Our neighbors raise pigeons. They have three pigeon houses in their backyard that look like playhouses. Their son takes care of the pigeons, and my mom says he’s like Boo Radley, and that’s not a bad thing. I see him outside all the time cleaning the coop and feeding them. He lets them fly away and waits for them to come back.
My dad hates the pigeons. They shit all over his cars, and he says the neighbors wait for us to sit down at the dinner table before they start scraping clean the bottom of the pigeon houses. When the scraping starts, my dad’s neck gets red, and he stares at the wall, and he eats with a mean face.
I love the pigeons. I love the way the Boo Radley boy takes care of them with his slow hands and no talking. I love the way he stares at the sky for a long time when they fly away. I love the way he opens the door of the little houses when they come home.
I want a pigeon of my own. I want to raise a pigeon and be its mom.
I decide to ask, and my wish is granted! The Boo Radley boy gives me my very own pigeon egg. He helps me put it in a coffee can with straw on the bottom to keep it warm. I have to keep it outside under our porch because my dad won’t let me bring it into the house.
In a couple of days, it hatches; I’m a mom! My pigeon baby has huge black eyes sealed shut and a giant head. It has scraggly wings and bony legs and a round belly. Its skin is see-through and too big for its body. Its neck is too small to hold up the big head, but it keeps trying. It opens and closes its mouth, and baby pigeon sounds come out. I love my pigeon.
I put my pigeon in its can house, and tuck it into its straw bed, and wedge it into its porch cave. Then I go to school.
When I get home, I run to the porch to see my baby in the coffee can. When I take it out, it’s not the same. It’s not trying to hold up its big head. Its mouth is quiet. When I pick it up, it’s droopy. I talk to it, but it can’t hear me. I want to go get my mom, but my feet won’t move.
My mom finds me. I show her my pigeon, and she says it’s dead.
Dead is like Uncle Sam’s dad who got jack-knifed by a semi-truck. Dead is like the Borntrager’s dog who had parvo. Dead is like Grandpa Klawon who nobody talks about.
We take the pigeon to the neighbor’s house. We tell them it’s dead. They say, “That happens.” We give them my pigeon, in its straw bed inside the coffee can, and walk back home.
I’m not a mom anymore.