At age six, Gordon Cormorant suffered a midlife crisis. Sensitive and melancholy, Gordon believed that he’d explored every mystery that life had to offer a Brandt’s Cormorant. It seemed that the only thing left was to while away his remaining seasons on Cormorant Piling, with similarly disillusioned members of his species, gleaning hollow accomplishment from ferryspotting and offending humans with the frequent and hoselike power defecations peculiar to his kind.
Cormorant Piling stood fifty yards out in Philo Bay. There were other pilings, but the one taken over by the large black birds was by far the largest. It was composed of twenty steel-banded telephone pole timbers sunk deep into the floor of the harbor. The human reason for its existence was to correct the crooked approaches of incoming ferries to the terminal dock. The large vessels brushed their sides against the piling several times a day, with varying intensity. Most times there’d be a slight bump, on rare occasions the boats would strike with such force that the piling would rock violently–sometimes even cracking the timbers.
Ferryspotting required at least two burned out Cormorants standing atop the piling. They’d watch a ferry come in and all involved would predict just how hard (if at all) the ferry would strike the piling. Each bird had to make his/her prediction the moment the heavy boat’s engines were cut while it was still well out in the bay (past expensive dock vs ferry disasters made drifting a requirement). One of the few kicks left in life came from the infrequent direct collision. But, mostly, humdrum won the day
Then one afternoon something–if not new, at least different, happened. It was summertime, and the nearby boardwalk was thick with adult humans, their noisome hatchlings, dogs, fatty food vendors and bad music. And as the 12:25 from Seattle entered Philo Bay, Gordon heard a human ghost on the boardwalk “sing”:
“Just what makes that Cormorant
Think he can move that rubber tree plant?
When everyone knows, he Cormo-can’t
Move no rubber tree plant.”
Something inside Gordon’s tiny brain groaned. All Birds can see and hear and communicate with human ghosts; in fact, the season before Gordon had produced a Bird musical on Philo Bay (Ghostbeak, which got rave notices) in which he slyly cast a discordant Misophonyx ghost in the role of the heavy. But after Gordon’s next few productions had produced messages that not even the Pigeons would carry, he gave up show biz and retired to Cormorant Piling.
Gordon excused himself from the game, for the ferry was still a good five-hundred yards offshore. He flew to the little dinghy dock from where the voice had come. And it was the Misophonyx, whom Gordon hadn’t seen since the early close of his revival of Destination Defecation (nearly all Bird musicals center on fecal matters).
The dead are far more advanced than the living when it comes to interpersonal communication. Ghosts (they prefer “Spirit”) do not speak languages unknown to them in life, yet the things they say are perfectly understood by the fauna (Birds and Dogs, especially; Cats are hit and miss, mainly due to their attitudes), and they readily understand the yips and chirrups and bleats and squeals and so forth created by the so called lower beings (who like humans produce a Spirit upon death, yet unlike people their Spirits do not linger in the old world). Still, Gordon was not big on making sounds, and he seldom spoke other than during ferryspotting. Mostly he got himself across with little honks and pantomime.
“Maestro Gordon, I’m so happy to see you,” said the Spirit.
“Hello, Misophonyx,” “said” Gordon via a clipped honk and power squirt out his backside.
“No, no longer in that class,” the Spirit said. “I’ve changed my specialty. I’m now an Encourager.”
That something in Gordon’s tiny brain groaned again. He knew that the human Spirits who returned to the world could only do so as specialists. As a Misophonyx, the Spirit had been a music class Spirit, even though he had no musical talent whatsoever. Casting him in Ghostbeak had been a gimmick that had paid off. And now the guy had returned as something even dumber: an Encourager–a motivational speaker for the dead, as in “Afterlife Coach.”
“How interesting,” Gordon lied through a tilt of his long narrow head. He glanced back out at the approaching ferry. Based on his quick calculations of the wind and current, something exciting was about to happen. He had to rid himself of this bozo and toss in his prediction within a few minutes. (Birds that fly at a high speed just centimeters above the unforgiving sea are experts on windage and current).
“Word has it that you are discouraged,” the ex-Misophonyx, now an Encourager, said.
“Not at all,” Gordon began to chatter (for him) by shuffling his feet, clicking his beak and raising his wings in various positions. “Hearing that even a dead man can change has inspired me to write a new story…” which was another lie. But Gordon had discovered long ago that only humans believe lies, and lying got rid of them more quickly than the truth.
The Encourager exploded with joy. “I’ve done it! I’ve finally done it!” he bellowed, mostly to himself…”I’ve brought light into darkness…”
He said other things as well, but Gordon didn’t stick around to listen. He flew back to the piling in time to squawk “Direct hit.”
And as the large boat bore down on them, the other Cormorants lost their nerve and abandoned the piling when it became clear that the superferry was going to drill their roost harder than one had ever hit it before. But Gordon waited. He felt the old rush pulse through his hollow bones and
when the ferry struck he shot directly into the air, hooted with renewed energy, and power defecated to the disgust of the passengers gazing out the windows.
It was a joy to be alive.
Disgusting Amoral: A Bird in a Band Most Likely Shaves Her Bush (I apologize; but not to the point of omitting it)
Elevating, Mind of a Child Amoral: We Are Free to Be You and Me; Even if That Means Living in a Van Down By the River
Honest Amoral: (See Disgusting Amoral)