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.

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