Flight of the Stewl Pigeon

June 2, 2018 at 11:11 am (Cussed Dumbers)

A bird in the hand…

I deal with all kinds of animals at work, mostly the stinky two-legged human variety. Pitbull “service animals,” the occasional rodent, or, the most frightening, cockroaches and bedbugs. (These critters will get us moving; the last time a guy came in with a bagful of cockroaches, we badgered him out of the store forever, and I locked up and ran to Rite Aid for bug spray. WAR!)

A more common interloper, something we are almost used to?

Birds…

I’ve talked about birds before, specifically when referring to certain managers. It’s the perfect metaphor for what happens when Grinder shows up, or when a pigeon walks in.

We get pigeons, seagulls, crows and starlings wandering into the Waterfront Store. Eventually they find their way out. To the best of my knowledge, no bird has died at the Waterfront Store.

The Nightclub Store hasn’t been as kind to the birds. With its big bright windows and ledge near the ceiling, the birds feel captive, even though an open door is three feet below. They just can’t figure out where that fresh air is coming from.

About ten days ago, one of the new kids called Grinder about a pigeon inside the Nightclub Store. “Don’t worry, it’ll die eventually,” was about all Grinder had to say. The new kid didn’t last as long as the pigeon. Officer Tommy, the Bird Whisperer, was on vacation in Arizona, so it was up to us to figure something out.

Igor and I conspired to put a pile of seeds and a half-sized coffee cup of water up on the ledge. Igor had also built a trap out of Little Debbie Crunch Donuts, a milk crate and a soda cup. (All he needed was a tennis ball to knock the cup-support out. Store was fresh out of twine.) The trap lasted a day, with the pigeon going nowhere near it. Eva saw the trap and had Giggles dismantle it before Igor could return with a tennis ball. Sigh.

After a few days of flapping and noise, I dubbed our pigeon Stewly, as I got tired of calling him “the stupid fucking bird.” He didn’t do much, just hung out up top, staring out into the street. Occasionally he’d forget and bap into the glass, and then look at us to see if anyone was watching.

Despite edicts from Eva and Grinder to “stop feeding the fucking bird so it’ll die already!” an occasional crunch donut would somehow get dropped fifteen feet in the air. And before I went on my two-day weekend, I underhanded several handfuls of sunflower kernels onto the ledge. I would pigeon-call him, sort of a ‘coo’ with rolling r-r-r’s. He’d look around like I was talkin’ dirty to him.

Igor had texted me, saying Stewly had been getting braver, flapping his way down to the floor of the store. walking around like he’s shopping or something. “He’s being really good, not shitting on anything or pecking muffin packages. He ‘is’ eyeballing the Little Debbie rack though…”

When I came back Friday, I got more instructions about how I’m “not supposed to feed the fucking bird.” I was kinda digging having an official store bird, but his hungry squeals and loneliness were apparent. Something had to be done. Where’s my pellet gun?

I keed! I keed! By now Stewly has been adopted by the night shift, and nobody is gonna fuck with my bird. I was pondering my options when a customer said, “Do you know you have a pigeon on your ice cream cooler?”

“Yeah, he wants to be a penguin when he grows up.” But I had inspiration. I have herded pigeons before. I grabbed the broom, and made a subtle approach. They are used to pedestrian traffic, so a walking human ain’t no thing. BUT, a human with a broom could be dangerous. I wanted to be just dangerous-looking enough. I didn’t want him to think I’d actually hurt him. I learned from Luna the dog that a broom makes a great crowd-control device on our other-species friends. As I approached, he flapped over and landed atop the ATM, RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING DOOR! Damn, I’m good!

I edged closer, about to bring the broom up gently to nudge him toward the door. At that moment, three loud patrons with a fresh government check blathered loudly through the door, scaring Stewly skyward. Fuck. He was back on the ledge.

After selling a half-dozen tall cans of Mike’s Hardest Lemonade (and scoring a forgotten pink flip-phone and a food stamp card) the Noisy Drunkards moved on. Once it quieted down, Stewly flopped back down to the main floor. I grabbed the broom and tried again.

We walked past the ice cream. He started toward the beer aisle, and I didn’t want him in the back of the store, so I went around the aisle and drove him back toward the door. He flapped up atop a cooler, and was about three feet from the door. Now to gently direct him that way…

“I WANT NUMBER FOURTEEN! NUMBER FOURTEEN!” The Asian Crossword kid with the lottery scratch-off addiction and Walkman blasting had no idea what I was up to, and probably took it wrong when I started cussing. I pointed out the bird, which confused him even more. He left, and Stewly was still near the door. I could lock the door to keep noisy-ass people out, but that would lock the bird in. Catch-22. Oh well, it’s not our usual Friday…

I had Stewly right near the door when Asian Crossword Kid walks back in, scaring Stewly behind the sales counter. “DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE SHIT ON MY COAT!” I raged at Stewly, sending him into the far low corner of the store. As people used the ATM, I had to warn them that a pigeon may fly up and smack them in the face.

I gave Stewly a few minutes to rest, but we’re on a roll here. If I can roust him enough to flap up over the ATM, he’ll be right in front of the door. I nudged at him, and he casually hopped over the broom, walked between my legs and under the cigarette rack into a cubbyhole the size of a shoebox. I placed two milk crates in front of the cubbyhole, and began plotting my next move.

I texted Igor for ideas, he wasn’t answering. I texted Eva, with an “OMG” for a reply. No help there. I was thinking of putting a pile of seeds as bait, and trapping him with the milk crate when he came out. But who knows how long that would take? I was stewing over Stewly when Steel Rod walked in to gamble. I told him my dilemma.

“What the FUCK should I do?”

“Want me to grab it?” asked Steel Rod.

I thought he was joking. “Sure!”

He came around the counter, got down on one knee, took a look, and came out with a fistful of Stewly.

“Well I’ll be fucked in the ear!” was the best I could come up with. After photos to prove this wacky tale, Steel Rod walked him outside and set him on the sidewalk, where he flew into traffic and missed a car by about six inches. He ended up on the awning of the pizza joint across the street. Sat there for a few minutes, taking it all in, and then he was gone.

I texted Eva and Igor, letting them know the happy ending. Then I walked to the back of the store where I could see up onto the ledge, to make sure Stewly wasn’t still up there and I’d been rousting some rogue pigeon.

Nope, it was Stewly. I spent the whole night feeling like Marlin Perkins from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Fucking Kingdom…

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