The Pigeon - Short Story
It wouldn't fly, nor would it eat. What was wrong with it? I thought to myself as I glanced at the pigeon. It was quivering while leaning against the translucent side of the little tub I had kept it in. It rested its weight on a sheet of newspaper which had some grains scattered on it, but the birdie didn't even care to look at it. Just as our eyes met; my dark brown and its fiery orange, It froze for a moment before it rose up and puffed itself in self-defence.
"I'm not going to hurt you," I caressed the bird as it persisted in keeping its guard up — Survival instincts for sure, coupled with the behaviour of people towards animals these days.
“I have a lot of bird-friends,” I smirked at the bird, that really didn't help.
Every morning as I go to feed my dog, several crows come and wait for me on our balcony. They sometimes caw till I get them their portion while other times they dash their beaks against the iron railings to catch my attention and exhibit their impatience. They are fearless and comfortable in my presence, allowing me to come closer to them. Some of them are daring enough to take the bites from my palm itself — something I reward with extra big portions or special treats, while the others maintain a safer distance and prefer to be served on the railing or in the little crater on the top of my dustbin.
They fill their beaks full with chunks of dog food, while Graphy; my dog, eyes this whole situation with jealousy. She sits beside me and watches the hungry crows stuff their beaks with her food and then looks at me, half-expecting me to show her some generosity by feeding her more. She stares at me with her warmest expressions, but it never melts my cold heart. She already eats a lot and surely can keep going on and on if I were to happily volunteer to feed her. I better stick to her portion sizes, or she will bloat up for sure.
Graphy has a strange fascination when it comes to birds, so I was surprised when her ever inquisitive nose hadn’t turned up to probe the little birdie in the tub. Perhaps she was busy in the other room, trying to find my socks which I had hidden from her. It sure did turn out that way, for a while later she came from the other room, shying away from me; wagging her tail in the usual rainbow-happy way — a dead giveaway that she had been successful in getting to my sock.
I let her act, for I knew she would discard the sock after the birdie's smell would capture and redirect her towards the tub. She quickly ran towards the tub and carefully peered closer, still keeping her body away. She stretched her neck as far as it could to sniff the bird from as close as possible. The bird rose up and shut its beak repeatedly, making a little clatter. It wobbled before aiming to poke Graphy's nose. The birdie didn't intend to harm, rather scare and that seemed to have translated well. Graphy took a step back and accessed the threat for a moment. Confident, she zoomed in on the bird, trying to snap at it. I had to intervene for the bird's safety, and pulled Graphy back. I warned her, and she quietly sat back, looking at me apologetically with her drooping ears and those guilt-laden eyes.
The bird was shivering by now. Oh! poor bird. I had found it a while ago in the parking lot, trying to find comfort under a two-wheeler, snuggling close to the tyre hoping to receive motherly love and care. It had no chance of surviving that night, the cats wouldn't spare a good dinner. I wasn't sure why it hadn't flown away. It looked grown up and had flawless wings. It seemed to be in good health too. When I had picked it up and gently positioned it in my palms, the bird hadn't struggled at all. It just seemed to have given up, having submitted itself to fate. Was it a heartbreak? Abandonment? Or something else that maybe was too deep for us humans to understand? If only the bird could speak.
I had gotten the permission from my parents to keep the bird for the night. I had to convince them that it was its only chance of survival, and they did agree. While the official plan involved me freeing the bird the next morning — leaving it to fend for itself, I had some other fantasies running through my head.
I've always loved pets — be it anything. When I wasn't allowed to keep a dog, I've had various other exotic pets, including ants — yes! we had a unique bond. I would catch and bring them insects. While in return, they never bit me. I allowed them to crawl all over my body. There was this sense of trust between the colony of ants and the then little me.
I remember once I had brought in a caterpillar and we'd named it 'Katrina.' She was green in colour, smooth and beautiful. All of us hoped that she'd turn into a gorgeous butterfly and we were extremely excited when she'd cocooned herself. One morning, when I was preparing for my school, I noticed an odd huge moth in our house. I quickly called for my mom, who proceeded to swat the moth with a rolled up newspaper. The gooey insides of the moth spilt from its guts and trickled down from the creme walls. I hurried to my school after burying that incident deep in my head.
After returning home, as usual, I headed straight for Katrina. After I checked her box, I was both excited and terrified. Excited — because Katrina had come out of the cacoon and terrified after I realized that the moth we had swatted earlier that day was none other but Katrina. She was a rare, green hawk moth — something I learned only after some googling. The horrendous truth and the weight of our actions dawned on us. We'd been the cause of our own beloved Katrina's death. She hadn't gotten the chance to see the world from up above or had the freedom to fly wherever her heart desired — simply because we chose to get irked by the silly 'moth.'
That incident really awakened a different emotion in me, a different feeling for living creatures like moths. Had it been another ordinary moth, I wouldn't have thought twice about swatting it or crushing it under my boots but having swatted Katrina made me think about my actions. She already had a little life and had finally reached her final stage. She had received the freedom of exploring this beautiful world and she too had the right to live. She wasn't really harming us in any way, so our actions weren't really justified.
Just because we found her new from disgusting didn't give us the right to take her right to live. We could have helped her to get out of the window, and that would have solved the problem.
I had made up my mind — to spare insects, snails and other little creatures that didn't mean any harm to me or did affect me in any way. I would let them live their precious life and experience all that they can. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very okay crushing those nasty roaches. They spread a lot of diseases and spread like a wildfire — contaminating everything they come across.
Oh, and I've also been a parent to several daddy long legs and jumping spiders. I used to store them in my mother's sample-carrying containers which would have perforated lids for their respiration. The spiders resided in my school lockers, and at lunchtime, would be the centre of attraction — The spiders, not me. I enjoyed watching the spiders feed on their pray. Sometimes I fed them live ants, and sometimes other spiders. It was always exciting to watch my spideys trap and pounce on other powerless ants and spiders. I was so proud of them. One very unforgettable memory — I will have to pull out from a deep and dark corner of my head; The dust and cobwebs, man! Let me brush them up.
It was a female spider in question, and I only discovered it later — one day when I opened her container to feed her, and little carbon copies of herself began crawling and jumping everywhere! That was the first time It had ever happened. Her eggs had been there in the container all that while, and I had assumed she had been storing some food for later. Spiders do that occasionally. When they get more than they can consume, they wrap their juicy meals in balls of sticky web and keep them hanging around in the web, because one can't be sure when the next volunteer ant would be willing to get mummified onto the web.
After all my desperate attempts at keeping pets, I sure wouldn't let go of this pigeon. I took its tub and slid it under the balcony chair before I closed the window and went to my room. My bed was strongly pulling me towards itself, something I find irresistible. It took me no time, to lose myself in my thoughts.
I was imagining. I could see that the little birdie was beginning to trust me, and it did eat and drink now. I was happy and had convinced my parents to keep it. Whether I'd look like a modern pirate with a pigeon on my shoulder or I'd train it to carry my messages; I was already excited about the perks of having a little pigeon as a pet. I began thinking of names, but I had no idea what its gender was. Let's just call it 'x' for now. That's how we usually solve all problems in our school. Something we don't know takes the temporary variable 'x' which later changes to something else which we discover or calculate later — in this case, a trip to the vet would suffice in determining what that 'x' would be. Only if this method would also solve all other problems in our adult lives — how convenient would that be?
The next morning, as soon as I woke up, I headed straight to the little birdie. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. The pigeon lay lifeless; its claws stiff and limbs bent, its body lay lifelessly in the scattered grains and pigeon excrement. Its eyes were open, almost as if it was shocked to death and its beak wide open with the pinkish black tongue dangling out. What on earth had happened overnight to this pigeon? What had sucked out all the life from it? I was sad, I could feel all my fantasies melting away. The bird was no more but its mysterious death was still nibbling at my soul. I had no clue, as to what had happened to the bird, or why in the first place had it behaved so strangely. I only wished to have known better the previous night to save its life.
My heart sank after greeting death that early in the morning. Though it feels very distant, the truth is, that it is quite near to us. It is all around us, it is all over us. We might never know when that invisible thing chooses to render itself visible. It can strike anyone anytime, without any warning and many wouldn't be fortunate enough to even realize it or to bid the last goodbye. While we are alive, while the ones we care for are; we must cherish them, we must realise their value and appreciate them because life can suddenly bring in a new twist to your tale. Life can suddenly surprise you and you'd be left regretting that you didn't do what you had always wanted to, you didn't apply for that job, or confess your love, or bid your last goodbye.
We value life because we have death. We value time because we are running out of it; each moment. That's all life is about. There is life, there is death. There is light, there is dark. Happiness and sadness. Life needs to move on, it can't stagnate. We have to keep moving ahead and not get stuck on any of the extremities. In life, there are plenty of experiences covering the entire spectrum of feelings and emotions. We must not try to control, or resist but rather just let them play. Let them just be there while we live in the present — while we cherish this present moment and everyone we love and care. We should spread happiness and kindness in the world, let all corners flood with hope, optimism, and goodwill for one and all.
I finally wrapped the pigeon in another sheet of newspaper. Down the stairs, I put its body on the cold pavement. In nature, no life goes waste. One's death benefits other. While that pigeon didn't make it to this day, it would surely feed hungry cats, dogs and crows and help them to make it to their next day.
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