I've killed two birds with one stone. Two seagulls. On the beach outside Gladstone's seafood restaurant in Malibu, California.

I had been visiting California every summer for years with my parents, brother and sister. After a while my brother stopped coming, and after a little while longer I stopped going.

There is a barrel of peanuts in the bar area of Gladstone's, free for all, and as a family we would throw them to the seagulls in the parking lot and on the small rock cliffs and beach. Sometimes they would catch them in their beaks before they hit the ground.

I think, probably, that the murder hinted at in the aphorism was a matter of sportsmanship. Maybe before wellington boots, pastel corduroy, Barbour wax jackets and shotguns, young men knocked birds out of the sky with rocks and then ate them. This wasn't really anything like that.

I was walking on the beach with my sister while my parents ate. We had reached the top of a smallish dune. Over the crest, below us, stood two seagulls side-by-side, pecking skittishly and untrustingly at their feathers. I picked up a cleaved slab of massive sand-coloured stone, and slung it silently forth. The birds vanished.

Maybe not vanished, but they were certainly eclipsed. There wasn't a splat, or an explosion of blood, or anything really, except the thud of the rock coming to rest on sand. I thought maybe they had flown out of the way, but I knew they hadn't. My sister was laughing. The rock slid down the dune, leaving behind it a trail of feathers and thick, dirty blood. Smear is the right verb. Not squish, kill or murder, but smear. I smeared the two birds against the sand dune. There were not any details, no severed beaks or broken feet, just feathers and blood.

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