The day after Juan’s story was published, I received a mysterious text, reading, “I know what happened to Simon. Call me.”
After scanning my phone, I realized it was from Jackie, the woman who used to leave him fresh water.
I was filled with a mixture of dread and confusion. People rarely talk on the phone anymore unless news is really good or really bad. Was he slain by a cat? Was he hit by a car? Had I unwittingly contributed to his demise? Who the hell is Simon?
I called Jackie, and the saga of Juan took a quintessential Vineyard turn.
She informed me that was an animal empath and that she and Juan had been communicating for months.
My cynical side wanted to ask if he spoke English or she spoke seagull, but if she was helping keep my boy alive, the least I could do was keep an open mind.
It turned out Juan led a double life.
First, she informed me that I had his name wrong — that he preferred “Simon.”
I told her he would always be Juan to me, and that he seemed quite pleased with the name.
She insisted that he preferred Simon.
She told me that Simon had developed a following of like-minded Islanders who, captivated by his moxie, had also been feeding him.
Apparently, my morning visits were the start of his daily routine.
Jackie said that in the early afternoon, he crossed the street and waddled up the long driveway to the MV Museum, where construction workers would share their lunches with him.
Jackie had also been feeding him, often with Net Result sashimi.
Juan was eating better than I was.
Jackie went into detail about her many telepathic conversations she’d had with “Simon.” He told her that he was initially resistant to human kindness but that he grew to appreciate it.
He made no mention of the guy in the blue truck who fed him dog kibble, smelts and turkey necks.
He told Jackie that what he wanted most was to be back with his flock, but he was concerned his fellow gulls wouldn’t accept him because of his disability. If that was the case, he would find a flock with a sense of compassion.
Jackie told me she knew the exact date of Juan’s last day at the lagoon.
The two of them were sharing a sashimi lunch on the hillside by the museum, when a dive bombing seagull attacked from out of the blue. After fighting off his foe, Juan miraculously took flight, gliding a good 50 yards over the road and all the way down to the lagoon shore.
“It was August 12,” Jackie said, her voice quavering. “He said good-bye, and that’s the last I saw of him.”
I still look for him when I drive by the shuck shack, but he’s never there.
I hope he found a flock that embraced him.
I hope he can support himself with his hunting skills.
I hope he still goes by Juan.