MUMMY PACKED A wicker picnic basket with potato salad and hot dogs. Daddy drove the motor home to a place called Grimes Cove not far from Boothbay Harbor, where there was a beach. There were also rocks to climb, and a footpath that wound all the way to the cliff at Ocean's Point.
Foofer had never seen a sandy beach up close before now, so he was thrilled when he ran alongside his parents. He could feel the gritty yet soft sand between his paws and he liked it. The he darted ahead of Mummy and Daddy, but he stayed close so he could look back and see them.
Mummy and Daddy chose a spot on the beach underneath a short cliff edge, spreading out a red-and black checkered blanket and setting the picnic basket in the sand.
Foofer was so happy he raced around, sticking his nose in the sand and watching seagulls dive in the sky. Mummy smiled at her little boy, glad to see him enjoying himself in the surf. He was having too much fun to stop and eat so Mummy and Daddy munched on potato salad and hot dogs, watching Foofer frolic about.
"I wish I could bring Frizbee here," Foofer thought all of a sudden. "He would love all this freedom, and the long beach and the ocean." Then Foofer felt guilty. It was the first time he truly thought of the consequences of moving to Maine. Frizbee was his best friend in the whole world so he should be uppermost in his mind, but here was Foofer having fun and contemplating leaving his friend behind.
As usual, Mummy could hear what Foofer was thinking. She patted the sand with her hand, inviting to come and sit by her. Foofer trotted over, licking his Mummy on the face, and then leaned on her as he sat down.
"It's okay that you haven't thought about Frizbee very much on this trip," Mummy said in Foofer's ear. "It doesn't mean you've forgotten about him. You've been busy with other things, your mind has been occupied with the vacation trip and with all the new facts and figures you've been learning. I'm sure Frizbee hasn't been thinking about you every waking moment while you've been gone. He has other things to do, too."
Foofer licked Mummy's face again. She continued to talk in his ear: "So you have nothing to feel guilty about. You're a good boy with a good and loving heart. Frizbee will always be your friend, as will Odie in Utah, no matter where you live. But that doesn't mean you can't see new places and make new friends."
Happier now that Mummy had made things clear for him, Foofer darted off and ran his nose in the sand. He trotted just close enough to the water to wet his toes, and then charged off again.
All of a sudden Foofer spotted an odd-looking bird perched on the cliff. Mummy and Daddy were still eating lunch and talking, so they were not paying attention to the cliff. Foofer continued to stare at the bird, and was amazed when a second one joined the first. The pair looked like miniature parrots, with long hooky orange bills and orange webbed feet. They had black feathers down their backs and around their necks, and white feathers on their chests and faces. The birds were staring back at Foofer, and this made him all the more curious.
He jogged over to the base of the small cliff, where the footpath led to the top of a rocky crag. Before going up the path to check out the odd birds, Foofer looked back at his Mummy and Daddy. They were still talking and eating, not even looking in his direction. Satisfied they were occupied and wouldn't miss him for a few minutes, Foofer sped up the footpath. He wanted a closer look at the strange little birds.
Once at the top of the cliff Foofer sniffed around, making his way through a few shrubs and big rocks. He came upon the birds in a clearing near the edge of the cliff, right where he had last seen them from the beach.
The birds were even smaller up close, although one appeared slightly taller than the other one. Because of his size, Foofer was used to people and other animals being afraid of him at first glance, but these birds were not intimidated by him in the least. They looked him right in the eyes, just as curious about him as he was about them.
Foofer barked: "Who are you?"
The slightly taller bird spoke up. "Steady on, young man. No need to talk so loudly. Let us introduce ourselves. I'm Lord Posthaste, and this is my lovely wife Lady Boadecia."
Foofer was surprised because Lord Posthaste had an English accent, and because he seemed so sure of himself. Mummy had a few English friends so he knew their elegant way of speaking, but he was unused to a talking bird with the same accent.
"My name is Foofer," he said, remembering his manners. "I'm pleased to meet you in return. Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude, but what kind of birds are the two of you?"
Lord Posthaste cleared his throat. "You seem the intelligent sort. Don't you know what species we are?"
Foofer shook his head. "I'm afraid not."
"We are puffins, my dear," Lady Boadecia spoke up. She had an English accent too, but her tone was higher in pitch.
"Puffins?" Foofer questioned, never having heard of them before.
Lord Posthaste glanced at Lady Boadecia, and then he said: "Surely you know what puffins are, young man."
"Puffins are birds," Lord Posthaste said crisply. "We are native to Maine and belong to the Alcidae family of seabirds. We nest from Maine to Newfoundland and Iceland to Ireland, Great Britain and the northwest coast of France. However, my particular branch of the family has been in Maine for many generations, although we originated from nobility in England."
"What does nobility mean?" Foofer asked, still finding it odd that he was having a conversation with two birds. He should be chasing them!
"Nobility is a special class," Lord Posthaste replied a trifle impatiently. "We are better-born and better-bred than average puffins. We are educated, well-mannered and above average."
Foofer snorted, stepping closer. "In other words you're upper-crust sorts, with your bills in the air?" Foofer remembered Mummy using the word "upper-crust" in one of her books, referring to someone who thought they were better than the rest. But Mummy also told Foofer that no one was above anyone else, no matter their circumstances. Everyone was supposed to be equal.
Lord Posthaste looked offended. "We are certainly not upper-crust! We are respectful and considerate of others. We also possess good manners, something you might want to practice more often."
Foofer apologized. "I didn't mean to be rude. I've just never seen birds like the two of you before and I'm curious. What are you doing out here on the cliff?"
"We are perching and looking out over the ocean," Lady Boadecia spoke up. "We also like to swim. We catch most of our food in the ocean, things like small fish, mollusks and crabs. We usually eat underwater, but when we have others to feed we can carry up to thirty fish at one time, storing them crosswise in our bills. You see, puffins have rounded tongues with slight serrations on our upper mandibles. This helps us hold the fish in our mouths."
Foofer was impressed. "Wow!" Then he wondered why Lord Posthaste and Lady Boadecia were alone, why there weren't more like them on the cliff. "Do you travel with other puffins?" Foofer asked politely, trying not to seem as if he were prying. "Do you have children?"
"We travel alone," Lady Boadecia said. "But we me meet up with our friends here and there."
"Boadecia and I never had children of our own," Lord Posthaste said sadly. "Carrying on our line will depend on my younger brother Cedric, who lives in Iceland."
"But we do have an adopted daughter," Lady Boadecia told Foofer, flapping one of her wings and glancing at Lord Posthaste. "She's a lovely creature, although quite unlike us."
"You see, our daughter is much like you," Lord Posthaste said. "That's why we were staring when you first saw us perching on the cliff."
Foofer was puzzled. "Your daughter looks like me? How is that possible?"
"She is our adopted daughter," Lady Boadecia reminded Foofer a bit sharply. "That being the case, she wouldn't look like us, now would she?"
Before Foofer could respond, Lord Posthaste was speaking again. "We found our adopted daughter abandoned and alone last April. Her real mother left her to fend for herself, so we took her in and raised her. She is quite beautiful and smart. We are very proud of her."
Foofer put two-and-two together. "Well, if you're daughter looks like me then she must be a dog."
Lady Boadecia flapped her wings together, her voice gleeful. "That's exactly what we've been trying to tell you!"
FOOFER MEETS THE PUFFINS ©2011-2017 Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.
"Foofer Meets the Puffins" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Foofer Meets the Puffins" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.