A Claw arm.
The kind short people use to get the last jar of peanut butter in the back of the top kitchen cupboard. The kind children don’t use to harass other children. And the kind the volunteers who walk the shore of Front Park use to pick up trash.
First thing in the morning, The Volunteers of Mercy Patrol begin with plastic grocery store bags in one hand and robotic arms in the other to clean up our mess.
Many people say, “Thank you.”
The patrol always replies, “Helps keep us out of trouble.”
I slowed my approach to the morning picnic to watch a man walk straight at Phil.
So much for our picnic.
Phil didn’t fly away.
The man stopped 15 feet from The King, draped the plastic bag over the handle of the robotic arm, then with the freehand raised his camera phone.
Phil turned and posed.
The robotic arm pinched up a large blade of bottled glass.
I said, “Thank You.”
He said, “Helps keep me out of trouble.”
I said, “Helps keep us all out of trouble.”
The Fisherman from last night is back.
Phil is near me on the opposite shore.
The Fisherman struggles. Twitches. Cusses.
I’ve watched the largest, wisest, and regaled heron of Massabesic Lake fish almost every day.
I’m no Phil.
But I know Phil.
So I know where the fish are.
It requires listening. Not the kind we learn so we can memorize rules. No. The kind that happens after all the sound goes away. When quiet is just the way it is. Like meditation with a notepad. Like how Phil sees the world.
Follow his bill.
That’s it. Do you want to know where the fish are? Follow the heron’s beak. Simple.
I only saw one of so many fishermen do it. The King watched that man catch one fish, then flew off to a large rock towards the center of the lake.
A Forfeit of the Inlet? No.
The man threw every catch back. It wasn’t the same fish. (Not every time.) A particularly large one made many trips back.
I saw it up close the next morning.
What type of fish?
A common one called: “The King’s Tired Breakfast.”
An awful one.
Phil is near me on the opposite side of the inlet. He won’t even acknowledge the guy. It hurts to look.
If you want to restore your faith in humanity shout for help.
People will help.
Not all of us. Some of us are assholes. But the majority of us will help.
PSA: A jerk is a jerk because, like non-jerks, they feel the pull to help but, unlike non-jerks, deny it. They laugh to themselves, ‘survival of the fittest.’ As if they built their iPhone.
So…Bad skipped worse and went right for “Help.”
I didn’t answer his silent cry.
PSA II: If you make it to 40 without being a jerk at least once, you’re a jerk of a whole different league. But we’ll get to the cormorant soon enough.
Phil’s beak slow-swept then steadied north-northwest.
I saw the signs minutes ago. Certain swirls in the lake.
Follow the Heron’s beak.
The ‘fisherman,’ of course, was noisy. Fish flee noisy.
Phil was hungry.
Another cry for help from man-with-string-tied-to-plastic-stick.
I packed up, put the chair strap over my shoulder, looked at the certain swirls of fish, then waved to the man, “Goodnight. Hope your luck changes for the better.”
Setting my chair in the trunk, I heard a familiar thwap!
In the fisherman’s footprints stood The King with the biggest bass of the year in his beak.
Luck did change things for the better.