The peacocks have taken over Los Angeles. Some might find this one of fate’s most on the nose forms of irony. After all, L.A. is already a city of human peacocks, preening and strutting in the hope that someone—anyone—will notice them. Particularly the “right” someone: an agent, an assistant to a celebrity, a celebrity themselves. Would-be actors, actresses and even writers all try to do whatever they can to make their physical appearance stand out, to exude the “pheromones” necessary with a single spread of their proverbial feathers to entrance the ideal “passerby.” Even though nobody “passes by” (a.k.a. walks) in L.A. It’s strictly black-tinted windows up when you’re actually somebody important.
Incidentally, however, the obsession with physical attraction in Los Angeles has nothing to do with sexual selection—for no one has any interest in the bodily and emotional harm caused by child-bearing. Not to mention, it requires a certain amount of selflessness that the L.A. set just doesn’t have time for unless they can afford help. Instead, attractiveness is merely an essential means for currying favor, for being a “rare bird” among so many already exotic ones. One supposed these aspirants never would have thought they would come up against any competition in the form of real peacocks. Yet they were all too invested in themselves to notice that the population—both regulars and famous people alike—had majorly encroached upon the environment of the peafowl. What else were they to do but hide in the trees and not come down until the right opportunity arose? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as it turned out. For while the pandemic forced most operations into a standstill, the ‘cocks took it as their chance to go forth and multiply in the wake of the county suspending peacock relocation programs for the sake of human safety.
Yet “humans” (a debatable classification for some of the people inhabiting the City of Angels) weren’t banking on peafowl—of all the animals lurking in the backdrop—to be the ones who would descend with the most indefatigable force post-pandemic. To, in short, take up the very roles that the humans themselves had purloined with their own insufferable vanity. But being upstaged was the least of any L.A. resident’s issue. What was really causing the most problems stemmed from the differing viewpoints on how to “handle” the surfeit. Some felt no action was required at all. Viewed the peacocks’ reign as yet another charming “symptom” of L.A. An emblematic metaphor for the town’s love of all things superficially beautiful. Others were not so “fond” of the situation. Least of all the more suburban types, like the ones in Pasadena.
It was starting to be a subject deemed “as divisive as national politics.” And it was more than just their destructive, foraging tendencies that bothered residents. It was the shrieking. The goddamn shrieking. At all hours of the day, really. That was when it was probably the most sobering to realize one was an out-of-work actor. Like Trent Lamont. At thirty-three, his “filmography” amounted to a few “non-speaking bit parts” (the term he used for extra) and one regional commercial. Such a resume really wasn’t helping to assuage his worst fears: that he was a dime a dozen. That there was absolutely nothing special about him. The peacocks that took up residence on the roof and in the courtyard of his building only served to aggravate his self-loathing thoughts throughout the day. They were males, obviously, trying to call out for a female to breed with. If only it worked as well for human men, Trent mused as he opened his third beer of the day. Fuck it, he thought. It’s five o’clock in Mexico. Maybe that’s where he should be anyway. It wasn’t a crime to be absolutely blasted all day if you wanted to be in that country. L.A., a country unto itself, might claim to be as “open” of a place, but the reality was that only the raging failures or the unabashed successes of the industry drank in the middle of the day. He certainly knew he wasn’t in the latter category.
Aaaaaah! Aaaaaah! Aaaaaaah! Another shriek from the courtyard peacock seemed to mirror his interior monologue. Eclipsing him and every other peacocking actor in town with not just its looks but its vocalness. If things kept going on as they were, soon the peafowl would be running the studio system (or rather, whatever tatters were left of it). “We have to live with them. There’s no other choice,” he overheard one of his neighbors saying to someone else in the building. He was some kind of “bird expert”—or maybe just an enthusiast. It’s funny how “enthusiasm” can so often get mistaken for actually being authoritative. Trent, semi-soused by now, ambled closer to the window to hear more of the neighbor’s reasoning. “This is their environment, we’re the ones who have been increasingly infiltrating it. And plus, you try to slap a law against feeding peacocks to keep them away, and it’s gonna open up all kinds of doors to other gray areas.” The disembodied voice the neighbor was talking to asked, “Whadya mean?” The neighbor was all too happy to tell as he continued, “Well, for example, if someone wants to have flowers planted in their yard or put them on the outside of their window, that could be qualified as feeding a peacock. Peacocks love certain florals, and if they cease getting food in other ways that they’ve grown accustomed to from humans, then they’ll start getting more aggressively resourceful. That could mean flowers, or any kind of waste.”
“I could give a shit,” the other man asserted. “Fuck the law—I say they hire someone to go ‘round and shoot the sumbitches. On sight. No questions asked. That’ll solve the population problem right there.” Trent was always amazed at how decidedly “shitkicker” so many parts of L.A. were. Clearly, the neighbor felt the same way, for he just ceased speaking altogether. No excuse was made, he simply stopped talking and slowly faded back into his own apartment. Trent probably would have done the same. But then again, Trent wouldn’t have been foolish enough to have started talking to another neighbor in the first place. He didn’t come to the big city to re-create what it was like in the small Midwestern town he had hailed from. He came to disappear. Ironic, considering he also came to be world-famous. L.A. could dredge up a mass of contradictions in people that way.
He moved away from the window, all the while the same damn peacock shrieking its entitled mating call. Like it was saying, “Look how fucking hot I am, bitch! Pay me some respect!” But some—even animals—were unmoved by good looks. In many ways, living in Los Angeles made one more immune to them. The phenomenon was just so pervasive that seeing an attractive person started to lose meaning, sort of stopped registering altogether. In that sense, maybe the peacocks were in the wrong town, after all. And so, perhaps, was Trent. But where else could he go now? Having been indoctrinated by this place and its “values.”
Walking languidly to the refrigerator, he opened it to find the horror of having no beer left. This couldn’t stand. Neither could going out in his current state of undress. Thus, finding a reason to take a shower and “put on the ritz” for the first time in a week in order to go to a convenience store seemed like divine intervention. Here Trent had thought buying a twenty-four pack of Budweiser would surely be enough to tide him over for a while. He didn’t have a drinking problem. Drinking was his only solution. On the way out through the courtyard, he spotted the offending peacock. The one who had been yammering all day. He hissed at it as it kept bemoaning its sexless state. Everyone in this town always seemed to be in heat, unable to manage even a day without getting some form of sexual attention.
Even though he could have walked to the store, he drove. Possibly the truest mark of an “Angeleno.” Though he hated that word. It sounded pretentious, and like it was trying too hard. Other cities, you could just add the suffix “-er” or “-an” to it, and then you were classified. L.A. felt the need to go the extra mile on… floweriness. It couldn’t be “Los Angeleser” or “Los Angelesan” (in the style of “New Yorker” and Chicagoan”). What the fuck was up with that? Trent pondered as he stared at the endless rows upon rows of beer options in the according aisle. Not just any beers: craft, barley-free, local. Shoved on the bottom shelves like a secret shame were the more quintessential brands, like his Budweiser. He bent down and picked up a case. As he was bending, he caught a woman out of the corner of his eye appraising his glute muscles, which he had to admit were flexing quite nicely in his jeans as he pointed his backside even more accommodatingly in her direction.
He had sort of forgotten himself lately, what he actually looked like. A week in L.A. time spent inside was like a month in terms of losing momentum “on the scene.” He supposed he needed this reminder that, despite everything—the failures and the generally stalled career—he was an attractive man. Pleased to look over and find that the woman herself was boner-inducing, he flashed her a megawatt smile (one he’d paid to have “megawatt’d,” of course). She bit her lip and raised her eyebrow in response… then reached into the fridge to grab a kombucha. He didn’t think anyone really still drank that. Such a selection bore the aura of someone trapped in the ‘10s. Indeed, her entire look was somewhat dated, yet she seemed young enough. Typically tanned and blonde, she wore track pants and a crop top. The kind of look that was supposed to say “effortless,” but you knew she was trying. They locked eyes once more as he went to the register.
Back at his apartment, they had sex for what was left of the day—the courtyard peacock jealously calling, “Aaaaaah! Aaaaaah! Aaaaaaah!” throughout the entire “affair.” And actually, she did later “have to” confess that she was married. But she had abandoned her husband long ago in Bakersfield. They had tied the knot when she was too young—eighteen—and didn’t know any better. Didn’t yet know that she would answer the call of Los Angeles over the call of being someone’s little wife. She had what film buffs would describe as Norma Jeane Syndrome. Right down to changing her name from Melissa Ann Reeves to Erica Blaine. She thought the latter sounded “glamorous but relatable.”
So here they were, just two beautiful people who only wanted to share their beauty with the rest of the world. For today, they would have to settle for sharing it solely with each other. The following morning, Erica was gone. And so, too, strangely enough, was that courtyard peacock. Had it finally found some female bird to pay attention to its plumage? Trent would never know for sure, but he was certain there were plenty more where he came from.