Swan Dive! Ch. 13: A Wanted Man

Except for their formation, the high-flying flock looked like any normal incoming colony of gulls heading north to look for food. To an observer with a keen eye on history, though, the arrangement called to mind a tight squadron of Japanese Zeros headed toward their target – exactly what Sam Bennett programmed the drones to do.

Just like the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, this was war.

Sam stood peeping from behind a Dumpster holding the control box with the dignity of a highly decorated field commander leading troops on a battlefield. Attired in a new white T-shirt and a threadbare white linen suit with sleeves he spray painted gray, he wore pink rubber soled sneakers that went well with the pointed yellow beak of the well-crafted gull mask Ruby made for him to wear to ward off COVID.

Sam didn’t think he was a gull. Don’t be so gullible. Sam just thought like a gull – resourceful, inquisitive and crafty.

The center of attention in the VIP crowd gathered for the proposed Clearwater Beach super condo tower ribbon cutting, throwing back her head in a hearty laugh, Jenna DeShafty, First Lady of the Sunshine State, opened artificially injected pouty painted lips in a throaty well practiced social register cackle.

Seconds after the lead drone locked its laser sight on her gaping mouth the revolting bombardment dropped and plopped down the hatch. At first the governor’s wife thought her jokester husband Ronnie had snuck up behind her and shoved a creamy deviled egg into her yap. On their big day some years before, he stuffed a piece of wedding cake down her craw at their private country club reception catered by special interests and other political hustlers who wanted a piece of something far sweeter than rich devil’s food with gold leaf icing.

But when the indescribable taste sent shock waves screeching through Jenna DeShafty’s pampered nervous system, exploding in the jolting flavor of fetid waste and glue, she gagged and tried to spit out the glop. As planned, the shitty adhesive clung to her tongue, hanging there like a raw clam that refused to let go of its shell.

“Direct hit,” Sam said with a victorious screech as the leader of the poop pack scored.

Billionaire Russian real estate developer and host Borys Popov, used to assassination attempts, sensed an ambush and sprinted for cover under the tent. A second attacker now dive bombed the ribbon-cutting ceremony. This time the governor himself looked skyward, staring panic-stricken into the red eyes of an oncoming drone gull that unloaded its crappy cargo as it swept upward and banked into the sun.

The footlong silver key to the state Gov. Ronnie DeShafty was about to present Popov took a hit, but the state’s highest elected official got slammed so hard with a load on his head he looked like he had donned a shiny black Little Richard wig.

A third attacker from Squadron Shit Storm honed in on Miss Teenage Clearwater Beach, a former celebrity child Scientologist there to sing the National Anthem. Her spangled gown shimmered like bombs bursting in air. But what ruptured in the atmosphere today were turds you could see by the dawn’s early light or any other form of illumination that glared and gave proof through the night that the poop was still there. A hefty bombardment of doo doo number two poo poo caught the Republican teen queen as she turned to run, slamming into her shoulder blades and running down her chest to rest on the swells of her breasts like fresh hot fudge adhering to a sumptuous cherry-topped sundae.

Leering from where he stood at the buffet table touching the clams on the half shell until he found a mollusk juicy enough to match his slovenly appetite, Borys’ simpleton brother Ivan wanted to date the teen queen. But even he got jarred from his reverie by the sudden onslaught of stinking droplets from the sky.

Within minutes all 12 gulls let loose with loads on a variety of wealthy guests, then lifted skyward, heading over the Gulf toward the horizon and then south toward the tip of the barrier island. A dozen targets suffered direct hits while countless others endured splatter shrapnel collateral damage.

So excited he couldn’t remain in the background, Sam rushed from his hiding place and began squawking. Flapping his arms wildly he spun in circles like a heretofore undiscovered breed of gull engaged in a bizarre territorial dance.

Ivan Popov spotted him and yowled.

“It’s him. It’s him. Crazy birdman from bar!”

Borys recognized Sam from TV.

“Maniac from ledge at Kingfish Hotel,” he said to an action news reporter and camerawoman assigned to cover the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Then Sam almost magically disappeared. Did he just know the streets’ nooks and crannies better than the overwhelmingly and inexperienced cops who moved to town to work the beach from other towns? Or did Sam receive otherworldly guidance? Depending on your belief system, you could say he had metaphysical help from above or below or from wherever such celestial assistance originates. Or maybe he was just better organized.

Ruby sat on her bicycle, watching the sad chaos unfold, thinking the rich deserve every drop of crap that lands on their heads like pounding raindrops from increasingly vicious storms due to unchecked climate change. The super condo would rise to the heavens unless people who opposed development stopped or delayed construction.

Sam had done his best.

At least he took a stand.

RayRay watched the air assault from the beach. Maybe he could trade the priceless golden cross he found for a promise from Ivan to ask Borys to grease the skids so the governor would give Sam a stay out of jail card. After all, Sam only pecked around the frayed edges of life, not asking for much and not getting his share of what he deserved. What riches Sam did possess, however, cash couldn’t buy. A treasure of morality and skill remained invaluable and unseen beneath sloppy eccentricity.

Survival topped the list.

Many years had passed since Sam graduated from the Navy’s 9-day Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, best known by its military acronym SERE. The program prepares U.S. military personnel, U.S. Department of Defense civilians, and private military contractors to survive and “return with honor” in survival scenarios. Sam lived with honor and would return when he won this battle against all odds, against natures’ enemies. Sam would survive.

Hiding out might be fun. No more worries about running into that bonehead Russian landlord at the Spyglass. No more concerns about being cooped up inside like a bird in a cage. He’d roam free like the gulls. The drones were safe in the hiding place he set up for them in advance. RayRay would help behind the scenes. Ruby, too. Everybody would help Sam stay one step ahead of the posse.

Officially on the run, our hero dove underground as a radical gull guerrilla seeking justice.

Sam Bennett now ruled the roost as a wanted man.