October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
I hate the seagull. He wakes me in the morning with his raucous screech and then flies off to the sea as if innocent. But he knows he is not. I will kill him one day. He destroys my dreams and I will kill him.
Four-thirty, I lie on my bed in my attic room. My rude alarm flies from his perch by the skylight squawking his satisfaction. The sun is not up but it is light. I hear the other gulls on the cliffs. At least they have the decency to keep their distance.
I lie for a while and plan my day. I will not sleep now. I think about the gun shop where I will buy the means to exact my vengeance.
It is the same every morning. After a while I get dressed to go for a walk and a paper.
I came here to write, after my divorce. I will not see the kids again, they are in Canada with their new father. I am in Scarborough, and I have my typewriter and a room in a boarding house, paid for with my royalties. I say typewriter, but that’s the romantic in me. It’s a computer. A laptop, ideal for the minimal lifestyle I now lead.
I always found the sea air inspiring but Melinda could never understand. She hated the seagulls so we never moved to the coast. I would say, “what’s wrong with the seagulls? It’s all part of the experience”. She would tell me it’s an experience she could do without.
Now I see what she means. But I don’t hate the gulls, only the one that keeps me awake.
I stroll along the cliff top seafront for a while, taking in the sights and the lonely sounds of early morning, and then I go to the café for breakfast. I read my Guardian as I wait and search for inspiration among the stories. You don’t get that with tabloids. You only get sensationalism that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Okay, I’m a snob, but I’m a writer so I like to read work by writers who are better than I am. I have to keep my brain active. I have to keep the dark thoughts at bay.
An idea comes to me for a story as I read the obituaries and I find I have no pen or pad. I call to the waitress, “can I borrow a pen?”
She looks at me strangely but brings me one.
Life for Melinda and me became hell. We argued constantly, I think. At least, it seemed that way. Every little thing was an annoyance and no mistake went uncriticised. I don’t need to go into details, I’m sure. We’ve all been there.
But really, when it came down to it, it was all about money, and the lack of it.
Not for me though. I thought we were doing fine. Bills paid for, our own house, a couple of holidays a year, comfort, what more could a family ask? But ask she did. I was useless and why didn’t I get a proper job so we could have all the things that everyone else had?
But I didn’t want all the things that everyone else had. And what’s more, I thought it would be a bad thing for the kids. Learning to do without, as my father’s generation would say, is “character building”.
And so, to cut a long and painful story short, we separated. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was her decision to move to another country and take our kids with her. What could I do? Okay, I could have done plenty, but I was too shocked and dumbstruck. And by the time I’d got myself together she’d gone. But the kids are settled in well and enjoying their lives there, though they miss their old man. I exaggerated when I said I would never see them again. I see them when they visit, I speak to them by telephone, I write e-mails. It just feels like I will never see them again, sometimes.
But life is generally better now. I live at my own pace, work in my own time and I can live by the sea.
By early afternoon I’ve written two thousand words and I decide to take a break. A stroll into town should do it, a walk in the harbour. Let the old grey cells rest a while.
Walking along the harbour pier eating fish and chips I look down and notice my lace is undone. Putting my lunch on the wall I stoop to tie my shoes. There is a familiar screeching and a flap of feathers by my head that makes me jump out of my skin. I look up to see a seagull flying away with my fish and I yell after it, shaking a fist in impotent rage.
A group of schoolgirls start laughing and I go bright red. Damned seagull! It is the same one that wakes me every morning, I know it!
I march with determination to the other side of town to the gun shop. The bell tinkles as I enter and I smell the metal and powder within. The proprietor greets me and I study the rifles under the glass counter. Such a huge range, I wouldn’t know where to start. And I would certainly need to save up if I wasn’t going to skint myself.
Maybe I’ll try another way of disposing of my nemesis.
On my way back I experience an odd sensation, as if I am being watched. I stop walking and look around me. There, on the opposite side of the road, perched on a car park wall, is the seagull. Staring at me.
I glare back for a while, he does not move, just pierces me with those cold, black eyes. I decide to cross the road and get him. A sudden stream of traffic stops me crossing and when I finally make it he is gone. I stand alone, looking foolish.
I was with Melinda for nine years and I loved her with all my heart, as the old cliché goes. And here’s another one: I would have died for her. But really, I would have. We had some great times together, first as a couple and then as a family. But we also had some terrible times, and somewhere it all fell to bits. At some point we lost our love for each other, and I would never have believed that could happen. I wanted to love her forever.
God, how I hate her.
I should buy that gun and shoot Melinda.
At dusk I wait in the open skylight. Standing on the table, I am exposed to the sunset from my chest upwards, and I hold in my hands a fishing net attached to a cane. Several feet away is the chimney, where my enemy roosts each night.
I wait as the orange sky turns to a darkening blue and I hear the ships in the harbour and the still sounds of evening echoing over the rooftops. My net is sturdy, not a child’s net, and big enough to trap my prey.
My eyes get heavy as the sky darkens. I feel a chill and then I see a silhouette flapping down from above. The seagull lands behind the chimney and I steady myself. Maybe he’s noticed me but he seems unperturbed.
I move slowly, with a sure hand. Keeping the net only inches from the roof tiles I bring it slowly round to him, and then lunge.
I have him! In panic he flaps and squawks but I have him. I drag the net towards me and grab his body through the flurry of wings. All is noise and smell and a feathery blur. The next thing, he is away and I have blood on my hand. He has my blood on his beak.
I curse and bang the roof with my palm, then stumble off the table, crashing to the floor.
My breathing comes in gasps and I lie staring through the opening into the twilit sky, cloudless, pure. A small black shape circles high above and I smile. Then I laugh as someone knocks on my door.
She left me forever when she found someone else. We were already apart, but this was when it truly ended. She hurt me and then she escaped. I don’t like to think about it, I never talk about it. The one time love of my whole life in the arms of another man. It’s just like a country and western song. I hate country and western.
I have never decided how it affected me. I was torn apart and relieved. I still don’t know if it was good or bad that we separated. All I know is how much it hurt and how easy my life is now. I love to see her and I hate to see her.
In two weeks she will be over here again with the kids.
I must have fallen asleep on the floor with the skylight open because at four thirty I am rudely awoken by an infernal screeching that is much louder than normal. There is a dull ache in my back and I start to laugh again.
Over the next few days I consider different ways of disposing of the seagull. While I am doing this, on my way to the shop, I feel something warm and soft splash on my head. The gull seems to laugh as he swoops away towards the castle.
I go back to my room, wash my hair, then go to the gun shop.
Dusk again. I stand on my table with my head poking through the skylight. Once again, the sounds of night drift up from the bays and I watch the skies. Tiredness washes over me but I stay awake. My eyes begin to lose focus as twilight creeps in and the temperature drops.
Tonight my life will change for the better. Tonight my arch-enemy’s life will end for good. I have vowed to rid my life of my troubles, of my demons. There is only one way to achieve that.
I see him. Swooping in over the sea, heading for his perch, unaware of the fate that awaits him. I smile and I am awake again, adrenalin coursing through my veins.
Oh joy! I almost wet myself with anticipation and breathe deeply of the night air. It is cool and pure.
The seagull alights by the chimney and squawks at me. He thinks he is invincible.
I bring out my rifle and take careful aim. Giddiness almost snatches victory from my grasp, but I keep my head and the gull loses his. The sound of the shot echoes back across the bay as feathers fly. I cackle loudly.
With the skylight still open, I relax in the quiet of night, sitting on my bed with my rifle across my thighs. I polish the barrel and think of Melinda and her betrayal. Bloody feathers lie scattered where they have blown in. My head is clear and pain-free. I am liberated.
I think of Melinda, and I polish my gun.
© Chris Young, October 2011