Last Pigeon Standing, Or: Elegy For A Columba Livia

Closer and closer to December, one starts to notice their absence, or rather, the glaring existence of those few that still remain. As though evolution mutated their resilience to an almost cruel level. For not even humans, for as much of a scourge as they are, should be forced to endure such frigidity. They with their insulated, overpriced apartments where they take shelter in a way pigeons never will–at best hovering and cooing (in the croaking baritone of a dying man) in the recessed awning of some bourgeois’ balcony.

But a pigeon can only get by for so long in this slapdash manner before the reaper zeroes in, picking off every last defective-in-its-gait one (for the cold fucks with the mind, causes brain damage, therefore an according carriage). Alas, the reaper, sadistic as he naturally is, can’t help but take his time about it. Gets a sick pleasure from watching them all drop slowly, as they foolishly struggle to stay alive–living on the crumbs that seem a taunting reminder of what real sustenance is supposed to be. Back when the fatsos would sit on park benches, stuffing their faces with baguette to spare. Generously-sized mounds that would fall to the floor instead of a few measly drops of red wine from the standard-issue homeless drunkard. The only kind still crazy and desperate enough to be out in this weather.

The pigeon, as rugged as he is, can’t abide this diet for much longer. Yet still he soldiers ahead, driven by an innate instinct for survival that he would sooner do just as well without. It would be much easier, in fact, to be weak. To die out without a fight. Then one wouldn’t need to see so much horror for an unnecessarily prolonged period. For once Paris turns what appears to be eternally gray, she is no equal match for the fledgling pigeon–towering over the remaining mutant avian dregs with buildings and monuments that somehow grow taller and taller the higher a pigeon tries to soar. But there can be no soaring in a climate like this, with many “birds” (if you can call pigeons that) immediately jarred by the abrupt shift in atmospheric temperatures once they ascend or descend from a certain altitude. And even a vague attempt at “migration” is futile to a species that could once travel great distances with effortlessness. Conditioned to do so as relayers of messages by the very humans that caused the extinction of their brethren, the passenger pigeon, in the early twentieth century. Ain’t anthropogenic extinction a bitch?

“Sure it is,” Ren thought to himself as the last of his consciousness and pecked at remains were being gnawed at by a cat, and then a rat–oh, and then an owl. Seems like every animal benefits from food bounty in the winter except the Columba livia, who would have done better to remain as their ancestors–the much more elegantly named “rock dove”–did. Flying free and with dignity among cliffs and crags that one imagines to be at their most romantically picturesque in England. In point of fact, why was it that Wuthering Heights never mentioned a rock dove? Instead favoring cuckoos, lapwings and hedge sparrows. In any case, how could one be a “bird of bad omen” flying around the enchanting cliffs of Britain’s more coastal milieus? It certainly sounds more stately than yet another humiliating death in Paris (something Oscar Wilde and Princess Di–an unfortunate epithet–are surely commiserating over right now).

Then again, “dying with dignity” has long been one of those classic oxymorons right on par with “sweet sorrow” and “busy doing nothing.” Which Ren was as he proceeded to surrender to the dark light (another oxymoron), the last pigeon standing by the end of February in what had become the City of No Light. He didn’t writhe or make any sounds, he simply lay there in the cold, desolate environs of an abandoned shopping mall. It wasn’t even something as glamorous as dying in the Jardin des Plantes or Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. He was alone, long abandoned by his own kind. There is nothing vindicating about being the last to go. To surrender. And as he hung what was left of his head in agony, he tried to cheer himself up, figuring that maybe–just maybe–he might have better luck next time. Come back as a predator or domestic animal (so often one and the same). Feeding on the fat of pigeon meat the way slaves in the United States were once forced to.

Yet just when he believed he could feel one final shiver going up his shattered spine, a different feline appeared as though out of thin air, started poking at him with her abrasive paw. Soon, he was being transported in the jaws of this ruffian stray, spotted in black and white in the stylistic pattern of a deer. She saw fit to take him to the alley of a taxidermist a few blocks away. As though the cat had been trained in this task for years. Ren was no longer falling apart just physically, but also emotionally. He had resigned himself to the end. He did not want to be immortalized on some creep’s mantel. All he wanted was to submit to the end and be done with this damn thing called life. One spent scrounging and scavenging without the shame that ought to be present in such tasks.

The taxidermist was, obviously, an aged man, perhaps somewhere in his late fifties. He had the slouch that comes from decades of hunching over animal remains and putting them back together again. And instead of doing the generous thing and killing Ren, the taxidermist instead anesthetized him before stuffing him and putting him back together, trapping his soul and cognizance forever in a body that could not move. His parts were glued into position and he was mounted to a pedestal then placed next to a number of other pigeons who looked as though they had been caught in their final moments as well. So this is where all the “last” pigeons standing had gone. Now all very literally standing together in one macabre purgatory.

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