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"Even her mother calls her 'the Grebe,' " Victor went on. "At the dinner table she'll ask, 'I wonder if the Grebe is at the movies tonight?' "
"Well, what about the coot's feet?" I suggested. "They're good and ugly."
Victor stirred the fire. "We might run into some trouble there, too. Jim Tucker's wife, Cilia, is known as the Coot."
"Who's Jim Tucker?" I asked.
"He's the executive director of the American Birding Association."
We toyed with the idea of giving our bird the feet of the blue-footed booby. Surely no one had appropriated a bird name from this aptly described Pacific seabird, which appears to have stood for a time in a pan of blue paint. Victor mentioned that the blue feet would give it a distinction and interest it didn't deserve. Rowlett argued that the blue color was very "chemical" and thus human-oriented: It reminded him of the washed-out plastic blue of poor-quality swim fins. Victor prevailed, and after a brief consideration of the bulky webbed feet of the double-crested cormorant, we gave the bird the feet of a jacana or lily-trotter—water birds whose feet are distinguished by abnormally long, witch-finger toes.
"It would help," Rowlett said, "if something was invariably impaled on those fingery toes—bubble-gum wrappers, squashed paper cups, and so on."
"You're sure no one has the lily-trotter as a bird name?" I asked.
"Probably," Victor said. "We'll just have to hope whoever he or she is hasn't a short temper."