A lone seagull
From "Sliced Bread" by Rosemary Phillips
I ran away from the book shop for a day and took a bus to the sea side. I wanted to feel the ocean breeze through my hair and fill my lungs with the salty air. It was a dull, cool day with gray clouds and the odd rain showers, not exactly the kind of day for a fun time at the beach. Actually, for me it was perfect. I wanted some time alone and for once I didn't see crowds of people, just the odd one or two solitary figures ambling along, caught up in their own thoughts.
I headed for the pier. I couldn't get much closer to the ocean for my walk of what seemed like one mile out to the end, and one mile back, over rolling waves. As I started my journey I noticed there was one other person on the pier in the distance at the other end. I kept on walking and watched the waves, felt the gusting wind, and enjoyed the elements while being aware that at one point I would pass that other person. What would I say? Would I be like North American city folk and pretend I didn't see him? Or would I be courteous and start a short conversation about the weather?
After about twenty minutes of walking the man came closer towards me. I wondered if he had the same thoughts I did. Did he feel uncomfortable too? His private walk invaded?
We were side by side. "Good afternoon," I said in my best English fashion. "Great afternoon for a walk!"
He smiled and said, "Yes, a great afternoon." He continued walking.
I had a long way to go yet, all the way to the end and back again. The wind was getting stronger and the waves started to really roll with the incoming tide. On the return journey I noticed several dead birds floating on the water. About five minutes from shore I saw a very large seagull, barely alive, floating along and struggling for breathe. It looked a bit dazed, like it was drugged or something, and kept dropping its head down into the water.
I sped up my pace, ran to the end of the pier and jumped onto the narrow stretch of remaining beach. It was high tide and the waves were crashing close to the retainer wall.
I threw rocks at the seagull aiming to have them land right in front of it in hopes the splashes would make the bird keep its head out of the water. My strategy worked for a while and then the gull's head went down and stayed down.
A huge wave pushed the bird up on shore. I ran over to it and picked it up. It was huge and filled my arms as I sat huddled against the breaker wall trying to shelter it from the wind and rain. It was so big and beautiful, and so helpless. Its head swayed about and its eyes opened and shut, then they finally shut for good.
I sat holding it and cried. If only there was something I could have done to save it. I felt the warmth and life force gradually leave its massive white feathered body, and when it was cold and stiff I laid it down on the shelled beach to be picked up by a wave and taken to its ocean grave.
As I climbed the steps to the street I turned and took one last look at the bird as it lay there alone, limp and cold, then I walked on to catch my bus back to the busy-ness of the city.