I saw a blur of pink against the shoreline’s brown sand and stared, not believing my eyes. A flamingo perched high on a pile of driftwood. It looked badly injured, the color drained from its feathers, its beak cracked, a gash ripped out of its back. I turned the boat and raced toward shore. It wasn’t just another bird, it was a flamingo, a Floridian like me, born in the tropics and lost in a northern land.
“I’m not leaving you,” I thought. “Not out here, not with winter coming.”
A wave crashed over the cockpit as I jumped out. It swamped the boat and almost sent me tumbling into the surf, but I was too focused to care. The bird looked on the brink of death. It didn’t move as I picked it up and held it in my hands. I stared at it, worried it would fall apart between my fingers as I brushed away the dirt.
“What happened,” I thought. “Where did you come from?”
Were you blown here form some tropical beach? Did you get disoriented in a storm and turn north? Did you escape from smugglers near the Canadian border? Is there an 60s Airstream camper parked on a Florida beach with an empty spot in its yard?
It looked back at me, its eyes cold, almost lifeless, and said nothing. I placed it gently on the front of my boat and took off again hoping it wouldn’t fall as I paddled into the waves.
“I’ll take you as far as a trash can in Duluth,” I said. “After that, you’re on your own.”
I looked at the bird’s pink feathers, bright against the Looksha’s yellow hull.
“No, just Duluth,” I said. “And I don’t care if your name is Frank.”