I know, I know, It’s only a pigeon. But there it was, grey and ordinary as crumpled newspaper, at eye level on a building across Cornelia Street. On second glance from my apartment window, I realized the bird was hanging upside down like a bat from the cornice dividing the fifth and sixth floors. Pretty cute trick. Above it on the ledge was a black pigeon pacing back and forth and peering down as if appreciating the acrobatic performance. But then, the hanging pigeon beat its wings and it was instantly clear that it was trapped, helpless, it’s feet tangled in some wire netting on the top of the cornice.
I know, I know, people are dying by the hundreds in Iraq, by the tens of thousands in Darfur, but the sight of the pigeon was not only wrenchingly pathetic in itself, but in these post-election days, it felt like a terrible metaphor for something or other grim, desperate, and all too human. And the thought of having to watch as the bird died and the decomposed was too depressing.
||As Alice and I sat there wondering what next, we called up the childhood image of "our friend the fireman" rescuing a mewing kitten from a sun-dappled suburban tree.
I just might be able to rescue the bird if I could get to the window above it. I grabbed a fireplace poker to snag the wiring and drag in the bird, and I also took along a towel, both to hide the poker–Who would open to door to someone carrying a poker? -- and to muffle the bird so I could disentangle the wire. I went down my five flights, and managed to slip into the building across the street as someone was leaving. On the sixth floor, I knocked on the door. No answer.
Back on the street, I stared up at the bird, swaying weakly in the wind like a wound-down pendulum. My neighbor Alice, frail and tenderhearted as Bambi, joined me and suggested we risk ridicule and call the ASPCA. They were very polite, but had only two officers and would add the distressed pigeon to the list -- getting to it right after Hell freezes over, we suspected. And who could blame them.
As Alice and I sat there wondering what next, we called up the childhood image of "our friend the fireman" rescuing a mewing kitten from a sun-dappled suburban tree. What the hell, we said, it's only a pigeon, but you never know.
I trotted over to the local fire station, the one on 6th Avenue and Houston, to tell my tale. "Really, I’m not a nut," I began, trying hard not to appear to be a nut -- or girlie girl. The firemen listened and directed me to Sgt. Kevin Lynch, who suppressing a good natured smirk, heard me out. "Yeah," he said after a pause, "I’m no pigeon lover, but yeah."
After they gave a tour to some school kids, they would be over, Lynch promised. And they were, hook and ladder and all. Chad Marrone, followed by Shreko "Shrek" Savic climbed the ladder to the sixth floor as the trapped pigeon’s black companion fled to the other end of the cornice. Marrone snagged the bird which fluttered briefly in his hands and then went still as he disentangled it. From my fire escape perch across the street, I saw Marrone look down at Savic and say the single word, "shredded." Then Marrone lay the limp bird back on the narrow ledge and climbed down.
You want a happy ending don’t you? Me too, but for more than an hour the dingy pigeon lay motionless on the ledge. The black bird stood at a distance and finally flew away.
Deep in post-election gloom -- and all-that-work-for-nothing metaphors-- I checked again and again over the next hour. No movement. And then, I looked one more time and the pigeon was gone.
When I went back to the fire station, the first thing Marrone said was. "Did the pigeon survive?" On hearing that it did, Marrone flashed a gap-tooted grin and said that it was the first time he had ever rescued a pigeon, but it "was the highlight of my day."
I know, I know, it was only a pigeon.