The Long Flight Home—CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

BOOBIES TO THE RESCUE

Dooley reached the surface with the parachute in his beak. As he fought with the yards of silk fabric, he sensed something behind him and turned to see a boobie-like missile, white with a small blur of red, crashed into the water less than five feet away.

Far below Dooley, Talli expended great effort to stop the parachute’s rapid descent. Suddenly, his load lightened. He turned, expecting to see that Dooley had arrived to help him. He saw that the much needed assistance came from a red-footed boobie he had never seen before.

With the parachute firmly in her beak, the red-footed boobie started pulling in the direction of the surface.

The parachute’s descent slowed until the two boobies finally reversed the direction and started pulling toward the surface.

Limp and unresponsive, Amelia followed the parachute up from the ocean depths.

As Fred battled his way out from under the collapsed chute, Dooley let go of the silk in his beak. After Fred’s head broke the surface, at last out from under the fabric, he coughed up what appeared to be a gallon of seawater.

Frantically treading water, Fred spun in a circle, searching for signs of Amelia. He shouted her name several times as he rose and fell with the choppy ocean.

Dooley dove back underwater and swam toward the second parachute. He caught up to Talli and an unidentified red-footed boobie about twenty feet below the surface. He grabbed a beak full of silk and started hauling it to the surface.

Minutes later, Dooley, Talli, and the red-footed boobie popped to the surface, with the parachute in their mouths. Amelia surfaced seconds later, coughing and gasping for air.

Blood flowed freely from a gash on Amelia’s forehead.

Fred caught sight of Amelia between the waves and managed to swim over to her. He pulled her to him and supported her in his arms. “Meely!” he shouted. “Meely?”

Breathless, Fred put his face next to Amelia’s. “We’re gonna be okay,” he assured her before coughing uncontrollably again. “I’ll get us to that island.”

Fred look around, trying to spot the island he saw from the air. “I’m all turned around. I know that island was due west. All I need is a fix on the sun.”

Dooley took flight. About twenty feet above the swells, he spotted the small deserted island and swooped back down. Before he touched down on the water, Dooley saw Fred trying to swim an awkward sidestroke, holding up Amelia with one arm.

Dooley looked at Fred, and then looked over his shoulder in the opposite direction. He realized that Fred was pulling Amelia in the wrong direction.

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