Debbie was trapped. Trapped and terrified.
Exploring the vast rock pool had been such fun—surely it was only moments ago she’d been hiding in caves; slithering through seaweed; investigating all those shellfish. But the tide silently slipped out while Debbie was busy, and she’d been a naughty baby dolphin, pretending not to hear when Mother called her, over and over again. Now she was darting around, hoping against hope to find an escape, but the rock pool was slowly getting smaller.
Out in the ocean Mother cried frantically, “HELP! HELP! Someone PLEASE save my baby Debbie. She can’t live through the hours until the next tide without a feed, without me.”
The Sea answered sternly. “I follow the moon and MUST change my tides at precise moments. All who live within me must learn this and obey. THIS IS MY LAW.”
“Oh please,” said Mother. “Please don’t be such a cruel sea.”
But the Sea kept flowing away.
High above, seagulls soared and swooped, nosily dipping down to investigate, only to start arguing, pecking, squawking, and offering Mother no help at all.
“DO stop fighting and think of something!” she said. But they were too busy scavenging to think of anyone else.
Just then, shimmying through the crystal water, tentacles rippling behind like a bunch of super spaghetti, came Jilly Jellyfish. “Maybe if I spread my tentacles across the rocks, Debbie could slither over them into the sea?”
Mother shook her head sadly. “No-o-o! Your tentacles sting terribly.”
Claudia Crab scrabbled sideways onto a rock. “Oh! I’d have pulled Debbie up onto Jilly’s tentacles with my trusty nippers.”
” NO!” Mother was horrified. “Your claws would hurt her… but thank you.”
Todd Tortoise ambled slowly across the rocks. “If—I—got—underneath—her, I—could—piggyback—her—out—of—there.” And he sighed with exhaustion from saying so much.
“Oh Todd, such a splendid idea, except she’d slide off your great round back.” Todd nodded, slowly and sadly.
Another voice rang out—Electra Eel. “If I gave her an electric charge from my tail, she’d jump clear out into the sea.”
“Electra! NO! That is too shocking. Oh, what ARE we to do?” A giant tear slid down Mother’s face.
Suddenly Octavia Octopus bobbed up alongside Mother. “I could wrap one of my l-o-n-g arms around her and pull her out, but I need something strong to hold onto with another arm.”
“. . . and she would still be hurt, being dragged over the rocks.” Mother was desperate now.
Tiny voices babbled and twittered from the rock pool.
“We want to help!” said Percy Periwinkle.
“. . . but we’re too small,” said Annie Anemone.
“. . . but there must be something we can do,” said Colin Cockle.
“. . . and I know what it is,” said Lucy Limpet. “Chatter and keep Debbie company!”
And they did. And Debbie felt a little better. Still, more of Mother’s tears became lost in all the other salt water.
A sudden ‘whoosh’ overhead, and a startling splash-down announced Felicity Flying-fish!
“If I flew back and forth with news and messages, would that help?” Mother nodded gratefully.
A great shape loomed large in the sky before Patrick Pelican made a water-ski type landing. “My dear… what grave news. How upsetting and worrisome. ‘In flight’, I was thinking I might save the day by catching fish and delivering them in my humongous pantry beak. Then, my dear, she WILL survive until the later tide!” But his ear-to-ear smile drooped at Mother’s reply.
“Aah Patrick. It’s a clever plan, but you don’t understand. We are mammals, so Debbie drinks milk from me. She hasn’t even started a mashed sardine diet yet. She’s still too young.”
“Don’t cry! My nose gets all stuffy when the water is TOO salty.” The voice was long and thin. Sammy Swordfish offered to saw a channel through the rocks, but Mother knew they were far too hard. He would only blunt the points of his saw nose.
A sudden swirling sea-swell frightened Mother, until the great grey head of Winston Whale broke the surface, his nearest small black eye looking sadder and kinder than usual.
“My radar registered your distress from far away, but I feel so helpless. Here am I, strongest of us all. Strong enough to pull her to China and then Peru… but I can’t reach her. I can’t do it alone. None of us can make it alone,” and he blew a huge bubbling sigh into the sea.
“Bravo, Winston! THEY are the keywords!” The deep stern voice came around the rocks just before its lumbering owner—Sergeant Stonewall Sea-lion—oldest and wisest of them all. Twitching his whiskers, he harrumphed importantly.
“A combined air, land and sea rescue is the thing to solve this dilemma. I recall the time down at the old Antarctic, when the penguins were revolting. They were coming at us from all directions. Must have been over a thousand of them. Our strategy was—”
“Oh please, Sgt. Stonewall.” Mother interrupted, politely. “PLEASE? Another time? My baby seriously needs help RIGHT now.”
The Sergeant looked embarrassed. “Well yes. Humble apologies and all that. Bit carried away for a moment. Heat of the battle… sorry!” Harrumphing again, arranging his sternest face and most important voice, he said, “Right troops, here is my strategic plan. Every man must carry out orders without question, without hesitation. Can I count on you?” And even though several ladies were part of the crowd, they all replied as if with one voice – “YES, SIR!”
“Good! First I need you, Jilly Jellyfish.” She quivered through every tentacle with excitement and pride to be the first called to action. “You choose the longest, strongest seaweed in the pool, and hold all shorter ones back with your tentacles.”
And Jilly did.
“Next, we’ll have you, Claudia Crab, hacking off long seaweed with your nippers.”
And Claudia chopped away cheerfully.
“Todd Tortoise! Hurry, there’s a splendid chap, and position yourself beneath baby Debbie.”
At a pace barely faster than slow, Todd slid under Debbie.
“Now, where is Electra Eel?”
“Down here,” she cried, and lit up her tail so all could see her in the darkest depths.
“Listen carefully, Electra. Wrap the seaweed round and around Debbie and Todd, SECURELY tying her to his back. But CAREFUL! You must NOT shock her!”
Like a flash of lightning, Electra tied Debbie up cute as a Christmas parcel on its way to Africa—with a splendid bow on top.
A chorus of voices chimed out, “What are WE to do? There’s no job for us.” And Percy Periwinkle, Annie Anemone, Colin Cockle and Lucy Limpet cried piteously.
“Harrumph!” Sgt. Stonewall couldn’t handle tears. “Come, come now. Get a grip on yourselves. You shall encourage the rest of the troops to victory.”
They all stopped crying and started laughing, for now they were the Official Cheer Squad.
“Attention troops. I said ATTENTION!” The Sergeant roared, as everyone had become excited and far too noisy. Instantly they stopped and listened.
“That’s better! Now Felicity Flying-fish, continue your ‘fly-between’, comforting Debbie. And Patrick Pelican—hover above and direct movements from an aerial view-point.”
So Felicity flew, and Patrick hovered.
“Now,” said the Sergeant, “Octavia Octopus, put your longest, strongest arm into the rock pool; take a firm grip on those seaweed ties; and wrap your second longest, strongest arm around Winston Whale’s tail.”
Octavia’s arms clutched their grippiest best.
“NOW – PULL WINSTON, PULL!”
So Winston pulled; Octavia’s grip tightened; Jilly held the short seaweed away; the Cheer Squad encouraged loudly; and s-l-o-w-l-y, carefully, Todd Tortoise and baby Debbie emerged from the pool, up over the rocks, and down the other side—SPLASH into the deep blue sea.
Everyone cheered, but Sgt. Stonewall hadn’t finished. “WAIT! There is one more thing to do. Sammy Swordfish?”
“YES, SIR!” Sammy snapped to attention, long nose quivering expectantly.
“Saw through those seaweed ties with your grand saw nose to release Debbie. BUT… CAREFULLY, so you don’t cut her.”
Sammy sliced, and the seaweed fell away.
Debbie surged toward Mother and gratefully, greedily drank—and Mother laughed and cried as Mothers always do, and couldn’t stop thanking her friends for their marvellous rescue.
“Teamwork,” she whooped in delight and gratitude. “We ALL need each other to succeed.”
All the sea creatures cheered and splashed and flapped , while Sgt. Stonewall Sea-lion roared his approval, puffed out his great hairy chest and harrumphed as everyone crowded around congratulating him.
High above the flock of seagulls still screeched and squawked and squabbled, as seagulls ALWAYS do.
The Sea smiled, creating a warm, soft current to drift Debbie and Mother into safer, deeper waters.
He was happy to see one of his own saved, because he was not really such a cruel sea at all.
Author’s Note: Proud to tell you this won FIRST place in a children’s story competition – the challenge being to create a >1500 words on the theme Diversity (and must include at least 3 pictures)