I pressed on the brake pedal, but not with full force. Scott, who was sitting next to me, yelled “what are you doing?” Not out of fear – the braking wasn’t life threatening – but out of confusion. It was a pigeon and Scott didn’t understand why I had to brake just because we were approaching a pigeon. Most probably it’ll fly away, and even if not, so what? It’s a pigeon. Nothing to it. We’re on our way to a friend’s rooftop for a barbecue. We’re about to devour a serious amount of poultry there. Fair enough, we didn’t run them over, but someone else did the dirty work for us so we could enjoy chicken wings in a light marinade.
The pigeon didn’t move. My brain wasn’t taking in this new and surprising image. In my head “car approaching pigeon” was filed right next to “pigeon flies away”. But this time it was different. It seemed to be concentrating on something on the road. If it was a child, the car would have stopped by now. My foot on the brake pedal would have put the car at a standstill no matter the cost. But it wasn’t a child, it was just a pigeon. A piece of meat. Right now, at McDonald’s around the world, millions are eating pieces of meat. Why should I brake so suddenly, risking myself, Scott and the other drivers? Still, it’s not like I’m doing this on purpose. It should fly off. That’s what they usually do. Scott didn’t get it either. Not that he cared. He shouted “what, is it stupid?” and laughed.
That’s it, too late. If it won’t fly away now, it’s doomed. I press harder on the brake. I’m not about to stop in front of it. If I do the car might spin out of control or even roll over. I’m a nice, sensitive guy, easy-going. But there are limits. People are killed every day over violent conflicts. One more pigeon won’t change the moral balance in this world. I’ve got moral standards but I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to risk mine, or Scott’s life for a pigeon. And I don’t even know it. If it was “Shula” the pigeon, and I’d feed it every day, then I’d probably have feelings toward her and then I would probably press stronger on the brakes. And if it was the pigeon of some poor blind child, and would have served as his eyes in the world, then I would definitely brake with full force. Not for the pigeon. For the child. But I don’t know it. It’s not really a pigeon. It’s just some pigeon.
It flutters. Hitting the bottom of the car. Scott yells “wow!” and I take my foot of the pedal. I look in the rear view mirror. It bounces on the road a few times in what seems to be a last dying dance. Scott is excited. For him this was better than a movie. “Look, it’s not that you were going fast. It had loads of time. Wow that was something!” Yes, it did have loads of time. But now it’s dying. Maybe even dead. I look in the mirror and see a small black dot lying on the road. “Maybe we should stop?” I dare say, meanwhile my foot is nowhere near the brake pedal. The answer is clear. But I’ve got to ask. Now the conscience clearing stage begins. I will not rest until my conscience is clean. But I need reinforcements from my surroundings. “Are you crazy?” Scott replies, predictably. “Besides, what can you do now? It’s dead. And if not then it’s better off dead”. “But,”- I continue, still polishing spots off my conscience “I could have stopped. I’m such an idiot. It was obviously not going to move. If it didn’t move when we were twenty feet away, it wouldn’t have moved at all.” Scott senses my distress and tries to help. “Nonsense, you didn’t have chance. If you would have hit that brake any harder we would have gone spinning out of control. Relax, let it go.” Fine. I’ll let go. Can’t let it ruin my day. “Idiot”, I mumble to myself, putting the last nail in my conscience’s coffin. “I have a solution for you”- Scott continues- “eat one less wing at the party. In the pigeon’s honor”. I force a smile. You just got to go with it. Should I really be sad over a pigeon? Pretty dorky. We continue. The meat is getting cold.
I thought I shouldn’t eat at the party. Or at least just eat some salad. But the smell, oh the smell. “Don’t give him a wing on the next round”, Scott calls. “Why?” Ella is interested. “He ran over a pigeon on the way over. He needs to mourn it.” “Really?”- Ella is amazed- “why would you do that?” I take another bite from the wing before it gets cold and say “I didn’t do it on purpose. It jumped under the wheels. I tried to stop, but…” Scott jumps in and starts petting me on the head, “he didn’t mean to. He’s a good boy. He doesn’t run over pigeons.” Ella smiles. She quickly passes the fake pity stage. “Maybe it’s his pigeon we’re eating?” “Yes”- Scott joins in-“think about it this way, maybe that’ll cheer you up.” “Next time, we don’t need to go shopping for chicken wings. We’ll just send you on a short drive”, says Ella, and everyone bursts into laughter.
Night. My stomach hurts. I ate too much, again. I drop Scott off by his place. He smiles, “I hope you weren’t offended by the whole pigeon thing “. “No way”- I hesitate -“what’s there to be hurt about?” Scott laughs. “I know. It’s just funny. Alright, go to bed. You’re likely to dream about it at night.” “Good night”, I cut him off. I’m alone. Finally. How exactly do I choose my friends?
I turn the car around, heading towards the road where I ran over the pigeon. I come closer to the place where I crushed it with my car. I’m alone on the road. It’s very dark. There are no lights. I slow down. No one seems to be around. Will I look like an idiot if I stop? I pull over. Step out of my car. There’s a car racing in my direction. It’s coming towards the spot where I started braking for the pigeon. I jump. The car screeches to a halt a few feet in front of me. The driver comes out. “Are you insane? What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?” he’s screaming. Complete panic. “Yes I am insane”, I reply “what do you think? That I’d be jumping into the road if I wasn’t?” “You freaking idiot!”- he continues-“ go find… you should be admitted to a mental institute, you piece of…” yes, maybe I should be admitted. He moves on. I look at the road. I think I can see some feathers. I wonder if they belonged to my pigeon. I pick one up. Caress it. Get back in the car. And drive.