My Old Stomping Grounds Revisited

The first thing we noticed was a dark blanket undulating offshore, parallel to the surface of the ocean. I was showing my wife where I went to school in Santa Cruz, but I had never seen this before. When we parked the rental car and looked closer, we resolved the blanket was composed of millions and millions of birds.

The tourists didn't notice and the locals had their backs to the water. When we asked, they said it happened all the time. But when we asked what it all meant, no one had an explanation.

Until a homeless drunk whose thing was covering himself with seaweed told us they came all the way from New Zealand. He said he should know because, "I used to be a fisherman in a former life". They were hunting "baitfish" and he called them "bats" even though they were clearly birds. Their hysterical flapping and shrilling would eventually drive the fish to shore. If we waited long enough, we would see whole schools of fish throw themselves up on the beach. But as a visiting tourist, I wouldn't be able to see it.

Derek White has slept illegally on a number of beaches around Santa Cruz, and once on a snookers table in New Zealand. Most recently, he crashes in New York City where he works for Napster. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Styles, Elimae, 12-Gauge, Diagram, Café Irreal, and Snow Monkey. He resides online at