling. He was moving in for the kill. He had waited long enough. Little Albatross saw him coming, and saw the killer glint in his eye.

“Oh Mother! Oh Father!” he cried. “Help me! Help me!”

Suddenly, from high above them came a chilling cry. Out of the sky came Mother Albatross and Father Albatross, like two great white arrows aimed at the killer bird’s heart. He knew it would be death to stay, and flew off at once. Far out to sea they chased him and harried him until they were quite sure he would never come back. By the time they returned, Little Albatross was leaping up and down, frantic to see them, frantic for his food. But he was cross too.

“Oh Father! Oh Mother!” he cried. “I’ve been waiting for you for so long. I’ve been so frightened, so hungry. Where were you? What kept you?”

“It’s a long story,” said Father Albatross.
“We won’t leave you again,” said Mother Albatross. “Promise.”
“Feed me, Father! Feed me, Mother,” cried Little Albatross.
“That’s what we’re here for,” said Mother Albatross.
 And they both fed Little Albatross until he had eaten himself happy.

Then he slept. And as he slept the first snows of winter came falling about them. And the sound of their song floated out over the grey-green sea, the song of the wandering albatross.

 
 
Michael Morpurgo
 
Little Albatross
London, Random House, 2004

 

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