I carried Happy Feet to my car as he just chilled out in the box, enjoying the ride. I even kept the flaps to the box open in case HF was feeling randy and fully recuperated. Yet fly away, Happy Feet did not. This pigeon that I had just performed alley-side surgery on seemed a little dazed ‘n confused and could hardly walk, so I felt the need to name him and care for him at mi casa.
I got him home to my studio/one-bedroom apartment and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I put more towels in the box for him to lie on, got a bowl of water out for him like someone would set out for a puppy, and I even went to Home Depot to purchase some bird feed. Poor Happy Feet must’ve been real-bad messed-up, scared shitless, or, somehow he’d previously been exposed to people. Because he never flinched once or got freaked out when I adjusted him to put the towels underneath him. Poor guy probably hadn’t a clue he was even being helped.
I had placed the box at the foot of my bed so that I’d hear him if he awoke during the night. My “bedroom” part of my flat was a four-and-a-half foot by ten-foot closet. I had squeezed my full-sized bed into it and turned the space into a make-shift separate bedroom because it had a door that closed and locked.
Once I felt ready for sleep, I made sure Happy Feet seemed content, and I then closed one of the flaps of his box and wished him sweet dreams.
I turned on my ceiling fan for the air and closed the door to my bedroom so he wouldn’t surprise me with the revelation that he was really an escape artist. Little did I know, little Happy Feet would end up surprising me in the end.
I woke up early the next morning for work and threw my body to the end of the bed to check on my new lil’ friend. I don’t know what I expected to see, but there was Happy Feet, snug as a bug in his box. A little food had been dug through, but he hadn’t gone to the bathroom. Overall, he looked better and more alert. I took a shower and got dressed for work, though I kept checking on Happy Feet every five minutes or so. He was really starting to grow on me! I had brief fantasies of keeping Happy Feet and loving him forever as my new little winged pet!
It was hard to say goodbye to him that morning, but work beckoned and rent insisted, so I blew my new lil’ love dove a kiss and was out the door.
Work lasted longer than I expected, and I was actually able to use my Florence Nightingaling of Happy Feet to my advantage to duck out earlier than anticipated. Of course, traffic on the freeway was fuct as per usual, so my commute home to my apartment in Silver Lake took nearly an hour. But I finally made it and was super excito to see my new friend.
I unlocked the front door to my flat and closed it behind me. I sat my man-bag down on the living room couch and had to pee something fierce, so that happened next. Wanting to eat a little something before checking on and getting my hands dirty with Happy Feet, I made a sandwich and wolfed it down as well. I then took off my jacket and threw that on the couch, and then I began unbuttoning my shirt. For a brief three minutes I almost forgot about Happy Feet. But on the last button, I smiled really big and was finally able to go check in on the healing process of my pigeon.
I walked into my bedroom area and looked giddy as I reached for the flaps of Happy Feet’s box. I grinned as I undid the first flap, but my smile faded when I opened the second flap to realize that Happy Feet was gone and nowhere in the vicinity.
I lifted the box to make sure I wasn’t crazy or seeing things and he wasn’t under the box either! I immediately started losing my shit and flipping out looking for Happy Feet. I grabbed my sheets and bedding and threw them off the bed. Then I grabbed a flashlight and looked under my bed and couch. I dug through my closet and dirty clothes hamper—nothing!
Jesus, I was really starting to lose it! How could this have happened? How did I lose a sick pigeon? How did it get out of my apartment? Wild ideas came into my head with my picturing the bird flying out my front door or somehow escaping out of the bathroom window. I tore through my apartment like a whore in heat! Where had he gone? What had I done taking in a wild animal?
You know when you can’t find something for so long that you finally resolve to starting all over again and looking through everything a second and third time? Well, by this time, I was sweating like a beast and digging through everything I owned until I had decided to look through everything ten times more. How could I have been so irresponsible? How could I have let this happen?
I had lost Happy Feet. I lay down on my bed upset and so pissed at myself that all I wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up the next day. I got up to turn off the light and threw my body stomach-down on my bed to sleep. I lay there face down on the pillow as a single tear cascaded down my cheek.
“Poor Happy Feet. Poor, poor Happy Feet.”
Suddenly I heard a faint noise.
I thought I must’ve been dreaming. But I sat straight up in bed, swearing that I had heard Happy Feet. I waited and listened in silence. After a few minutes, I still didn’t hear anything. As laid my head back on my pillow I cursed my wicked imagination.
I closed my eyes, and right when I started to feel myself slip into REM sleep, that’s when I heard it:
This time it was long, drawn out, and I knew I had heard it.
I sat up and started grinning. I had heard him twice, for sure, at that point. I scooted off the bed and ran my hand along the wall until I found my light switch. I flipped the light on and waited for my eyes to adjust so I could find him. I looked, but I couldn’t see Happy Feet anywhere, though. The door was shut, so I knew he must be in my bedroom, but where?
Just as I started to tear up my room for the fifteenth time, I heard his call again:
Like in some Three Stooges movie, my eyes went from looking on the floor to following where the call had come from. I finally saw where Happy Feet had been hiding all of this time! My silly bird friend was sitting on one of the blades of my ceiling fan: riding it in circles as it spun around slowly on the lowest setting like a kid on a merry-go-round!
I burst out laughing at the sight of this little pigeon enjoying the ride that was my ventilation system. Obviously, he was in much better health at that point than he’d been before. Happy Feet was a soldier, and I knew at that moment that if he was able to fly up to my ceiling fan and ride it securely with both feet, that it was probably nearly time to release him.
I was able to shoo him down off the fan blade and onto the floor which is where I grabbed him with both hands. I sat on my knees and put Happy Feet on my lap wanting to give him one more rub of Neosporin so that his leg wouldn’t become infected. I looked down at the little guy and just smiled, but I was a little sad inside, too.
I clutched Happy Feet in my arms and walked out of my apartment and into the hallway of my building. Like in Where the Red Fern Grows or The Yearling, I had to let my friend live his life and be free. I reluctantly pushed open the door to the front of my apartment complex and walked outside. The air was crisp.
I looked down at Happy Feet and asked, “Are you sure you wanna do this?”
I don’t think he was sure, but I was confident that I couldn’t keep this young heart from running free any longer. Another tear formed in my eye and cascaded down my cheek as I sat him feet-first on the ground. Initially, he just stood there unsure of the world. I had positioned him away from me, but I walked around to face him.
I looked at Happy Feet and put my hand out to get him to move. He didn’t flinch. In my heart, I believed it was because he trusted me. I pulled my hand back, and that’s when he started walking. His limp had severely diminished and so had the swelling in his foot. But his dance was still a little silly as he was a little unsure of walking without restriction again.
All of a sudden, he turned his head away from me and he flew away. I never saw Happy Feet again. And I’m OK with that.
Photograph by Petras Gagilas