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  • Terri

The Seagull and the homeless man [flash fiction]

The seagull hops and stamps its feet. It wiggles on its legs and clatters its beak. I stare at it, and it doesn’t care that I do. When it realizes I don’t have the same piece of bread to give that I had yesterday, it waddles off and spreads its pearl-white wings to fly. I see it landing near a lady, sitting on a bench. In her hands a large, paper bag full of thick, fried chips. She pokes the food with a tiny, plastic fork, and I notice a drop of mayonnaise on her hand. The rich smell so intrusive, it reaches my nostrils, and tickles my stomach. 

I know she has seen me, I stare to make eye contact, but when we connect she looks away. She has seen that my cup is empty, I’m sure she knows I have no bread to give to the seagull. Earlier, when she passed me on the way to the bench, she refused to look at me and declined my cup with a wave of her hand as I held it out to her. 

I know what she’s thinking, she already knows everything. It doesn’t matter if she feeds me, I’d come back the very next day, to beg for more. She’s sure I don’t need the food. I won’t use the money to eat but to drift away into slumber without a bed, to survive my cold, the ache in my back. When I screech for help, they think I’m crazy.

But the seagull patters its eager feet, turns its curious head, she feels honored to have the animal’s attention. She throws a chip and watches the seagull dive for it as if the yellow grub was gold. She knows so much, but she doesn’t know that it’ll just stand there, waiting for more.

In fact, when she’s done eating and tosses the leftovers in the bin next to the bench, after she has passed me again, after she steps into her car and drives home, the seagull will fly off to the ocean, dive for the fish in the sea as if it’s a game, not caring if he catches another meal. 

Tomorrow, he will return to the bench, to the next person who passes me by. He will come back every day for more.

If only I was fed like a seagull, then one day I wouldn’t come back anymore.

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