Far away from the ocean, Gerald finds a dead water bird that reminds him of his childhood town. His strange magnetic imbalance means that he has difficulty navigating, and magnetic instruments such as watches stop working around him, leaving him adrift in space and time and unable to hold down a job.
Feeling a kinship with the lost bird, he preserves its corpse and brings it to first a vet, then a university ornithologist to identify it. It turns out to be an Arctic tern. Gerald decides to have it preserved, and finds himself appreciating his life outside the clutches of space and time for the first time.