The Not Pigeon by Cassie Gonzales
I was working as a gaffer, or a builder, or assistant to the assistant of some jerks or another, and living in a squalid one-bed outside of LA. It took me about an hour and a half each way to get to my real shit-job, ironing, or hanging lights, or making lattes, whatever. I did it because it was the thing to do. It’s the kind of shit that you’re saddled with sometimes, when you got a dream.
And then when you’re can you give a producer here, a director there, someone's someone your script, your reel, your fuckin life's work. I mean you just open up your veins and you show them all your juicy bits like you were never born with any skin anyway, and then they don't even do you the bother of looking at it. Or if they do they don't tell you nothing good, nothing to work on, nothing they liked.
Then, they stand around with their other buddy-buddies, and they drink things like mimosas or bellinis, while the rest of us are drinking Sunny-D screwdrivers with some real paint-peeling vodka—but they're the ones talking about how they got all this creative genius inside them, and they’re stuck dishing shit to their bosses. To their bosses’ bosses. And I guess we all got some kind of shit-master that we got to dance for, and even the top guy, even the fucking MC of the joint, is just dancing for the crowd—trying to make them laugh. And it gets me thinking that maybe, in this business, no one's really got any artistic ideals at all, and everyone's some kind of sell-out. But I guess, if everyone is then no one is, and that's fine by me.
What I’m saying is it had been another one of those days—full of the ugly magic of the place, and I was hoofing back to the north forty where they make you park if you have a real clunker. I was nearly to the last row when I see this group of grips and gaffers, and they're all standing together looking at something on the ground. One of them sees me and waves me over and I come by, and I get in the circle, and look down at what they're all looking at and—it's this bird.
It’s not one of those city pigeons that are like flying rats, no. You see those motherfuckers around all the time making due with one wing and a club foot, and they keep on keeping on, eating cigarette butts and drinking oil puddles. They're just about everywhere so that you can't even have a burger on a park bench without being eyed by a dozen of those beady-eyed bastards. I mean, they’re fucking everywhere, but then, it’s like, they’re nowhere too. Like they’re part of the scenery in a world where everyone is looking downstage.
But what I'm saying is: it wasn't that kind of bird.
It was a kind of bird like I've never seen. It probably got lost somewhere and took the wrong left off the western jet stream or something. It was real pretty, and had these feathers that really, I can only say looked like, I don't know, like electricity, like when electricity jumps from a bad socket. It had that in its feathers. Thing is, the poor bird is laying on the ground, and it’s breathing really fast, and I can see that it's injured—mostly because it's laying there in the middle of this crowed and not flying away. Then someone says that, some genius says, "I think it's injured," and someone else is like, "it must have flown into a car or something."
And they're all standing there diagnosing the thing and then one of the guys, just a regular grip but he thinks he's SOMEONE because he was in a couple episodes of ER, and he's, like, running back to us with the first aid kit and a shoe box and he's says, "out of the way, out of the way." So, people let him through and he starts scooping the bird into the shoe box, but as soon as he touches it, the bird starts screaming this awful, almost human, scream—and he droops the box and the bird and everyone takes a step away.
Now the bird is on its back, and I know that it's just fucking terrified, because you can't tell a bird that you're trying to help it. It just doesn't understand and never will understand.
So, no one's talking and no one knows what to do and then I fucking step up. I kneel down next to that bird, and its little wet eye is just looking up at me and I put my hand on it—and the bird screams again.
But I stop its screaming. And I stop its pain.
Then I scoop the bird up with both my hands and I put it in the shoe box and I give the box to Mr. ER and he takes it like he doesn’t know what it is, and I half expect him to shake the box like a Christmas present.
When I drive by on my way out of the parking lot, most of them are still standing there, kinda meandering, like we didn't just work another shit-ass twelve-hour day. Some of them stare at me, and some of them make this point of not looking at me, but they've all made a decision. Like now, NOW, they're decision makers. But even those ones that are looking at me aren’t really looking at me. I mean, they’re looking, but they’re not really seeing. No one’s really seeing me.
© Cassie Gonzales 2103
Cassie Gonzales has been published by The Kenyon Review and Tin House, and has won or been a finalist in writing competitions held by Granta and The Paris Review, among others. She has been named a slam champion by Literary Death Match and StorySlam:London. Originally from Arizona, Cassie lives in Sweden and blogs at cassiegonzales.com.
The Not Pigeon was read by Stephen Lin for the Murder & Mayhem Show on 2nd October 2013