Not a Great Start

It was a beautiful morning, unusually warm for so late in September. He was up early, overcoming the usual fatigue and unwillingness to get out of bed. The day would have many challenges, not the least of which was a meeting he wasn’t entirely prepared for. Other projects had distracted him from his usual level of effort, and he knew at least 3 of the 14 ads he’d designed were subpar. It didn’t matter though; the day was off to a great start solely based on his positive attitude. Indeed, his prediction about his work would prove somewhat accurate, with 2 designs requiring complete overhauls. And a meeting scheduled for an hour would run well past two hours, partly because his overachieving nature had led him to present twice as much as was needed, and because others had focused on minutia. It was all irrelevant, in any case.

He was out the door a full ten minutes earlier than usual, even factoring the morning ritual in which his cat responds to his snapping fingers by jumping up on the kitchen table, then standing on his hind legs while leaning on his shoulder and nuzzling his chin. Outside, there was a light coating of dew on the windows of his car, but it was a fine morning to roll the windows down and resolve visibility issues. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and nothing could put a damper on his mood.

He waited patiently at the end of the block to make a left turn. Traffic wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t an opening. About 20-30 feet up the main road, a seagull circled. It got a little low, and he had a momentary thought that it might fly in front of one of the cars. But those birds know their air currents through instinct, and there was a definite grace in the way it glided, now flying in a straight descent toward the parking lot across the street. Maybe it spotted some food on the ground. Maybe it was going to pull up and perch on one of the lampposts. There were many likely scenarios, and as a minivan rolled down the street, the young man waiting to make his turn saw and heard the last thing he expected. The bird didn’t fly in front of the van. If the bird was gliding down a little slower, or the van was driving a little faster, it would have passed safely behind the vehicle. Instead, there was a horrifying “THUNK!!” as it flew right into the side of the moving vehicle.


Something white and oblong bounced back on to the pavement, landing amid the yellow lines that divide the lanes. The van continued on its way, the driver either startled or oblivious. The witness’ hand flew to his agape mouth, and he remained frozen for a very long time. Overhead, a second seagull circled, letting out a mournful cry. The white mound remained motionless. It took the startled man a few seconds to realize the road was now clear on either side and he could make his turn. Turn he did, very slowly, looking at the mess in the road. Amid a pile of feathers the seagull sat upright, wings folded and legs tucked underneath. Eyes were open and it was barely moving. How hard had it hit the side of the van? Maybe it looked worse than it was? Maybe it was just stunned? He watched in his rearview mirror, hoping no cars crossed into that five foot section of diagonal yellow lines before the bird recovered.

Should he call someone? Should he go back? He remembered a story his friend had sent a few weeks ago about a little boy struck and killed while saving an injured duck. He still felt guilty for driving on, and it nagged at him. Eventually work and all that other meaningless stuff provided enough of a distraction. When he finally was on his way home 11 hours later, it was too dark to see if there was anything in the road. He thought he saw something white, but it looked fairly flattened. Maybe it remained there until other drivers crushed it. Maybe it had recovered and flew off, and the flat white thing was just a bag. He would know in the morning for sure, but he was sure it might be better if he never knew. It wasn’t a great start for his day. It really wasn’t a great start for that seagull.


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