The Long Flight Home—CHAPTER ELEVEN


Photo of Great Cormorant by Mark Galer on Unsplash

Great Cormorants are large black seabirds found near bodies of water almost everywhere in the world, but rarely inland. Their length can vary from twenty-eight to forty inches and their wingspan from forty-eight to sixty-three inches. Their weight is from a little over three pounds to a little less than twelve pounds. They have a longish tail and yellow throat-patch. They can move their eyes. And they dive frequently because they feed on fish.


The cold and choppy Atlantic hardly looked inviting to Dooley and Talli as they flew overhead. Aloft for several hours already, they started to question whether they were being foolish.

Suddenly, an eighteen-foot, fifteen hundred pound Atlantic Blue Marlin shot forty feet out of the water.  Soaring alongside Talli, Dooley looked down and watched as the marlin crashed back to the water.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Dooley. “Did you see that?”

Talli looked over. “Obviously not,” he answered.

Excited, Dooley said, “A gi-normous marlin just blew out of the ocean.” He nodded his head toward a spot in the water. “Right there.”

Talli saw the rings emanating from the marlin’s splash.

Dooley laughed with excitement. “We’ve found the maelstrom!”

Unconvinced, Talli asked, “How do you know?”

bobbie diving“Oh, I know,” Dooley assured him before banking hard to the left and starting into a steep dive.

Talli stared in disbelief, then flapped his wings hard and followed Dooley toward the frigid Atlantic.

Dooley and Talli had their wings tucked tightly to their sides as they hit the water going as fast as a car at highway speed and continued down. It took just two strokes with their wings before they were caught in a swirling rush of current and were helplessly spun into the powerful whirlpool.

Moments later, Dooley was violently expelled from the water’s surface and crashed back down onto steep four foot waves. Spitting seawater and bedraggled, he looked around, trying to catch his breath.

“Talli?” Dooley called as a wave below him crested and he could spin in a circle to search for his brother.

Suddenly, Talli was blasted out of the water and crashed back down right next to Dooley with a giant splash. Talli shook his head. Water flew in all directions as Talli announced, “Okay, it was a little fun the first time, but I never want to do that again!”

Dooley smiled with excitement, “We did it!” he exclaimed.

Talli shook his head. “I’m starting to think my egg was switched before I was hatched. No way we’re related.”

As their wave crested again, Dooley saw three wooden sailing ships off in the distance. Dooley shook his head, disappointed. “Oh, no.”

Talli caught sight of the ships just as the boobie brothers started to slide to the bottom of the wave’s trough. “More wooden sailing ships?” he stated distraught. “We’re never getting home.”

“Never say never,” Dooley encouraged. “C’mon, let’s go check it out.”

Talli gave a defeated sigh as the boobies clumsily launched off the rough seas and started flying toward the three ships.


Aboard the lead ship, the Santa Maria, a heated discussion was taking place near the bow. The captain of the ship was arguing loudly with his first mate and several very angry crewmen.

The captain, an Italian named Cristobal Colon (called Christopher Columbus over the ensuing centuries), said heatedly, “Ferdinand and Isabella, your king and queen, sent us on this mission. You dare defy your king?”

“It’s been five weeks, captain,” countered the first mate. “We’ve yet to see land.”

One of the crewmen shouted, “We all knew the earth was flat!”

“We’re gonna fall off the edge and die!” another crewman added.

Columbus gestured toward the horizon off the bow. “Flat?” he replied defensively. “Use your eyes man!”

The first mate continued as the crew’s spokesman. “The crew demands we turn back,” he announced. “Aye!” shouted one crewman. “Turn back!”

“We’re doomed!” shouted another.


On a high mast of one of the trailing ships, a large, angry great cormorant perched. As she gazed out at the vast expanse of ocean, she spotted two strange blue-footed birds flying toward her.


As the boobie brothers flew toward the three ships, Dooley attempted to mask his frustration. “Look at the bright side,” Dooley encouraged.

“How can there possibly be a bright side?” Talli countered.

“We found the maelstrom twice,” said Dooley. “That means it wasn’t just a one-time thing.”

“Oh, yeah,” Talli agreed sarcastically. “We were spun around and spit out twice and we have no idea where or when we are. That’s a real positive.”

As they flew over the stern of the ship, the boobies could read the name of the ship, Santa Clara, painted on the escutcheon.


The cormorant displayed a belligerent, territorial demeanor with a confrontational expression as Dooley and Talli made their perilous landings on a spar in rigging of the mainsail.

“This is my ship,” she said in a thick Spanish accent. “You are not welcome on the Niña.”

Dooley and Talli shared a look of confusion. “Ah, what’s the Niña?” Dooley asked innocently.

“This ship, you fool,” replied the cormorant.

“Hate to break it to you, cupcake,” responded Talli. “But according to the escutcheon, the name of this boat is the Santa Clara.”

“According to the what?” she demanded.

“It’s painted on the stern . . . on the escutcheon,” Talli said confidently.

“What’s that?” demanded the irritated large black bird.

Talli smiled. “The escutcheon, you know the part of the stern where the name is painted.”

“I don’t know this word,” Marisol countered.

“It’s escudo in Spanish,” Dooley added helpfully.

“It clearly says, the Santa Clara, cupcake,” Talli couldn’t help but repeat.

Marisol shook her head and rolled her eyes, obviously annoyed and impatient. “Of course it is, you idiota,” she countered defiantly to Talli.. “We sailors call her the Niña.” Then she added, “And don’t call me cupcake.”

Talli turned to Dooley. “Maybe we’ll have better luck on one of the other ships.”

Dooley shrugged. “C’mon, she’s not that bad. Besides, I don’t see any other birds around these ships.

“Great,” Talli said. “We’re gonna trust our lives to a cormorant with an attitude.”

Dooley turned and tried to appear charming. He forced a smile and introduced himself. “I’m Dooley. This is my brother, Talli.”

“So?” She seemed ambivalent.

Dooley decided to ask a leading question, still smiling. “And you are?”

“My name is Marisol,” she announced. “But we’re not going to be amigos.”

Talli nodded his head in agreement. “No argument here.”

“We’re trying to find out when we are, Marisol,” Dooley explained calmly.

“Where you are? No self-respecting seabird should ever get lost at sea,” she lectured.

“I didn’t say where,” corrected Dooley patiently, “Although that information might come in handy. I asked when we are? We need to know the year.”

“Why do you need to know the year? You have an appointment somewhere?” Marisol challenged.

“Tell us and we’ll leave,” Talli told her. “You’ll never see us again.”

“In that case, the year is fourteen hundred and ninety-two,” she said with a haughty air. “Now adios.”

Dooley considered the new information for a moment, and then nodded his head. “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. So,” he gestured to the other two ships. “Those must be the Pinta and the Santa Maria.”

Suddenly alarmed, Marisol puffed out her chest and spread her wings to their full five-foot expanse. “What are you, French spies?” she demanded in her thick Spanish accent.

“Seriously?” Talli responded. “You want to know if we’re French fries?”

“French spies!” she replied angrily. “I said French spies, payaso! French spies.”

“No, we’re not French spies,” Dooley answered in a mildly amused tone. “And my brother is not a clown.”

“Hmmmf,” Marisol responded.

Dooley explained, “These ships are famous.”

“You, not so much,” Talli assured her.

“Listen you!” she snarled as she stepped threateningly closer to Talli.

“Well, thanks for the info,” Dooley said quickly. “We’d best be heading home.”

As Dooley launched into the air, Talli turned to the large black bird. “Yeah, see ya.” And as he hurled himself into the air he threw one last parting shot, “Cupcake!”


Come back on Friday for the next installment of the adventure . . . a story that could change history.

© 2013, 2018 Sawyer Creative, LLC



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