Fiction · 06/03/2020

Biology is Rarely Kind

Something pulls seagulls beneath the surface of the pond. I watch through my bedroom window. The birds use the body of water as a stop over between bay and ocean. One minute they’re bobbing with the waves. The next they’re a clot of white-grey feathers, a ripple, then stillness. The rest of the flock takes wing, only to return hours later, a habitual impulse they’re unable to shake.

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Craig is on his third girlfriend in two months. They go from zero to a hundred in a week, his serial monogamy playing a frantic fiddle in the background, forcing him to ask what she thought they might name their children after date two.

Craig’s biological yearnings haven’t been kind to him.

Inevitably these women leave him in a wash of tears, a puddle forming around the spot where he sits on my couch. Across the room, I level binoculars at the birds on the pond, waiting for the next to slip under.

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“Do you think Vivi would think it’s cool?” Craig asks over my shoulder, squinting in the pond’s mid-afternoon glare. He’s been hounding me for date ideas. One thing has consumed my mind for weeks, so I only have one reply.

“Did she say you could call her Vivi?” I ask.

“No, but nicknames are inevitable.”

I bite my tongue, swallowing the advice he should probably ask first before bestowing pet names.

“Yeah. Who wouldn’t be interested in a lake monster? Or the potential of a lake monster?” I ask.

“No one. You’re a genius,” Craig says, a warm hand placed on my shoulder as another gull disappears.

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Craig and Vivian descend the incline to the edge of the pond, not holding hands, which is already a bad sign. My binoculars are good for more than just bird watching. Craig raises a hand to the water, pointing, as if he can predict which bird will be the next victim. They stand there for several minutes, she looking over her shoulder, back to where her car is parked in the lot. Craig yammers on, probably spinning mythologies he’s created on the spot, tales of freshwater squid, or sentient algae latching onto the bird’s webbed toes.

After fifteen minutes, she walks off, shaking her head. He probably mentioned his preference for conflict-free diamond rings again. Craig drops to the sand, hands clasping his knees, staring off at the water. As her car engine burbles to life, another gull is dragged to its death. Craig jumps up, frantically pointing to the water, as if to convince Vivian of the truth, of the wonder of the unknown, of all the potential they had together.

But she’s already pulled out of the lot and probably won’t look in her rearview mirror. Not even the supernatural can right the blunders of his over-eager tongue.

I close my blinds and place the binoculars on the kitchen table before looking up the number for our town’s animal control officer. Swimming lessons start soon. No one cares about seagulls, but I care about my friend, and children are a different story.

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Corey Farrenkopf lives on Cape Cod with his wife, Gabrielle, and works as a librarian. His fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Catapult, Redivider, Tiny Nightmares, Hobart, Volume 1 Brooklyn, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @CoreyFarrenkopf or on the web at CoreyFarrenkopf.com.