Excerpt for Kokki Cormorant by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Frank Kirtley

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2018 by Frank Kirtley

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9780463073216

This book is for adults under 11 only.


Thanks to Sue Littleford for her editing. Sue is the best editor this side of the Yukon.

Also thanks to Maggie for tons of help in so many ways, and the encouragement. For being bossy when she needed to be.

And thanks to Peter Trotter for saving the bird’s life and teaching me how birds think.

This one is for Kristian Kirtley.

Chapter 1


Don’t go to sleep.


His eyes were tight closed. He rose and fell to the rhythm of the “slushing” sound. He could hear the pebbles rolling.

His head rolled to one side.

Don’t go to sleep. DON’T!

Where was Malcolm? With effort he lifted his head and opened his eyes. He couldn’t move his body now. He looked around for his brother. Malcolm was two yards away but may as well have been on the moon. He was rising and falling too but it seemed a little further up the beach. The tide had turned. Malcolm always said that he didn’t feel the cold, but he looked cold now.

“Malcolm!” Kokki screeched. No movement.

“Malcolm! Don’t go to sleep!” Did he move his head or was it the sea? Try again. No, don’t you go to sleep. You have to help Malcolm.


He watched. Nothing.


“I can hear you, Kokki,” said Malcolm. “Don’t waste your breath shouting. Try not to go to sleep.”

“You OK?”

“Yes. I think so.”

“Can you move?”

“… er… no. Can you?”

Kokki really tried. He’d been trying for hours but the more he tried the bigger the mess he seemed to get into.

“A bit.”




“I think that we’ve had it.”

“Don’t say that, Malcolm. And don’t go to sleep.”

“You’ve just been sleeping, Kokki. You were snoring.”

“Have you looked at yourself, Malcolm?”

“Yes. Have you?”


What a mess, Malcolm thought.

“We’ll never get out of this one, Kokki,” Malcolm’s voice was soft and gentle.

“Don’t give up, Malcolm.” Kokki was getting frantic.

What could they do? The oil was black, sticky and weighed much more than them. Huge lumps stuck to their wings and bodies and feet. Every movement gave it more grip. But if you didn’t move, what could you do?

“MALCOLM! You are going to sleep.”

“I know, Kokki, I’m just so tired. I think we’ve had it.”



“Do you think that man will bring his dog today?”

“SHUT UP, Kokki! You’re only trying to scare me.”

But Malcolm tried in vain to turn around and get back into the sea. The tide was ebbing now. The water hadn’t touched them for twenty minutes. Was it twenty minutes? Was it worth knowing? What a way to go! Why couldn’t they have gone on one of their long flights and died the way of all cormorants? Mum and Dad had warned them again and again about the oil slicks. If only they’d listened.

If only. He heard his Dad say “Hindsight makes fools of us all, son.” If only they HAD listened and watched where they were going. They’d been watching each other. Roll, turn, dive and look out or he’ll beat you! Two feet and they’d have missed it. Might have missed it. Might have just touched it a little.

“Ouch!” It hurts when you try to preen. Pulled the feather out. Visions of total baldness. Please God don’t send the dog today.

“I think he was out this morning instead,” said Kokki.


“The man and his dog. He usually comes out early when it’s as cold as this.”

Malcolm relaxed.

“But I’m not dead sure.”

Malcolm opened his eyes again. Boy, it was painful.

“Can you move, Kokki?”

“Only my head. You?”

“The same. What are we going to do, Kokki?”

Malcolm knew he was going to die.

“We don’t give up … maybe we could play I-Spy?”


“Sorry, Malcolm. I just thought if we could keep occupied until the tide comes in again, maybe the sea would wash it off.”

“It didn’t whilst we were in it.”

“No, I know,” lamely.

“If we could scrape it off with a stone…”

“It pulls your feathers out if you try to preen.”

“If we could reach the sand maybe that would wear it off!”


“Come on, Malcolm; let’s try to reach the sand!”


“Can you see it?”

“There are two of them.”

“Yes, I can see the other one.”

The two boys held their binoculars tight to their eyes and concentrated.

“The one on the left’s moving.”

“… yes… it moved …THERE! … it moved again.”

“Come on!”

The boys jumped up and surveyed the cliff. They were at the top and there seemed no way now. It was vertical. The light was fading.

“Down there?” the boy pointed.

“No. That will only get us to the ledge then look at that drop!”

“I know! C’mon!” The boys began running along the edge. There was a craggy part of the cliff maybe they could climb down.


The birds watched the boys approaching.

“Don’t be frightened, Malcolm,” whispered Kokki. “I’ll shout at them.”

“Kokki,” whispered Malcolm. “Don’t let them touch me will you? … I think my back’s broken.”


Pete and Mike half stumbled, half ran across the rocks. The boys looked down at the birds. Their fine plumage was now black and treacly. Their feet were glued together and to the rocks. Their scrawny necks were hardly able to hold up heads caked like Brylcreamed Chicago gangsters. Their eyes fierce and frightened, trying to see through caked-up eyelids; their necks, wobbling, but attempting to be slightly back in strike position. Surrounded by black sticky gunge, they would not have been seen if they hadn’t moved.

“What can we do?”

I don’t know Mike. We’ll have to take them home and try and clean them up a bit.”

“They’re famished.”

“Yes. It’s a pity we ate all our sandwiches.”

They normally still had some sandwiches left, but today was so cold.

“Gently … mind its wings.”

Kokki shrieked and tried to struggle and caught sight of Malcolm as he was being lifted too.

“Easy now, old feller,” one of the boys said to him. “We’ll take care of you.”

“Don’t move around, Malcolm!” screeched Kokki.

“I’m OK” Malcolm winced.

“If only we had something to eat for them,” Mike said regarding the bare beach.


They had been walking for twenty minutes. The wind was icy. It was too cold for snow. Malcolm was down inside the boy’s mac and seemed to be sleeping. Kokki has his head well out of the other boy’s mac and could see the fish. It was a good long codling lying on the rock. The boys would pass it about fifty yards to the right.

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