The Long Flight Home—CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

BOOBIE HOMECOMING

With Dooley in their midst, the group flew toward the island. Mooch trailed. Within minutes, Dooley and the search party reached the island. First Carl, then Dooley and the rest of the searchers awkwardly landed on the beach.

Mooch dropped down to a rock overlooking the small crowd of boobies.

As soon as all the boobies had gathered around, they turned to Carl, who surveyed the gathered boobies. “Welcome home, Dooley. We’ve missed you.”

Dooley looked at Carl and then the other boobies. “And I’ve missed you guys.”

“Care to tell us what you’ve been up to the past few days?” Carl queried.

Dooley was quiet for a beat with his mouth open, flabbergasted. During what turned out to be several days of adventures, he never once considered what he would tell people whenever he found his way back. He doubted anybody would believe that an underwater whirlpool threw him around centuries of history.

Carl spoke up, encouraging Dooley. “It can’t be that bad,” Carl speculated. “After all, Talli found a mate, right?”

“Yep, he did.” Dooley confirmed. That’s when he knew that only the truth would save him. Dooley composed himself and looked around the group of friends and neighbors. “And that wasn’t the only thing that happened,” he added. “What would you say if I told you we saved the colonists at the Boston Tea Party, encouraged Christopher Columbus to find the New World, inspired Jacques Cousteau, fed the loyal seamen set adrift from the H.M.S. Bounty, and rescued Amelia Earhart from a watery grave?” he asked with a perfectly straight face..

The incredulous group of boobies remained dumbstruck for several heartbeats. The only sound any of them heard was waves crashing the shore.

Finally, Kyle broke the silence. He started chuckling at first, which turned quickly to full blown laughter. He laughed so hard, tears started running down his beak. “That’s the kind of story we’d expect from a frigatebird,” he managed to blurt out.

As the other boobies joined in the merriment, Mooch shouted, “Hey, no need to insult frigatebirds!” That statement caused the boobies to laugh even harder.

Carl smiled knowingly. As the laughter died down, He said, “Okay guys, we still have work to do. Victor and Dennis, find Noah and Jonah and let them know the search is over.”

He turned to Hunter and Kyle who hadn’t quite regained their composure. “When you two pull it together, I need you to find Larry and tell him the good news.”

Hunter and Kyle managed to nod agreement between sputtering giggles.

“Now,” Carl announced. “Let’s let Dooley get back to his family.”

Victor looked at the other boobies. “Yeah, let’s hope he comes up with a better story before he sees Andie.”

That comment caused another round of laughter.

As the four boobies finally started breaking away, Kyle turned back to Dooley with one last thought. “If worse comes to worse, remember one word, Dooley, amnesia.

The boobies were still laughing as they launched themselves into the air.

Dooley and Carl watched as the four boobies broke into two pairs and headed off to spread the news.

Carl turned to Dooley with a serious expression. “So,” he said. “You got caught in the maelstrom.”

Staggered, Dooley stuttered, Wh-what? You know about the maelstrom?” It seemed inconceivable to him that wise old Carl had any experience with the wild whirlpool.

Carl chuckled wistfully. “You’re not the first boobie to have an unexpected adventure,” he observed.

“You? Really?” Dooley was still taken aback by the news.

Carl nodded affirmation.

“How long did it take you to get back?” Dooley asked.

“I didn’t,” Carl answered simply.

“But you’re here,” Dooley argued.

“But I didn’t start here,” Carl explained. “I imagine I’m a lot like Talli. I just made the best of where ended up.”

Incredulous, Dooley looked at Carl as he asked, “So you’re not from now?”

Carl shook his head. “No,” Carl admitted. “But just like Talli I imagine, I’m doing fine right where I am.”

Carl put a wing around Dooley as they walked toward the beach. Carl gestured toward the sky. Dooley looked up and saw Andie, Haley, and Conley flying right toward them.

Dooley turned to Carl. “I’m home,” he said. “I’m finally home.”

Carl nodded. “Make the most of it.”

“Count on it,” Dooley replied as he took a few steps toward the water and launched into the air.

Carl stood silently on the beach, watching as Dooley flew to his family and the orange ball of the sun started setting in the distance.

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