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
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
“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?”
“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
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
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
“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.