The Seagulls of Brachy Bay
by Brad Kelechava
The sea oozed its brackish scents into the vacationers’ surroundings. Blocks removed from the beach, the gentle wind grazed Daisy’s flaky skin, and she smelled it, too.
She and her brothers were eating lunch on the second-story porch overlooking the stone-covered backyard of their summer home. This had become their afternoon ritual over the past few weeks.
“Stupid seagulls! They never go away! I hate them! I hate them! Ahhhh!”
Tommy’s screeches continued, providing little elaboration but keeping a clear focus. A gray-and-white seabird was circling the porch. Tommy concluded his tirade by grasping a hamburger bun and firing it towards the bird. It missed and plummeted to the ground below.
Daisy and Simon abstained from chiming in. Outbursts like this had become all too common with their older brother; he needed a means to release the sporadic energy of his preteen rage.
In this instance, however, there was a clear rationale to his actions. Objectively, a seagull soaring where the children feasted on a generous helping of hot dogs and hamburgers was harmless, the aimless wanderings of a dimwitted creature. But, in their eyes, this lone bird was a sentry, sent to their porch for reconnaissance. It would soon float away, returning with the other dozen members of its aerial force. Following a momentary blindness from the sun’s seaside glimmer, their peaceful lunch would be ruined.
Long after his outburst had concluded, Tommy remained at the edge of the porch, hands on the wooden railing, hexing the uninvited guest with an unrelenting stare. Daisy, along with Simon, remained seated, despite her unease from the omen of the seabird.
After some silence, Simon spoke. “We could take it out.”
Tommy turned around. “What? How?”
“It’s easy, we just get it to eat a TummyTussler.”
“What does that do?”
“It makes it blow up.”
Tommy scurried inside. He emerged within seconds, clenching a small plastic container in his hand.
“Got ’em,” Tommy confirmed. He opened the container, pulled out a single tablet, and hurled it at the bird. The seagull was never in any danger.
“I don’t know if that’s the best plan,” Simon told him. “Let’s put it on the railing.”
The two brothers oriented a tablet on the wooden bannister, the one perfecting the other’s placement. Daisy remained seated.
The seagull continued its orbit of the porch. “So, it should come over and eat it,” Simon explained. “Then it won’t be a problem anymore.”
“He blows up?” inquired Tommy. “Is there fire?”
“No.” Simon pushed his glasses up closer to his blonde eyebrows. “Their stomachs can’t digest it. TummyTussler settles our stomachs, but it expands theirs. They fall apart, and poof.” He gestured with his hands a wide reverse clap.
The two brothers waited attentively for their trap to be met with grotesque success. Their sister, however, refused to take part in this activity. She hoped that, by fixating on her hot dog, she could drown away the commotion of her siblings’ nefarious attempt to assassinate a coastal bird.
The act of eating is by no means a stray thread on the frayed garment of life. In fact, the instinctual series of motions carried out by all members of the animal kingdom is rarely met with challenge. Unfortunately, Daisy was, as her mother always liked to point out, a picky eater. For the young girl, eating was a slow, grueling process.
With certain foods, such as hot dogs, she savored every bit that grazed her taste buds. Regardless, she still ingested her food mechanically, as if it were nothing more than a requirement for life.
Immersed in this activity, Daisy laboriously nipped away at her lunch. Following three or four healthy bites, she pulled the hot dog away to assess her progress. After disappointment flickered through her body from the plentiful remainder, she brought it back for another bite.
A viscous white fluid dripped from the sky, striking the hot dog. It splattered in the roll like an aged, crusty ketchup.
Daisy’s reaction was delayed. First, her mouth opened slowly, then it narrowed. After an assortment of lower lip quivers, she burst into tears.
Snapping out of their own state of shock, Tommy and Simon rushed to console their sister.
“No, no, don’t do that,” Tommy told her. “If Mom hears you, we won’t be able to eat out here anymore. She’s gonna think I’m hitting you again.”
Daisy didn’t stop.
“Come on, Daisy,” Simon said. “We’ll get it, I promise.” The storm of her cries picked up. “Or not, we can stop.”
Her tears subsided, and her facial twitches settled. Under her still-dewy eyes, there was profound determination. “We need to put it in food,” she said, ending with a sniffle.
She lobbed her defiled hot dog off the porch, inspiring the seagull to chase it in a deep dive. Apparently, the new condiment didn’t deter it from eating everything that caught its glance.
When Daisy moved, her brothers avoided her path. Despite her timorous and passive nature, Daisy had a proclivity for bouts of aggressive problem-solving. She gripped the top half of a burger bun and carried it over to the barren antacid, cramming the one into the other, leaving behind an inconspicuous piece of bread, at least in avian eyes.
Daisy took a few steps backward to join her brothers, who waited attentively to fulfill their dream of destroying one of God’s creatures. Sure enough, the seagull landed softly onto the wooden bannister and picked at the burger bun with its faded yellow beak.
After a barrage of bites, the seagull returned to the low skies just above the porch.
The TummyTussler was gone. Their eyes bright and mouths erupting into smile, the children were about to witness what an antacid in a seagull’s stomach could truly do.
But nothing happened. The bird simply soared away, having concluded its rape and pillage of their porch to spread havoc at another locale.
Disappointment leached into their veins. The seagull darted toward the horizon, forming the characteristic “M” pattern of all seagulls soaring at a distance.
And then it exploded. It wasn’t the burst of guts and brains that Tommy had hoped for, but a simple tornado of feathers comparable to the “poof” that Simon had acted out.
The murky feeling deep within their souls converted to joy and skyrocketed through their skulls. They screamed but quickly silenced themselves to avoid attracting any attention.
After a quick celebration, Simon was the first to speak. “We... we’re geniuses. I’m a genius. Do you realize what we can do with this? I just have to show the world.”
“Let’s head to the park then,” Tommy said.
“What?” This threw Simon off his guard. “Why?”
“To put on a demonstration.” Tommy’s words adhered to a slow rhythm, for emphasis. He swirled his hand along the way.
“Oh. That’s... that’s not a bad proposal whatsoever. Let’s do it.” He gripped the TummyTussler container and the bag of hamburger buns.
The two boys approached the sliding glass door that led inside the house. Daisy didn’t move. While she had lost herself in the excitement, she didn’t want to bring harm to any other animals. Wasn’t it enough that they had cleaned up their own eating space?
“Guys, I dunno,” she mumbled. She dug deep for a valid excuse, but the pressure of the moment stunted her thoughts. “What would Mom say?”
“Jeez, Daisy,” Tommy said. “Mom’s not gonna know. It’s not like we can’t leave the house.”
“That’s right,” added Simon. “And Mom’s been inside drinking margaritas all day. I think she’s asleep on the couch.”
“Right!” Tommy rushed ahead. “Let’s go!”
Unable to muster any more opposition, Daisy fell in line with her Y-chromosomed kin as they walked past their sleeping mother and strolled out the front door.
* * *
The birds displayed an attraction to the hamburger bun, but none pursued the treat teased before them. They simply circled the bench in a swarm.
Tommy had been adamant about placing the hamburger bun on this specific bench in the Brachy Bay Municipal Park, and Daisy suspected that her eldest brother’s insistence was connected to some morose hope that the seagulls would drop their ivory bombs onto one of the bloated middle-aged men shuffling along the surrounding roller-blade path.
But not even that happened. These seagulls remained airborne.
Only ten minutes had passed before the children accepted that, in its current state, their plan was futile. The three siblings acknowledged their disappointment in harmony.
Daisy’s disappointment was welded to relief. “Guys, should we head home now?” she asked her brothers.
“No,” Tommy responded. He wouldn’t be swayed so easily, especially when he was determined to spread destruction. “There’s another way. These seagulls are gonna die.”
Daisy was troubled by her brother’s budding psychopathy. Simon’s mind was elsewhere, immersed in a whirlpool of contemplation.
“I’ve got it,” said Simon. Still clenching the antacids container in one hand and the hamburger buns in the other, he dashed to the bench, carefully avoiding the ursine rollerbladers and causing the seagull horde to scatter.
Simon pulled another hamburger bun from the bag and pressed it against the one already occupying the bench, smushing the result.
Next, he removed two TummyTusslers from the container and inserted the digestive-relief capsules into the bread.
When he rejoined his siblings, all he said was, “Now good.”
Within a few seconds, the horde of seagulls returned. This time, with more bread, the birds seemed inclined to drill away at the food.
Before they could make any significant progress, however, they scattered. A different type of bird entered the fray.
Years would pass before Daisy knew this bird to be a herring gull. When she was a child, however, it was nothing short of mystical. More eagle than seagull, the massive gull stood out among the bird horde. Inciting the rest of the birds to scatter merely by appearance, it had assured that a certain tasty treat belonged to it and it alone.
The herring gull perched next to the bread mound and feasted. If it had felt any irritation while swallowing the three antacids, it didn’t give any indication. The gargantuan bird went aerial, taking off with a gust so massive that a nearby rollerblader wobbled.
But its flight didn’t last long. After three wing flaps, the bird exploded, sending a flurry of feathers tumbling down onto the skater’s path.
Before they could react, a man joined them. He embodied the demographic of the skaters perfectly. His oversized shirt concealed some, but not enough, of his pear-shaped body. His protruding gut and stomach hairs were visible through the sweat stains surrounding his navel.
“Wow, eoaww, yowza!” the man uttered. After releasing a few more indecipherable sounds interlaced with heavy panting, his speech clarified. “That seagull just popped! I saw you kids putting something on that bench. What did you do?”
Daisy’s throat tightened, and her heart pulsed at an explosive rate. She had hardly wanted a part in any of this but was still complicit in her brothers’ actions. Tommy stared at the ground.
Simon had a different reaction. Looking directly at the opaque man, pride in his bones and arrogance in his heart, he grinned and said, “Sir, we killed it. We set a trap for the seagull, and it took it. We made it explode. Because of us, there’s one less seagull in this world.” The light that glimmered on his glasses was almost angelic.
“That,” the man began, and Daisy felt her inner terror climb in anticipation of being scolded, “was amazing! Bye, bye, birdie.” He pantomimed a bird’s wings. “I’m sure you know who I am.”
“We have not the slightest idea, sir.” Simon’s candor left his siblings flustered. Daisy wondered if he had been out in the sun for too long.
The bluntness of the young boy’s words went unnoticed by the man. “The name’s Straissmill, but you can call me Duncan. I’m the executive assistant to Strayer. You know, the Mayor?”
“You mean you’re his secretary?” Simon asked. Daisy’s apprehension reached new levels.
Unperturbed, Straissmill continued. “Strayer’s been looking for a solution to the seagull problem. You know that cat colony out in the dunes? Well, that was our best solution so far. And those darned kitties have left some nasty slashes on our tourists.” He paused. “Would you kids be interested in coming down to city hall to meet the Mayor?”
“We absolutely would, sir,” Simon replied.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by Brad Kelechava