With rod and tackle box, I'm slogging through soft sand, a red sun going down in the surf, swag-belly clouds drifting in with Ray, only two months dead, going on about girls that summer we studied French in Québec and guzzled Labatts at the Chien d'Or, about how he'll marry again, keep at it until he gets it right—Pas vrai? Above the tide wrack, a woman in a two-piece with half my years kneels struggling in the sand with a pillow of feathers, one wing flapping—a pelican tangled in fish line, treble hook in the bill pouch, the other in its wing. Ray says, Ask her out for a drink but she says, Could you give me a hand? I drop the tackle and secure the wing while she croons to calm him and with one free hand untangles the line. With pliers from the tackle box, I expose the barbs and carefully clip, a total of six loud snaps. Then I hold the bird while she frees the last tangle and we step back, join the onlookers, a father explaining care to his kids. The pelican now tests his wings, rowing in place. He looks around and seems to enjoy the attention, just as Ray did in bars, buying drinks and telling jokes. But this college boy with a can of Bud is no joke and says they watched it flap all afternoon from that deck on the dune. His buddy agrees with a belch that buys a round of frat boy laughter. Ray tells me the kid needs his clock cleaned just when the pelican waddles up and puts his soft webbed foot on mine. He tilts his head to catch my look, then flapping runs into the air, tucks his feet, and climbs, turning over our small circle, before heading west. Dazzled and dumb, I'm faintly aware of the woman, then gone, weightless and soaring over water, looking down on myself slogging through sand, certain that I'm being watched, if only by another self who will have to tell how it happened.
From Long Lens by Peter Makuck. Copyright © 2010 by Peter Makuck. Used by permission of BOA Editions.