I've Never Known a Vicious Seagull.
My friend studies law. She attends earth jurisprudence symposiums and tells me that all living things should have legal identities. She says that humans depend on nature and nature should be able to depend on humans. I wonder what she would do in this situation.
I remember a crow writhing weakly in the dirt below the eucalypt. The boy from across the road had good aim with a slingshot.
The boy from over the back-fence had wet cheeks as he beat the bird to death with a stick.
A murder of crows is the collective noun for a group of crows.
I can't tell the difference between a crow and a raven.
The fibro shack next-door was knocked down. Once the earthmovers and trucks left, a hodgepodge of winged-bodies colonised the site. My new neighbours scratched, pecked, and feasted on the recently excavated grubs.
Builders arrived and the Italian, from down the street, told me that apartment blocks would be built. He finds squawking birds distracting. He said ravens would peck your eyes out, if you weren't looking.
'Mine! Mine! Mine!' I'm sorry, it's an earworm. There's scratching from the box in the back seat.
What'll I tell the girl at WIRES?
At the roundabout I looked right
From the left flew the bird
A cracked windscreen
Not too damaged is the car
The feathered body shuddered when I picked it up
The bird may be damaged beyond repair
I won't tell her that the builder-next-door says seagulls are just 'rats-with-wings.'
My friend would have something to say to that builder.
Last weekend the builder-next-door went to the footy. A swoop of seagulls obscured his view and deposited white streaks of guano all over his car. The shit took the paint right off, the builder said. He'd slaughter seagulls if it weren't for all the 'tree-hugging-hippies.'
He has priors and snorts when he laughs.
'Mine! Mine! Mine!'
I met an armless man who sold books on the streets of Siem Reap. He lost his arms demining rice-paddies. From a string around his neck hung a cardboard box.
I didn't want a book.
Almond-shaped brown eyes glimmered from beneath an oversized baseball cap. Smooth chocolate skin, I couldn't help but notice. A healthy face he was, but an armless frame is hard to ignore.
Through the box I fumbled, and pulled out David Chandlers, A History of Cambodia. Hyperaware of my hands as my fingers searched my pockets, whatever riel I had I put in his box - it wasn't much - a gracious Cambodian smile flickered. I looked away.
The armless man wandered off down the street, no ordinary beggar.
'Mine! Mine! Mine!' There's movement in the box on the backseat.
mine -- poss. pron. the one(s) of or belonging to me.
mine -- n. 1 excavation to extract ores, coal, precious stones. 2 abundant source (of information etc.). 3 military explosive device placed in the ground or in the water. 4 subterranean gallery in which explosives are placed to blow up fortifications etc.
During uni break my friend protested in Tasmania. She set up camp on the edge of the Sorell Causeway and demonstrated against seagull eggs being dipped in oil and then returned to the nest.
On Facebook was a picture of my friend, all dishevelled, holding a 'DON'T DIP EGGS' placard.
I know seagulls are protected but they certainly aren't endangered.
I didn't click 'Like'.
In Battambang I met a young girl hoping, someday, to become a nurse.
We sat on bamboo mats in lean-to shelters, taking children's temperatures and sipping Fanta. In broken English, my new friend attempted to describe various ailments and symptoms. Not everything was lost in translation. We took children for blood tests and bought paracetamol for those with fevers.
After one week, I could swear in Khmer.
The builder-next-door experienced a bird strike. He was scared. Still, he says, the only good seagull is the one being sucked into a plane engine.
He wants to do something about the birds. Seagulls breed like rabbits fucking, he told me. Then asked if I'd seen Hitchcock's, The Birds. He says that colonies of seagulls can turn from hobos to hunters in the blink of an eye.
The Adelaide City Council plans to eradicate pigeons from Glenelg. Glenelg pigeons are said to be more vicious than a squabble of seagulls.
I've never known a vicious seagull.
A flight of pigeons is the collective noun for a group of pigeons.
I took a tour of the Tonle Sap Lake. Beggars, in large metal pots, floated by as children, with snakes draped over their torsos, scrambled aboard.
I remember the sunburnt eyes of a woman and her outstretched arm, palm open. With her - on their makeshift raft - sat three children, noiselessly dipping their toes in the murky water. And one baby, with a disturbingly enlarged head, sleeping in what one might call a hammock.
'They don't speak Khmer,' the driver said. 'Vietnamese refugees. Lazy thieves.'
I can't hear the difference between Vietnamese and Khmer.
Later, I fed barbeque chicken from skewers to street dogs.
'Mine! Mine! Mine!'
There's shuffling and perhaps a squawk from the box in the back seat. I turn the stereo down.
Unlike the crow, seagulls have longevity. Australian seagulls can live for up to thirty years, the oldest known Australian seagull is twenty-eight.
Unlike the pigeon, seagulls can't be eaten. The builder-next-door says you can buy a pigeon pie in the city. He said pigeon meat is delicious, tasting somewhere between duck and chicken.
My friend is vegan.
Stevi-Lee Alver is an Australian writer and tattoo artist. She lives in the middle of Brazil with her wife. She loves bush walks and waterfalls but misses the ocean.
'Mine' was written after the painting of the same name by Daniela Bradley, 2013. 'Mine' was published in Coastlines 5, March 2015.
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