Saturday, June 26, 2010

Of All the Gull

Everything is still this summer morning. The sky clear and the sun bright, but there is no wind to rustle the leaves. I’m in my car at Lake Shore Park, looking at the lake that barely ripples and watching an ore boat get smaller as it heads out on the open water. Eating a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit from McDonald’s and listening to an appropriately mellow piece for string quartet on the radio, I begin to feel the heat and humidity, harbingers of the oppressive afternoon to come.

A few gulls and a Canada goose or two mill around the beach, the grass and the parking lot. They are bored, listless creatures, each one lost in its thoughts. They ignore me and each other until, a few feet from my car, a goose picks up a wilted, sand-covered French fry. He holds it in his beak the way the tough guy in the old movies stood on the corner with a cigarette hanging from his lips. Two gulls see the punk and approach him. The goose flees on foot; the gulls go after him. The chase ends when the goose drops the fry. Then the two gulls fight over it.

After their little dust-up, the gulls walk back to the parking lot. They notice I am eating and are hoping for something fresher than the three-day old French fry. They stop a few feet from the car and give me the eye. Another gull joins them, then another and another. Soon there are a dozen gulls, silently standing and staring, forming an arc outside my car door.

I can feel their eyes and I can hear their voices. It’s like high school, waiting in the hall for another hopelessly square kid to show up and give the gaggle of jocks and cheerleaders over there someone else to talk about. You can’t hear what they’re saying, but you’re sure it’s something about you and your all too obvious shortcomings. Or like being the only third-grader in a room full of adults. You know each them has an unseen clipboard in hand and is making notes on your behavior and will report any and all lapses to your mother.

As I sit in the car, one of the gulls, I’m sure, is telling his buddy about the nice guy with the bag of breadcrumbs who came by yesterday. Another gull is griping about how hard it is feed a family these days. Another says I could afford to lose a few pounds, and her friend shakes her head and says something about gluttony being a deadly sin.

I don’t have to take this. If I wanted to find out why I’m unfulfilled and the object of scorn, I could have stayed home and watched television commercials. So, I start the car and back out of the parking space. But I hear a gull exclaim, ‘ere I drive out sight, “You cheap bastard!”

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