His First Flight

His First Flight

The young seagull was alone on his ledge. His
two brothers and his sister had already flown away
the day before. He had been afraid to fly with them.
Somehow when he had taken a little run forward to
the brink of the ledge and attempted to flap his
wings he became afraid. The great expanse of sea
stretched down beneath, and it was such a long way
down - miles down. He felt certain that his wings
would never support him; so he bent his head and
ran away back to the little hole under the ledge
where he slept at night. Even when each of his
brothers and his little sister, whose wings were far
shorter than his own, ran to the brink, flapped their
wings, and flew away, he failed to muster up
courage to take that plunge which appeared to him
so desperate. His father and mother had come around
calling to him shrilly, upbraiding him, threatening
to let him starve on his ledge unless he flew away.
But for the life of him he could not move.
That was twenty-four hours ago. Since then
nobody had come near him. The day before, all day
long, he had watched his parents flying about with
his brothers and sister, perfecting them in the art of
flight, teaching them how to skim the waves and
how to dive for fish. He had, in fact, seen his older
brother catch his first herring and devour it, standing
on a rock, while his parents circled around raising
a proud cackle. And all the morning the whole family
had walked about on the big plateau midway down
the opposite cliff taunting him for his cowardice.
The sun was now ascending the sky, blazing on
his ledge that faced the south. He felt the heat
because he had not eaten since the previous nightfall.

He stepped slowly out to the brink of the ledge,
and standing on one leg with the other leg hidden
under his wing, he closed one eye, then the other,
and pretended to be falling asleep. Still they took no notice of him. He saw his two brothers and his sister
lying on the plateau dozing with their heads sunk
into their necks. His father was preening the feathers
on his white back. Only his mother was looking at
him. She was standing on a little high hump on the
plateau, her white breast thrust forward. Now and
again, she tore at a piece of fish that lay at her feet
and then scrapped each side of her beak on the rock.
The sight of the food maddened him. How he loved
to tear food that way, scrapping his beak now and
again to whet it.
“Ga, ga, ga”, he cried begging her to bring him
some food. “Gaw-col-ah”, she screamed back
derisively. But he kept calling plaintively, and after
a minute or so he uttered a joyful scream. His mother
had picked up a piece of the fish and was flying
across to him with it. He leaned out eagerly, tapping
the rock with his feet, trying to get nearer to her as
she flew across. But when she was just opposite to
him, she halted, her wings motionless, the piece of
fish in her beak almost within reach of his beak. He
waited a moment in surprise, wondering why she did
not come nearer, and then, maddened by hunger, he
dived at the fish. With a loud scream he fell outwards
and downwards into space. Then a monstrous terror
seized him and his heart stood still. He could hear
nothing. But it only lasted a minute. The next
moment he felt his wings spread outwards. The wind
rushed against his breast feathers, then under his
stomach, and against his wings. He could feel the
tips of his wings cutting through the air. He was not
falling headlong now. He was soaring gradually
downwards and outwards. He was no longer afraid.
He just felt a bit dizzy. Then he flapped his wings
once and he soared upwards. “Ga, ga, ga, Ga, ga
ga, Gaw-col-ah,” his mother swooped past him, her
wings making a loud noise. He answered her with
another scream. Then his father flew over him
screaming. He saw his two brothers and his sister
flying around him curveting and banking and
soaring and diving.
Then he completely forgot that he had not always
been able to fly, and commended himself to dive and
soar and curve, shrieking shrilly.
He was near the sea now, flying straight over
it, facing straight out over the ocean. He saw a vast
green sea beneath him, with little ridges moving over
it and he turned his beak sideways and cawed
His parents and his brothers and sister had landed
on this green flooring ahead of him. They were
beckoning to him, calling shrilly. He dropped his
legs to stand on the green sea. His legs sank into
it. He screamed with fright and attempted to rise
again flapping his wings. But he was tired and weak
with hunger and he could not rise, exhausted by the
strange exercise. His feet sank into the green sea,
and then his belly touched it and he sank no farther.
He was floating on it, and around him his family
was screaming, praising him and their beaks were
offering him scraps of dog-fish.
He had made his first flight.

                                               - Liam O’ Flaherty

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