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.”
“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?”
“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!