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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Seal Trainer

“Ever since I've been a little boy, I've wanted to train seals. My mama used to take me to the aquarium and I'd watch the seals eat fish, clap their fins together and bark, like dogs. I love seals,” Eric said.

His friend, Hank, sat on the bench next to Eric. “A seal trainer? I thought you wanted to be a clown. You dress so strange, in bright colors that don't match.”

“Mama always told me that I could be whatever I wanted and dress however I chose. I like these clothes and my hat too.” Eric adjusted the hat on his head. The feather bent over and tickled his nose. He blew a puff of air and it stood up on his hat once again.

“Well, I think you look silly. I don't think you can train seals. You should go to the circus instead,” Hank said. He stood and shook his head at Eric. “Go to the circus, Eric.”

After Hank left, Eric looked in the mirror. “I can too train seals.” He went down to the aquarium and asked for a job.

The man in charge took one look at Eric and laughed.”Look at you, Eric. You look like a clown. Nobody who trains seals looks like you. Go to the circus.”

Eric wiped a tear from his eye. “Please let me try. I'll show you I can do it. I want to train seals.”

The man, Gus, scoffed at Eric. “All right. I'll give you a chance. You can try to train the seals, but if you can't do it, then you have to promise to get a job in the circus.”

“Thank you, Gus. I'll try.” Eric followed Gus to the seal cage. Ten seals lay sleeping.

“You can pick any two seals you want. Which ones will you pick?” Gus opened the cage doo

Eric looked at the seals. He picked the two smallest ones. “I want those. I think I can train them.”

At first the seals were afraid of Eric. His clothes were bright and not what they were used to. Eric bent over. “Hello, little seals. My name is Eric. I want to be your trainer. I love seals.”

The two seals sensed his sincerity and followed him. Eric led them to the pool. “Now, I am going to teach you how to play ball with each other.”

Gus watched them for a while and then left.

Later that day, when it was time to go home, Gus went to find Eric. He was still at the pool. “Well, show me what you've done,” Gus said.

Eric smiled. He winked at the two seals. “Okay, boys. Show Gus what I taught you.” The seals tossed balls back and forth from one nose to the other. They did dives in the pool, clapped their flippers together when Eric asked, and sang songs. Eric rewarded them with fish.

“Good job, Eric,” Gus said. “I was wrong to judge you by your clothes. You're the best seal trainer I've ever seen. You're hired. You can have these two seals and I'll get your two more. Train them well and I'll let you and them perform at the next Children's Day.”

Eric smiled. He worked hard each day and trained the seals. When Children's Day came, he dressed in his best costume. When he first went out onto the stage, everyone laughed, but once they saw how well he'd trained the seals, they clapped.

Every weekend Eric and his seals put on the grandest performance the aquarium had ever known. People came from far away to see the seal trainer who dressed in circus clothes. Eric didn't mind. He was doing what he loved.

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