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Pigeon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Kill it! Kill it!" whispered the boys behind me. I had one eye shut over the barrel of Roberto's BB gun. The pigeon was moving into the trees, and I knew I couldn't get if it got much farther.

"What are you waiting for? Do it," they hounded.

But my finger was stiff, and I didn't feel steady. It was as if my hands would shake when the gun went off, but I knew my chance would pass so I gripped the handle and stuck the gun between my collar bone and shoulder blade. Without as much as a tremor, I shot at the bird. Dropping the gun, I shaded my eyes and looked at the sky.

Roberto's hands flew up.

"That's why we call him AOne Shot Juan.'" Roberto rejoiced. Relieved, I smirked and nodded my head.

"Now we just have to find it before the sun goes down," one of the boys said.

"Naw, just leave it. It looked like it fell into someone's yard." Roberto was the oldest, and the smartest. I was proud that he was proud of me.

"Say something, Juan," Roberto told me, but I am too shy. The only reason the boys even let me hang with them is because Roberto saw that I was good shot and lent me his gun. We started to head home, the boys patting me on the back in a congratulatory ceremony. All I could do was smile. Tomorrow the boys at school would hear of my triumph, and maybe the sixth graders wouldn't pick on me in gym class. I was basking in my one glorious moment. Immersed in thought I didn't noticed the boys had stopped with their supportive words and were listening intently to the forest noise. In the rustling of the Monte, we heard an old woman yelling "Come back, hijos."

"It's the old woman," Roberto said as he started to run. I may be a good shot but I am a terrible runner. I tried, afraid the voice was La Llorona coming to get me. I watched the faster boys scatter between the darkness of the falling sun and the brush. But before I was out of reach, the collar of my shirt was pulled at my neck, and startled, I turned to see an old woman holding my collar.

"Come with me" was all she said. So utterly terrified, I followed the old woman out of the brush and around to the gate of her backyard. She led me to a fold in the grass.

"Pick it up," she commanded as we stood at the undignified burial ground of my dead pigeon. A symbolic cold wind made me shiver. I picked up the dead bird, and as if it might bite me, I held the bird far away from my body.

"Look what you have done. This bird has done nothing to you, and arrogantly you shot it down and left it to rot in my back yard. God's life and you wasted it, hijo."

I could feel the bird's warmth escaping between my fingers. I clenched my teeth trying not to breath in.

"AThat's right, this bird will haunt you because you did not honor its soul. Look at it. Look at it. You are brave enough to hold a gun but not brave enough to look at what you shot." The woman was emotional with her words, as if I had shot her son and not a bird. But it was not her words that haunted me, but the bird's open eyes and cocked beak. It still looked alive, but the feathers were matted with gel-like blood and the broken neck fell between my little fingers. The old woman started to cry, but she kept speaking of respect for life. She walked inside her house and I stood with the bird, my face was white as the slow rising moon. I thought of how pleased I was of my one-shot accomplishment and the sixth graders in the gym and Roberto's proud face and how now the pieces of dead life were my morbid trophy. I cried, but not as a baby cries. I cried like a boy who understood that a glimmer of glory has a price. I dropped the bird and ran home, being careful not to touch my face or mouth. I got home and washed my hands, but I couldn't wash the picture of the bird from my memory. Tomorrow's story will not be about how I shot a bird with one bullet, but how I left crying from the old lady's house. I didn't care what the boys thought and I didn't care if I no longer had friends. A teenager might have shrugged off the experience as the ramblings of a superstitious old woman, but as a ten-year-old the lesson I learned was all too realistic. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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