Pigeon: A Creative Piece
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Pigeon: A Creative Piece

This is a creative non-fiction braided essay I wrote for my class this semester.

Pigeon: A Creative Piece
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I don’t know why I remember the pigeons, but I do.

I’m not sure if this particular motel had balconies, numbers hanging off the doors or dingy welcome mats, but I suppose it could have. My father moved around a lot and here I stand, three years old, backpack tight against my shoulders and Mixie, my ragged stuffed rabbit, gripped firm in my hand. My mom pounds on the door loud enough the motel guests can hear the anger in her knock. He is not showing up again. Although I am only three, I know there are pigeons. There are no beautiful white doves, blue jays or those annoying chirping birds that wake you up at five in the morning. And I don’t remember if my brother was with us this time, but he would meet up with us later when he was home from the Navy.

A couple years later and my bangs have grown out, almost shielding my eyes. My brother places his reading glasses on me and holds me up to nuzzle my head. Our dad smiles, watching us as laughter erupts. I hate being tickled but I can’t help but smile every time my big brother has a go at it. We are in the living room and it’s right before bedtime. Night always comes too quickly and the days always pass too soon before my brother is stationed in his next location.

My dad and brother always moved around. My dad came and went as he pleased, moving because he had to, and my brother traveled for work. But 10 years from now, the movement would halt. My brother would die in a car accident and my father’s freedom would be restricted, but I won’t know that now, all I know are the pigeons.

• • •

I always read books but rarely finished them. Everything takes too much time when time itself passes at the speed of light. I never wanted to waste it indoors reading. But there was one book I remember finishing in middle school. It was a novel called Wringer by Jerry Spinelli. In this book, a town celebrated Pigeon Day. On this day, hunters would shoot live birds and the younger children would have the honor of wringing the necks of the ones who did not fully die. I never considered pigeons very fragile, but they always reminded me of doves, which in turn, held a sense of fragility. If a dove were to die, I think I would have been more upset.

• • •

The last time I saw my brother alive was my freshman year of high school. I can hardly grasp the fact that 10 months has passed.

• • •

The heaviness of my head blocks out the cooing of the babies in the hospital halls, the sniffles of adults and low murmurs are heard from the whitewashed rooms. It all happened too fast. Just two days before this day I was on a vacation at a lake with my friend and just a few days after this day I would start my sophomore year of high school. I had planned on visiting my brother in San Diego for spring break, but I would take this trip much too early. He was hit head on while driving to work. His brother showed me a news clip of him being removed with Jaws of Life and put into the ambulance before we entered the hospital. I didn’t need to see that. And now I stand at the doorway of my brother’s hospital room, his skull cut open to relieve the swelling in his brain, the machine’s arms of the rotating bed holding on to him with a death grip. He will not have brain function; he will be paralyzed. I just got here but I needed wings. Everything is too confined, the air too thick. I scan the room through blurred vision. Our grandparents, our uncle, his mom, my mom, but where is our dad?

“Did he come mom?” I say, the center of my throat aching; I can’t look.

“He’s downstairs smoking a cigarette.” My grandma-chimes in. “He doesn’t want to be around people right now.”

No matter how depressed, antisocial or angry he gets, I know the only person in the world my father will hug and talk to is me.

• • •

Pigeons, also called rock doves because of their nesting habits on cliffs or high rocks in rural areas, are both rural and urban birds. It was said that pigeons were originally brought over to America in the 1600s to be used as a food source —a barnyard animal. Even in Africa, pigeons were caged and used as food, and their waste as fertilizer. But soon these birds found skyscrapers and tall houses to adapt to and now they have become pollution to major cities. People refer to them as rats with wings, scavenging for food and excreting their waste whenever feasible. Being a lower-class bird, they are pests to many and a pet to no one.

• • •

In and out of my life my father was caged. Even so, he always managed, living off of other people’s scraps. I thought the drugs, the disappearances and the theft ceased, but I was constantly proven wrong.

It is toward the end of my sophomore year of college and I am heading out to lunch with my two friends when my phone rings.

“This is a collect call from…Steven Howell.” The way he inserts his name is unnerving. “Press 1 to accept the charges.”

“What is going on dad?” I say as the operator disconnects.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” is all he repeats before he explains the usual and hangs up. My brother is no longer here to comfort me and if my father were to have gotten a longer sentence, what men in my life would I have? We were always the trio — interconnected. I was always my brother’s baby sister and my father’s baby girl. To this day, I still never understand why he jeopardizes this.

Growing up, my dad’s IQ was in the top five percent and his intelligence was always something I admired him for, but sometimes I thought the very gift he was given, would be the one to ultimately destroy him. He did not use his gift to better himself. He used it cunningly and sneakily to refrain from being caught doing something illegal. My brother and I always thought this, but never talked about it. We always believed the best in people and even when we encountered the worst, we never turned our backs. Our father spent most of his time tucked away in the street corners with a broken wing or he would take flight, only returning to his flock on his own accord. My brother knew more about this; I only had a feeling.

• • •

Although people like to think pigeons are useless, dumb birds, they are actually very smart and determined. They are unique in the sense that no matter where they go or how far off track they get, they will always find their way home. This discovery was used in wars like World War One. Homing pigeons would be taken from their natural homes wherever that may be and when a war message was ready; people would release the pigeon to bring home the note. Thousands of pigeons were used for this technique because they were easily located, very fast and flew only one direction: home.

• • •

I have never traveled farther than 45 minutes away from home to live in a place for more than a couple weeks and now, a junior in college, I am on a 12 hour journey to live in London for a semester. I finally decide to leave the nest and take flight. I don’t want to be a part of a flock anymore, things are getting routine and the past always seems to be repeating. Portland’s buildings are growing smaller and smaller and the brightness from the clouds is blinding, but somehow I am starting to see clearer. Leaning my head against the upright window seat, a sense of comfort rushes over me: no pigeon has ever flown this high. I feel free for the first time in my life.

While my brother’s work had taken him to different parts of the U.S, even Italy and Japan, it had never taken him to England. Even before I left, my dad urged me to travel to London. Deep inside he said he knew my brother would be with me because he always wanted to go there. And knowing my father’s words would ground me and my brother’s spirit would guide me, I was finally ready to live out his dream and mine.

Like the saying goes, “kill two birds with one stone.”

• • •

I am covering a story on muscular dystrophy the summer before my junior year of college and we are standing outside. The ill or dying children and their families release white doves, a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

• • •

Like in Shamanism, a spiritual religion practiced mostly by those in East Asia and Eastern Europe, the Shaman, in a bird mask and a feathered costume, is said to have the ability to communicate with the supernatural world. And like the Shaman, the symbolic dove is supposed to have the gift of the spiritual messenger. The divinity shown by this is also similar to the story of Noah’s Arc in Christianity. The dove was used as a messenger and was sent back three times to see if the floodwaters had receded. On the third time, the dove did not return to the arc and to Noah, this showed the end of a calamity. It was safe to leave the arc. But even though the dove never returned, Noah knew it was safe, just like the dove ensured the safety of the flock before it disappeared.

Doves and pigeons belong to the same family.

• • •

In London, pigeons raid the streets and people either hate them or ignore them. I for one like them. I am on my fourth trip during my time abroad and my friends and I are searching for a sandwich shop in Florence. By mid-day, the sun is shining overhead, illuminating bird droppings and cracks in the cobblestone on the narrow streets. Admiring the architecture, I bring my hand up to the butterfly necklace I wear. It was a gift my brother brought back for me while he was stationed in Italy. And while my friends and I are all moving at our own pace, one friend, who is deathly afraid of pigeons, is clawing at my arm and screaming every time one flaps near her.

“Calm down.” I say, ushering her through the door. But I don’t go in right away. I stand at the threshold; I have never seen so many pigeons in one spot. But something in particular catches my attention. It has rusty red and pale pink flecks on its feathers, but it’s mostly white. It does not stand by the other charcoal birds; it stands alone. There is a sense of peace, I feel, looking at the watchful bird. When I was younger, I might have had anxiety about this bird, wondering if it would find its family again, find a way back safely. But as it begins to fly above the others, I know now that it is not lost, and while it may or may not be safe from the dangers of the world, this dove-like bird is also a pigeon. And pigeons always find their way back home.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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