They know what they're doing, you know.

You head over to New York's legendary Coney Island for a nice day at the shore. A little bit of sun, some splashing in the waves, good times all around. Then, you get hungry. You head over to the boardwalk and shower your feet to get rid of all that sand—boom, clean as a whistle. You put your flip-flops back on because those wooden planks get hotter than mama's marinara out of the pot. Then you have to pick out what you want to eat. There's pizza, pretzels, popcorn. You name it. You go into these shops, and you tell 'em what you want. Get ready to pay out the nose for something that should be less than half the price.

Then, you go outside, feeling crummy for using your mortgage payment for some junk food, and they're freaking waiting.

Like this one time. Gina gets this big ice cream cone, chocolate with rainbow sprinkles. The works.

I tell her, "Gina, you better be careful. The seagulls are gonna take your cone."

And she laughs.

"Come on, Jimmy," she says. "Birds ain't that smart."

I'm telling ya, I heard, "Oh, yeah, lady?" as the one swooped down and plucked her ice cream right out of her hand.

She screamed. I laughed. She screamed at me for laughing. It was a mess.

Needless to say, it was another twelve bucks for another cone.

Then, when we're older, we have Gabriella with us. She's like, what, four, five years old?

She's skipping down the boardwalk with one of them churros in her hand and some overpriced unicorn balloon in the other. The picture of happiness.

Then, I hear them. The squawking. They sure sound innocent enough, if not even funny, like a pigeon going through puberty. But I know the truth. They're planning their next heist. I look up, and they're flying around already. To our right, they're following us. To our left, they're freaking following us.

"Gabriella," I say. "You better get back over here and protect that churro. The birds are gonna steal it."

"No, they won't, Daddy, they're nice," she says. "Hi, little birdies!"

So, innocent.

"Your father's right, dear," Gina says. Now she listens, thank God.

Before I could tell her to watch out, another one swoops in and snags the cinnamony stick right out of my little girl's hand, leaving a gray feather at the crime scene. Like some kind of calling card!

She's screaming. I'm yelling at the gulls. Gina's yelling at me for yelling at the gulls. It's a mess.

But I know what I'm talking about. They ain't just hungry birds. They're kleptos. They're con artists. They're violent!

I'll never forget the first time I realized it. I was like, nine or ten. Uncle Jimmy, my namesake, God bless 'em, is out there on the beach eating hot dogs. Now, Uncle Jimmy, he's a big guy, and he can put down a dog or two. But the man knows his limits and stalls out at eight. A man with self-awareness. Respectable.

So, like any lover of the Earth, one who doesn't want to waste food, he picks off a piece of bun and tosses it to a gull who was just "confidentially" passing by. I'm sitting on a beach towel watching all this go down, thinking, boy, that's nice of my uncle, like the naive kid I was. So, I watch the gull snatch it mid-air and turn around for more. Then, another came and landed a chunk of dog with ketchup. That one lucked out. Then another came around, hovering above my uncle's head. And then another. And another. Within minutes, freaking minutes, there's a swarm of these rats with wings over good old Jimmy, nearly suffocating him. He starts running down the beach, throwing his dog at the birds, cursing up a storm, fleeing for his life. Sure, the whole beach was hysterical, but I wasn't. I knew that I was witnessing a crime. My uncle wasn't the same after that, and neither was I.

Yet, here's the thing. And this is the real bombshell. They might be petty thieves, but there's something bigger going on here. They're working for someone. Someone big. My theory? The restaurants of the boardwalk train these birds to steal our food, so we have to turn around and pay those jacked-up prices again!

Think about it. It's the perfect con. No self-respecting cop is gonna go into, say, Sal's Slices by the Shore, and be like, "you training birds to steal people's pizza?" They'd be laughed out of Coney Island. But Sal would know. Sal would know.

Gina thinks I'm nuts. I don't blame her, I would probably think that too. But the Coney Caper Conspiracy is real. That's what I call it. It's not that crazy of a theory, either. There are monkeys that people train to pickpocket. You might say there's a difference between a gull's brain and a monkey's brain, but gulls just act dumb. It's part of the long con, screwing us New Yorkers out of our hard-earned shore junk food.

Oh, well, I'm done ranting. Nothing I can do about it, right? It's not like I can head to the shore, buy a ton of food, leave it on an unguarded table, and hide nearby with a camera, then follow the birds to see which restaurant they go to at the end of the night to see who their masters are, could I? That'd be crazy.

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