Seabirds

It feels silly, mundane, to stagger off the kitchen table, wipe themselves off, and pull up their pants.  Of course Drin cracks jokes and waddles around the kitchen with his ass bare and pants around his knees, pulling them wide and making quacking cartoon noises.  Dance has to tickle him to make him stop it, and they laugh until they both hurt.

While Dance fries up eggs and bacon, blasting the kitchen with the odor of smoked ham, Drin butters toast and spoons out hot oatmeal.  It’s startling how hungry they both are.  After washing dishes, they take their coffee cups out onto the deck and admire the view.

From that landing, stairs run down in zigzags to the dune sand fifteen feet below the cantilevered joists of the house.

Drin was right about needing their jackets.  The sky is a wintry clear blue, the wind whips their hair around and chills their hands.  Further out, wild spray is flinging off the breakers at the headland, perhaps a quarter mile away.  The roar of waves smashing on rock seems much louder outside of the house, even this far up off the beach.

Dance is glad to stand huddled in the shelter of Drin’s body with the big man’s arms folded around him, holding his mug next to Dance’s.  With his other hand, Drin points out the birds dotted along the sea stacks just off the beach.  They aren’t flying much.

“The black ones are cormorants,” Drin says.

“Yes, I know those birds.  There are Korean islands with lots of fishing.  The really old men fishermen with small boats, they keep the birds with a leash, to dive after fish.  They keep the collar tight, so the bird can’t swallow the whole fish, only bits cut by the fisherman, when he lets the bird eat.  I always thought it is a hard way to live, grabbing fish from little birds.  Not like hooking tuna as heavy as yourself.”

“Well, those might be getting rare these days, too.”  The big man leans closer over Dance’s shoulder, sips at his coffee.

“At the far end of that stack, where it is sheltered, those are pelicans, right?” Dance says.

“Looks like.  Your eyes are better than mine.”

“Did you go out fishing?”

“Yeah.  I had this gypsy phase.  All twitchy, just after I got the medical discharge from the Army–no use at office jobs,  couldn’t sit still doing numbers, like I do now.  Bummed around, drank too much, finally ended up in that motorcycle wreck, back in the damn hospital again.  Finally got healthy enough to work after that.  And, by God, did I work my ass off.   Ran some farm combines, pulled lobster pots, drove trucks.  Got a veteran to sponsor me to the longshoreman’s union, worked for awhile restacking sacks of rice by hand in port–you can pack them tighter that way.  God, talk about building muscles.  Shipped out of there, did some time on container ships out of Guam.  For an ordinary hand, lots of mopping and cleaning brass and chipping paint all day.  Grubby as hell.  But peaceful, gotta give it that.  Lots of time to read, study.  I did so many practice tests, going for my accounting certificates.  Finally calmed down enough to figure out which state of the union probably worked better for me, decided where I wanted to take the exams.  Did a road trip to check out places.  Came down here to buy a car, decided to stay.  Not exactly romantic, huh?”

Dance pulls the man’s arms closer.  “I think it is.”

“It’s sure a lot more fun than shooting nightmare shit in Afghanistan.”

Dance leans his head into the man’s upper arm.  “I agree.”  He sees a bee flying hard, hovering briefly inside the shelter of a shrub near the railing, in spite of the wind, and he starts to smile.

“What?”

Dance points with his mug.  “I am waiting for the other bees to show up to sniff you.”

“In this wind?”  Drin snorts.  “Besides, they always know me–they’re showing up to check you out, make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh, I see,” Dance says.

“I bet there’s a parent colony in the shrubs by the street in front, too, not just back here.”

Dance feels the tug of impulse shift Drin’s body, and he smiles.  “Shall we put the mugs away and go look?”

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