Last Flight

From March of this year:

Spring. The persimmon tree in my back yard has been getting leaves for two weeks, much earlier than usual. We expect a good harvest of persimmons this fall. I was out in the yard this morning, watching Molly the cat show off. She can climb the persimmon tree in about two seconds, and she likes to do it when someone is watching. She disappears into the bright green baby leaves and laughs at me standing on the ground. In a few weeks the foliage will be so thick she won’t be able to get out onto her favorite branch.

The pigeons, a dozen or so of them, are high on the power wires above the alley. It is nesting season, and they are making that gentle, sweet cooing sound that they make, probably suggestive remarks for pigeons. They are there because they know Marilyn across the alley has a weakness for feeding animals, and at some time each day she will toss a bunch of birdseed out there, and they will have a feast. Molly turns on her perch, 20 feet below the birds, and looks up at them. She learned long ago not to try and catch them. As a young backyard tiger, she has tried, and they have effortlessly made her look silly. She has stopped risking her dignity on the fruitless pursuit. The cat and the birds live together, on their different levels, in peace.

Later, driving during morning rush hour on a wide busy street, I am a half block from my destination when I am amazed to see a pigeon standing calmly in the street in the opposing lanes. He is blue and gray and black. He is not eating anything on the road. He is just standing there, recklessly daring the speeding traffic. A red 18-wheeler blazes toward him, trying to make the light. In my rear view mirror I see that the truck is going to come very close to the little guy. Too close. I can’t tell if he is hit by the truck, but the bird is moved, blown perhaps by the turbulent wake of the huge vehicle, and then I see nothing more.

A moment later I drive back the other way and I see him on the road, not standing now, but kind of sitting. As I pass within a few feet he is craning his neck around to look at his back side, confused, maybe, because that part of his body isn’t working any more. He won’t live very long now, injured like that on a busy street. I want to help him, but I have to go to work. It’s a big day at work, the last day of the month, and sales must be closed and reported, so I drive on by. He is off a little to the side, but someone will hit him, someone blasting down the road in a big machine, someone like me who has to be somewhere else as soon as possible.

Hours later, in my office, I can’t stop thinking about him. He should be up in the air, or on a wire, cooing, flying, waiting for Marilyn to toss out some birdseed, finding twigs for his nest and his lady love. But for some reason on this fine spring day he came down to our level, my level, where we have places to go and things to do, where nothing is more important than month-end sales reporting. He left his world and touched ours, and it was the last thing he did. I’m sorry I didn’t find a way to stop and give him comfort in his last minutes. I’m sorry to be part of a world that cares such a great deal about making a light. When I get home I will hug my wife and tell her I love her (and I really do), and let Molly the cat sleep in my lap for as long as she wants.

Mainly I just want to say, I’m sorry, little guy.

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One Reply to “Last Flight”

  1. Larry,

    This is a lovely and sort of heartbreaking post. I’ve had the experience. The street was not so busy that I wasn’t able to retrive the pigeon. It was stunned. What made me feel good was that another traveler stopped too. What do you do with a bird that is hurt like that? I took it to a humane society. I was leaving Mesa, AZ, at the time, the first serious breakup with my ex wife, and there was the bird, and the reason to stop, and I knew inside they would give it a foreversleeping shot. Everything that was wrong in my life at the time seemed pale. Still does.

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