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The Walrus Who Almost Starved
Once upon a time there was a walrus, who like all walruses, was born without tusks. The difference was, that even when he came of age, his tusks never grew in. Plus, he was tiny. At that point, the other walruses accused his mother of sleeping with a seal. She balked and sighed and wept because none of the walruses trusted her virtue. They barked at her day in and day out. Even her husband doubted her.
When the walrus was nine months old—around the time he should have already grown tusks—his father waddled up to a group of hunters without saying a word. The hunters immediately speared the father walrus and brought his massive body to their wives to dress. Not a single whisker was left behind. Exactly one month after that, the mother walrus threw herself to the same fate. And so the little walrus found himself an orphan.
Nobody loved the little walrus. The other walruses snubbed him, hoping he would die so his ugliness would no longer burden them. Yet the little walrus persevered. With no dignity to lose, the walrus sought no one's acceptance. He ate the other walrus' leftover fish, eventually taught himself to hunt, and learned to enjoy his own company.
The little walrus would sit out on the ice, in the sun, watching the gulls. He would spend hours trying to translate their cries. Other times, he would count the puffins until he knew not what number came next. After that, he usually fell asleep, even if the other walruses were still awake, laughing and playing. The other walruses made sure to make merry close to the little walrus, but not close enough that he might think he could join them. Many of the conversations centered on the little walrus and how ugly they thought he was, born without tusks. They said this loudly and often. Unfettered, the little walrus kept counting puffins.
When the other walruses realized that the little walrus did not fear their rejection, they hatched a plan. They dug a huge hole in the snow next to the little walrus while he slept. Then they pushed him in it. He instantly awoke upon hitting the bottom of the hole, but it was too late. The other walruses pushed a slab of ice over the hole, and waddled off. They cackled about how the little walrus could not dig himself out of the hole—not without tusks.
At first, the little walrus cried. When he realized that would not help him escape, he stopped crying. The only difference then was that his misery was inaudible. The walrus swallowed and tried to think. He pushed at the snow with his flippers. Yet the snow was packed too tight to budge. The little walrus cried again. Once he calmed himself, he opened his mouth and went at the snow with his teeth. He stopped the moment the snow touched his gums. Then the little walrus cursed God and cried until he fell asleep.
An hour or so later, the sound of sea gulls grated on the little walrus' ears. He began barking at them until their cries turned into words. The little walrus understood them. “Unless I am delirious,” he said to himself. He banished the possibility from his mind. The only thing madder than thinking sea gulls could talk would be dying in this hole, he reasoned.
The little walrus called for help, but as a sea gull would. He cried and the sea gulls cried back.
“Where are you?” one sea gull asked.
“Beneath this blasted slap of ice!” the little walrus shouted.
“In the Hole of Death?”
“Don't call it that!”
“That's where a hunter fell and died last year.”
“Don't let me die next!”
“What's in it for us?” asked another sea gull.
“I...whatever you want!”
“You're not that walrus without tusks, are you?” said the first sea gull.
“Of course I am! Who else would they push down here? Please save me!”
“I bet you wish you had tusks now!”
“I only wish I were out of this hole!”
The first sea gull piped up again. “Only if you tell the puffins to steer clear of our fish.”
“Fine! Sure! Anything!”
The sea gulls looked at each other and shrugged. Then the whole flock dove down toward the slab of ice. Each one wedged part of the slab in his beak and together they lifted the slap. They flew several yards away from the hole and dropped the slab. It broke upon hitting the ground. The sea gulls returned to the hole and each one pinched a bit of the little walrus' skin in his beak. Together they lifted the little walrus toward the puffins. All the while, the little walrus whooped and hollered, thrilled to be alive.
After the little walrus negotiated a treaty between the sea gulls and the puffins, he decided to live among the birds forever. He would not return to the other walruses. And so he never did, living happily ever after.
Christine Stoddard is the Executive Director of Quail Bell Magazine. She loves the idea of having a pet walrus, although that'd be pretty cruel in reality--especially since she lives in the hot and steamy state of Virginia. So there goes that fantasy. She has yet, however, to give up on the dream of one day owning a pet unicorn.
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