Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: June 2007 (page 1 of 3)

Ways That I Suck

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#1 —  On September 7, 2005, I ran my first blog “poll” in a post titled “Be My Editor.”  I proposed six story ideas that I should write and asked you to vote for one.   The aim was to prove that I was a professional and could write an article “on time.”  The winning choice was for me to go on  a tour of the L. Ron Hubbard Museum at the Scientology Center in Hollywood.   A few days later, my father passed away.   I completely forgot about this post and never wrote the piece — and it was almost two years ago!

#2 —  On January 14, 2007, Tamarika “won” a date with me by bidding for charity.  She paid more money than I ever would for a date with myself.  I made all these promises to her to show her a good time, even if it meant flying to Philadelphia.  And so far, zilch.  I haven’t even offered her any phone sex.

#3  — On April 25, 2007, I promised the first reader who buys Crazy Aunt Purl’s upcoming book a special gift — a washcloth “handknit” by ME!   I wasn’t really that interested in learning to knit.  The real aim was to win favor with Crazy Aunt Purl and get to see her in her self-crocheted knickers.  The winner of this contest was Psychomom.  But after the contest, did I ever knit that washcloth?  Have I even taken a step to LEARN how to make a washcloth?  You can guess the answers.

#4  — On June 28, 2007, I ran a contest where I asked my readers to guess my height and weight.  The winner was promised a “Live Blog Ass-Kissing Link/Shoutout” at my blog reading at LA Bloggers Live!  The winner was Wendy from “Quiet About a Lot of Things.”  After my reading, I finally kept one of my promises.  I told the audience members to check out one of my favorite bloggers, Wendy from Quiet About a Lot of Things at quietaboutalotofthings.com.  I was very happy to see a few people jotting down her address.  Today, I went to Wendy’s site and the first thing I noticed is that the address I gave was wrong!  It is quietaboutalotofthings.blogspot.com!

I suck.  Like most men who make promises to women.   Tamar, Psychomom, Wendy — I’ll make it up to you the way I always make it up to the women in my life — in the bedroom.

For now, here are some flowers.

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I Read My Post

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The LA Bloggers Live reading was a lot of fun. I read this post.

It’s an interesting exercise to read a post out loud because you can actually hear when something works or not. I might start reading all my posts out loud to myself before I publish it.

One warning to other bloggers: be careful when you go into your archives and start reading your old posts. You might realize how crappy most of them were.

I practiced reading my post as I was driving to the event. Sophia suggested that I read it slowly, since I tend to speak too fast.

One warning to other bloggers: be careful when reading out loud from a notepad when driving. I almost got into an accident on the 405, which would have put a damper on the entire evening.

I’m glad I double-spaced my printout, or I would have been hopelessly lost. This lounge was pitch dark.

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Photo of Neilochka by Will Campbell, a terrific LA blogger
who read that night. That’s Sophia under my left arm,
which made me happy because I could finally say
that I had her “under my thumb.”

The best part of the evening was meeting other LA bloggers. I love the fact that I have virtual friends all over the world, but nothing can compare to meeting people in person and getting a real sense of their quirks and personality. After the reading, Sophia and I went with Danny and Deezee for some light dinner. At some point, I felt this transformation: these two people were slowly becoming less “blogging friends” than “actual friends,” and that was a nice feeling.

One warning to other bloggers: Try to avoid talking about politics when Sophia and Deezee are in the same room.

The Closest Results Blog Ever

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Neil: Your guesses are now in. What is Neilochka’s height and weight? Who will win the “Live Blog Ass-Kissing Link/Shoutout” at tonight’s LA blog reading. The excitement is intense. Our systems were overloaded last night as we received THIRTY MILLION guesses.

I know many of you have been up all night waiting for the results, so I would like the following four bloggers to stand up in front of their monitors. You were the closest four in guessing correctly.

Psychomom
Guess: 6 feet, 185 lbs.

Dagny from Dagny’s Empire
Guess: 6’2″ feet, 185 lbs.

Wendy from Quiet About a lot of Things
Guess: 5’11.5″ feet, 182 lbs.

Stephanie from Cool People I Know
Guess: 5’10” feet, 182 lbs.

Although only one of you can win the prize, you all should consider yourselves “winners.” If any of you are ever in Los Angeles, I will personally wine and dine you, and show you all the tourist sites of Redondo Beach.

But now, for the winner. I’m going to split you up into two groups. Psychomom and Stephanie to the right. Dagny and Wendy to the left. And now before I announce the winner… a message from our sponsor!

Audience: BOOOOOOO!

Neil’s Penis: Hi there. Are you a penis who’s stuck on a man who never gets laid? Don’t you wish you could just sometimes break free and have your own, healthy sex life, away from the annoying neuroticism and passive-aggressiveness of your owner, who is always ruining things for you right when he starts fumbling with her bra. When will your owner learn that sex is really quite simple. You stick me in and I work my magic! Stop talking about the stuff you need to add to your to-do list and ruining the moment! Well, now there’s help. MembersOnly.com is a new and exciting dating service matching you with the perfect woman through a 25 point compatibility test. Just listen to what Mary Sishner of Topeka, Kansas had to say:

Mary: I could never find the right man. They were always either too immature, too unmanly, or they just wanted to sit and watch football all day while drinking beer. But then I heard about MembersOnly.com. It sounded perfect for me. I just answered the questions, telling the service all about my needs, and within days I found the c**k of my dreams! Who needs the man?! Now, we’re together 24 hours a day!

Neil’s Penis: Remember, Penises. MembersOnly.com! Stop depending on your stupid owner to stop stuttering when he talks to a woman or understanding what a woman really wants. He’s hopeless. It’s time to get out there and do the f***ing yourself!

Neil: And now we’re back. Dagny, Wendy… please step forward. One of you is the winner of the “Live Blog Ass-Kissing Link/Shoutout” — and it is —

Wendy from Quiet About a lot of Things with her guess of: 5’11.5″ feet, 182 lbs.

My actual height and weight is 6’1/2″, 183 lbs.

Tonight, during my “reading,” I will mention in a verbal “link” that everyone should check out Wendy’s site because “she is one of the best bloggers out there today.” Luckily, I actually believe this to be true!

Now, I need to get a haircut for tonight.

Neilochka’s Final Showcase

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As I’ve mentioned once before, I will be “reading” from my blog tomorrow, Thursday June 28th at 6:30pm at the Tangier Lounge.($4 cover charge at the door), along with some other glamorous Los Angeles bloggers, each one with the good looks of a Hollywood actor:

Joe from Artlung
Lynda from One Day at a Time
Deezee from Confessional Highway
Jenn from Aka Jesais
Abigail from My Life According to Me
Will from Wildbell
Kevin from Kevin Charnas
Peter from The Buddha Diaries
Tim from LA Daddy

I’m very excited about the evening, the first in a series titled LA Bloggers Live!, and hosted by the fab Leahpeah. I just hope people understand my New York accent and my habit of going “uh…like” a lot. And I don’t even live in the Valley!

If you live in the area, come on down, as they used to say on “The Price is Right.” If you are impressed with my reading, and are a decent-looking woman, I will even autograph the body part of your choosing.

I have one minor reservation with the evening. It sounds a little pretentious. After all, readings are usually associated with novelists and poets, not bloggers. I’m a strong believer that my writing is only part of my blog. Your witty, intelligent, and sometimes downright stupid comments are an integral part of my blogging experience. And what is a blog post without some annoying shoutout to another blogger, some unnecessary links, or even some ass-kissy mention of meeting Dooce in an ice cream parlor, hoping that she might see the link and come visit and validate you as an A-lister?

For that reason, I’d like to introduce the first “Live Blog Ass-Kissing Link/Shoutout.” At the end of my five minutes stint of my blog reading tomorrow night, I will present a verbal “link” to another blogger, telling everyone that they should check out this writer because “he/she is one of the best bloggers out there today.”

But which blogger should I choose for this special honor? I know so many fine blog writers. My first choice was easy — Erin from Denver (Villanovababy), but then I felt a little guilty because my choice was less based on her fine writing than my favorite photo of her on Flickr.

Oh, yeah, I’m definitely NOT GAY after seeing this!

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So, I had another idea. In honor of the recent final episode of “The Price is Right,” I will now introduce “Neilochka’s Final Showcase!”

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Whoever can guess both my height and weight to the closest number combination will win this very important prize — a “Live Blog Ass-Kissing Link/Shoutout” at tomorrow’s LA blog reading. It will be exactly how we pimp each other in REAL blog posts, but this time LIVE! Remember, it will be the closest of weight + height.

Please, no phone calls to Sophia or my mother. That’s cheating.

And remember — this is Los Angeles — you never know who might show up. Imagine someone hearing my “shoutout” tomorrow night and immediately going onto their Blackberry to check out your blog. Will it be Steven Spielberg? Paris Hilton? Or Neil’s former roommate, who had a bit part on the OC?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Advice to Other Male Bloggers

I’m Not Gay!

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Despite the recent posts about my gardening and love for ABBA, I just want to say for the record — I’m not gay.  If I was gay, I would be completely proud of it.  In fact, it might even be a blessing, so I wouldn’t have to deal with dating women.

But honestly, the shirtless guy seen above, featured on Cosmo’s website as some hottie, does absolutely nothing for me. What’s sexy about this guy? Who knows?  His abs?  I don’t even understand what women see in men.  In my eyes, men mostly look dumb, especially when they are posing half-naked.

Straight men rarely “look” at other men as “objects of beauty.” Women are more appreciative of the attractiveness of their own gender.  When I was first dating Sophia, she would sometimes ask me if I thought some woman on the street was pretty. At the time, I thought she was testing me, so I always answered, “Nah. You are the prettiest.”

Eventually, I learned that this wasn’t a ruse. She was genuinely interested in my opinion. She enjoyed looking at other women, as much as a man.  She could see the beauty in a woman.

We could be watching “All My Children,” and Sophia will say, “Isn’t the new nurse at Pine Valley Hospital very pretty? I love her hair. Maybe I should get my hair done like that.”

I don’t remember ME ever asking Sophia if she thought some guy was sexy.   Straight men don’t think about how other men look. They care about what car they drive.

As a experiment today, I went to Starbucks and surreptitiously checked out other men, trying to figure out if I could find a man “sexy” in a aesthetic, non-sexual way.

It didn’t work.

It didn’t matter if the guy was young or old, thin or fat, he was pretty much just a guy. There was one guy who walked into Starbucks wearing tight jeans and had a nice hard ass, but so what! It didn’t make me want to go on a date with him. And that whole “checking out a man’s package” when he’s wearing pants is a total myth. I tried it in Starbucks, and you can’t tell anything!

Anyway, I just wanted to report back to you.

Extreme Makeover – Patio Edition

Photos (and most of the work) by Sophia.

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Amazing Things You Can Find at a Los Angeles Goodwill Store

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Doin’ the Pigeon

Thanks for reading the baby pigeon saga. It really happened! Although we should probably do something about the problem of his parents, who are creating havoc with our cable —

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The Pigeon on the Patio – Part 3

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The Pigeon on the Patio – Part 1

The Pigeon on the Patio – Part 2 

Whether the little bird had a heart attack or not, was a moot point.  It was dead.  I had to remove it from our patio. 

The atmosphere on our patio had completely changed.  Just a few moments ago, the flowers were a sign of beauty and life.  Now the patio made me think of a cemetery with wreaths.  I got the shoe box ready and reached for the dead pigeon.  This would be his final trip.  The poor creature was gone before he even had a chance to fly.  If only he once had the joy of flying with the wind, looking down at the world where the humans would appear small to him.  Small, but close enough to crap on their heads. 

I want to fly like a pigeon
To the sea
Fly like an pigeon
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like a pigeon
Till I’m free

Time seemed to stop as I gently grasped the pigeon with my left hand, when suddenly, there was a crazy movement, prying my hands open.  The dead pigeon screamed, chirping louder than ever. 

He wasn’t dead, only faking it!  What a clever sun-of-a-pigeon!

“He’s alive.  The mother****er is alive!” I yelled to Sophia, as if I had just seen a miracle akin to Jesus being resurrected.

I tried to grab it again, shaking like a leaf (me, not the pigeon).  I totally missed the bird, because this time the pigeon didn’t just retreat.  He careened right past me and across the patio, weaving his way in and out through the obstacle course of pots and patio chairs.  It was if the bird had never walked before, but nature or God and adrenaline had finally given him this amazing ability to be the fastest pigeon that ever existed.

“Get him” yelled Sophia.  “Get him!”

I ran after the bird, but he kept on zigging and zagging out of the way, like LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers. 

“He’s under the patio table,” said Sophia.

I took the shoebox and tried to block his way, and then I went to scoop him up, like a ball in a glove.   The little pigeon ran away again, but this time — horror of horrors — he ran straight INTO OUR LIVING ROOM!

“You forgot to close the patio door, you idiot!” screamed Sophia.  “We now have a  f***ing  pigeon inside our house!”

Now, in the past, I’ve heard Sophia use some “salty” language, but nothing compares to what she said to me when she saw this dirty pigeon running under our couch.  Even Samuel L. Jackson would blush.

“Neil, get that ******** pigeon the **** out of the ******** living room***** right the **** now!  I don’t care what the ****  you need to do!  Do it!”

And then she added some long-winded curses in Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic that I couldn’t understand, which was probably for the best.

I chased the pigeon under the coffee table and finally trapped it behind the entertainment center.  He had nowhere to turn.  I was on one side, the cabinet on the other, an extension cord blocking him from a quick getaway.   I was shaking so much that I leaned against the entertainment center for support, perhaps too strongly, until Sophia screamed out, “Be careful!  The big screen TV is going to topple over and kill both of you!”

The pigeon and I were both crazed by this point — man vs. beast, both breathing as heavily as we could.  But as it says in Genesis, man shall be ruler over beast.  I also knew that Sophia would kill me if I left a pigeon walking around the living room.  I finally grabbed the sucker and placed him in the shoebox, quickly covering the box.  I could feel the pigeon bouncing up and down, but I held it down with all my might.

“Open up the ****** front door!” I screamed to Sophia.  “Open it NOW!”

Sophia threw open the front door and I ran outside without my shoes, carrying the shoebox, protecting the pigeon like it was the most precious cargo, bringing it across the street and out of any danger. 

Across the street from our house is a tree-lined area which is shady and inaccessible from the main street.  I propped the shoe box near a branch that was both low enough to prevent the bird from falling and hurting himself, but high enough to keep him out of reach of the cat.  The pigeon jumped out of the box, onto the branch, and scrambled away until I couldn’t see him anymore.  He was on his own now.  I had the proud but sad feeling that a father must have when he sends his son away to college.

I returned home, my heart still racing.  Sophia was glad that the whole experience was over.  She was ready to return to the patio to work on the flowers.  But I WASN’T ready yet.

“That’s it.  I’m done for the day.” I said, without hesitation.  “I’m sitting outside in the front and having a beer.”

“Did you just say you are having a beer?”

I opened the fridge and took out a bottle of Stella Artois.  It had been sitting there for months because Sophia couldn’t drink during her surgeries, and I never drink beer.  I don’t even like beer. 

Today, I felt like having a beer.  Beer feels manly.  I felt manly.

I sat outside on this white plastic chair that we keep near the front door and enjoyed my manly beer. 

Will the bird survive?  Who knows. I can’t run his life, anymore than my father could run mine.   Later that night, I would finally receive a call back from some woman at the Los Angeles Animal Control.   She told me that the bird probably fell out of the nest and if so, he was in danger of being eaten by a cat.  She also said that the mother pigeon must have put him in that bushy corner for protection until he can fly, and was feeding him there.

I gasped. 

“My god!  I separated a child from his mother?  I broke the sacred bond!  How will she ever find him?”

“The mother will always find him,” she said.  “She will recognize the chirping.  You did good.”

I did good.   I felt heroic.   Most importantly, I knew my father was impressed.  I could hear him say, “This is the best Father’s Day gift I ever received.”

The next day, the pigeons thanked me by taking a crap on my car.  I think my father would find that funny. 

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Birthday, Dad.   Be of good cheer.

The Pigeon on the Patio – Part 2

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(The Pigeon on the Patio – Part 1

My first step after deciding to save the baby pigeon from the clutches of the cat was to go upstairs and log onto Yahoo Messenger, hoping that some blogger was online who might have some insights on what to do next.  Of course, as usual, no one was online when I needed someone.  I only get “buzzed” by an “online friend” when I’m about to do some important work or I’m in the middle of having virtual sex on Second Life.

My mind raced, looking for a solution.  I decided to call Petco, remembering that there was a store on Pacific Coast Highway, right next to the overpriced “gourmet” Mexican cafe.

“Petco!,” answered the whiny voice of what I imagined to be a bored female sophomore of El Camino Community College, stuck with an awful summer job.

“Hi there,” I said.  “Is there anyone in the store who specializes in birds?”

“She’s on vacation.”

“Maybe you can you help me.”

“I’ll try.”

“Well… this might sound like an odd question, but I live near your store and there’s a baby pigeon on my patio that may be injured or can’t fly, and I have no idea what I should do…”

“And how CAN I help you?”

“I thought you might be able to tell me what to do or who I should call for help.”

“Uh, I don’t know.  Did you buy the bird at Petco?”

“It’s a pigeon.”

“So, you didn’t buy the bird at Petco?”

“It’s a pigeon.  You know, like the pigeons that fly around all over the place… all over the world”

“So maybe it will just fly away.”

“I don’t think it can fly.  That’s the problem.”

“Do you know how to use the computer?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe you can do a search on Google for this type of bird.  Do you know how to do that?”

Yes, that’s how I found you.  Would you know if I should feed it?”

“We do sell bird seed.  Different birds eat different bird seed.  What type of bird do you have?”

“It’s a PIGEON!”

“We carry parakeet food.  But I don’t see any pigeon seeds listed on the computer.”

Jesus.  Petco — the “Best Buy” of the pet world.

“OK, THANK YOU,” I said, having just wasted precious moments of my life with a woman who will, no doubt, one day  end up doing something important, like running Paramount Pictures.

I went back downstairs and told Sophia about my decision:  we needed to feed it, in case it was starving.

“Feed it what?”  she asked.

I went into the kitchen, and returned with a box of Cheerios.  I handed her the box and asked her to feed him for me. 

“Why me?”  asked Sophia.

“Babies like to be fed by their “mother.” I said. 

I made this up.  I just didn’t want to do it.  Despite the bird’s tiny size, I was afraid of going near it, thinking it might bite me and give me rabies.  And, besides, this bird was particularly ugly.

Sophia threw some Cheerios in the vicinity of the bird.  We waited and watched, but the pigeon didn’t budge.

“Let’s move away and not watch him.” I said.  “Maybe he doesn’t like to eat while people watch.”

I’m not sure why I came up with that theory.  After a certain age, you come up with bits of information in your brain, some factual and some nonsense.  I vaguely remembered reading that dogs didn’t like to go to the bathroom while people stared, because it made them insecure.  I could understand this, because I also hated it when I was on the toilet and Sophia came in to grab a hairbrush.   Maybe birds only eat when they are alone, like the anorexic models in Brentwood.

We walked away and turned our backs to the bird, letting him enjoy his Cheerios in peace.  We waited a bit, then returned to see what happened.  The pigeon hadn’t touched the Cheerios.  He retreated even further into the corner, as if he was deathly afraid of the product’s “wholesome oat goodness.”

“I’ll be back,” I told Sophia, saying it with the inflection of a Jewish Terminator.

“Where are you going NOW?” she asked.

“I’m getting HIM some bird seed.”

I went to the supermarket, where I was surprised to learn that they actually HAD bird seed..   I chose the seeds that looked the smallest, hoping that these would be the easiest for the tiny bird to eat, the equivalent of giving Gerber baby food to an infant.

 I returned with the seeds and handed the bag to Sophia.

“Why don’t you do it?” she asked.

‘You’re the mother.”  I said, trying to manipulate her by appealing to her maternal instincts.

Sophia spread some seeds near the bird.  We looked away and waited.  Nothing.  The bird didn’t move an inch.

“Well, we tried,” said Sophia.  “We should get back to work.  Maybe someone will give us an answer soon.” 

She was eager to finish the planting so we could set up our new fountain.  She was excited about hearing the calming water as it dribbled down the three “levels” of fake stone.

Maybe Sophia was right. 

“We tried,” I told myself.  “We did our best.  If the bird doesn’t want to eat, its his own fault.   I don’t know how to protect the bird from the cat.  Nature is dangerous.  I’m not bringing the pigeon inside to live with us.  I don’t even want to touch it.   It’s a stupid, ugly pigeon.  I’m not sticking my neck out and get rabies just for a dumb bird.”

I was about to give up completely when I felt the presence of my father — and I felt ashamed of myself for wanting to give up so easily.

“I’m going to call Los Angeles Animal Control,” I told Sophia.  “Maybe they’ll come over and take him away.”

“Isn’t Animal Control there for taking away crazy pitbulls?”-  said Sophia.

Since it was Father’s Day, no one answered the phone at animal control.  There was only a long recorded message asking me to leave my phone number, and that “someone would get back to me.”

“…if this is about an injured or abandoned bird, please press #5.”

I pressed #5 and listened to further instructions on what to do.  Apparently, I needed to take care of the situation myself.  To prevent the bird from being in harm’s way, I needed to put him into a box, then move him to a safe location, perhaps high on a tree branch.

I told Sophia the details, then took a shoe box from her closet.  I handed it to Sophia.

“You need to get him into the box…” I said to her. 

Sophia glared at me.  She was done doing my dirty work.

“If you really want to deal with this bird, YOU DO IT.  Stop being such a scaredy cat, no pun intended.”

She knew me well.  I was scared of the bird. 

I slowly went over to the corner of the patio and got down on my knees.  The bird was pretty far back, so the only way to reach him was to stick my hand around some overgrown tree roots, and then all the way in to take hold of him. 

And there was NO WAY I was doing this. 

 I took another approach.  I decided to reason with the baby pigeon.

“Come into the box, little bird.  It’s for your own safety.  Come here.  Tweet tweet.  I won’t hurt you.  Tweet tweet tweet!”

The pigeon stubbornly ignored me.  Sophia laughed, but not a fun laugh.  A mocking laugh.

This made my blood boil.  Now I needed to prove myself to the woman I once married.  I leaned forward, hoping to get more leverage, moving closer to the bird, until I saw those beady eyes peering at me from out of the darkness, and fear stabbed me in right in the stomach.  I couldn’t do it.  The anxiety was overwhelming.  

The neighbors next door were having an afternoon BBQ party.  I thought about going over to their house and asking someone for help.  Surely, one of the guests MUST have some experience with birds.   Then I looked over at Sophia.  Would she ever be able to look at me like a man again if I ran crying to the neighbors’ house?

I took several deep breaths, trying to wipe my mind of all fear, hypnotizing myself into emptiness, and forcing myself to just GO FOR IT.

After placing the empty shoebox at my side, I reached behind the tree and into the heart of darkness.  My finger grazed a bit of feather, and then my hand began to surround the pigeon’s tiny body.  I could feel the bird’s heat and the vibration of his life energy.  Just as I was about to grip him, there was a sudden jolt and the pigeon SCREECHED loudly, with a might and power that even surprised the bird himself, as he flapped his useless wings and twirled like a Waring blender.  I jumped up, shrieking in unison.  I released the bird, then pulled my hand back to protect myself, banging the back of my hand against the wall.  The pigeon jumped up and down, as if he was having an epileptic fit, banging his wings into the branches of the tree.  It then slid back into the corner, in a final kamikaze move… and then there was SILENCE.  Absolutely NO SOUND, other than my own rapid breathing.  I slowly pushed my finger in, touched the front of the little bird, but there was no movement.  He was like a solid rock… lifeless.

“I think I just killed the pigeon!” I yelled at Sophia.  “I scared the hell out of him.  I killed him!”

What could be worse?  I wanted to save the bird for my father.  Instead, he died in the same way my father did — by having a heart attack!

(CONCLUSION TOMORROW)

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