I exited the dollar theater and had to throw up a hand to shield my eyes. It was the middle of the day in the middle of the week in the middle of the summer. Nowhere else to be after being laid off two weeks prior. Heat sizzled off the cracked asphalt parking lot. My skin went from gooseflesh to sticky within seconds. My eyes flickered, trying to adjust to the brightness, as did those of my fellow movie-goers fanning out around me. Mostly teenagers and one or two who looked to be in the same boat as me.
A piercing screech stopped us in our tracks. Whispers spread through the crowd, and a few people began to point. There, yards ahead of us, in a planted median underneath a skinny tree, a hawk had a pigeon vised in its talons. The pigeon was pinned to the ground and I couldn’t tell if it was dead or not. The hawk screeched again, and the crowd’s energy surged as it had when we found out that Bruce Willis had been dead the entire time. The hawk walked to the edge of the concrete curb and the pigeon came alive. With each step, it flapped more erratically. I found myself hypnotized by the pigeon’s iridescent head and neck, the feathers glistening in the sunlight.
Without warning, the hawk stomped the pigeon against the curb. I swear I felt the vibration. Then, the hawk went off. Three strikes, a one-second rest, and three more strikes. It followed this rhythm four times, and stopped to observe its kill. Satisfied, the hawk lifted its head and stared at us, its frozen audience. I could feel our combined mass leaning forward; waiting, wanting to see what would happen next. I wondered if anyone else appreciated the juxtaposition of this scene of nature playing out in the parking lot of a movie theater smack in the middle of suburbia. When the hawk tore into the pigeon’s side, ripped away a section and slurped it down, a groan spread among the crowd and I had my answer.
I was last to leave the scene. After the hawk flew off, all that remained were the littering of feathers and the pigeon’s eyeless head. The iridescent feathers still glistening in the harsh sunlight.
Curtis Ippolito is the author of BURYING THE NEWSPAPER MAN, a crime novel coming in March, 2021, from Red Dog Press. His short stories have been published this year with Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, Mystery Tribune, Yellow Mama, Punk Noir Magazine, and Ghost Parachute.
A Red-tailed Hawk smiles for the camera. NPS photo by Sally King.
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