byNathan?

Deuel

Wesawtheislandassundippedbelowthehills。

Iheftedluggageontothedock。

MywifeKelly,whoworkedinIraq,hadflowntoTurkey,whereIwasraisingourtwo-year-olddaughter。

We’dplannedaweek’sstayonBurgazada,oneofsevenislandsashortferryridefromIstanbul。

Iwas?

excited。

Pullingrollingsuitcases,myin-lawsfollowedmeintotown。

They’dtakenaplanefromChicago:Stevewasaretiredprisonwarden,andhiswife,Claudia,taughteighth-gradehistory。

Familybondingwasimminent。

Boatsbobbedinbluewaters,andarowoffishrestaurantshadtableswithwhitetableclothssetout。

Wesawapatisserie,withshelvesofpuddingsandcakes。

Nextdoorwasagrocery,abutcherandaproduce?

stand。

Uptheslopewasaseasidecommunity,wherelocalssummeredinwoodenhouses。

Itwasherewe’drentedalargeapartment。

Aswewalkedupthehill,flowerboxesbulgedwithcolor,andawizenedcouplesatonaterracesippingtea。

Ahorse-drawncarriagerangitsbellandwesteppedtothe?

side。

Onthewrap-aroundbalcony,Kellyheldtongs,beamingthroughsmoke,andtendedaroaringgrill。

ClaudiaandSteveooh’edandah’edattheviewofthepool。

Candlesflickeredonatable,andthesunburnedorange。

Weate,drankanddriftedto?

sleep。

***

Inbed,wefirstheardthescreaming。

Itwashardtobelievehowlouditwas,howmanybirdsmusthavebeenoutthere,andwhyonearthweretheymakingsomuchnoise?

Atlast,forafewhours,wehadquiet。

Butbeforedawn,aroostercrowedandthegullsresumedscreaming。

Thenadogbeganbarking,thenanother。

Itwas4a。

m。

Soonenough,hoursearly,ourdaughterLorettawokeup。

IstaggeredintoablazingTurkish?

morning。

Groggily,Imadecoffeeandrifledthecabinetformilk。

Lorettapaddedaroundinbarefeet。

ThenKellyemergedfromourroomwithwildhairandred?

eyes。

“Whatthefuck?

”she?

said。

Outside,agullswoopedlow,screamed,shatinthepool,thenslicedintomorning?

sky。

Wewentouttoinvestigate。

Whileitlookedlovelyfromtheterrace,upclosethepoolwasafilmofleaves,bugsandfeathers。

Theskyabovewasariotofhowlingbirds。

Ifoundanetandbegantoskim,draggingalongthesurface,walkingcirclesaroundthepool。

Lorettatrundledaboutinthegrass。

“Toot,toot,”shesaid,mimickingaferry。

Stevewatchedgrimlyfromthebalcony,slammingdownacupofcoffee。

Claudiatookalongshower。

Thegullsscreamed。

ThenIspottedabone。

HopingKellyhadn’tseen,Iscoopeditup。

Meathungoffthescallopedfiligreeofaspinalcolumn。

Itwasgross。

Feelingnauseous,Isetagaintoskimming,workingthenetfaster,hopingthere’dbenomoregore。

Onanearbytree,Kellysetupababyswing,whereLorettasettledinforapush,laughing。

Later,thebirdscontinuedtoscream,andwetriedtoeatlunch。

Sittingonthebalcony,aviewofamonasteryinthedistance,wepeeredintothesky。

Justthen,agullandcrowclashedinthesky,clawslocked,retreatingtorooftopstoscreamateachother。

Wedecideditwasbabyseason。

Iwonderedifwe’dneedtobuya?

shotgun。

Thenextmorning,skimmingthepool,Iwasnearlyknockedintothedeepend。

AgullarcedintotheskyandIheardwhy:ithadbeentryingtoprotectitsfledgling,afluffybirdthesizeofatoaster,whichbleatedplaintively。

Theyounggullblinkedatme,liftingafootintoitsfeathers。

Itshat,thenskitteredintothebushes。

Byadeckchair,Isawhalfofwhatthebirdhadbeeneating。

Thecarcasslookedlikeagull?

—?

cannibal!

—?

themeatnearlytornoff,aredsmear。

Inthepool,rollinginthecurrent,twosparklingspineshadbeenpecked?

clean。

Afteranothermostlysleeplessnight,Istoodonthebalconyearlyinthemorningandeyedthewater。

Wasitfilledagainwithbugsandbones?

Yes,itwas。

Byadeckchairsplatteredinshit,thebabygullpeckedatapileofmeat。

Ishuddered。

Aroundthekitchen,moralewaslow。

Thein-lawsemergedfrombed,andImadesureapotofcoffeewasgurgling。

“Fuckingbirds,”Istammered,cuttingintoa?

peach。

Claudiaagreedimmediately。

“Iknow,”shehissed。

“Ihate?

them。



KellyandIwentforarun,tracingtheedgeoftheislandtoitswesternterminus。

We’dbeenlivingapartformostofayearbuthadfallenbackintoarhythm。

Thegullsthinnedoutinthehills,andweranhappilyintohotwind,gainingdistancewitheverystepfromthescreamingbirds。

Herfootfallsmadetimebesidemyown。

Soonenough,KellywouldbebackinIraq。

Thatwaswhatmadethebirdsandbonessofrustrating。

Thiswassupposedtobeourtimetogether。

Pantingfromtherun,Isatinthepoolandlookeduptoseebirdslockedinbattle。

Theywereinescapable。

***

Onemorning,enteringouryardafteragrocerytriptotown,Isawthebabygullandthoughtmaybeithadgottenbigger。

Thenitbegantopumpfuzzywings。

Iheldmybreath。

Itflew,butonlyforfivefeetor?

so。

Despiteitall,apatternbegantoform:Coffeeinthemorning,alongbreakfast。

ArunforKellyandme,thenaswimwithLoretta。

Claudiatookthelittlegirlonalongwalk。

Stevepushedherintheswing。

We’dnapafterlunchandswimthroughtheafternoon。

Dinnerfeaturedfish。

Thedaysmeltedintooneanother,andtomyimmenserelief,thebonesandthecriesofthebirdsbecamejustanotherpartofavacation?

routine。

Onthesecond-to-lastday,Lorettanapped,andIstretchedoutinthebedroom。

IheardKellyinthelounge,talkingtocolleaguesaboutflackjackets,battlehelmetsandsatellitephones。

Sleepyandheartsick,Itiptoedouttogiveherasetofheadphones,hopingtomufflehalfaconversationIdidn’twanttohearinthefirst?

place。

Thatnight,Idreamtofaplanecrashanddesperatesearchforsurvivors。

Inthedark,birdsscreamed。

***

Thelastmorningontheisland,methodicallypackingandcleaning,Ifoundonemorebloodybone,andIthoughtabouthowdifferentmylifewasfrommywife’s。

InIstanbul,Iwasmainlyafather,andeachnightIgaveourdaughterabath,puthertobed,thencleanedupthehouse。

Kelly,meanwhile,livedbehindblastwalls,guardedbymenwithmachineguns。

Forthisonestrangeweek,ithadn’tbeenperfect,butatleastwe’dbeentogether。

KnowingwhereKellywasheaded?

—?

aplacewithnoiseslouderthanbirds?

—?

Idreadedsaying?

goodbye。

Istaredatthe?

bone。

***

Thatfinalmorning,weboardedtheboatalongsideacrushofweekendvisitors。

Iregardedotherfamilieswithamixofenvyandwonder。

Awomaninheadscarfandblackabayapattedherson’shead。

Afather,whospokegentleArabic,guidedtwoofhisgirlstothebathroom。

MaybetheywereseekingrefugefromBahrain,Syria,or?

Yemen?

TheferrytoIstanbulcrashedacrossbluewater,bringingusallclosertoourlivesonshore。

Thecyclewasbeautifulandalsosad。

Toacertaindegree,wewereprobablyallgettingusedtoit,andasspringbecamesummer,thedayswouldslide?

by。

NathanDeuelisawriterwholivesinTurkeyandinIraq。

Whenhequithislastrealmediajob?

—?

atRollingStone?

—?

hepackedabagandwalkedfromNewYorktoNewOrleans。

Hisotherwritingcanbefound?

here。