I’ve decided that today is Show and Tell Day and I am going to share an excerpt from my upcoming contemporary YA novel Footprints in the Sand. This is the first time I have ever shared an excerpt of this story and I am very excited to hear what you think about it.
The story is based on Sophie, a fifteen year old girl from New York City who is forced to give up the life she loves when her dad loses his job and moves the family to southwest Florida. Feeling lost without her beloved high end shops, trendy cafes, and girl friends, Sophie struggles to find herself again. With the help of a local surfer boy named Trent, Sophie discovers a passion for helping injured animals and learns to enjoy all that life in Florida has to offer.
This excerpt is from Chapter Eight, a few weeks after Sophie’s family has moved to Florida. She is trying to settle into this new life and takes a walk on the beach to explore the area. During her walk she finds a pelican tangled in fishing line and panics. Luckily, there is a fisherman on the beach nearby who knows what to do.
Listening carefully to the man’s instructions, I nodded and moved behind the pelican as directed. The man spoke to the bird and distracted it while I slowly moved in from behind. Tossing the towel over the back of the bird’s head, I wriggled my fingers onto the edge of the pelican’s open beak and tried not to wince as it tried to close its beak over them.
“Good job,” the man praised as I struggled to steady the thrashing bird.
The man patted the pelican’s back and the bird settled a bit as he set about clipping sections of the fishing line. After a few minutes, the fishing line was gone but there was still a hook embedded in the pelican’s neck and there were deep cuts where the line pulled too tight during the bird’s struggle to free itself.
“He’s still pretty hurt,” I said to the man, tears flooding my eyes at the plight of the injured bird. “Is there anything else we can do?”
The man smiled as he readjusted the towel and picked up the exhausted, injured bird. “There is plenty we can do, starting with taking him to the wildlife center. Come on, I’ll carry this guy if you will run over and grab my stuff. There isn’t much. Meet me at the black pickup in the lot.”
Relieved that we were not going to leave the bird to die, I sprinted back to the man’s fishing spot and quickly loaded things into his beach cart. Checking to make sure I grabbed everything, I tugged the heavy cart back up the beach to the walkway leading to the parking lot.
I spotted the man leaning against the black pickup truck and made my way to him. The cart was much easier to pull on the hard ground.
“Jump in the passenger side and I’ll put this guy on your lap. Hold him snug but don’t squeeze to tight. Birds have hollow bones that break fairly easily. He likely won’t struggle too much since he is exhausted.”
Doing as the man instructed, I held the bird in my lap with a firm yet tender grip and started humming. It was not even intentional but it seemed to calm the bird as it laid still in my lap, its little heart pounding away.
A moment later, the man jumped into the driver’s side. “The wildlife center is only five minutes away. Just keep an eye on him. We’ll crash if he gets loose and tries to fly around the cab.”
Taking my job very seriously, I snuggled the bird and continued humming, doing whatever I could to keep it calm.
The center was located on a part of the island that I had not explored yet. It was on the bay side north of the places that Trent showed me. From the front, the center didn’t appear like much. It was an old concrete building that needed new paint. But as the man led me around the side of the building, my jaw dropped open. The real “Wildlife Center” was behind the building and consisted of cages of various sizes, fenced in areas, little pools, stacks of carry crates, and all sorts of other things that I had no idea what they were.
“Welcome to the Island Wildlife Center,” the man said. “They take in all sorts of injured and orphaned wildlife and rehabilitate them until they can be released. The ones that can’t be released stay here as part of their education program.”
“Wow,” I whispered in awe. It was like a little zoo only these animals were all local and injured in some way.
“Come on, we have to bring this fella into the infirmary,” the man said, holding a door open on the side of the building.
Grasping the pelican to my chest, I walked through the door into a room lined with incubators and cages. It was noisy in the room from all of the animals within. The man led the way to a table where a woman was feeding little baby bunnies.
“Hi, Marie,” the man greeted. “Tanya or Frank around? We have an injured pelican here.”
“Hi, John. They’re around here somewhere, feeding time, you know how it gets,” Marie replied. I realized then that I never asked the man’s name.
Marie spent a few minutes finishing up her bunny feeding duties before helping us to secure the injured pelican. She moved with the grace of experience in handling wild animals as she was equal parts gentle and firm.
“Looks like he was caught up in fishing line for a while,” Marie said, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Yes, I found him while I was walking the beach. He was struggling a lot.”
“Well, thank you for acting quickly and bringing him to us. We get many animals in with injuries from fishing line and hooks. It is an unfortunate fact of life on the island.”
“Well, I didn’t know what to do but I was lucky to find John here to help me,” I said feeling bashful.
“Luck and timing is half the battle, dear. What is your name?”
“Sophie,” I replied.
There was a commotion from the door as a middle aged couple entered.
“Oh! Hi, John! What have you brought us today?” the woman asked as the couple approached us.
Glancing at John, I figured he must do this sort of thing often, which was incredible.
“A juvenile brown pelican with fishing line and hook injuries. Sophie here was the one to find him and she asked for my help,” John explained, gesturing towards me.
“Wonderful job, Sophie,” the woman said, approaching with her hand extended in introduction. “My name is Tanya and this is my husband, Frank. We run the center and we couldn’t do it without people like John, Maria, and now, you.”
“I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time,” I replied, shaking Tanya’s hand before reaching out to shake Frank’s hand.
“Well, do you have some time? We can show you what we do for the incoming animals and give you a tour of the facility. We have quite a lot of animals right now so it is a great time for a tour.”,
“I would love that!” I exclaimed, causing the adults to chuckle with amusement. It was rare that I was ever that excited over anything.
“I am going to leave you to it and get back to fishing, if someone would be able to give Sophie a ride to wherever she needs to go later?” John said.
“Of course, we’ll take care of her,” Tanya said, smiling at me as she put on a pair of surgical gloves.
“Thanks so much, John! It was great to meet you and I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without your help,” I blurted as John headed for the door.
“It was a pleasure, Sophie. I am sure I’ll see you around.”
I watched, intrigued, as Tanya and Frank set to work helping the injured pelican while Marie continued with her feeding duties. Tanya was even kind enough to explain what they were doing as they went along.
“We are removing the hook with a special pair of pliers that makes the process much easier,” she explained as Frank used the pliers to gently pull out the hook. “Then we clean the wounds.”
After half an hour, the pelican was as fixed as they could get him. Thankfully, he did not need stitches, so all they had to do was clean the wounds and set him up with a large crate to spend a few days healing.
“One of the biggest problems for injured animals is stress,” Frank explained as they cleaned up and placed the supplies back into their proper places. “They exhaust themselves trying to get out of the fishing line and they are highly stressed because they can’t rely on their normal instinct to fly away when something approaches.”
“Which is why we try to be as gentle as possible and we even keep the animals with minor injuries for at least a few days. That way they can fully recover their strength and we can monitor their stress levels,” Tanya added.
Watching their every move, I decided Tanya and Frank made a great team and it was obvious that they loved what they did. They were quickly becoming two of my favorite people.