Markman Bufferbeak was a seagull, but not an especially good one. While the other seagulls flew and fished gracefully, Markman rarely caught a fish and when he did he often dropped it. The other birds in the colony he lived in were not kind about it. They taunted him and called him Johnathan Livingston Butterbeak, they told him he would starve and that no girl would ever want to marry him.
It was true that he didn’t have much luck with the fairer sex, and he ate mostly breadcrumbs and fried fish sandwiches that were thrown at him by tourist. Eventually he met a rather dumpy bird named Mahwak who had migrated to his colony from Cabrillo Beach. She was nothing to look at and she nagged him constantly. They had produced six chicks in their two years together.
One day while out for an afternoon flight Markman saw another bird drop a catfish. He swooped down and grabbed it. He was on his way to present it to Mahwak when he narrowly missed flying into an electric wire. He fumbled and dropped the fish, squawking curse words all the way.
Gloria Bortman was walking down the street when a catfish fell out of the sky and hit her on the head. She screamed when the slimy thing slapped her in the face. After she got over her initial shock she looked up at the sky. Fear seized her heart and she dropped to her knees she had never been a religious woman, but Jesus had just hit her in the head with a fish. She hesitantly picked up the fish and headed home to show her husband.
Markman landed at the colony with an empty beak and tears in his eyes.
“Where have you been? The kids are starving,” His wife squawked.
“I just…I had a fish, but it slipped out and I didn’t see where it went …and…”
“Jesus, Markman. You could have at least picked up some bread.”
“”Let me just rest up and I’ll go back out…”
With this she gave him a hard peck. Then another and another. A crowd began to gather.
“You stay here with the kids, I’ll go get dinner,”
She flew away leaving Markman to face the sarcastic smirks on the beaks of his contemporaries. Someone in the crowd called him Butterbeak.
Gloria arrived at home to find her husband watching CNN and talking back to the television set while stuffing his face full of barbequed potato chips.
“Racist dick, last week you said you were against abortion.” He screamed sputtering potato chips everywhere.”
“Dwezel, I was walking down the street and this hit me in the head.”
“What, someone threw a catfish at you? Were you wearing your union shirt because I bet it was those scabs…?
“No, it feel from the sky it was a sign from Jesus.”
“What are you on?”
“Nothing, Dwezel…God is talking to me.,” she began to tear up.
“Oh come on there has got to be some kind of logical explanation. Maybe someone threw it at you and you didn’t see.”
“It fell from the sky I looked up one second before it happened and saw it fall out of the clear blue sky.”
“A plane probably dropped it…”
“There was nothing in the sky. Dwezel, I think God wants me to do something.”
“Well maybe he wants me to fed people?”
“No, not just catfish. There was that thing in the Bible about loaves and fishes…”
“What did it say about loaves and fishes?”
“He fed people bread and fish or something like that. Jesus did a lot with fish. Believe me…I do know that.”
“So he wants you to feed the poor?”
She thought about this for a minute.
“Maybe that’s it,” she said with a shrug.
“So are you going to volunteer in a soup kitchen?”
“Maybe, he’s trying to tell me I should like, learn about food. Like taking a cooking class or something?”
“Well, maybe, but.”
“That must be it. Cat’s are curious. What do you do when you’re curious? You learn. Fishes are food, so that must be what he meant.”
She went online to look for cooking classes.
Marla Finblossom sat at the bottom of the ocean crying. Her friends and family surrounded her and tried to offer comfort. She had lost her husband Frank to a Seagull that morning. He swam too close to shore and the gull had grabbed him. She always told him not to go close to the shore, but he said that the food tasted better there.
She looked at her friends and the vast ocean and wondered where she would go next.
“You know I was pretty surprised to end up here. I mean I was a fucking Christian. I went to church every Sunday. I wanna talk to a lawyer because that doesn’t seem right, “Abby said.
“I think it’s based more on behaviors,” Ellen said. “Like if you’re from the Judea Christian culture and you violated the ten commandments repeatedly than you come here.”
“Yeah, but it’s supposed to be that if you followed Christ and gave some of your income to the church you were good to go.”
“Yeah, it’s not really like that,” Ellen said.
“But, I heard that repeatedly.”
“Did you ever get any of that in writing?”
“Um, the Bible is in writing.”
“The Bible is open to interpretation. I mean did you get a voucher for going to church. Do you have some way of proving what you believed as far as being a Christian?”
“No,” Abby said. “But there must be some sort of a record of it.”
“Why,” Ellen said realizing how crabby she sounded.
“Well, it would only seem logical that if they judging you they had to have a record of your life somewhere.”
“Maybe,” Ellen. “From what I’ve seen everyone comes here but babies and animals. But, yeah if you think you got screwed then look for a lawyer.”
“Do they have internet down here? “
“I have it at work, but I haven’t seen it in the dorms. If you’re working in a bar you might not have it.” Ellen said. She felt bad like a negative Nelly.
“You know, Abby, Christ isn’t exactly perfect himself. You may want to bring that up when you talk to an attorney. I was reading all about him today in this magazine I found at the gym. Apparently he is just always getting in trouble. Mary Magdalene dumped him for Heath Ledger and he started to go out with Lindsay Lohan. “Everyone said he was just using her to get back at Mary. In fact word has it that he and Mary were hooking up behind Heath and Lindsay’s back.”
“Wait a second, how can Jesus be dating Lindsay Lohan, she’s still alive.”
that’s not true,” Ellen said, excited to share her knew found knowledge. “She died of a heroin overdose a few years back. Satan, Disney and Oprah had a ten year contracted at the time. Some nobody at the Department of Reaping totally screwed up. So they, like covered it up on earth and did some kind of a Frankenstein thing. If you look into her eyes you can tell.”
“Oh yeah, Abby said that would explain her acting and her singing,” Abby said.
“They’re actually doing a reality show about it.” Ellen continued. “I actually feel sorry for Christ. I mean his dad is God and his mom’s a virgin. It was to be so much pressure. Ya know?”
“Yeah, I went to high school with this guy whose dad owned Furniture Factory and he was the same way” Abby said .
“Yeah, if your dad created the earth you could never live up to it.”
“So, like is Marylyn down here? I love her.”
“I don’t know. I assume so. I haven’t been to the movies yet.”
“I was gonna have a tattoo of her on my arm, but..”
“Which one of her movies was your favorite?”
“Oh, I like em all.”
“My favorite was The Quarrel”. Ellen said.
“Yeah that was a really good one”, Abby said.
Ellen smiled a little to herself feeling a bit superior to her contemporaries. She always suspected they were responding to an image.
“We should go to the movies this weekend.” Abby, If they have weekends down here.”
“I don’t know. I’ve been here less than a week, no one has said anything to me, Ellen said wondering if she might be expected to work seven days straight.
Abby excused herself to go to the bathroom and came back looking a bit frightened. Ellen wondered what she had seen in the soul mirror. She made a note to herself to follow Abby into the bathroom next time so she could get a look for herself.
The two girls watched TV for a while and then Abby took off for work. Ellen looked everywhere in the dorms for Kyle, but he was nowhere to be found. She wondered if he hadn’t gotten his living quarters promotion; maybe the haunting had been successful. She wondered if he was in an apartment, she wondered if it was Danni’s apartment. She wondered if he wasn’t telling Danni what a lameo she was right about then.
She tried to distract herself with thoughts of work. She thought of what it would be like to eat the same thing and share a bed with up to ten other people for the rest of her life. She had a found memory of what burgers and fries tasted like and how good it felt to sleep on her old pull out bed. She stared at the ceiling and tried to think of a really good punishment.