Oh look, a pelican!
If you’ve known me any length of time you will know that I am easily distracted by dogs, horses, and birds. If one of these creatures comes into my visual field, you will lose me briefly. One bird, in particular, will capture my attention – the brown pelican.
The brown pelican is a miraculous bird. When I was growing up, they were a rare sight on beaches of Southern California, as their numbers dwindled due to the use of the pesticide DDT. But since the toxin has been banned in the United States the population has rebounded. Just a few years ago I saw a large gathering on the rocks and islets off of coast of Mendocino. Hundreds of them had gathered in preparation for migration. The sight held me mesmerized. I almost forgot to breathe.
When I began writing my novella, Leap of Faith, I wanted to name some of the native animals found on the beautiful islands of the Bahamas. I discovered the brown pelican could be found soaring over the cays of this Caribbean country. So I put one in my story.
Leap of Faith tells the story of Grace, an administrative assistant, working for a Chicago candy manufacturer. Her life takes an unexpected turn one frosty morning when she is knocked off her feet, literally, by a stranger. Not content to remain a stranger, Philippe Santiago offers her a job on his sugar plantation in the Bahamas.
Here is Grace meeting George, the pelican, for the first time as she arrived on Orchid Cay. An excerpt from Leap of Faith:
As they stood on the dock, their luggage was carried down the gangway and loaded into a lime-green golf cart by the lanky, dark crew members.
A light breeze caressed Grace’s cheek. She took in a deep breath and sighed.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes.” She smiled up at him. “I’m just amazed. The air even smells like vanilla.”
“That would be the wild vanilla orchids that give the island its name.” He put his hand on the small of her back and turned her inland. “It is just a short walk to the house.”
A brown pelican waddled over to her and opened its greedy mouth. Grace didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sight of the poor, ungainly bird and its crooked wings.
“That would be George. He was blown onto the cay during a hurricane last year. Xandra nursed him back to life, but he is too badly injured to care for himself now. He follows her around like a puppy. I’m certain she’s still fishing, so he waits and hopes someone, anyone, will give him a fish.”
“Hey, boss,” called a dark, lanky man unloading their luggage, giving them a bright smile. “I got some fresh bait cut in dat bucket. If you want, I can share with George. Then pretty lady be his friend.”
“That’s an excellent idea, Charlie.”
Philippe reached into the bucket, pulled out a large chunk of fish, and handed it to Grace.
She took the slippery fish between her forefinger and thumb, cringing as she held it at arm’s length. She tentatively dropped it into George’s beak pouch, which he quickly snapped shut with a loud clack.
“Oh,” she said jumping back.
“Don’t you worry, George, he not hurt pretty lady.” Charlie laughed. Grace couldn’t help but smile at the man who towered over her. “Give him another piece.”
She gave the bird second bit of fish and this time she was less timid.
“That should keep him happy until Xandra gets home later this afternoon,” Philippe said. “Now, it’s just straight up this path to the house.”
I hope to have Leap of Faith ready for you to read in its entirety very soon. In the meanwhile, sit back and have a cup of tea.