Unimpressed, Barbara continued pecking at the cement traffic barrier. “So you want to be a storyteller,” she yawned. “Big deal. Pigeons have a billion of ‘em. I mean, Mom and Dad never shut up about the huge cicada they caught in ’06. Everyone’s a storyteller.”
“I want to be something different! I want to be … a writer!”
Barbara squinted at her. “What’s a writer?”
“I don’t know, exactly,” admitted Eunice, fluffing her feathers. “But according to the vendors on the corner, these writers tell stories and then the stories are distributed all over the world. I think,” she frowned, “they tell a story through a particular kind of art called ‘typing.’” She gazed fiercely at her sister. “I will learn this art of typing, and I will be a writer and then all will know the hidden avian story of this city!”
Barbara, engrossed in the tiny pebble she’d dislodged from the cement, ignored her.
It was fortunate that Eunice was born in the Technological Age in which writers are not required to put pen to paper, because pigeon talons weren’t designed to grip a pen. That she could not spell nor read had not yet occurred to her. (Be kind. Pigeon brains are small, and Eunice’s was bigger than most). Stealthily observing human writers in coffee shops and libraries, she learned that “typing” involved illogically smacking the tops of “keys” on a “keyboard.” She watched the humans stare intently into space, apparently forming a complex and moving thought. Then they’d smack away at the keys, finally printing what appeared to be abstract art. Each key, she learned, created a small symbol designed to evoke some emotional response from the reader.
“It’s fascinating!” she told Barbara over a meal of rainwater and worms. “The writer creates an idea in his or her head, and through the creation of these abstract symbols, the meaning is conveyed to the reader! It’s like alchemy, a mysterious process that perhaps not even God understands! Perhaps this is an energetic transmission? A merging of the minds? A melding of auras?”
Barbara stuffed a decapitated worm into her gullet. “What’s an aura?” she said thickly.
Eunice didn’t know, but rather than admit it, she continued. “When has art ever been logical?” she cooed aloud. “Is story telling not an art?”
And so that wintery evening, she squeezed through a half-open office window and waddled nervously to the computer, that godlike engine of creativity. Hopping from key to key, she coaxed magical symbols to emerge in whatever way pleased her. An “I” there, a Q followed by a YYF. An H here, three nines, and a P, no, a J! Then, moodily, she stared at the creation, only to erase it. It had not properly conveyed the concept she wished to express, which was:
My pigeon life is full of gray
The concrete, my feathers, the hats of heads I poop on
The clouds and smog of this cold city
I long for color and warmth
If I flew for 40 days and 40 nights, would I end up in Hawaii?
Would I wake up as a Bird of Paradise?
Finally, she arranged the letters in a way that seemed most appropriate. She gazed at her creation:
UHHeLVJ QPG DKFKKKKKKK1198^
Was there too much white space? Did the repetition of that spiky letter fully express her sentiments? Was concluding with a ^ overkill? She would find a time to revise. In the meantime, she called the poem “Lament of a City Pigeon.”
In the harsh light of January, the truth about the world of writing emerged. Not a single publisher deigned to take her writing seriously. When a publishing house bothered to respond to her, the letters were harsh.* “We don’t have time for jokes in this office,” and “This is a serious literary magazine –please take your tasteless humor elsewhere,” or even “If you truly are a pigeon as you say, you need to get back to soiling car hoods.” Alone in her concrete rafters, she cried bitterly when the seventeenth rejection letter appeared, as it was now undeniable that her second-class status as a pigeon would keep her from ever getting respect as a writer.
Fed up with the stress of city living and the constant rejection of the literary world, she flew to visit her friend Pablo in Los Angeles. A vacation, she figured, might distract her from the pain.
“Hey Pab,” she said glumly, settling into his swanky roost above the law firm. “How goes the carrier pigeon business?”
“Oh hey Eunice,” he said, looking up from his citrus-laced martini, removing a mint sprig from his beak. “It’s going well. How’s the writing stint? Barbara said you were going to learn typing or something.” He paused as he looked at her droopy wings and dragging feet. “You look like you could use a drink.” He motioned toward the rooftop bar.
“I’m a failure,” she sighed. “I send in my deepest heartfelt writing and I know it’s good, but no one will publish the writings of a pigeon. ”
Pablo stopped, his martini halfway to his beak. “Really?” he asked, suddenly very interested. “Is that what they said? Because you’re a pigeon?”
“Well, yes,” she said, and gave him the litany of angry anti-pigeon rejections, concluding with the dreadful “soiling car hoods” insult.
“And you saved the letters?”
“Of course,” she said. “Don’t all great writers save their rejection letters to laugh at once they’re famous?” She smiled wryly. “I should use them to line my nest. I’ll never be famous or even noteworthy.”
If Pablo had been born with lips, he would have been grinning. “I think you’ll soon be both, dear. You see, publishers aren’t supposed to discriminate against writers due to race, age, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.”
“No, they aren’t. Oh, of course they do. But they are seldom foolish enough to say it so boldly, and in writing, as they did to you. And while discrimination against species isn’t expressly mentioned in most corporate bylaws, I think there’s a precedent. We have a very strong case, Eunice. Don’t you worry. “Lament of a City Pigeon” will be published in the finest literary magazines imaginable.”
Pablo was right. It was. After the court case, Eunice became the first Avian Poet to grace the cover of The New Yorker, along with rave reviews of her touching, tragic poem.
And that is how pigeons learned to be litigious and crap wherever they please, how poetry magazines became incomprehensible, and why I have to write extremely carefully or risk the wrath of an interspecies advocacy group. Libel suits are real, and pigeons have eons worth of resentment over those spiky things in parking garages and high-rise windows, not to mention the fake owls in dormer windows everywhere. No matter how tempting, never ridicule Avian art.
Do you suppose Eunice went on to join the crew at Splarks Hypothetical Press, pooping on the pages of emo poetry submissions?
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