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THE MIGRATORY BIRD

    Once a migratory bird stopped by the local travel agency.
    It was getting on into autumn, and the bird’s thoughts had begun to turn south again. This year, however, the old destinations just didn’t seem to have the attraction they used to. The bird was tired of the group tours and even the weekly fliers from its alma mater’s alumni association, which had apparently abandoned scholarship fundraising to concentrate instead on offering well-feathered graduates a choice of “unforgettable Wanderlust experiences” in 7-, 14-, and 28-day packages.
    So when it noticed a poster of a deserted beach somewhere in the tropics taped to the window of the travel agency, the bird went straight on in, choosing one of the agents who looked like a native of the place in the poster. Nothing like first-hand knowledge, the bird told itself.
    No sooner had it mentioned the poster, though, than the agent replied, “That place was booked up months ago.”
    “Months?” the bird said in surprise.
    “Yes. Everybody wants to get away to a remote beach these days.”
    “But the poster is empty.”
    “Isn’t digital photography amazing? You’d never know the place was packed, would you?”
    “Well, what else have you got?” the disappointed bird asked.
    “What are you looking for exactly?”
    “How should I say it? A total change of scenery, an adventure of the senses, a rebirth of the spirit, a whole new way of being, a journey of—”
    “What does all that have to do with tropical beaches?”
    “You have heard of Paul Gauguin, I assume,” was the bird’s miffed response.
    “Are you expecting to find Gauguin in a beach chair at Club Med?”
    “‘Tahiti! Tahiti!’ Doesn’t the name simply ring with the call of the exotic? Like ‘Mandalay,’ or ‘Samarkand,’ or ‘Shangri-la!’”
    “There are no flights to Shangri-la, I’m afraid. It doesn’t exist.”
    “I know that! But someplace like it where everything is inscrutable, timeless, and I can get in touch with all those mysteries of my being that are denied me here.”
    “And what are those ‘mysteries’?”	
    “That’s where I need your help. I feel I must open myself to raw experience and let torrid blood drum through my veins in the dusky night. Go native and get in a little all-night flocking with birds of a different feather, if you catch my drift.”
    “We don’t run sex tours here, mister.”
    “Oh, don’t get me wrong! I’m talking about something mystical! A magical transformation of the self! Getting in touch with ageless truths! Becoming one with universal rhythms! Embracing the ‘Eternal Feminine’ and all! Why, exactly what you must feel in your very bones! You’re from those parts, aren’t you?”
    “What makes you think that?”
    “You’re not? You sure look like it to me. Come on now, you’re just teasing me, aren’t you? I can see in your face that everything to make me come alive again is just waiting out there somewhere, beckoning to me . . . like that poster!”
    “That poster isn’t real, I tell you.”
    “It has to be real! Don’t you understand, I have needs here? Needs only paradise can satisfy!”