Pigeon Feed, by Irving A Greenfield

After I leave Starbucks, I settle on to the rear seat of taxi on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Fifty Fourth Street. I’m on my way to meet with my producer to discuss my up coming play.

Eleventh and fifty-seventh, I tell the driver.
It’s a short distance away. No more than a twenty minute walk if I felt up to it. But I don’t. My stomach is balled into a knot. I worry about being able to make it back to the ferry and to my car in Staten Island and then not being well enough to drive home from the parking lot. At seventy those concerns quickly pop up, sometimes at the slightest feelings of malaise. It is part of the insecurity that comes with growing old, though I don’t think of myself as being old. But earlier I made the mistake of swallowing two pills I take every morning -- one for my heart and the other to control the itch on my back – with hot tea instead of cold water. The result came quickly. Since it was hot and humid day, my discomfort escalated forcing me to stop and hail a cab.

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The cabby drives one block on Eighth Avenue and turns west on to Fifty-fifth.
I expect him to turn on Fifty- Seventh. It is the proverbial six of one and a half a dozen of another. Not important enough to comment on, except that I believe traffic moves faster on Fifty-Seventh Street. Already, we’ve waited for two red lights before we reach Ninth Avenue. On the third red light we’re at the corner. When the signal is green, we cross the avenue, but instead of continuing the driver pulls over to the curb and stops alongside a Key Food Supermarket.
I must do something, the driver says, as he shuts the meter. It will only take a couple of minutes.
I’m too surprised to respond. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.
They are waiting for me, the driver says and leaves the cab with a brown paper bag in his hand.
I’m alarmed, a result of the September Eleventh attack on the World Trade Center. For a moment, I have a vision of the supermarket being blown to pieces. But by comparison such an explosion would lack the enormous consequences of the one at the World Trade Center.
Even as I reject the idea that the cabby is a terrorist, I watch the cabby open the brown bag and pour its contents next to the supermarket’s wall. Within a second or two the pigeons arrive. A few land on his shoulders, others on his shoes. He imitates the sounds made by the birds.
When he returns to the cab, he says, they’re happy now; and, as he eases the cab away from the curb, he flicks on the meter.
Do you do this every day? I ask.
Oh yes, the cabby says. They are happy to see me and I am happy to see them.
By this time I realize the cabby speaks with a typical Indian accent, has a large black moustache and has a dark complexion.
I have many bags of food for my friends in other places, the cabby says.
I smile and tell him my father raised pigeons.
The cabby glances over his shoulder at him.
He loved those birds; I say softly, reminding myself of something I’d forgotten, if not forgotten, had pushed so far down into the depths of my mind that it could erupt into my consciousness only if it were triggered by an extraordinary event, like the one that just happened. And then the images come flashing back . ...

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My father’s friend’s house was in Canarsie, very close to Jamaica Bay.
The ride there was on a trolley car. Open on two sides with canvas shades to protect the passengers from rain and snow. In the winter there was no protection from the cold. The trolly raced between the backyards of the houses on either side of the track, stopping where it crossed a street to let passengers on or off. The faster it went the more it yawed.


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