dunno. It could be.”
looks sorta like him.”
would you know? You weren’t even hatched
studied the pictures of him. I’m smart and I
huh. When’s your mate’s hatch date
glared at the three herring gulls next to him
on the roof of the construction trailer.
“Guys? If you don’t mind? We’ve got a
job to do.”
gulls turned their bills back to the
construction site. It was fun watching Humans
work at building their homes. So many, to
build a house for so few. Ridiculous. Avians
were much better architects.
how we gonna do this?”
dunno. They want some DNA, whatever that is. I
don’t see any on her.”
you don’t know what it is, how do you know
she doesn’t have any?”
Livingston stomped his feet. “Listen up.
Nardo, you take the sandwich. Ace, you get the
chips. Deuce, go for the soda. I’ll take the
Three yellow bills dropped open with decidedly
fishy smells. “Ick!”
to eat, you morons!” It had to be a
holiday, didn’t it? He’d gotten stuck with
the skeleton crew. You’d think, for a job
this important, he’d get a top-flight flight
crew, but… no. He needed to talk to the
chick in the office and make sure these
cuckoos were never assigned to him again. Not
without proper training.
guys, just go for your assigned comestibles.
But don’t eat them. We need every scrap of
DNA we can get. Got it?”
even a taste?” asked Nardo.
nibble?” added Ace.
Or you’re back on convent detail. Got it?”
shut the birdbrains up. Those sisters
accounted for every scrap of food in their
calling to help the poor.
my signal, we’re going to take off en masse.
In and out in ten seconds.”
going to mass?” Ace stood on one leg and
spoke through his closed bill in a very bad
imitation of a stuffed seagull. “I thought
we’re here to get DNA. If it’s at church,
why not get it there?”
masse, you idiot!” Deuce clipped the
back of Ace’s head with his beak. “It
you really are smart.”
Livingston stomped his feet again. “Pay
attention. She’s getting ready to set up.”
I can smell the bologna from here. It’s been
a long time since I’ve had bologna.” Nardo
clicked his bills together.
going to be a lot longer if you screw this
up.” Livingston shuffled to the left to line
up with their quarry.
guys, on my signal, we’ll take off.”
the signal again?”
just shook his head. He’d let the “smart
one” explain it to him—whichever one that
seagulls were back.
as many as yesterday.
Dumere upended two empty drywall compound
buckets beneath the four evergreens the
excavating crew hadn’t cleared, and set out
her lunch on the opposite side of the clearing
from the guys. She removed her tool belt then
shook her hair free of the hardhat,
finger-combing the plastered curls off her
of the birds shifted on the trailer roof so
they were all lined up like kewpie dolls at a
state fair. A few of the guys had taken pot
shots at them with rocks over the past two
days but it hadn’t deterred the birds.
Not that she had a special affinity for the
gulls, but there was no reason to hurt them.
They were only doing what they’d been put on
this earth for.
least someone was. Twenty-nine years and she
was still searching.
popped the top of her soda can, thanking God
and corporate America there wasn’t much
difference between brands of grape soda. Fizz,
purple, sugar. Sweet and satisfying. If only
she could say the same for the generic bologna
and cheese, but when on a budget, sacrifices
had to be made. At least the chips were good.
Everyone needed one vice, right? She
snorted… then choked on the fizz.
okay over there, Dumere? Me and Schmitty
wouldn’t mind giving you mouth-to-mouth.”
and Schmitty should be so lucky.
shook her head and ripped open the package of
chips. One of the gulls squawked and eight
little bird eyes rounded on her. Val folded
the top of the open bag closed. Gulls were
notorious for stealing food out of your hand.
up, you quack!” Dennis, a stonemason, tossed
a stick at the birds.
one moved, looking down their beaks at him
snorted again. Seagull disdain…oh, the
shame. Dennis deserved it.
took another bite of her sandwich, a sip of
the soda. The evergreen branches couldn’t
keep out all the sun’s rays and it was hot
today. Every day she returned to her rented
room reeking of sweat and sawdust, with sore
muscles and a tired back. Chalk this job up as
another “learning experience.”
she’d find her niche.
niche. Val smiled. She’d had a niche once:
the back corner of the storeroom in Mom’s
shop. The one place she’d felt like she
“fit.” The ironic part was that the one
place she’d felt semi-comfortable in her
skin was a shop filled with ocean trinkets…
in the middle of Kansas.
had been on her mind a lot lately. She’d
upped and left it after Mom’s funeral. Maybe
it was time to go back. Figure out what was
gulls shuffled their feet on the rooftop. She
glanced at them. They were all staring at her.
Okay, a little creepy…
took another bite of her sandwich and grabbed
a chip. She would go back. Take some time to
figure out what she wanted to do with her
life. At the very least, she could give the
place a good cleaning while she was there
or… better yet, open it back up.
what she would do. The place had been Mom’s
dream and her legacy to Val. Mom would want
her to make it a worthwhile venture.
“toasted” her decision with another chip
and the bird over the trailer door spread its
wings, revealing a smudge on its pristine
breast feathers. The others looked at it then
back at her in perfect unison, as if they were
part of a chorus line.
raised the chip to her lips.
center gull squawked and took off from the
others followed suit—all aimed at her.
ducked. She didn’t have time to do anything
else. Hands on her head, she bent over as she
was suddenly surrounded by a flurry of
bird plucked the sandwich from her fingers,
luckily not taking any fingers with it. The
chip, too, disappeared. Other gulls swooped
onto her makeshift lunch table, making off
with her soda, the rest of the chips, even
managing to abscond with the bag she’d
packed it all in.
the gulls flew off, one remaining bird landed
on her hunched shoulders. Only for a second,
and before she could react, it yanked a few
strands of hair from her head then flew off
with the rest of the winged thieves. Damn it,
add insult to the injury, the guys just sat at
their picnic table and laughed. Yep, that
sealed the deal. She was out of here. Like
took one last look to where her lunch was
disappearing over the treetops, scooped up her
tool belt and hardhat, and knocked over the
bucket. A few feathers fluttered to her feet.
know, she used to like seagulls…
(c) Judi Fennell