Escape from Alcatraz
Paul goes to Alcatraz for extreme loitering and minor treason. Each morning, he gazes at San Francisco from his second-floor cell. To pass the time, he sits by the window and plucks feathers from passing seagulls. He collects tens of thousands, and as he eats his morning gruel he hatches an escape plan.
Discreetly, he pours the gruel down his jumpsuit before returning to his cell. Paul employs the porridge's adhesive qualities and rolls around in feathers to assume the form of a human bird. He squawks until a guard notices.
"My God," said the guard, "how did a bird get trapped in a cell?"
The alarms blare to signal a breakout. The guard, like all Alcatraz guards, is a lover of animals. He opens the cell door.
"Fly free, little guy!"
As the sirens blast, Paul waddles leisurely toward the boats. Periodically, he squawks to avert suspicion. Another guard, trained in bird calls, senses something amiss. He stops Paul at the gates.
"You there! " he says. Paul stops.
"You don't sound like a seagull. You don't look like a seagull," says the guard.
Paul had planned for every contingency and knows exactly what to say.
"That's because your conception of a seagull is Eurocentric."
Eurocentrism is the biggest taboo possible among Alcatraz staff. Embarrassed at his close-mindedness, the guard clears his throat.
Paul runs to the cliff's edge. The feathers catch the blustering wind, which propels him airborne. He soars, San Francisco bound at last.
Soon he is near the shore and lowers his head to descend. He dives toward the beach, but a breeze kicks in and pulls him inland and upward. Higher and higher the wind takes him, and soon he clears San Francisco entirely.
No matter thinks Paul. All breezes must end, and soon enough he will feel the sweet earth beneath him.
By Nevada, panic sets in.
By Kansas, panic morphs to terror.
It is night now, and Paul soars through pitch darkness at jet speeds.
He sees a tornado ahead and prays that the wind directs him elsewhere.
It does not.
Paul cycles round and round the tornado, before spinning out in the direction of San Francisco.
Against his own volition, he sails along the exact path from which he came, and before long finds himself back on the Alcatraz shore. He lands on the cliff side amidst true seagulls, breaking each of his bones in the process.
A guard approaches to feed the flock, and notices the man-bird writhing. Like all Alcatraz guards, he is a lover of animals, and cannot bear to see such suffering.
In one motion, he withdraws his gun to euthanize the beast. Tearing up, he scatters the remainder of his oats and returns to the prison engaged in full contemplation of life's moral complexity.
Moral: The best-laid plans of seagulls and men often go awry.