The gulls were tired. They circled the harbor, hoping for some ship to dump its scraps, or perhaps someone on the wharf to throw out leftovers. Nothing came. All morning the gulls had waited. All morning they had circled. Hungry. Hoping.
Gull, the leader, turned inland. He flew low over the parks and swooped between trees. He and all the other gulls tilted their heads to look at the ground. No food lay there. No children sat with their parents to drop pieces of bread. There was nothing to eat.
Long ago, so it was said, the first gulls had eaten from the sea, or cracked shells on the beaches. These were ancient tales. Myths. Fairy stories, and not to be believed. The true gull ate from the human's hand. He fed at the feet of the tourist, or stranger. The true gull depended on the two-legged ones, who covered their bodies with cloth and rode in shiny-shelled cocoons.
"We will have to land!" called Gull."We need to rest!"
All the following gulls agreed, with cries of consent, so Gull turned a full circle into the wind and came down on the flat grass beside the beach. He shook his feathers into place and preened himself for a moment. This was a display, to fool the other gulls into thinking he was not worried about the situation.
"What shall we do?" asked Ibil, Gull's brother. "We will starve if we don't find food!"
"I know that!" snapped Gull. "I know that! I know that! I know that!"
Ibil backed away to a respectful distance.
The other gulls were watching Gull now. Some screeched their disapproval; others shouted angrily. There was a smell of mutiny in the air.
But Gull remained outwardly calm and assured.
"Quiet!" he said. "Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!"
All the gulls stood facing into the wind, balancing on wrinkled, orange legs, waiting for their leader to speak.
"We have lived many years," said Gull, "and we have traveled many miles. The humans have never let us down in all the generations we can remember, so there is no reason to think they will abandon us now!"
"No, not now! Not now!" agreed the gulls.
"Why should we expect them to care, when we do nothing for them?" asked a young gull with bright orange rings round his eyes.