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Thursday, May 19, 2005

What doesn't kill you

There was a bird at the side of the road. I approached the clump of grey feathers and it struggled, scrabbling to move away. So it wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway.

I picked up the creature and admired it. It was a grey pigeon. White bone peeked out from a joint in the middle of a wing. Broken? I tried not holding onto it too tightly. As I repositioned my grasp to avoid crushing a probably fractured wing, the bird tried flapping its wings, squirming loose.

It fell. I felt a small horror as it hit the ground squarely and bounced off the grass, feebly fluttering.

Upon closer examination, I saw a similar bone sticking through the feathers of the other wing, unnaturally white, sun-bleached and exposed. Instead of a lush belly of feathers, there were large dry patches of pink skin, punctuated with tiny nobs where the larger feathers wouldn've been. It appeared very thin. And tired.

I wondered if the bird was sick and if, by handling it, I'd exposed myself to some avian-related virus. The paranoia engine in my brain started churning, under the heat of the afternoon sun. Beads of sweat didn't wait to form before I felt my forehead getting wet. I suspected I looked silly, holding a bird, standing at the side of the road.

A cold logic surfaced in the midst of the heat.

I picked up the bird and positioned my thumb and forefinger around it's neck, gently. I feel bone underneath the meager layers of feathers and flesh.

How do birds see? Out of that black tiny dot, passively immobile in the center of their eye? Its brain is the size of a pea, yes? Does it think?

I hesitate. I take my hand away and try going through the motions. A firm grip. A quick, solid twist to the side. There will be no noise. The theory is sound.

A quick violent death or the slow corosion of starvation?

How many religions will applaud and how many condemn?

It's a stupid pigeon. I tell myself. But the imagination is a powerful thing. Who knew killing a dumb bird would be so hard?

You can teach someone how to shoot, how to kill someone with your pinkie but no one really trains for war. One trains to fight. Training to kill is another matter altogether. That is a spiritual battleground.

I left the bird alone and walked off. It felt wrong.

Sucks to play God.

en at 12:35 pm