The seagull sits on the ledge of the building, its wings tucked underneath its body and its beady eye fixed on some unknown point. If you were to see it in a picture you might not realise the strangeness of it. With the backdrop of an empty street – without the context of scale – it looks as any normal seagull might. In person though, opposite me on the other side of the glass, its body is huge, its head twice the size of other seagulls you have seen. It looks exactly like the seagulls back home, only larger, as if somehow everything around it had been shrunk. But the feathers are the same dirty white as the seagulls you have known before. The eye the same shiny black button. The tail the same darkish grey.
I motion to the seagull, suddenly realising as I place my coke bottle beside the window and glance in its direction that the bird is enormous.
Look how fuckin’ big that seagull is!
He looks briefly, then turns back to me, nods.
I know, I saw them last time I was here. They’re huge. Don’t know why.
I mean, compare it to my bottle I say, holding the bottle up against the glass. The beady eye of the bird disquiets me and I place the bottle back on the table.
It stands to its feet and flies away.
He is saying something else now but I’m not listening, so caught up in the downright strangeness of the bird that I can’t keep up with what he’s talking about. I continue to watch the seagull out of the corner of my eye, noting the way it stalks around the empty plaza. It is not the uncertain seagull of the beaches back home, diving forward for a chip and then retreating.
A flock of pigeons rests on the edge of a sandstone fountain, their brown bodies littering the whole plaza. The streets here are covered in their shit, flecked with white like the floor underneath a painter. No love is lost between me and pigeons.
The seagull dives, and in a flutter of brown, dirty white and grey, a pigeon is taken up in its mouth. Now I can truly see the size of the thing, dwarfing the pigeon. Both birds extend their wings. The pigeon momentarily escapes and blood mixes with shit on the pavement.
Tourists are shrieking; one waves an umbrella in the sky. The seagull strikes again, its beak pecking at the fluttering body of the pigeon. Its yellow mouth is red now. A tourist steps in, waves the umbrella again. The seagull retreats.
The pigeon is reduced to a brown lump on the sandstone. The tourist pokes it with the end of her umbrella. The wooden tip dips delicately into the plume of feathers on its breast and then retreats. The pigeon flutters once, and then again.
The crowd disperses. The lady with the umbrella stands momentarily, staring back at the bird, and then departs too. I watch a little longer, note the final and slowing beats of the pigeon’s wings like a heartbeat.
I turn back to him. What were you saying? And the pigeon and the seagull are forgotten, until a man from the council hoses down the plaza and carries the brown lump to the bin.
Naomi Russo is an editorial and fiction writer. Her fiction has been in various UTS Anthologies and shortlisted for the Country Style Short Story competition.