Ellie and I were seven-year-old animal rights
activists, passionate city kids with nowhere
to turn but our own gerbils and salamanders
and the pigeons in the park. We spent half
of summercamp lunch reserving and
decomposing breadcrusts, tossing to see how large
a flock we could assemble. It was important
to take action for what we believed.
Angie and Amy were counselors who called pigeons “rats
with wings,” chased them from lunch. We made
our picnics further from their bench, but before a week
had passed both women and birds knew where
to find us. We certainly weren’t playing kickball.
I spent my mornings in the art room and
the theater, built the courage to launch myself
from the low diving board. Ellie wasn’t afraid of anything.
She had two tortoises smuggled back from Jordan and a leech in a jar.
Angie came at the pigeons with a baseball
bat and declared we couldn’t put on our play
if the flight did not dispel. Ellie and I looked at birds
longingly for the next week while sandwiches remained
in bags stable and whole; we wanted to be brave
enough not to lose to adult hegemony. Even Ellie wasn’t.
I passed my mornings and afternoons
as I already had and it took three days before
I was struck with inspiration. It had absolutely nothing
to do with what anybody ate.
In the last week of camp special events trampled the
staircases and fields. The play we’d created was a centerpiece,
and no one knew I would stop to make a speech halfway.
I fingered the striped heart I had painted with enamel
in the art room and knew Ellie was watching. “I just wanted
to say that animals are people too!” I didn’t care
that Angie and Amy in the front row might be laughing. This
was my speech. The flock was mine and had to learn
the significance of kindness to pigeons, and I threw the end
of my summer to them in pieces before the show went on.