By Dan Goldman
S pencer Tyrell was already late for work at the Cinnabon when he killed that pigeon.
His ratty Adidas pumped BMX pedals all the way up the boardwalk back to his old hood, now the upscale part of T-Beach. He squinted into the salty breeze, dodging open cracks where the sun baked open the asphalt like overdone cookies, bouncing his bike up onto sidewalk of The Promenade. Once it was Tanga Beach Drive, the street he used to live on, the street where he’d snapped the shinbone of Dana’s tequila-crazed hubby with a foot of steel pipe and he carried her upstairs into his crib, where she finally was his for a little while. Their run-down apartment building was bulldozed twelve days after his landlord evicted the last tenant, but Dana bulldozed him months before the real estate developers took a lucrative opportunity to re-zone T-Beach into gated communities. Dana followed her lucrative opportunity into some silver fox’s shiny BMW sedan and he never saw her again.
Now The Promenade was closed to cars to maximize commercial foot-traffic and tourists’ spendy-spendy. He whizzed past a NO BIKES sign under a NO SKATEBOARDS sign under a ZERO TOLERANCE FOR DRUGS sign. They liked to keep it perfect out here and not the scare the straights, pushing back the local T-Beach flavor of discarded needles and bloody condoms and stray puddles of bum-diarrhea another few blocks west, out of sight. Now this place had that generic glamour of California-as-seen-on-TV, stinking of fruitsy aromatherapy and uplifting-slash-oversincere rock ballads and perfectly-manifactured bedhead, that soft-focus lip-gloss American Dream.
The Cinnabon was eight blocks down The Promenade, a nice walk on foot but by bicycle a speedy tunnel-tour through most of America’s major mall-friendly brands of clothing, consumer electronics and chain restaurants. The Cinnabon sat at the ass end of it with the rest of the cheaper shit.
His phone beeped and it was Randy again, calling to see if he’d be coming into work at all today. This time he answered it: “Randy. I’m on my way, I’m passing The Cheesecake Factory right now.”
“Okay good; Michael already told me I have to fire you if you’re not here by nine-thirty on the dot. He means it this time.”
“I’ll see you in a minute.”
“Good… I also think maybe we should talk about–”
“I just passed the Chicken Shack now; can we do this in person?”
He hung up on Randy. Religious, naive, fat-assed Randy. If not for her giant white badunkadunk that made it impossible to pass her behind the Cinnabon counter without goosing it with a little dick-sauce, last night probably never would’ve happened. She’d declared herself a born-again virgin before taking the assistant manager position, but Spence remembered her when she was just another blunt-rolling easy beach chick. Whether she was totally against premarital sex now or just using it as another layer of professional makeup, she still grunted like a rutting sow last night after she tripped over the pallet-jack in the delivery truck and planted that oversized fuck-pillow right into his lap with a burning after-tremor of We Both Know What Happens Next. And for the record, she was the one who wanted it up the ass, which was surely what she needed to talk to Spence about. Spence grinned about it now, sniffed his fingers and spit on the sidewalk when a pigeon landed in front of him.
There were usually clouds of them in the thoroughfare, chittering underneath the café tables to catch falling muffin crumbs — filthy fucking things — but they always took off as he wheeled closer. Then this one stupid one landed directly in front of him, bobbed its retarded head a few times, looked up at Spence’s incoming front tire with just time enough for two red-eyed blinks. He tried to weave left around it but the dummy did the same and went right under the tire. He felt the bike bounce and the bird-bones crunch through the BMX’s frame, through the rubber-grip handles, and what was once a bird was now a broken tangle of still-lit life-systems now on nerve-fire, wrapped in feathers. The sound went up into his gut and down to his fingertips slow enough that by the time his fingers squeezed the handbrakes, the pigeon was smearing blood for a good two feet under his bike’s back wheel, the smell of burnt feathers and rubber back coming up over his shoulder.
Johnny Rockets diners dropped their burgers on either side of him, gasped in several languages, mommies covered their kids’ eyes. Spence stepped off the bike and let it coast past him a few feet before it clattered to the pavement. He went back to the bird. It was alive but in shock, cooing like nothing happened. A little blonde girl screamed and hid her face in her mother’s pushed-up cleavage.
A man in a polo shirt covered his cellphone and barked: “For God’s sake, put the thing out of its misery!” Spence glared at him and stepped over the bird, sinking to a squat over the twist of splayed feathers and splintered bone. The bird’s neck and head were untouched, bobbing back and forth above its ruined body, trying to understand.
The Promenade sounds dropped away until there was just the sea and the rustle of palm trees and the pigeon’s confused, frantic blinking. Spence leaned over it, blocking out the palm trees, blocking out the sun… blanketing the bird in his cooling shadow where it would die.
It locked its red-irised eyes with his as it shook, its gold-rimmed pupils dilated all the way. Without breaking his gaze, the pigeon slowly dipped its neck down until the tip of its beak tapped the sidewalk, a tiny red bubble inflating from its nostrils to the size of a grape before popping with a tiny mist. Its mouth opened and blood began to run out, pooling around its head. Spence leaned into closer, stared deeper into the black of the pigeon’s pupil and fell in.
There was wind on the backs of his legs as the sidewalk dropped away, the sun was swallowed, the California heat snuffed out. Wrapped in a blanket of cold black, Spence was there with the bird, was the bird, was a tired lick escaping his own ruined body to fall through a burning rollercoaster of sparks and stars and scars and hurt toward a faraway point of purple fire where there was music, a soft womblike music with notes made of cubes. It was almost as if-
Sun. Trees. A hand clapped on his shoulder, dark hairs sprouting off the knuckles. The bloop-squawk of a rentacop’s radio: “Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to clear the Promenade thoroughfare; we’re sending maintenance over to clean up the bird.”
Spence stood up, sweating. His phone buzzed again in his pocket. He took it out, looked at the time (9:38) and the text message (DONT BOTHER COMING IN, FIRED). Picking up his bike, he wheeled it back around past the mangled pigeon, its black pupil now a dull, empty thing.
It was gone.
Writer/artist Dan Goldman is entering his fourth year of producing his haunted real estate comic series RED LIGHT PROPERTIES, published digitally by Monkeybrain Comics in three languages on all major platforms. His editorial illustration work was recently featured in Taschen Books’ ILLUSTRATION NOW! 4. He is currently broadcasting from São Paulo, Brazil.