No mention of an old man, Black Skimmer or otherwise, just advice onwhere to eat in nearby Venice and warnings about leaving your lights onduring turtle season. And a phone number, which I copied down in themargins of my bird guide, above a photo of a roseate spoonbill.
Our only time together, all six of us, was after sundown, when visibilitywas low and the purple knot was, according to the available literature,roosting in its hidden inland nests. These nights we occupied ourselvesby singing songs and listening to Stilt’s accounts of his encounters withrare and beautiful birds. A Kirtland’s warbler in northern Michigan, afemale California condor spotted outside Springdale, Utah.
“An enormous female,” he said. “She had a face exactly like Jack Lem-
The night I found the renter’s guide, Coot prepared another one of
his meals of ambiguous culinary lineage, a stodgy cassava porridge with
raisins and clams (an improvement from the previous night’s sandwich
containing tofu and pear—we ate meat but never turkey or chicken), and
after dinner he began the evening’s musical entertainment with a raun-
chy nautical ballad about a well-endowed sailor and a school of busty
mermaids. While the thirty verses of this perverted shanty clunked on,
I silently reviewed my plan to step out and call the condo’s rightful own-
ers once everyone had fallen asleep.
Coot concluded (by the final verse the sea was more human effluviumthan brine), and the nuns took over with their usual selection of Simonand Garfunkel, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and other folk groups earnestlynamed after their members. Finally, my mom took the guitar—everyonehere could play, save for me and Stilt—and performed a few Joni Mitchell covers, which the nuns adored especially. The whole time she sangabout looking at clouds from both sides now, she and Stilt exchangedmeaningful, corny glances that only steeled my resolve to get us out ofthere.
Still, despite Stilt’s horny presence, it felt good to see so many peoplebasking in her glow. She was finally being adequately appreciated. It waslike being a fan of a band years before they became world famous.
Then it was time for bed. The nuns took their mezzanine, Stilt andMom slipped off to the big bedroom, and Coot entombed himself in hisarctic sleeping bag a few inches from my couch.
I waited for Coot’s breathing to regularize and slipped out the glassdoors. The ocean was gargling rudely. I pressed in the Tschours’ phone