Wharf Meat

by Luke Otley

High tide lapped six inches shy of the short pier that often docked boats (fishermen’s barnacled boats bringing mussels and crayfish and other wares, where fishermen whistled in white Wellington boots crispy with salt, with thick fingers that wrestled with thicker rope) when we noticed it. There hung a crowd of gulls, a screeching shitting flock of them, near the end of the pier. Hung from a weathered wooden post was the thrashing object of all concern. A gull was truss to the post by means of a fishing wire that entered in his beak and exited nowhere. A lure in the gullet and blood on the beak.

“E-easy buddy”. I tried to cut the line with my car key, but the blunt shined gunmetal rubbed helplessly against the wire. His glass gull eye reproached me. He thrashed again. I held my left hand on his back for support, and found his pelt unexpectedly soft, like a kind word from a stranger. “Naw it’s not going to cut it.” Mike made his way over with a fish knife. “He’s going to drop”. “Yep”. And he did. Into the grey green blue sea, taken by the current, drifting under the pier. He was on his back, his wings partially spread, the tips submerged to take a grey green tinge. His glass gull eyes looked upwards, helpless heartbreak eyes that shuddered right into you. I bent and lifted him gently from the water like an avian Moses from the reeds. I lay him in the recovery position as he gagged and balled like a common drunk. That’s where we left him. With his wet glass gull eyes inquisitive, and his retching swallowing soft downy useless throat skyward, as if in prayer. I pulled once more on the line that dribbled from his beak, which snagged and became taut. A hook hooked in a soft gull gut (a prize catch). A slow agonizing death for a sad, soft feathered friend.

Later, impromptu, I kill three ants as I lie on my back, thinking. A forth ant becomes panicked, and darts to-and-fro in a feverish search for his mates, causing me to swell unhesitatingly with remorse. The sound of birdcall intermittently floats through the open window of the cabin, like a baseless, nasty rumour.