Highly Commended Story - Flying For A FRIEND!
“Flying For A FRIEND!” by Arunima Ghosh, The Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad, India, is the Highly Commended story in the sub-junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Arunima Ghosh is a student of Grade 3 at The Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. She loves reading, singing, dancing and painting. She conducts ‘Book Club Buddies’ every alternate Sundays where literary works are discussed; members of the club are from grades 3 to 8. She learns Rabindra Sangeet and loves Indian and Western music. She is passionate about art and puppetry-oriented storytelling. She recently received a certificate of appreciation from the Katha for her story narration video ‘Abba ka Din’. Her favourite writers are Ruskin Bond, Julia Donaldson, Satyajit Ray, Roald Dahl, Mahasweta Devi and Enid Blyton.
Flying For A FRIEND!
Once upon a time before the pandemic hit the wilderness of the Sundarbans! On the lonely fringes of the Bay of Bengal, lived Owlie, the motherless owl. She was strange: she would be wide awake at day and slept at night. She would keep her eyes googling for a friend under the clean sky as a radiant sun spread its smiling shade across the mangrove area. Fly, Owlie, fly…she would egg herself on. She flew till her wings ached and she dropped dead, all sweaty but no friend in sight. ‘How I wish one could cradle me and put me to bed when I am tired!’, she mused and mused till she dozed off and flew into a fantasy...
I hear the cheer of a puppy, a hedgehog, a kitten and a tortoise! ‘Lo! Let me check what they are all up to!’ A murmur of whisper to myself. I find them frolicking in the kitchen. The whiff of spicy chicken is enough to give a spring in my steps and I jump in. Let’s go on an adventure, we all chime in a chorus!
Here we go! The adventure gang is ready: Marie the kitten, Guphi the puppy, Hedgie the hedgehog, Torty the tortoise and I. Walking on the trail of the forest, Guphi breaks the silence: ‘Do you all want to build a castle?’ ‘But how?’, I ask. ‘We will build a castle by climbing up on one another’s body’, says Guphi moving his dapper tail. ‘Torty, Hedgie and I followed by Marie and Owlie’, pat comes the suggestion.
Bump! I fall off while climbing on Guphi’s back. ‘Oh, Owlie, are you ok dear?’, shrieks Marie. I am kind of, I say flicking dried leaves off my wings. ‘Let us try again.’ I say boldly. ‘That is what I call a brave lady’, says Hedgie. One…two..three..four…five! ‘We made a castle!’, comes the fastest meow from Marie. ‘Don’t tickle Owlie and drop the castle to a thud!’, comes the wise voice of Torty. The adventure is in the air…we now wish to go rowing to the nearby lake.
We all get onto the desolate boat on the shore. An uprush of excitement grips us now. Suddenly a panic cry! ‘Hedgie, did you hear a roaring noise.’ I ask. Hedgie pokes me with her sharp, pointy quill. ‘OUCH! It hurts.’ I say. Again a roar. This time it is louder. We all stand rooted as if struck by a sudden lightning. Splash! We all look around in fear. ‘Oh, God! My vanity bag with my ipad and lipstick!’, laments the tech-savvy Marie. I hold her in my arms; I also see the sinking bag reflected on her sapphire eyes. ‘Material stuffs only, at least we are safe’, comments the group’s rational mind, Torty.
Are we? I see all curious eyes asking the same question. We speak in whispers to avoid the roaring beast’s preying eyes. Count the numbers, head count. ‘Guphi is missing!’, whispers Marie. WHAAAATT! ‘Yes, he is not with us.’, says Torty, sounds not as fearful as we are now. Thud! Marie drops fainted. ‘Check her pulses, wake her up.’, says Torty. I am numbed with panic. Oh, Lord, save Guphi. We all sit huddled in the boat. The boat is now in the middle of the lake. I look at the gentle waves, breaking and building. The day is coming to a close. Hungry and impatient, we row the boat back to the shore. The evening sky looks grumpy with stray, dark clouds. It is getting darker…
Walking on the trail, we are all silent. Guphi, where are you? Our eyes are looking for him. ‘Wait, there is Guphi.’, cries out Marie in joy. WHAATT! We come closer. Guphi lies flat on the ground, snoring. ‘We missed you, Guphi. Where were you?’, we all shake him up. He wakes up strutting: wha…t? ‘You know I was gobbled up by that cranky, old lion.’, narrates Guphi rubbing the sleep off his eyes. ‘But HOW?’, we are dying with curiosity. ‘I was lagging behind and suddenly I was airlifted. Before I could bark, I was gagged. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a dark, horrid cave. You know what, it was the tummy of the lion.’, Guphi narrates like a smart storyteller. We are all ears.
‘What did you see in the lion’s tummy?’, I am now all itchy, to know more and more. Guphi sits like a king on Torty’s lap and recounts the story: ‘There were bats. The walls of his tummy were full of spiders.’ ‘That sound spooky.’ says Marie with a shiver. ‘How did you save yourself?’, I ask Guphi. ‘You know, before the lion could make me his meal, I told him that I have magical powers and can cure him of his acute stomachache. He burst out laughing. But later after much thinking, he agreed to gobbled me up and sent me to his tummy for examination. You know what, to make him believe in what I can do, I scratched him tummy with my nails. Screech! Came the sound and the stupid lion was convinced.’ ‘How did you come out?’, I am now fidgety. ‘Wait, let Guphi catch his breath.’, interrupts Torty. I am fine, says Guphi and his story begins: ‘The lion burped like hell and I came flying out of his mammoth mouth.’ THEN…. We are all on the edge of excitement. ‘I was saved by a nature nymph who cradled me in her arms and saved me from the greedy lion. She cuddled and patted me to sleep.’
A cloud burst! Owlie woke with a start. She looked at the falling raindrops and smiled to herself: who says I am without friends!