Growing up at the Jersey Shore, I’d always considered seagulls rats on wings, waiting to poop on my head and fly away laughing. That was until one seagull stood out from the crowd and stole my heart. I began to feed him exclusively, delighted when he chased away the others with squawk and a wingspan like a grizzly bear. The message was clear: this was his turf. We named him Hiyo, and fed him like a family of Italian grandmothers. He showed up several times throughout each day, but what always amazed me was how he showed up during impromptu visits in the off-season. Did he see my car coming down the Parkway? This went on for, as best we can guesstimate, close to ten years.
When I came down this past April, I noticed Hiyo had a bad, bad limp. We have no idea how it happened, but it only improved slightly over the weeks when we saw him. He wouldn’t walk as close to me, wouldn’t come to get food, and really just sat a lot. It was so sad. We knew the end was coming, and then one weekend he just wasn’t there. People were at the house all week and he never showed. We haven’t seen him since late June. I don’t want to believe he’s dead, which is why I imagine him in Atlantic City enjoying his retirement, pecking away at the automated slot machines, waitresses bringing him the free booze he deserves.