The pelican

Someone told me the pelican was one of the last members of its species.

The pelican lived in the lake. Apparently he had broken his wing some time ago. The wing had never healed properly, and now he was unable to leave. Other pelicans of the same species came to the lake for a few months out of the year, but if you saw one alone it was definitely him. This is what someone told me.

The lake was really a lagoon, or so I heard, and some distance beyond the bridge it turned into the bay. This is why it was able to house the pelican and other seabirds, including common pelicans and gulls. On the side of the lake where I lived then, I often would see a snowy egret or a night heron standing or walking alone. Cormorants hunted there and then stood on the rocks and buoys, stretching out their wings to dry. On the other side, where I had lived before, there were always geese, and in one particular area you usually could look down on a pair of mallards or strange-eyed coots. There were many other types of birds whose names I never knew or have now forgotten.

After I was told about the pelican, I noticed him more often. Most frequently he was alone, but once I was sure I recognized him in a large fishing group, dipping his beak into the water as his neighbor came up with a full pouch. At some point I realized that probably he could swim to the bay through the channel under the bridge. I wondered if he knew. When I went to the bay I always thought, I should come here more often instead of to the lake, but I usually ended up at the lake. It was only a few blocks away.

During the last few weeks that I lived near the lake, the fish began to die. I hadn't known the lake could support fish of the size I saw lying in the muck at low tide-- a dozen or so eighteen-inchers gaping at me among hundreds of smaller schoolfish. Normally the lake was a little sulfurous at close range on a hot day, but now I could smell it from the apartment as I packed.

I don't know what happened to the pelican after that. Once when I returned to the city for a funeral, I walked to the lake and thought I saw him floating in one of the distant fingers. I couldn't be sure, though, because he was with friends.