A man came into the shop and I immediately hated him because he was confident, carrying a clipboard and roughly 50 years of age. I’d watched him park his Peugeot.
“Hi, is the big boss in?” He asked.
“Bryce Lee? No he’s dead.” I said. I meant Bruce Lee but I fucked up my talking while trying to be smart. “Bruce,” I said. Enrique and Paula were somewhere. I didn’t know exactly where. Probably out the back smoking. How did he know I wasn’t the big boss?
“Okay,” the man said without skipping a beat, god-damn he was confident. I hadn’t flummoxed him in the least. “Could I leave a petition on the counter?”
“Could be racist.”
The man looked at me. “It’s about the cull. The gull cull,” he said while rather presumptuously unclipping a few sheets of sad pathetic petition paper.
“For or against?” I asked.
“Well, against… if you read that”, the man said pointing at the words at the top of the form. I didn’t want to read it. I was looking at the man but the man looked at me so I dropped my eyes and pretended to read. I didn’t read it though as he’d told me what it said. I just looked at the paper for the amount of time I guessed it would have taken me to read the paragraph or so. “So I can leave it?” He said more than asked. I held my hand up and continued looking at the paper that this hateful man had left on my counter.
“I’m not sure,” I told him.
“Not sure,” I repeated. Could I be bothered preaching my doctrine on conservation to this fellow? You fucking betcha! “I don’t really believe in saving animals.” I said, looking at him again.
“Oh really? You’re a lovely chap, aren’t you?” He laughed.
Did he just do sarcasm on me? Did he? The man wanted to leave, that wasn’t happening
“Well, I think humans playing God and interfering with the theory of Natural Selection is inherently wrong.” Oh God, I’d done brilliant. God. Theories. The word ‘inherently.’ It all came out exactly as I wanted it to. And I’d thought about this. I wasn’t making this up.
“So…?” The man asked, he was a bit flummoxed. Cool.
“Yeah, you see if these animals had a place in the world then they would be in the world. That’s how the world works.”
“Sorry, I think that’s just…”
“What? Horses? Whales? Badgers? What do they do? Tigers? Why should we go out of our way to save them?”
“I don’t really want to get into a-“
“Well perhaps don’t go around leaving petitions, wasting people’s time until you’ve given it a little more thought?” I said. I saw the man was getting angry. I hoped he didn’t get so angry he’d punch me. Had to tread careful.
“Could you imagine a world without… without birdsong?”
“Yup, doing it now.”
“Okay then,” the man sighed, picking up his petition.
“No seriously. Tigers. Why bother?”
“Clearly you’re not… Do you have children?”
“Yup, three.” That’s was a lie, I’ve only got two.
“And you don’t want them to ever see a tiger? An elephant? A horse?” He asked walking right into my trap. Like a stupid badger.
“Well I think that saving an animal just so your kids can look at them is rather selfish, don’t you?”
“Of course. Saving an animal just so that you or your ancestors can look at them – there’s no other reason to keep them – that’s selfish.” I told him. I didn’t mean ancestors. I meant ancestors that haven’t happened yet. Future ancestors. There must be a word for those guys but I didn’t know it. The guy didn’t notice. “Creating a ‘world’ where tigers can survive, why, that’s surely no different than genetically modifying wheat so it grows up trees, and I bet you’re against that?”
“Okay, thanks for your time. I hope you’ll be happy when the planet’s covered in concrete and the only animals left are pigeons.”
“Well, I’ll be dead by then. Anyway, Dinosaurs-“
Just then we both heard screams coming from the car park and in unison we looked out of the window. Enrique was out there and he was running sideways, his legs crossing over. Then I saw Paula. They were both screaming with laughter. I looked at the man and we both went over to the window. Something was flapping on the floor in the middle of the car park. Enrique and Paula were dancing around it. At first I thought it was one of those wind-up elastic-band powered birds but then I realized it was a real bird. It was clearly injured.
It was that fucking duck.
Enrique bent down near it and then I saw there was twine of some sort tied to the bird. Enrique picked the bird up via the twine like it was a stinky ball and swung it around his head.
Paula was clapping. Enrique swung the flapping bird around his head a few times like a hammer thrower and then I heard him shout, “c’mon pelican, fly!” The bird’s lop-sided flapping hindered its aerodynamics rather than enhanced them and after a lazy arc the bird hit the side of the man’s Peugeot. I looked at the man and then back out of the window. Enrique was going over to the Peugeot to get the bird but the man had left the shop.
“Hey!” He shouted. Enrique screamed and ran away. He had to hold his hat on with one hand. “Peg it!” Shouted Paula waddling after him. I followed the man outside. He was untying the duck.
“Leave them,” I said to the man. “Leave the forms. And who were those two idiots?” I looked around.
“Change of heart?” He asked. He was being sarcastic again but I didn’t mind. The duck was free and was waddling off.
“I think… I was playing Devil’s Advocate. It’s not clear cut. I’ve got a dog.”
The man looked at me.
“And a cat.” The man handed me two sheets. “Maybe three?” I asked. The man looked at how many sheets he had. Not enough, obviously, he planned to carpet bomb the petition all over the island. “Actually I’ll copy them. If I need more. Out of my own pocket.”