SHORT FICTION

When a plastic ring shuts your beak

What does a stork do when his love for junk food gets the better of him and he ends up getting his beak shut by a plastic ring? Picture his paradox: he finds himself on a mound of opalescent packets containing the very stuff he desires—colorful food trashed generously by his human friends. Unfortunately, the trap is so effective that he can’t eat anything. But that doesn’t mean he can’t smell. And the redolence of this place only fuels the irony as it keeps tightening the lifeless plastic around his beak. Unlike the typical noose, it won’t kill him quickly. His death may be nigh, but it will be slow. Glacially slow.

What does he do? Does he introspect, tracing back the chain of events that got his beak caged in the ring? Or does he start praying—negotiating a trade—resolving to give up this junk if he is given a chance to escape the annular trap? I don’t think so. Don’t forget that he is addicted to this trash. He cannot even imagine giving it up. Instead, he flies towards the very people who got him trapped, hoping to find plenty more luscious food in their neighbourhood, the ultimate source of the good stuff. Unfortunately, he gets nothing but disappointment. Slowly, he figures out where these people hide it—inside their homes or on the shore, far away from their city. Both are unreachable now. He has starved for days. He looks frail, almost sedentary. More importantly, he has become more noticeable.

One day, a clasp around his shrunken body wakes him from his slumber. In that moment of half-consciousness, it occurs to him that this may very well be the end, and he may not even have enough time for proper introspection. Perhaps this is what happens when you die, he thinks—you become weightless, and even the grip of your predator somehow feels like a gentle caress.

Anticipating the inevitable, he closes his eyes. Then the ring slides out of his beak, and he smells fish flakes. He doesn’t quite like the raw taste, but that’s alright. Of course, he’ll fly back to the trash mound for a feast as soon as this lady stops caressing him.

[This story was inspired by a news article, which can be found here.]

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