Toki and I are sitting on the beach at Half Moon Bay when he spots a devil’s bird. Toki says, “Look, there’s a devil’s bird.” I look in the direction he points but don’t see anything except sea gulls and pelicans.  The pelicans are rather large and scary enough.

“What’s a devil’s bird?” I ask.

“A bird that comes ahead of bad weather,” he says.

The skies are blue, light blue, hardly a scudding cloud in sight all the way to the horizon.  

“He’s not doing a very good job,” I say.  “Where’s this bird then?” 

He points at the farthest corner of the beach where the land connects to sand.  Puts my face to his arm to follow the sightline.  “See. There.” And I see a black bird with a long tail just off the edge of the rocks.

“Yeah sure,” I say.  “How do you know that’s what that is?”   

I’m highly skeptical.  Toki likes to make things up. He likes to see how long it takes me to catch on to the fact that he’s making things up.  I’ve gotten to the point now where I know instantly when he is lying and when he is telling the truth.  He has a tell, a little smirk along the edge of his lip that is so minute as to be invisible.  I like to play along and let him go on for as long as he can until he realizes that I am on to him. 

Then he’ll smirk and say, “You know me too well.”

But this idea of a devil’s bird is intriguing.  “How do you know about this bird? I ask.

“I just do,” he says.

“Are you sure it’s not a loon?” I say.  “Or a blackbird?  A crow?”

“Nope,” he says, terse.  No grin.  “See how long the tail is.  Its coat is different too.”

The bird is hopping on the rocks and I think, yes, it does have a long tail.  Its coat is almost purple with some green.  “So, when you see one, some bad weather is on the way?”  I’m hoping to catch him out.

“That’s the idea.”

“In Iowa, cows get together in the corner of the pasture when a tornado is coming. They huddle up.”

“Hmm,” he says.  He pours us some more wine.  “Bread?” he asks.  It is freshly-baked bread that we purchased from the wine store, and Toki and I relish eating it on these beach outings. 

“Yes, “I say, “and some cheese.”  Toki tears me off a hunk of bread and breaks off a piece of the cheese.  

Just then, Toki’s cell phone tinkles, a sound telling him he has a text.  Normally, Toki shuts off his phone when we’re together.  I’m surprised he gets reception here.  And even more surprised when he turns sideways to read it and text back

I look across the beach and see the strange bird still sailing and circling off the rocks.

Toki continues texting.  I don’t know that I want to ask who it is, Toki might think I actually care.  There’s some kind of shift in his being.  He turns his body away from me—he is looking something up on the internet.  Hmm, I think.  Maybe he’s looking up the bird.

I finish my glass of wine.  Tear off more bread and pull the sack with the cheese in it from under his thigh.

“Who are you texting?”  I ask finally.

“Why do you get like this?” he answers, which is not really an answer.  “I’m texting my friend, Felix,” he says while flashing the phone so quickly at me that I can’t see.  I don’t try to see what his phone says.

I look at his mouth for the tell.      

Then I gaze off into the distance and see that a line of dark matter, maybe fog, has begun to form along the horizon.