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.”
“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.