Volume 9, Number 50, 2006

Dig This Clam!
by Elizabeth Symon

A long long time ago there lived on this island, I’m told, a fisherman whose name was Clam. His wife’s name was Pearl, and their three children were called Sea Urchin, Sea Star, and little Sea Anemone.

Every morning Clam put out to sea in his wooden boat (weather permitting) and in the evening returned home with his catch.

For many years Clam was content with this daily routine but after a while he began to feel something was missing from his life. Instead of attending to ‘bites’ he would be lost in a daydream. Surely life had something better to offer him than this sunrise to sunset job! He could be great! He could be famous!

Clam was no longer content with fish and chips for supper. That was not good enough for a future man of fame! He now demanded baron of bream, halibut à la King, or Emperor style sole.

“All this rich food will give Clam even stranger ideas,” Pearl said to herself one day. “Oh dear, what’ll he think of next?”

Just then the children came tearing into the house, yelling and shrieking in excitement.

“Papa’s going to fly! Papa’s making wings.”

Pearl threw open the window, and there was Clam busy attaching sides to his little rowing boat and a giant propeller to the prow. No, they weren’t sides, they were wooden wings!

She knew he shouldn’t have had all that rich food. It was driving him crazy!

“Clam!” she called, running out on to the beach. “What is all this nonsense?”

“Quiet!” roared Clam, who had had three platefuls of turbot tournedos for lunch. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

And he continued to transform his boat into a rudimentary flying machine. (Remember, in those days, no one had heard of airplanes. This all happened a long time ago.)

“Will this contraption help you find more fish?” asked Pearl. “Your catch has been down a bit of late.”

“QUIET!” roared Clam. “I told you I’m busy! And I’m not going to fish any more!”

Pearl gasped. No more fishing! They would starve! Or she would have to use their resources of dried fish, and how long would those last? And who could prepare gourmet dishes from them?

Wide eyed and silent, the children watched Clam till long past their bedtime, as he added feathers to the wings of his flying boat. He worked well into the night by the light of flares, and Pearl made him a swordfish sandwich snack to sustain him at his task. As it grew later in the night, his temper grew shorter. Pearl and the children crept quietly home to bed.

At last the sun rose and so did Clam’s family. The children gathered on the shore, silently, and Clam’s wife brought him breakfast of King Crab Krunch which he gulped down in one mouthful, so keen was he on completing the last finishing touches on his flying machine.

By noon the extraordinary contraption was ready. Clam climbed aboard. The propeller whirred. The wings flapped. A lot of feathers dropped off. But slowly the craft rose up in the air.

“Oh, do be careful, Clam!” cried Pearl.

While the children raced about, chasing the feathers, she watched in amazement till Clam and his flying machine were just a speck in the sky. Then she went slowly back into the house and searched in her cookbooks for something suitable for a birdman’s evening meal.

At sundown the table was set and Pearl proudly took the caviar pie, her latest masterpiece, out of the oven. But there was no sign of the returning birdman, and that night Urchin, Star and even little Anemone had second helpings.

The next morning the wreck of the flying boat and a very subdued Clam were found stranded on Guano Rock. Neighbours had to row out and rescue him, and tow the flying boat back to shore. Now Clam had to rebuild his boat, which was not nearly so exciting as making it into a flying machine. He realized that it was back to the old sunrise to sunset job for him, and no more flying again, it would seem. It was also back to plain, ordinary meals.

Now it happened that a few weeks after this that Clam’s wife was hanging fresh laundered sheets out on the clothesline.

“There’s a good breeze today,” she said to herself. “They’ll be dry in no time!”

Clam saw her from the beach and raised an oar to tell her he was setting out for the day’s fishing. At that moment a great gust of wind tore one of the sheets off the line and tossed it down to the beach. It flew straight to Clam’s upraised oar and clung to it like a limpet.

Another gust of wind blew and Clam’s boat skimmed across the sea faster than he had ever rowed.

“Wow!” he cried. “I’ve found a way to move on the sea. It’s almost like flying! I’ll be famous! I knew it! I knew it!”

He secured the sheet firmly to the oar with fishline, and it was believed that he was the first person to have a sailboat in this part of the world. (Remember, this was all a long time ago.)

In honour of his wife’s help with this invention, he named his sailboat Pearl, and sometimes took the whole family fishing with him.

Clam was happy now flying across the water in his sailboat, I’m told, and never tried to fly in the sky again.

Perhaps one day you’ll come here and find an old old rowboat with wooden wings and see the name on it is Pearl, and remember all that happened here a long long time ago.