by Holly Lalena Day.
Two men stood at the top of the hill, looking down. The sun
was just beginning to set over the ocean, tinting the sky and the
clouds murderous hues, seagulls black streaks against the dying light.
"Look at those crazy birds," said the first man, shading his
eyes with one hand against the sun. "Look at those crazy birds
swooping and diving, swooping and diving, catching a last fish or two
before going to bed. They're perfectly and completely blind as soon as
the sun goes down, you know."
"No, I didn't know that," replied the second man. He was
slightly smaller than the first man, and was able to use his
companion's shadow as a shield against the fading light. He was
watching the birds as well, but not thinking about birds at all.
"Oh, yes. That's why so many early-morning fishermen find
drowned birds trapped in their nets. The silly creatures get greedy
and dive straight into the trawling nets at night, get trapped in the
nets and drown, you see."
"Ah." The second man nodded his head, not so much in
agreement, but in recognition of his companion having spoken. He was
watching the lights sparking alive on the horizon, strings of
Christmas bulbs decorating the drab oil derrick platforms ten miles
out to sea.
"Although sometimes, they don't drown. They get wrapped up in
the webbing close enough to the surface to be able to breathe, but
they still die. They freeze to death, or come close enough to it that
they die within a couple of days anyway. My daughter brought home a
seagull some fisherman had given to her, see. We tried everything to
keep that poor bird alive, but it died anyway. It just sat at the
bottom of the cage, all the time shivering."
"Ah, it's life. I felt awful for my daughter, though. She was only
thirteen at the time, and it completely destroyed her for at least a
day. She's such a sensitive person, such a sensitive little person
The rim of the sun had touched and sank a little below the horizon. It
was now possible to look full on the glowing orb without damaging
one's eyes. The clouds had faded to magenta and lavender, blue and
purple. Behind them, the sky had turned a deep, cornflower blue.
The boardwalk below them had emptied of skate boarders and cyclists,
while the stream of foot traffic-power walkers and joggers-had
steadily increased. The second man found himself trying to pick out
people he recognized, a familiar face among the blond ponytails and
crew cuts. He caught himself looking for a specific face and stopped
himself short, angrily shaking his head, trying to clear the unwanted
image from his head. The first man looked over at him, curious, a
concerned look on his face.
"Would you like to go back in?" the first man asked. He looked back
over across the ocean, the birds temporarily forgotten.
"Not yet." The second man pushed his hands down deep into his pockets
and fiddled with his jacket lining. He desperately wanted a cigarette,
but he had given those up for good as well.
"I'd tell you if I'd heard anything," the first man said softly. He
was looking down at the ground now, his eyes suddenly heavy and
tired. "You'd be the first person I'd call."
"I know that."
"You're a part of this family now, too, even if, God forbid, she never
comes back. I want to make that perfectly clear. You didn't do
"Thank you." The second man took a deep breath and took his hands out
of his pockets. Another group of blond ponytails passed beneath their
post, following the boardwalk to the underside of the pier, and again,
he looked for one specific face. "I think I'd like to go in now," he
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