A Pigeon, an Alleyway, and an Unfortunate Black Cat

December 9, 2009
Every pigeon in the city was scared of Azra, that’s for sure. We’d all heard her horror stories, about the bird she shredded to bits and the mouse she devoured in one bite. It was enough to leave our feathers shaking and for us to fear the charcoal-black cat.

Just seeing her was enough to scare a person. Her lanky body skulked around city alleyways, staying hidden behind the rubbish of urban living. She was bone-thin, her twiggy legs supporting a very lean body. She was an oriental breed, her nose long, her ears like a bat. Her teeth glinted yellow in the day, and her eyes glowed like a swamp gator in the night.

In order to keep our feathers on our bodies, us pigeons were forced to surrender scraps to Azra. We had the give her the better bits, too; the gooey cheese off pizza, the tender bones of chicken wings, and the salty parts of pretzels. She devoured them all without a word of thanks to her unwilling providers. She just shooed us away. But if we showed up empty-handed, then she’d threaten us with her claws.

Nothing makes a pigeon more petrified then the sight of a cat’s claws. City cats have long, yellow nails that curled downwards like bananas, perfect for digging into helpless bird. We were too scared to risk it. So, in turn, us pigeons found ourselves scrambling to search for crumbs. By the end of the year we’d had enough.

I called a meeting of about a dozen pigeons on top of one of the big-city skyscrapers. Lined up on the rail, I discussed what needed to be done.

“This is mutiny beyond our beliefs. Us pigeons, the dwellers of city streets, are stuck starving because of one selfish cat! She may be able to take one of us, maybe two, but what about a whole army? Meet me back here at ten o’clock tonight, and we will send that clawing cat to her grave!”

All the others agreed. So we parted, spending the rest of the day squirreling out food scraps. Azra was expecting us to come and feed her that night. It was December, and the biting wild could seep down into your bones and make your beak rattle with the chill. A thin layer of snow was already starting to blanket the sidewalks.

At five minutes to ten, I perched myself up on the skyscraper ledge. Soon, others joined me. Before long, nearly two dozen pigeons were standing on the rail.

“Everyone split up. Find Azra, and signal everyone else if you do. She’s not going to be happy to see us, so keep on guard.”

With that, the group parted. I went off by myself, flying high above the busy nighttime traffic, scanning the streets for a skinny black cat.

A large clocktower struck ten, its ringing chime pounding though my body. I searched every alleyway, investigated every back entrance, but found no sign of Azra.

This was odd, even for her. The cat usually popped up as soon as she saw one of us, either demanding food or chasing us away from her spot. Azra wasn’t one to hide. At least, not from the birds, anyway.

I finally heard a hiss and a screech. One of the pigeons had found her! I picked up speed and discovered that the sound was coming from a pizzeria alley. I dove in, nearly knocking over a cardboard box, and was appalled at what I saw.

A street dog, scrungy and tough, was holding a limp Azra by the scruff of her skinny neck. The wildness in the dog’s eyes told me to stay away. He was big; a Doberman of some type, and was snarling, saliva dripping from his fangs.

I flapped my wings and squawked when the dog looked in my direction. I was deathly afraid I’d be his next victim. But the dog had no real interest in attacking me. In fact, he looked like he was done with Azra, too. He dropped the battered cat on the concrete and dove out of the alleyway.

“Azra?” I whimpered, trying as hard as I could to stay away. She was lying there like a beat-up rag doll, but I could tell she was breathing. After a minute’s pause, she finally made a sound and raised her head halfway, staring at me with pain-filled alligator eyes.

“Don’t look at me!” she hissed, her voice like steam cackling out of a teapot. “What do you want? Get out of here!”

I didn’t understand. The cat, who was now ripped open with fleshy red wounds gouged across her thin body, had spiked fear into all the birds for so long. We’d thought she was tougher than any other animal on the street. And now, here she was, dying because of a dog.

“Why didn’t you just attack him?” I asked in a confused tone. “You’re the toughest street cat on the block. You have massive claws, don’t you!? You’ve always threatened us horrified pigeons with them!”

Azra stared at me for a moment, breathing heavily, “You stupid bird. You wonder why I need you dumb featherheads to go and catch me by dinner? I’ve lied, okay? I’ve lied! I’m declawed! My owners threw me out onto the streets and left me to fend for myself! I can’t catch a meal; I can’t even climb! I never intended to hurt any of you! Why would I? You were the only ones that could provide for me!”

My heart went numb, as I felt an incredible pang of pity for the poor creature, who now laid there, dead in the snow, her fresh wounds oozing with blood. I sat there, watching the scene in horror and disbelief. Once I regained myself, I flew off, with fresh snow falling on the freshly killed corpse.

Things have been better ever since Azra died. Us pigeons have enough food now. There are more than enough crumbs to fill out bellies and to be passed around. We no longer have to tremble in fear at the thought of her leaping on us whenever we stopped to rest. Yet, sometimes, whenever I pass the alleyway, with its old cardboard boxes and tarnished aluminum garbage cans, I’m always reminded of the unfortunate black cat.





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