I was on this long-ass bus ride to Virginia Beach, making my own
therapeutic vacation, alone until this girl sat next to me in NYC. She
had a bird cage on her lap with a cover over it and I said, "Whoa, I
just saw that movie."
She showed me her green parakeet. "That woman had two birds. Lovebirds.
This is nothing like that."
She looked disgusted with me and stopped conversing, but I kept on.
"I'm headed for the shore, confronting my deeply neurotic fear."
She pretended to be asleep. Who could blame her? Who wants a neurotic?
The bus emerged from the tunnel and her face was the palest I've ever
seen. She looked like a vampire that might melt. I hid my chewed and
bloody cuticles under my legs.
Meanwhile her bird went to the bottom of the cage and lifted the cover
with its beak and then its claw to peek at me. I was interesting as
shit to this bird. Its beady black eye watched me, and it didn't make a
peep. I said something to the girl about it but she kept her eyes
closed. After a while I got the impression that the bird was the master
of this duo, keeping the girl asleep while it tried working some kind
of voodoo on me. I moved back a few seats, but still felt it watching.
I got off the bus but the girl stayed on. As I passed her she watched
me out of one eye and the bird watched me with one eye. "You know, that
bird peeks under the cover," I told her, and she said, "That's your
I found a room a few blocks from the beach — yellow-painted
cinder-block building, Indian clerk, shag rug and furniture orange and
puke-green like a sixties nightmare. Seeing my address, the clerk said
he had a daughter living near me. Come to find out, I even knew her.
She worked in the lab in the hospital where I worked. She was a shy
beauty, with a birthmark on her face shaped like a bird in flight. She
used the bird to her advantage, put a jewel in it. And maybe because of
a lustful look in my eye the man said, "But she is spoken for, my
"Story of my life," I said.
I changed into my baggy Bermudas — bright yellow with orange parrots.
The parrots seemed to be holding things in their claws that looked like
fruits or nuts or testicles.
I wandered down the main drag until I found a place that was hopping
already at five in the afternoon. It was full of girls in bikinis and
sailors. There was a blues band playing, old fat men walking around
with their instruments and bumping the girls with their hips.
I seemed to become an instant celebrity because of my small stature, my
pallor, and my crazy nut-plucking parrots. Drinks came my way, and soon
I was hoisted onto shoulders, first by a tall blonde who slipped my
tiny feet into her top like stirrups, then by a hooting sailor who wore
the white uniform and little hat. He walked around with me like I was
his pet monkey. He finally sat me in a corner when I
threatened to vomit, and there confided he had just sailed from Hawaii,
and he had something special for me. He handed me a joint and said it
was "Hawaiian Black," and warned me not to do it all at once. Then he
I wandered outside and towards the beach. I hid behind a boulder and
smoked half the joint. Absolutely nothing. Fucking sailor. I smoked the
rest. The gulls were close by, watching me, but I wasn't panicking.
Surely they wouldn't remember me. "Fuck you!" I said to them, and some
mothers pulled their kids away. "Hang on to those kids," I said,
slurring and swerving and laughing. "Those birds will pluck their eyes
Some lifeguards escorted me off, and I said, "Fine, I'm getting awfully
And I was. The dope was working after all. I got some chicken nuggets
and a Pepsi and headed for a different stretch. I seemed to
walk a long time. I misjudged the soda and poured it over my face. I
found a beach with less people, but sinister-looking gulls followed me
closely, some walking several feet behind and others wheeling overhead,
getting closer. I held the box of nuggets close to my chest.
Something was happening. I walked leaning way back, supported in the
arms of Hawaiian Black and that sailor. My feet were growing, and I
stopped to check the size of my prints, but they had already
disappeared. The gulls neared my shoulders. I saw the tide retreating
rapidly, leaving me a wide swath of safety where starfish and crabs and
other tiny sea creatures wriggled. The water was hundreds of yards away
and still going. I felt heavy and lay on the wet sand. It conformed to
my shape, sucking me in. I couldn't move. Some slimy life form
slithered up my leg. Before losing my arms I placed the box of nuggets
on my bony chest, ripe for plucking. The gulls closed in, hundreds and
then thousands, screeching and fighting, first for the nuggets and then
for what was left of
Later, in the dark, it took me hours to find the motel. I shook the
Indian man and demanded he tell me about his daughter.
Gary Moshimer has stories at Dogzplot, Word Riot, Eclectica, Verbsap, Bartleby
Snopes, Tulip Weekly, Pequin, and upcoming in Battered
Suitcase and LitnImage. When not working in the hospital, he may be found
in the bathtub.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200904birds.htm
Photo on page main page courtesy
w i g · l e a F