20 July 2005

a parable, a myth, a poisoning?

I only wish it were Friday, so that my story would have added resonance for Mrs. Pants.

I am both sad and grateful that I have no accompanying picture.

Climbing up the stairs of the subway today (Q-line, 7 ave.), I made the turn toward the drugstore and stopped to dig out my sunglasses. But before I could shield my eyes from the heat lamp that's currently using our damp smog to turn Brooklyn into a hot house, I really stopped and looked at the street. There was a pile of something, shimmering (I can't see much without my glasses) near the bus stop sign and in front of a store called "Li'l Miss Muffin and Her Stuff'n" which has the most demonic looking puppet-child mixing a bowl on its sign. Eventually, I began to see the pile was, in fact, edible. Indeed, taking the two steps which make a huge difference in terms of my vision, the amorphous shimmering pile became a collapsed heap of donuts, some whole, some mangled, and of an assorted variety, the most obvious seeming to be the frosted chocolate sort. They were encircled by a damp moon of what I presumed to be oily donut sweat. I was charmed by the generosity, or the bad luck, that led whoever it was to leave or drop such a bounty in the open street, easy and delightful prey to bird and bug. And lo, a yard away from this steaming mound of sugared carbohydrates, there were five pigeons lined up on the curb, looking in my direction.

At this point, I started to laugh. One of the short explosive ones that make people's heads turn. The pigeons were not moving. Not even daring the customary uneasy rocking from one foot to the other. They were as still as I have ever seen pigeons. Their necks all extended and their heads unswiveling. I laughed again. They looked liked plastic models of themselves. Were they so full as to be immovable? Had they so glutted themselves on the feast of donuts that they were dumb with satisfaction? The pigeons did not approach the donuts. They even seemed to keep their eyes aimed away from the donuts, all five of them with such similarity and adamance that I couldn't believe they hadn't garnered more attention from other people climbing up the stairs or sitting in chairs, all baking in the heat.

But no one wants to stand still in this weather; no, all focus and intent drives us toward the next air conditioned compartment we walkers imagine. One can almost hear a countdown of the blocks in every ragged step.

Then, in the midst of my own swooning, one pigeon went down. First it staggered from the curb into the gutter. Then it sat down and let its neck roll to the Flatbush side. I can only imagine that it was minor weight of its head that tugged its body over, down onto the pavement, its eyes still open and glistening. But, dear reader, I believed this pigeon to be dead.

None of the other pigeons moved. Not that it would be reasonable for them to dash to their fallen comrade's aid like little avian EMTs, but still I was hoping for a gesture of some concern, some registration of regret. I hoped for this because I was shocked.

Suddenly, the greasy puddle in which the donuts sat looked suspicious. I thought I smelled gasoline. I thought I smelled something chemical enough to be poison, as if poison had a smell, like the "grape-scented irritant" pellets they laid out on the shores of City Park Lake in Fort Fun with the hope they'd irritate the Canadian geese all of the way back to Canada. It didn't work. The geese just ate the grass out from under the pellets. But pigeons, pigeons I can imagine being desperate enough to fall for anything edible.

Having waited some time, hoping that the prone pigeon would pop up, having survived its (surely) donut-induced apoplexy, I turned, getting weepy now, toward the drug store. By the time I felt the rush of cold air from the opened door, I'd become convinced of the dastardliness of humanity and tearily mournful of the bad taste of birds. Just one more reason why my heartless consumption of mammals and birds is too hypocritical, forgive the rhyme, for words.


Blogger Shrew said...

Oh! This is devastating. Who would do this?

21 July, 2005 14:04  
Blogger Who's the dourest of them all? said...

Pigeon-haters! Fake Owl-posters! Fearers of birdshit! More numerous than previously known.

21 July, 2005 14:18  
Blogger Body Mascot said...

Are you sure the donuts were poisoned? Can't some animals eat themselves to death if they are simply overfed? Not that death by overeating is a better way to die, or that overfeeding pidgeons purposefully is somehow less mean-spirited than poisoning them, but . . . gee, I guess I really don't have a point after all. It just plain sucks either way you look at it.

21 July, 2005 15:54  
Blogger Shrew said...

I did something terrible to birds last night. There is a nest of tiny baby sparrows in a fern on the porch. I've been letting the fern die rather than flood out the nest with water. But the other morning, after a terrific storm, the babes were gone. I figured they where blown out or had finally left, as they were almost ready to leave. As I was dumping the water on the very thirsty fern, squawkings and flapping erupted. They were no longer in the nest, but had decided to just hang out in the fern for a while, like their first apartment after leaving home. One baby flew out angrily. The other, soaked and quite clearly annoyed, stared at me with his mouth open for a long time. I just kept repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." There could be another one drowned in there, I haven't checked yet.

22 July, 2005 12:39  
Blogger Ms. Pipestem said...

This post is like an entire little novel.

23 July, 2005 15:16  
Blogger Who's the dourest of them all? said...

Further adventures in birdland: last night, the ladyfriend and I were getting our mail from the liquor store below our apartment, and this dude walked in with a white pigeon or dove on his shoulder. Which shat immediately all over the towel on his shoulder and onto the tile floor that I had so recently walked on bare foot since I had locked myself out and all logistical questions pertaining to our apartment lead to the liquor store.

24 July, 2005 11:16  
Blogger good golly said...

i too have witnessed slaughter.

along the west side of van cortlandt park in the bronx i watched a woman walk down the sidewalk, a box of minute rice in each hand. She carefully tipped the boxes, leaving two identical trails of Uncle Ben's behind her. The trails were quickly obscured by the hordes of pigeons which descended, in two lines behind her.

Of course we all know what uncooked rice will do to a pigeon, once they swell and expand.

The woman, in her fifties, wearing a floral print housedress, had the strangest smile on her face. Vacant and dreamy she looked as if she might burst into laughter, or perhaps, song.

As my accomplice drove off, I pressed myself to the back window. The woman came to the end of her rice, dumped the boxes in the trash can to her right, removed two fresh ones from her rucksack and continued on down the line.

26 July, 2005 10:26  

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