Monday, July 18, 2011

Eric M. Bosarge

Beach Chicken
Fiction by Eric M. Bosarge

I got cock-blocked by a seagull once. That’s when I noticed there are two kinds of seagulls: the first you find at the beach doing seagull things; dropping crustaceans on rocks and flying picturesquely over blue sea. They aren’t causing a nuisance, they add to the mystique, the beauty of the occasion. It's only right you have to deal with them.

The other kind of seagull is the white trash of the aviary world. They hang out near dumpsters beside Wal-Mart and McDonald's and perch on top of the lights outside movie theaters just hoping you drop some popcorn.

Dumpster ducks.

I could go the rest of my life without seeing one of these. But I’m not that lucky.

Now, I've been with my girlfriend long enough so that when she says, "I don't care where we eat, let's just go somewhere cheap and quick," that's exactly what we do. We go to Wendy's, which, not coincidentally, is next to a Wal-mart, drive through and park. And that's where I see him, my arch enemy: the trailer trash seagull.

My girlfriend squeals how cute he is and, as the yellow-beaked bastard cocks his head, I kind of agree. Nice plumage, and I've got a thing for webbed feet. I toss him a fry and wonder if I could get him to eat some of my spicy chicken.

“Don’t do that,” my girlfriend says as he chokes down the fry. “He’ll get dependent.”

His beady, unblinking eye stares back at me. More?

“French fries cause cancer,” I warn, and toss another one, which earns me a slap on the arm.

The seagull shakes his head and ruffles his feathers, shrugging almost, as he chokes down the fry. I should take him home, throw him in a pillowcase and get a good night’s rest.

“I should make him work for it,” I say, tossing him another fry.

“How, make him bob his head and lift one leg at time?” My girlfriend pantomimes this, her forearms becoming seagull legs.

“If I could catch him, I could clip his wings. Then I could work with him.” I toss another fry.

“Baby,” my girlfriend holds my arm, “you should stop. His cholesterol just went up to eight-fifty.”
“He’s a squawk box. Who cares?” I toss him a piece of bread and check to see if my girlfriend is watching what I’m feeding him. “Besides, it’s the sodium that’s gonna get this bird,” I say, hurriedly ripping a big hunk of spicy breaded chicken off and throwing it out.

“What was that?” my girlfriend asks.

“Looks like bread.”   

The seagull flap-walks up to it, grabs it and, with a few jerky neck movements, manages to gobble it down. “Nice!” I say.

“Baby, that was chicken, wasn’t it?”

“Hot and spicy.”

“That’s cannibalism.”

“Not it isn’t, he’s a bird eating another bird. We eat other mammals,” I say.

“But not other bi-peds.”

Ever the biology major, I think.

“We don’t eat monkeys,” she says.

“Sure we do. Remember the nuts and the hole in the tree? Open fist can go in, can’t come back out.”

“Baby,” she grabs my arm and points out the window to where my next pillow is. The seagull shakes its beak as it staggers left and right, pin-balling around parking space.

“See, I taught it to dance.”

It makes an awful sound, like a bullfrog being squished.

“Oh come on, quit faking,” I say. But as I look closer I see the little bastard’s beady eyes are watering. And he’s glaring at me in between seizures. “Alright, seriously bird, you got me.”

I swear, he folds his wings down and clutches his stomach. His neck stretches and he gags. I can see his dry, finger-like tongue.

“Oh god.” Fingernails dig into my forearm.

“Ow!” I say, and remove my girlfriend’s talons. When I look back, the seagull is lying on its back, trying to walk on the sky.

My girlfriend jumps out of the car and runs to him. When I get there, her eyes are already glistening with tears.

“You killed him,” she says.

“He’s still moving.”

“We’re taking him to the vet.”

“Don’t touch him!” I stop her. “He could be Asian.”

She balks. “So!?”

“SARS? Bird flu? That stuff comes from Asia.”  

“Don’t be a tool. We’re not leaving him to die in this parking lot.”

“Let’s call animal control.”

“No, there’s a vet just up the street.”

“He is not going into my car.”

The seagull groans, honest to goodness moans, like a baby.

She tugs on my arm. “Please?”

“Fine, but he’s riding in the trunk.”

I pick him up—he really would make a great pillow, or half a ski-jacket—and carry him to the trunk. After a few steps he seems to perk up, so I get the great idea to go into the wild on his ass. Fly away, bird. Be free.

I toss him in the air.

For one glorious moment he spreads his wings and flaps, then corkscrews to the ground and lands with a thud.

On his beak.

One wing flaps and he continues to corkscrew, scraping the pavement. When my girlfriend stops screeching, I can hear myself think and it becomes clear: that was a bad idea.

When I pick up the bird again, he’s completely epileptic. Even the little mites in his feathers are shaken loose.

I set him in the trunk, not noticing that my gym bag and a file folder full of documents that I need to review are also in there.

Two minutes later, crossing four lanes of traffic, the soda I was enjoying my lunch with spills as I turn into the animal hospital. The bird might as well have ridden up front.

When I stop the car, there’s a peculiar thumping coming from the trunk. Flap thump. Flap thump. Flap thump. “Well, he’s still alive,” I say.

A moment later I open the trunk. In a blur of flapping wings, violent squawking and flying feathers, I end up on my ass, staring at blue sky and a diminishing seagull.

“He’s alive!” My girlfriend jumps in celebration, then sees me, and covers her mouth—probably to hide the smile.

After I dust myself off, I go to close the trunk. All the papers are strewn about, covered by slimy black and white bird shit and peppered with something worse: chime-coated French fries and spicy chicken. The documents were originals.

I slam the trunk.

“Are you alright?” my girlfriend asks.

“Oh, I’m fine. But I’m buying some Alka-Seltzer.”  

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