There is turkey running loose on the deck of our ship. The crew has named it Socrates for reasons having vaguely to do with one of them having read a book once. The turkey is not full grown but neither was it a baby.”Too small to fry,” the Captain says, throwing his extra shoe at it. The captain, having only one leg, repurposes the extra shoe of every pair as his throwing shoe. Sometimes he ties a string to it for easier retrieval.
For being one of a species of the most landlubbing birds, Socrates is suprisingly sure-footed on deck, good at both avoiding the sudden strikes of the mecurial captain’s spare footware and adjusting to the pitch and yaw of the ocean. It was as if he had been born at sea, had come from a long line of turkeys specialized to the rocking motions of seafaring. He never shows the slightest twinge of seasickness in even the worst storms.
He lives mostly on potatoes and the worms he finds in them like hidden gifts. The ship has been lost at sea for weeks with three storage-holds of potatoes bound for a distant western shore, and the more time passes, the better the turkey eats. We pick out the worst of potatoes and set it in a bowl by the main mast. Some of the crew pretend it is just way to test to see of the cargo was still edible, but really it is from fondness. We have bonded with the sea-turkey, sensing in it a kindered spirit, a fellow flightless traveler of stormy waters.
I have even fashioned for Socrates a small tent—made by binding spare bits of rope an an old and tattered skirt between the rail and the gangway. The skirt has been left behind by a former romantic interest of the captain. She had disappeared mysteriously between ports and for months afterwards it would be the Captain’s habit to stand at the railing, holding the skirt to his cheek, sighing and wiping a tear from his one human eye with the hem.
On a particularly dark and stormy night I had even stumbled upon the captain with the nozzle of his gun to his temple as he sat with the skirt layed out out across his bunk. The captain was petting the skirt and saying softly: “shush.”
But the captain was holding the gun with his plastic hand and the plastic finger was not even on the trigger.
Eventually he forgot the woman, let the skirt fall into misuse as a dishtowel, a rag, a thing for polishing portal windows, finally to be discarded altogether on the floor in the pantry. And now it is the roof of the Sea Turkey’s happy home, while the skirt’s original owner has probably long since been eaten and shit out by a whale.