The ocean is our standing Sunday date. We pack up a picnic basket at noon and go spend a couple of hours with the waves before coming back renewed. The picnic menu alternates week by week between sushi with slices of ahi and what we now call “chicken elbows,” those little things our market calls “drumettes.” I marinate them in tamari and sake with huge gobs of diced fresh ginger and garlic, then broil them to a brown crisp.
We take a pair of folding camp chairs and a teeny folding table and set ourselves up on the big bluff above the waterline and watch the gulls and little black cormorants and, when the season is right, the pelicans. From time to time, one of the gulls will boldly fly to the very edge of the bluff and stand there, patiently begging.
I encourage this, and bring a little container of scraps for this purpose. I think we have a repeat gull customer. At least, I convince myself that I recognize the color pattern in the feathers and the begging style. I like this. There is something deep in me that loves feeding things, whether I think they’re hungry or not. I mean, in the wild world, if a creature isn’t hungry at the present moment, it will be hungry very soon.
Today it was very chilly and windy, and we sat in the car with our picnic, just landward of our usual spot. Close to the end of our lunching, I heard two crisp taps at the car door on my side. I thought someone we knew had come to the same beach and was rapping to say hello, but when I looked out the window there was nobody there. Then I looked downward, and there was the gull, staring up at me. The gull had rapped on the door.
After I stopped laughing, I did the usual and tore off the gristly bits from the chicken elbows, which have been eagerly received by the gull when with us in person. Out the window they went, and down the gull they went. I can’t explain how good this made me feel.
I find it difficult to believe that this was our customary gull and that it had recognized me sitting in the car, but rapping on the door? How to explain that? I prefer to be warmed by the thought that it was “my” gull and I fed it. There are enough gross destructive fantasies in the world screaming to be believed. I’ll gladly take this sweet fantasy and hold it close.