The Truth About Pelicans

May 8, 2018

Kurt Cole Eidsvig
Key West

Nina wanted a sandwich but Marty wouldn’t stop talking about the sunset. They were riding bikes toward White Street Pier on the last day of their vacation. Nina’s hair salon in Duluth— Full Twist—was doing just fine. The way Marty kept pedaling by her every time they came to a stop sign she knew something else was wrong though. Her stomach rumbled. Marty described the purple. Marty said she’d just missed The Green Flash last night. Marty mentioned silhouettes.

Nina rang her little rented bike bell on her little rented bike. She rang it again. The shadow of the sailboat, Marty said.

“Marty!” Nina almost yelled it. A group of pelicans dove and twisted and gulped at fish. They made Nina think about airplanes. They made Nina think about twisted steel and last-minute pleas. They made Nina think about crashing.

She said “Are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on?”

Marty scuffed his sandal on the road. He leaned like he needed to keep moving. His brown hair moved beneath his straw fedora. Even when he was full of shit Marty was handsome.

“I thought you wanted to go for a bike ride,” he said.

“I’ve never heard you talk about a color in your whole life. Now you’re an expert on sunsets?” she said.

“Let’s ride out to the end of the pier,” he said. The shadows on the railings crisscrossed against cement.

“Do you want me to start crying” she said. “That’s what I feel like doing.”

The pelicans twisted and cut speed. Nina read someplace they mated for life. Next to the turquoise green there were three birds flitting and flapping. She could smell the salt in the back of her mouth.

“I’ll take a picture of you if you do,” Marty said. The asshole looked like a catalog model.

“I’m starving,” she said.


After Disney the two of them needed a vacation more than ever. Marty hated the crowds. Nina hated how much Marty hated the crowds.

Marty loved the way she looked in Minnie Mouse ears though.

Key West was okay until she liked the drag shows too much. Marty was more wet t-shirt contest than electrical tape holding dicks down next to legs. “What would my father say?” Marty asked her after she tried to pick a post-daiquiri fight.

“Your father has been dead for 14 years” she said. The waitress or the waiter came back. Marty waved them off.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Marty said.

She had no idea what Marty meant sometimes.


When Marty visited his father in Maine there were red lamps in the windows.

“It’s in case the pipes freeze,” his father said. A stain beneath his father’s mouth showed where years of tobacco juice had trickled out.

“Have you used the knife yet, Dad?” Marty said.

“I keep sharpening it. But the way it shines I’m afraid I might rot my teeth out,” his father said. His father spit a wad of juice at the ground. Marty noticed nothing leaked on his father’s beard.

Marty exhaled and watched his breath turn to steam. It reminded him of smoking cigars.

“I’m worse than your mother,” his father said. “She cut her face out of every wedding picture we had in Niagara Falls. What is it about women and water?”

Marty exhaled.


At the end of the pier Nina kept riding in circles. A man carried a casting net. A woman rode her bike. A small child wearing a dinosaur helmet rode in a cart she trailed behind.

Nina smiled at the woman. She said “I like your little pterodactyl.”

The mom smiled back and said “The P is silent.”

Marty fingered the ring in his khaki shorts pocket. He knew the pier never meant to go to Cuba.

Nina said “I have a dog I named Brontosaurus in Duluth.”

They were both riding in circles now. The women and the child. Marty stared at the casting net.

“Tell her about your Minnie Mouse ears,” he yelled.

Nina wasn’t listening.