Gary Moshimer

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 fear talking."


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 friend."

"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 passed out.

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 out."
Some lifeguards escorted me off, and I said, "Fine, I'm getting awfully hungry, anyway."

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 me.

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.

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