Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Round and Round the Town

Chapter 2: Round and Round the Town

            If you were a human visitor to Port Clyde, Maine, you would see a few ordinary things that you could see in other Downeast towns, and you would see one thing that might surprise you.  Some of the ordinary things would be the general store perched on the land-end of the lobster boat's pier, which doubled as the post office, ice house, lunch counter and ship supply store.  Lots of Maine towns have such useful places at the heart of their ports.  There are also two art galleries, five art studios, two churches (Congregational and Baptist), a barn with a barroom upstairs and a game room downstairs, a place you can rent sea kayaks and small boats, about fifteen cottages and three "fine summer homes," places you might spot a Hollywood celebrity renting for a week's vacation.  There is also a laundromat, a bakery, the Harbor Master's shack, a little-league baseball field, and an ice cream parlor.  All nice and tidy, and all pretty ordinary.

            What might surprise you about Port Clyde are five birds in particular: four pigeons and one seagull.  The surprising thing about them is hard to tell at first, but really strange if you look closely.  The pigeons seem to be trying to act like seagulls, and the seagull seems to be trying to act like the pigeons!  Sammy Chuckles is the seagull; Bobo Two-Coos, Bobby the Enforcer, Nicky The Godpigeon, and Guido Pizza-Boid are the pigeons.  Together, they make a fairly funny flock!

            For instance, one morning Sammy called them all together in a circle around a small bait fish that had splashed out of a fisherman's pail.  "See this, Goombas?" asked Sammy, "This is a fish we call a minnow here in Port Clyde.  Have a taste of him."

            "Hey, no thanks Sammy Chuckles,” said Guido.  “I’m not a big sushi fan.  Besides, this whaddayacallit, this minnow is almost as big as Bobo’s whole head! It’d give me indigestion at least, gas at worst.”  “Coo-Coo!” said Bobo sounding a bit annoyed.

            “Not for nothin’ Sammy,” said Bobby, “but you don’t want to be around Pizza-Boid when he’s got a case of gas.  Sure, he flies faster!” –all the pigeons cracked-up at that remark “—but man, does he stink!”   All the birds laughed at that one, Guido a little redder in the face than the rest.

            “Ok, ok fellas, give it a rest,” Nicky said in his gravelly voice.  “So excuse me Sammy, but how do you propose we eat such a big fish in the first place?  And in the second place, where’s the sauce?  What, no marinara?  No Alfredo?  Not even a nice olive oil and Toscano vinegar?”

            “Oh, it’s easy to eat fish,” replied Sammy.  “Here, watch how I do it.”  With that, Sammy took the minnow’s tail in his beak, threw the minnow up in the air and caught it, head-first, on the way down.  Instead of swallowing it whole, Sammy spit it out onto the dock and said, “Ok, now you all try it.”

            For the next ten minutes, the four pigeons tried to flip the minnow just as Sammy had shown them.  Sammy laughed at their clumsiness, but not out of spite –that’s just the way a seagull sounds when he’s talking.  Sammy did his best to encourage his friends and to give them helpful pointers, but the pigeons were slow to catch on.  “That’s it, THAT’S IT!” screamed Guido, “The next minnow I sees I’m gonna WHACK with the ol’ BEAK, you knowwhadImean?!?”  “Don’t give up, Guido,” said Sammy, “you almost got it that last time.”

            “Yeah, don’t give up, Guido,” mimicked Bobby, “cuz you’re such a stooped boid!”

            “THAT’S IT!!!” screamed Guido as he lunged at Bobby, kicking off a general brawl during which the minnow, unbeknownst to anybody, quietly wiggled between the boards of the dock and splashed into the harbor.

            “Well, there goes lunch, youse ugly boids,” said Nicky the Godpigeon, shaking his head sadly.  “So Sammy, whaddaya say we bust outta this joint and see what there is to see?”

“Ok Nicky.  Let’s fly around town, uh, bada-boom?” laughed Sammy.

            “Will youse listen to this guy?  Bada-boom, Sammy!  Follow that crazy-lookin’ boid, Goobas!” said Nicky, patting Sammy on the back as he took wing.

            The first place the funny flock flew over was the General Store.  There were lots of humans coming and going, but not many seagulls because the fishing and lobster boats had left early in the morning.  Townspeople, tourists, delivery people, dog owners walking their dogs, it looked like all of Port Clyde had come out to enjoy the sunny summer day.

            “Hey Godpigeon,” called Bobby, “whaddayasay we do the old ‘Bombs Away’ on one of these mutts-on-a-leash, eh?”

            “That would be rude to our newly acquired territory, Bobby,” said Nicky.  “Let’s just give ‘em the old ‘Squadron Buzz-Over.’  Follow me, and keep a tight formation!  Go for the yappy-dog by that Buick!”  The five birds flew down, down, quickly picking up speed, and pulled up at the last second before hitting Mr. Higgins’ pug dog, Franklin, in the tail-end.  “Yap-yap-yippee-yap!” Franklin barked in surprise.

            The five friends all laughed as they climbed back up into the sky, Guido exclaiming, “Didja see that mutt?  Didja just see that mutt!  His eyes all bugged-out, like he was lookin’ at a whole buncha –hey Bobo, whaddaya call dat crazy boid what’s on the quarter?”  “Coo-Coo?” asked Bobo.  “Yeah, that’s it, that’s us: like a whole buncha eagles or somethin’!”

            “Whee!” laughed Sammy, “This is fun!  Let’s go on over to the little-league field next!  If there was a game today, the snack-shack will be open and we might have some popcorn, or leftover hotdog buns even!”  So, Sammy and friends flew over to the field, Bobby just narrowly missing the Baptist church’s steeple on the way.  When they got to the ball field, they saw that there was indeed a game under way.  Port Clyde’s Tigers were playing the Camden Cardinals, and it was a nail-biter of a game.  The lead had changed FOUR TIMES since the start of the game, and it was all tied up with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, and Camden’s best batter was at the plate.

            “I guess we had better wait for the people to leave before we check out the snack-shack’s garbage,” said Sammy.  “Sometimes people can get mad if you eat their food without being invited.”

            “Uh, Sammy,” said Nicky, “excuse me, but I thought you said we should just wait for everybody to just scram, is that what I heard you say?  That we might make the people mad?  Do you think that we goombas got to where we are today by just waiting for our turn?  Hey Guido, get this guy,” he said, giving Sammy a few playful noogies on the head.  “Just watch and see how it’s done in good old NYC.  Guys?  I say we give these peoples the old Number 7.”

            With that, the four pigeons scattered to the four corners of the baseball diamond.  “On my signal,” Guido called.  “One-two-three, GO!”  The four pigeon flapped madly to the center of the field, crashing together in a big heap of feathers right over the second baseman’s head.  They all fell down, and three flew away.  Not Bobo, though.  He walked in circles, fell down, tried to get up, tried to fly, and looked like he had a broken wing.  The crowd gasped!  The umpire stopped play, and the announcer asked over the loudspeaker, “It seems we have a pigeon down at second base!  Is there a veterinarian in the stands?”  There was general consternation in the stands, until Dr. Carpenter from the Bird Sanctuary got up and moved towards the field and the injured bird.

            While all this was going on, the three other pigeons were busy.  Nicky flew under the stands and was having a feast on all the dropped popcorn and peanuts that had fallen between the seats and the floor.  Bobby flew right into the snack-shack and flew out with an entire hotdog bun in his beak! Guido had gone through the trash can and somehow managed to find a pizza box with six pieces of pizza crust still inside it!  He flew all six pieces to a shady spot under a tree, near the parking lot entrance, and cooed for the other birds to join him there.

            Meanwhile on the diamond, Dr. Carpenter had picked up Bobo and was examining him.  He checked Bobo’s wing to see if it was broken; he had Bobo follow his moving finger to see if Bobo had a concussion; he stroked Bobo’s feathers to calm the bird down.  When Bobo heard Guido’s coo, Bobo gave his signature two-coos back, and flapped away from Dr. Carpenter.  The crowd cheered, and play resumed on the diamond.

            “Beautyful, beautyful,” said Nicky on everybody’s arrival.  “Bobo my friend, your performance was worthy of an Oscar Franzetti pizza, hold the anchovy.  And youse other guys, great job!  You see, Sammy Chuckles,” Nicky continued, “this is how The Goombas roll.  You know, I never really understood that expression.  We always fly.  Oh well, eat up everybody!”  The five friends had a nice meal on all the food.  Sammy, who had never had pizza crust before, was especially taken by his piece that had some baked-on sauce on it.

            Guido, however, was less impressed.  “Hey, this pizza crust is- how can I say this diplomatically? –well, it tastes like it was made by a kid, frozen for a while, then thawed-out, mixed with cardboard, had some sauce and cheese slapped on it, and bada-bing, thrown out.  Youse can have all you want.”

            “Yeah, really diplomatic, Pizza-Boid,” said Bobby.  “Remember: we’re not in Manhattan anymore, Toto.  So Sammy, what else do you recommend as a diversion for a fine flock such as us?"

            “Well, it’s about time for the fishing boats and lobster boats to come home.  That’s really exciting!  All the gulls follow behind, waiting for the fish guts and the spoiled bait to be thrown overboard.  There’s a lot of noise and commotion, but it’s really fun.  It’s the high-point of a gull’s day in Port Clyde,” Sammy laughed excitedly.

            “Ok gentleboids,” said Nicky, “unless there are any competing suggestions, I say we check this scene out.  To the waterfront!” he cooed, flapping up into the air, with all the Goombas behind him.

            “Oh, I forgot to tell you- things sometimes get a little rough!” called Sammy, but nobody heard him because he was last in line.  And so the flock flew out over the town, over the docks, and right towards a fishing boat, which seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of seagulls.  But that is a story for another day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Chapter 1: the Goombas Arrive in Port Clyde

Shammy, the Schnockered Sheagull

Copyright 2015 by John O. Robinson

Chapter 1: the Goombas Arrive in Port Clyde

            This is a story about a seagull named Sammy, who lives in Port Clyde, Maine.  Sammy isn’t 
like all the other seagulls in Port Clyde.  Those seagulls like to follow the fishing boats looking for scraps, trail after the lobster boats hoping for some chum-snacks, or crack their own clams onto rocks from way, way up high.  Instead, Sammy hangs-out with a flock of lost New York City pigeons that were blown to Port Clyde in a hurricane and never bothered to leave.

            It’s the pigeons who gave Sammy the name, “Shammy the Schnockered Sheagull.”  All city pigeons have nicknames.  The Port Clyde flock’s names are Bobo Two-Coos, Bobby the Enforcer, Nicky The Godpigeon, and Guido Pizza-Boid.  They all sound like tough-guys, but they are really just city pigeons who act tough.  What they really like to do is eat pizza crusts and laugh at their own jokes. 

Sammy became Shammy the Schnockered Sheagull quite by accident, an accident that involved the Port Clyde Cottage’s apple trees, a pickup truck loaded with lobster traps, Mrs. Meigg’s tiger-striped tomcat, and a visit to the Port Clyde Bird Sanctuary.  Here’s how it all happened.

            One day, the remains of a hurricane blew into Port Clyde, bringing fog, humidity, rain, and a tired, bedraggled foursome of Central Park pigeons who had spent the whole storm circling around the eye of the storm.  Were they ever glad when it fell apart and dumped them out onto Port Clyde Pier!

            Sammy had been doing nothing special that day.  He usually liked to fly really high so that he could see all of the bay at one glance, but he kept having near-misses with this other seagull, Jonathan Livingston, who kept complaining that Sammy was “harshing his mellow, man!” so Sammy was just sitting on a pier piling when the city pigeons tumbled out of the sky.  Thump, thump, thump-ya-dump, splatt!  Sammy had never seen pigeons before, but had heard about them from a friend who had visited Portland (Maine, not Oregon, you hipsters!), so he was interested in what they would do.

            The pigeons shook the hurricane-rain off their feathers, flapped their tired wings, and then began pushing each other around, arguing, “I told youse to not fly to dat tree!  Didn’t I tell youse not to do dat, Bobby?”  and “You never told me dat, Guido!  All you said was, ‘Hey, lookat dat big cloud!  Don’t…’ and that’s it.” and “You dumb mugs!  We should’ve all gone to  da statue!  When will youse mugs ever listen to your Godpigeon, right Bobo?” and “Coo-Coo!”

            After about five minutes of this, the pigeons spotted Sammy looking at them, and got their act together.  Guido said, “Hey, see that guy, givin’ us the once-over?  Whadda ya think he wants?” 

            “I don’t know, Guido,” said Bobby, “why don’t you ask him.  He looks like one of those crazy boids from out on Staten Island.  No wait a minute: I saw one once when we did that job out in Brooklyn, Coney Island, wasn’t it?  No decent pizza crusts there, but those hot dog buns and fries: not bad.”

            “Ok ok,” said Nicky, “I’ll talk to him.  Youse mugs just cover me in case he gets all scary, ok?  Bobo, I’m talkin’ to you too here!”

            “Coo-Coo!” said Bobo.

            “Ok.  Hey-ya boid on top of dat sawed-off telephone pole.  Howyadoin’?”  Sammy just blinked.  “Ok,” continued Nicky, “we just blew in from outta town and we was wonderin’ a few things.”  Sammy looked at them from the other side of his beak.  “So, like I said, we was wonderin’ stuff like where the heck we are and just who the heck you think YOU are.”  Sammy blinked again.  “So, ok, forgetaboutit, buddy, you just have a nice day.”

            “This is Port Clyde, Maine,” Sammy said, then he laughed, because that’s how seagulls talk –they always sound like they’re laughing.

            “Hey, hey, HEY!  You’d BETTER not be laughin’ at the Godpigeon!  You’d BETTER NOT BE, because so HELP ME!” yelled Guido.  “Hold me back!  ONE of youse guys HOLD ME BACK or else I’ll…” Nobody held him back.  Guido cooed dejectedly.

            “So, ok, Port Clyde, Maine,” said Nicky.  “Is dat anywhere near Perth Amboy, New Jersey?  Or the Port Authority Bus Station?”

            “It’s near Tenants Harbor and St. George, Maine,” Sammy said, trying to be helpful by not laughing this time.

            “Ok, ok, so we’re nowheres near New York City then?” asked Nicky.

            “I don’t know what that is,” replied Sammy, this time with a laugh.

            “Stoopid boid,” grumbled Guido, “laughin’ at us like that.”

            “Shaddup,” Nicky told him.  “Ok, we’ve gotta, you know, size-up this situation here.  We’re nowhere near the Park, the Statue, the Bus Station or even New Jersey.  There ain’t no lady-pigeons around, so at least youse mugs ain’t fightin’ over that, but we’re tired, lost and I don’t know about you, but I could sure do with a crust of Gambiano’s pepperoni, or a three-cheese crust, or even just a plain margherita, so how about we continue this line of inquiry with our new acquaintance here?

            “Excuse me, boid,” Nicky said to Sammy, “Hi, we never got your name.”  Sammy said, “It’s Sammy.” “So, hi Sammy,” Nicky said, “We’re the Four Goombas who perch on Alexander Hamilton’s Statue, Central Park, New York, New York.  So we was wonderin’ what youse boids eat around here?  Because we could use a bite of pie, capisce?

            “Well,” replied Sammy, “birds around here eat fish, clams, scallops, garbage and crabs.”

            “Hey, is any of that fish in a nice cioppino there, buddy?” asked Bobby.  “Coo-Coo?” asked Bobo.

            “No, it’s all raw or alive, said Sammy with a laugh.  “But there are nice pie crusts behind the bakery.  C’mon, I’ll show you!” 

            “Ok ok, Sammy was it?  Ok, we just gotta discuss this a little further,” said Nicky.  “Ok youse mugs,” he said to the other pigeons, ‘looks like this joint’s got pie here.  Ok, then I propose we follow this local boid and see what it’s like.  Lemme just say this: don’t get your hopes up, because I don’t see how it could even be even half as good as Gambiano’s.  Or Cignatelli’s on Mott Street.  Or even that crazy Pizzaria Fiorentino’s just offa Delancey.  So if there are no objections?”  There were no objections.

            “Ok Sammy, lead-on,” said Nicky.

            “This way, gentle-pigeons,” laughed Sammy.  They all flew to the dumpster behind the bakery, where Mr. and Mrs. Dow, the Port Clyde bakers, threw out all the stale bread and broken pie crusts that people didn’t buy.  Sometimes, they even threw out whole pies, if it had been in the pie case for too many days.  That day, there was a treat: five French loafs and an entire wild blueberry pie!  Sammy flew to the top of the dumpster and, with a grand flourish, showed the new pigeon visitors the rare bounty inside.

            “Nice,” said Bobby, “the humans keep the dumpsters open around here.  And that is… pie?” he asked Sammy, a little unsure of the blueberry pie inside.

            “Oh yes,” laughed Sammy, “today is a special day because there is hardly EVER a whole pie back here!  Usually it’s bread, rolls, donuts, muffins,”

            “Yeah, yeah, ok,” said Bobby.  “It’s just that… Bobo, have you ever eaten a pie crust that was… blue?

            “Coo-Coo… uh, Coo-Coo Coo-Coo  Coo-Coo!”

            “Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it was either a wheat-and-kale crust, or else it had a blue slushie tossed on top of it,” said Nicky.  “Anyway, thanks for showing us your… pie connection, Sammy.  Would you like to have the first crack at it?”

            “Oh, no thank you, Mr. Godpigeon.  I ate a nice piece of lobster chum the mate on the Lisa Kay dropped on the pier just before you arrived.  Please, be my guest.”

            The New York pigeons dove right in, pecking at the French loaves, yet still unsure about the blueberry pie.  Guido, the bravest of the four, was the first to try it.  He took a generous beakfull of crust with a little blueberry filling, held it for a moment, then swallowed.  “Hey youse guys,” Guido said.  “Hey, this pie tastes kinds funny.”

            “What’s it taste like?” asked Bobby.

            “I –I dunno, it tastes… kinda funny, that’s all.”

            “Kinda funny,” said Nicky.  “Is this ha-ha funny?  Do you want to laugh, like our friendly host here?  Is there something here that amuses you?”

            “No, Godpigeon.  It just tastes… like… kinda funny.  Like somethin’ I ain’t never tasted before.”  Bobo tried it next. “Coo-Coo!” he said, excitedly flapping his wings.  Bobby then tried it.

            “I see what you mean, Bobo,” Bobby said.  “It DOES taste like that Chicago deep-dish place that went out of business because, hey, NYC don’t need no deep dish, so bada-bing, bada-boom.  Like that, but sweeter.  And this blue stuff… I’ve had something like this outta a donut, but never on no pizza before.  I dunno, it’s kinda…”

            “Sweet?” asked Sammy.

            “Yeah, sweet,” said Nicky.  The other three pigeons all nodded in agreement, then dove back into the dumpster and didn’t stop until all the day’s scraps were eaten.  Even Sammy had a big chunk of French loaf, just to be polite.  A bit heavier than they flew in, the now five friends flew back down to the pier.  Sammy took up his place on the piling, and the pigeons strutted up and down in front of the boat slips.

            “On behalf of the Alexander Hamilton Statue pigeons, I wish to convey our sincerest gratitude and to put forth our very best wishes for that fine, yet funny-tasting repast you laid before us, uh, Sammy, right?” said Nicky. 

            “Um, if you mean thanks, then you’re welcome, new friends,” laughed Sammy.

            “”So tell us,” said Guido, “what is the purpose of these things next to this wooden sidewalk?  They don’t look too steady to me.”

            “Oh, these are boats,” Sammy explained.  “Sometimes, the humans just use them to go places on the water.  Some of them are fishing boats.  These are the ones the other gulls follow, because at the end of the day, the humans throw any spoiled bait overboard, and those gulls have a feast.  The smaller ones with the wire cages are lobster boats.  The humans put the tastiest, smelliest fish they can find inside the cages, and they throw them in the ocean.  After a while, they pull them out.  Sometimes, there is a big, brown fish with mean claws the humans call ‘Lobster.’  We gulls almost never get to eat these, because they are so ferocious, and the humans love them so much.

            “That’s pretty much all we do around here,” Sammy said with a laugh.  “Once in a while, these huge fish called whales wander into the cove, but they never stay too long or come too close.  They’re fun, because they eat fish by the dozens and a quick gull might catch one.”

            “Ok, ok,” said Bobby.  “So I get it- you like fish.  I have been known to partake of a nice piece of fried calamari once in a while, or if we go to Long Island, I’ll have the odd piece of dropped fried clam, but we really enjoy our clams in a nice red sauce with fettuccini, or a nice white sauce with capellini.  And garlic bread with butter and oregano.  Is there any of that here?  And although that pie was delicious, though funny tasting for a pie, whaddaya have here in the way of pizza?”

            “I think pizza comes from Thomaston in a box,” said Sammy.  “I saw a car with a lighted sign on it deliver three flat boxes to the Hay family in town when their daughter graduated from Colby College.  The humans had a party and I had a crust.  It was good!”  The pigeons brightened at this.  “But that was three years ago,” laughed Sammy, “and I haven’t seen one since.”  The pigeons drooped at this news.

            “Ok Sammy, thanks for the info.  First of all, if you want to be one of our associates, you need a better name.  Have you ever spent time in jail?  We could call you ‘Slammer Sammy’ then.  Or have you ever done anything really dangerous?  If so, we could call you ‘Sammy the Rush,’ or ‘Thrills-a-Minute Sammy’”

            “Hmm, I once bumped into the sail of a sailboat by accident,” laughed Sammy.  “The humans were really surprised to see me on their boat.”

            “Ok ok,” said Bobby, “I was thinkin’ of something more, like, dangerous.  Or something unique.  Or something special that you can do, like a talent or something.”

            “No, I can’t do anything special,” laughed Sammy. 

            “Yeah, allright, nothin’ special,” said Guido.  “But hey, you’re kinda a happy guy, Sammy.  You’ve got this crazy laugh, like.  How about ‘Sammy Chuckles’ for now?  We can always change it later.  Bobo here used to be ‘Bobo-Coo,’ until he added that second coo.” “Coo-Coo,” said Bobo.”   “So Bada-Bing, may I present our new associate, Sammy Chuckles,” said Guido, with a friendly bow.

            They all patted Sammy on the back and kidded him about his laugh, and Sammy laughed really loudly, which made the pigeons laugh in their cooing way, until the whole pier was looking at the strange flock of friends and smiling to themselves.  Even Mrs. Meiggs’ cat, Tiger, was smiling, but for a different reason.  But that is a story for another day.