The Seagull, story by Patricia Furstenberg at
Herbert Kaiser

The Seagull

The Seagull

written by: Patricia Furstenberg



I was craving the briny sea scent long before the curb in the road, where the trees open to the blue vista. I rolled down my window, my nostrils quivering in the balmy breeze, greedy for the threshold to holiday. Where the road bends, the sylvan curtain pulls apart revealing an expanse of sunlit air, and the crisp pine aroma yields to the tang of seaweed and fish that rises, like a heat wave, from the sea below.

I pulled over, overcome by nostalgia. Salty memories grabbed me from the car and I stumbled towards the cliff’s edge, hungry for the boundless sight of the sea. I could hear its song. It’s been too long.
“Don’t! Or you’ll scare them!”
Was that a bird’s call? Behind a boulder, I spotted a flutter of silk, like the petals of a flower. An arm, as slender as a reed, beckoned me and I listened. I stooped. My lips relaxed in a smile. I felt puckish. Hiding behind that boulder I was a kid facing the summer holiday.
A pair of eyes, sea-green, glinted. Her finger guarded her lips, pink and smooth, like a child’s.
“The seagulls are back! They made a nest. See?”
Faced with a mane of luminous hair I peeped over the boulder and, there it was, perched on the sea-cliff, a crown of twigs. Something fluttered inside, the way a leaf would quiver in the breeze. Two chicks! My heart hummed to the rhythm of the waves and I felt a tide of emotions rising inside me. My eyes watered.
A vibration against my thigh dragged me to reality. Instinctively, I reached for my phone.
“Oh, no, I’m late, I’m late,” the girl sighed, her eyes a stormy sea on her phone screen, still vibrating.
“Won’t you answer?”
“I’m not allowed to. It’s only to know when I’m needed,” then she darted away, crouch-walking, still mindful of the gulls. I struggled to follow. She reached the road, a dandelion at full speed.
‘Wait! I’ll give you a lift!” I called half-ducking, afraid that my agitation will disturb the chicks. In two heartbeats, she was back.
“But we gotta hurry. Or she’ll be mad at me,” words rushed out of her as we both scrambled into the car. She looked pale underneath her sunburned face. Aged with worry. I didn’t know who ‘she’ was, but I was jumpy too and we both pressed forward urging the car to hurry. Hurry.
“I’m Jane,” I introduced myself. “Short for Jennifer.”
“I’m Annie. From Ann. Like my mother. STOP now. Please.”
I braked before the gates and she disappeared through the hedge leaving a trail of thank-yous and sea scent behind.
“There you are!” my host grabbed me, luring me with a frosted glass on a silver tray. Something new, yet her smile was just as I remembered it. Two curved lines above chubby cheeks. Two thin lips below. She pushed me towards the terrace, away from home.
“Sit. Rest. Look at the sea. Soak in the breeze. You look flushed. We’ll take your luggage to your room. ANNIE!”
She patted my arm and before her fingers made contact I remembered how clammy they were.
“We’re so happy you returned.”
She runs the inn alone. She loves to emphasize.
“We gave you our best room! She’s late with cleaning, the new girl. A bit young. No experience. It’ll take me ages to train her. But I’ll turn her around. You have to give them hope. So many refugees. ANNIE! A-nnie!”
I pulled my arm before she touched it again.
“You rest,” she ordered. “Where’s that sluggard now…”
I hadn’t seen Annie again until after dinner when she came to clean the tables. Until then it was “Annie, do this,” “Annie, take that,” and “A-nnie!” The daffodil I’ve met in the sunny breeze of the coast, now a droopy one, avoided my glance and I took the hint.
“Shouldn’t Annie go to bed?” I chanced a question.
The thin lips vanished. “Give ‘em too much of a good life and it’ll spoil ‘em,” my host hissed and I pulled away, wary of the venom spat around.
“Her mother works here too?” I searched for someone to stand up for my daffodil.
“Ha! That one works at the hotel.”
The competition.
“Doing, you know what.”
A glass tumbled. Annie, flushed in the dim lights.
“You clumsy girl!”

That weekend I kept my room clean and retreated to the beach, away from the viper pit where a daffodil bloomed. Yet, on wings of wind, the “A-nnie” chanting still stung. When I left, I stopped by the boulder where Annie smiled, watching the gulls taking care of their chicks. I wondered if that was the only family she’ll ever know and my eyes watered in the breeze.


It was chance, not choice, bringing me back to that inn. As I approached the curb in the road it wasn’t the briny scent of holiday I looked forward to. But the boulder by the cliff where I’ve seen a daffodil bloom. By the seagulls’ nest.

Someone was crouched behind it. I felt foolishly excited sneaking on, so I retreated.
“Don’t you want to see the chicks?” she whispered without looking at me but watching the nest.
I crouched nearby, giddy that she remembered me.
“Same gulls. New chicks,” she filled me in.
She’s the same girl, yet different. Taller, more muscular, hair cut in a bob. An exquisite tulip now.
The phone vibrated. She ignored it.
“I’ll give you a lift…” My voice died when she turned, avoiding my stare, the pity it’ll show. A purple blotch stained the porcelain cheek, now pale.
“I guess,” she sighed.
I drove slowly to the guesthouse and remembered to stop before the gate. She lingered with her hand on the door.
“Have you noticed how the gulls are not afraid of heights?” she murmured and took off.


I avoided that inn until dreams of seagulls swooping over yellow tulips, searching for lost chicks, kept me awake at night and the urge to see them again became unbearable.
Today fog spills into the road and I almost miss the curb. I carve my path through mist pressing against me, my t-shirt soon soaked. My breath, unnaturally loud. I stumble, blind, and halt when I hear the sea and realize that I’m lost in a fog cloud. Am I near the boulder? Or on the edge of the cliff? Will my next step send me into the abyss? I’m paralyzed with fear and gingerly feel for the ground. I collapse. I wait, blinded by the mist, surrounded by echoes of crashing waves.
My phone tells me the fog took two hours to lift.
The boulder is gone, the cliff now sprouting a fence and benches, to take in the view. The nest is gone too. All I hear is the call of the sea below, still shrouded in grey mist.

As I peer down the cliff one lone seagull, carried on sea’s lofty whispers, soars to the heavenly skies.

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