Pele was as smelly as a fish. This doesn’t mean he was a fish. No, in fact, he was a pelican who could trace his lineage to 30 million years ago. However, even his ancestors would disapprove of the particularly nasty smell that would emanate from him, spreading disgust and loathing to all who had an olfactory sense.
Nothing could be done about it, for you see, Pele was a storer. Take for example what happened a month ago. Like the rest of his family he was hunting a type of herring called menhaden, when suddenly he spotted an entire family his family had missed. Delicious mother, father and fourteen baby menhadens all swimming blissfully oblivious to the lurking danger.
He swooped down and took the entire family into his large gular sack beak in one deft swallow. Then, instead of doing what normal pelicans do, that is swallow the entire family, Pele gulped mom and dad and stored the rest of the babies in his sack beak.
This would have been fine if he had eaten the fish the next day but that wasn’t Pele’s style. He would store fish for months in his beak. Nobody knew why. Pelicans being polite didn’t want to tell him a)he smelt of rotting roses b)to please immediately eat what he caught c)there are plenty more fish in the water.
Pele would often wonder why none of the other pelicans joked around with him or had conversations. On some days, he would even get the distinct impression that the others were avoiding him. Now, pelican beaks are spacious and can store up to three buckets of fish. Pele, the diligent hoarder, make sure no storage space was ever wasted.
One day a huge cold wave swept down on the lake and froze everything. The birds were startled. They had never seen anything like this in their entire lives. At first, they didn’t know what to do and just focussed on huddling together and keeping warm. It was only in the evening they realised they hadn’t fished for food. They couldn’t for their beaks weren’t strong enough to crack the ice. Starvation seemed to be peering anxiously around the corner waiting for an invite.
Nobody knew what to do. On day two, the mothers started howling, their babies were starving. Their cries reached Pele in his isolated corner in a cliff. He flew down to check what the fuss was about. The frozen lake and the hungry looking members of his flock were not a pretty sight to see.
He went up to the baby creche and opened his beak. The fish were a month old. Nobody minded. Hunger can make any food yummy. The fledglings ate their fill and feel asleep. The mothers stoically refused to dig into the tempting ration.
The cold wave lasted five more days. Many adults, mothers, fathers, friends and foes died in this ghastly weather change but the children survived. Thanks to Pele, not a single baby bird went hungry.
This doesn’t mean after all this misfortune Pele became popular overnight. The pelicans still avoided him. Nobody could take the stink but something had changed. Whenever they passed by him (at a safe distance) they always nodded their heads courteously or yelled a hello and fled before he could return the greeting.
Moral: What you save will save you.
Pele is drawn by the fabulous Bijoy Venugopal. You can find more of his wonderful stuff here bijoyvenugopal.com