Tuesday, February 2, 2016


                The flock of pigeons swirled and looped over the street. They careened in wild arcs down toward the traffic signals before magically, almost other-worldly, veering out of the way of the traffic light pole. The flock was large, perhaps 20 to 30 pigeons all swooping around the sky together over the intersection of Cantor and Rake. Sandy was in her car staring up at the free winging birds. The morning commute had already been ridiculous and she’d barely moved in ten minutes. She envied the bird’s freedom. She marveled at their coordinated flying. It was amazing they were able to collectively swoop and dive and climb as one coherent group. She wished the cars on the street in front of her could move the same way. Or even better than that, she wished she could fly.
                Traffic inched forward and a taxi cab honked. Nobody’s car moved more than a few inches. Sandy sighed and looked back up at the birds looping wildly in the morning sky. It was a gray morning, overcast and dreary, the pigeons were diving silhouettes; dark ballet dancers swirling over-head to some music Sandy couldn’t hear.

               Sandy’s motivation for another day answering phones and pretending to be sympathetic to the general public’s desire to vomit their sob stories at her was fraying. She had hoped the job answering phones at the call center would lead to something better, or at least hold her over until her real career got going, but it was stagnating fairly quickly. It seemed every day was very much like the next or the day before or the day before that. There was little variation or satisfaction for her. She felt her career dreams, whatever they were, slipping away into nothingness. A career she really wasn’t sure she wanted to have anyway. Her art history degree was as useless as an art history degree at a chili cook-off. Sure she knew about Jasper Johns, but where did she see herself in five years, and how do you even make chili?

The pigeons continued to dance in the sky. Sandy did wish she could fly. She’d never have to worry about being late to work again because of traffic. She laughed at that idea. The thought of using the amazing gift of flight just so she could get to work on time was such a waste. How ridiculous would it be to swoop in through the lobby and settle at her desk and pick up a ringing phone? It was dumb. She’d quit the job as soon as she could take flight and begin a tour of the world. She’d have no need to save up for airline fares or Uber cars or taxis or anything like that. She could just shoot up into the air and cut through the sky like a super-heroine.
Traffic began to pull forward and the cars started to get up to the posted speed of 30 MPH before quickly braking again because a semi-truck needed to make a left turn and block three lanes of oncoming traffic to do so. Sandy looked back toward the sky in her rear view mirror but she couldn’t see the pigeons flying about anymore. She wondered where they went after their aeronautical acrobatics. She tapped her steering wheel with her thumbs and looked at the dashboard clock. She had five minutes to get to work on time and 25 minutes left of driving still. She cringed and swore under hear breath. It never seemed to matter what time she left home, there was always some stupid thing in the road that made her late. She felt cursed.
She saw the birds again. They were cruising in fast from the west. The pigeons rolled close to the ground and then shot up toward the sky in a large feathery group. She doubted any human pilot, with the best technology available could ever master such a flight move. It was so effortless looking for the birds. Sandy felt admiration and a little jealousy. She was jealous of the birds. She was jealous of their ability to fly with such grace and ease and yet, here she was, part of the most dominate animal class on the planet, sitting in her used car in unmoving traffic to get to a boring job. It was right to be jealous.
The semi-truck made its long turn and traffic again started to move forward. Sandy took a quick look up at the sky again but had lost sight of the birds. A little white Honda tried to cut Sandy off, but she wasn’t having it and blocked him from merging from the right. He’d have to wait his turn like the rest of them. It was the only fair thing to do. He honked. Sandy ignored him. She stared straight forward at the road.
“There are no rules for birds,” she said to herself.
Traffic pulled forward and Sandy went with them in a unscripted collective flow of humanity.

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