The first time I killed a pigeon with my bare hands it was an act of heroism.
Actually, the second time I killed a pigeon with my bare hands was also an act of heroism, but the old lady watching, cheering me on, panting supportively, making suggestions â€” it was upsetting. Unpleasant for the bird, too.
It was years ago. I was young, filled with a love for all things verminous and diseased. Walking along Granville street downtown I passed a crowd facing inwards and staring down at their feet. Curious, I joined the ring.
At the nucleus, pushing itself in pathetic circles, was a pigeon with a broken leg and wing. I watched a while, then finally said, â€œWeâ€™re going to have to kill it, you know.â€
The crowd looked at me, nodded, and resumed their vigil over the shivering mess of feathers. I sighed, and picked the poor thing up gently.
Now, my friend Tea grew up on a farm near Prince George. Sheâ€™d once told me the quickest way to kill a chicken was to twist and break its neck â€” ZUP! Dead. I took firm hold of its head and gave a sharp turn.
The pigeon hardly noticed, so I gave it another zing. Its good leg kicked feebly in protest, and one wing made as if to leave. It suspected something was up. I gave two more spins, like turning a faucet, until the head had come around 360 degrees. The birdâ€™s bulging eyes had fogged over. Its little beak, a globule of spit and blood collected in each corner, opened to gasp a final breath, and in that final breath I thought I heard the word, â€œMURDERERâ€¦â€
I sort of freaked out, giving an involuntary yank that ripped the head clean off. Warm, salty blood streaked up my arm, into my face and gaping mouth. I could taste it, feel the giant, poisonous microbes and bacteriaÂ as though they were big as my thumb, crawling about my gums.
I threw down the head, tossed the body into a garbage can and stormed off.
I donâ€™t know what made me turn around. Remorse? Curiosity? I looked back and saw the circle of people look up at me, their eyes screaming â€˜Killer!â€™ The severed head on the ground stared after me, its tiny beak pointing as a final clue to the police which way I had made my escape.
I stumbled into the nearest pizza slice joint. In those days some of these places were pretty rough. However, as I stood there in the doorway, chalky, wild-eyed, streaked with blood, giant microbes slithering between my teeth, the room ogled me in terror.
â€œI need a bathroom,â€ I mumbled thickly.
A sea of tattoos and scars parted making a path to the stinking sewer-closet in the back. When I came out I was given two free slices, a can of coke and a subtle hint to leave as I was scaring away customers. Soon after this event, I left the country.
To make a long story shorter, I eventually returned to this country.
My mother had just started dating the man who was eventually to become my stepfather. I was living with her and my two sisters again in a one-room apartment. Being Scots-Irish we possess a genetic propensity to survive being cooped up together, an entire family tree crushed into a bed-sit without loss of dignity. For example, every morning theyâ€™d sit outside the toilet listening to me orchestrally farting and when I came out pretend to be absolutely fascinated and engrossed watching bacon cooking.
However, at this time mum and boyfriend were shagging morning, noon and night, so my siblings and I were basically homeless, wandering the streets until we thought it safe to sneak in.
All this is by the by and making a shortened story long again, so I skip to the point.
One afternoon, walking along the sidewalk outside the apartment waiting for the screams to stop emanating from the window, I came across a little old lady staring intensely at a pigeon. The pigeon was broken and shaking with agony. I watched a while, then said, â€œWeâ€™re going to have to kill it, you know.â€
â€œYes, I suppose we must. But look! There, under the bushes! A kitty cat. Surely it will put the poor creature out of misery.â€
â€œYes,â€ I nodded, â€œbut not quickly, or humanelyâ€¦â€
â€œOh. No. No, I fancy not.â€
The old lady chewed her white gloves fretfully, and the way of things was clear to me. I picked the bird up, cooing sympathetically to calm it down, and started digging for a neck.
Years earlier I had told my friend Tea about the debacle of my last assassination and she just laughed at me.
â€œOh Christ! You donâ€™t twist its head! Thatâ€™s awful! You put your thumbs and fingers on either side of its neck, like this, and give it a sharp jerk â€” ZAP! Just like that. Itâ€™s over in a second. What you did sounds horrible!â€ she said. Laughing and laughing. Thanks. So now I knew.
I rummaged greasy feathers for a knotted string of gristle I assumed was a neck. Youâ€™d be amazed how little neck there is to these things; just a thin bridge between blinking head and fidgeting body. I arranged my lethal fingers there and â€” ZAP!
The bird winced. It looked confused. Put out, even. Where are the lullabies now, mister?
I snapped again and again, but it was just getting dizzy, not dead. Finally there was nothing else but to put all my strength into crushing its throat.
â€œOh,â€ breathed the little old lady. â€œYouâ€™re doing ever so wonderful a job. Iâ€™m so thankful you came along. Yes, thatâ€™s it. Oh, oh yes, just a little more and I think youâ€™ve done it. Iâ€™m so grateful, reallyâ€¦â€
At last I could stomach myself no longer. I hurled down the body, which the cat pounced on before I changed my mind. The old lady thanked me profusely, but I brushed her aside and stalked off.
Sometimes I see pigeons clustered together, and I wonder if they know who I am. If pigeon mothers put their burbling brood to bed with threats that if they donâ€™t go straight to sleep the Pigeon Killer will come and give their delicate pipes a squeeze.