I watched as the big white gull hopped frantically around in the sandy beige rocks of the beachside jetty that runs along Coast Highway 1.¬† Slowly I approached the obviously injured bird, not wanting to create any additional panic for it.¬† As I peered at the damage, it tried to sequester itself deeper into the jetty shadows which grew blacker as the sun rapidly disappeared.
Both it’s wings hung askew, broken at the shoulder hinge. Having raised birds, I knew what this meant. The animal was in shock. Maybe a car hit it. Not sure. But it was looking at the end of it’s high flying, trash picking, crab eating, mussel flinging days. It would die after awhile.
I waited till the last person had left the beach and then quietly approached the bird and grabbed for neck and body. It did not resist, not that there was much choice for it. I am fast, and knew what to do. I had made my own choice.
As we walked across the darkening beach cool wet sand crunching underfoot, I could feel the heartbeat, smell the salt air, and as we gingerly reached the top of the jetty turned and said goodbye to our sea and a chill breeze rose.
On the drive home the bird sat in my lap. Wrapped in a towel so that it would not move and with a hand on it. Steady.
As the stars winked on overhead, that gull looked at me and knew. You can tell what a suffering creature knows. If you get really quiet inside, they talk to you. All animals will. I said I was sorry, and thanked him, wrapped my towel over his head, lifted my axe and swiftly crushing it’s neck, I felt life leave.
I know it is “only a seagull”, but I cried.
We all have choices.
I hope that you get that.