Home      16.5 THE GOOD BIRD PILOT



The Good Bird Pilot
     The Good Bird Pilot walks into the store. He walks to the counter where Charley is standing, tiredly. It is near the end of the night. The store is empty. The Pilot, a man who is neither old nor at all young, speaks.

     “Do you have any dog dogs?” he asks, vaguely determinedly.

     “I have a beagle,” Charley replies. “I have a beagle that lives with me. I live at home.”

     “You have a beagle?”

     “Uh huh.”

     “Do you hunt him?” he asks.

     “I wanted to when I got him. That was the reason I did. But the dog is very spoiled now. I live at home and the dog has been spoiled,” Charley says. He laughs, shrugs his shoulders, and looks away in the spirit of youth.

      The door opens and two customers, a woman and her dark-haired son, enter the store. The overhead lights shine on their faces and hair, and the mother’s purse. They move to the center aisle, to the bread there. The Pilot looks at them and back in one fluid motion. He addresses Charley.

     “What do you mean?” he asks.

     I don’t know. I live with my parents and the dog. He’s been spoiled. They give him soft biscuits and spoil him, and now he doesn’t listen to anybody,” Charley says.

     The Good Bird Pilot maneuvers to his left. He looks at the small snack foods on wire shelves, and then behind the counter at the sandwich things there. There is little to eat. A woman and her son move to the counter. The boy moderates the distance between his mother and himself by increasing and then decreasing the space. They stand near one another quietly and buy bread packaged in a plastic bag with blue lettering. They pay and leave the store silently, though differently, and return to their automobile in the night’s fluorescence.

     There is a cigarette case above Charley’s head blocking his vision along the length of the counter before him. The Pilot’s head and shoulders are strangely not visible. It does not look right. Customers enter the store. The Bird Pilot stands in place and then moves down the counter’s length. He holds his hands in his pockets and is silently glum but unfinished. He remains blocked from Charley’s line of sight.

   The store empties and Charley retreats from the back of the register. Something is missing. He turns and walks behind the small red and glass ice  
 cream freezer, with the overhead lights reflecting off it’s clear diagonal cover,  the silent deli refrigerator, and he stands to the right of the sandwich counter looking at nothing.
This is an unusual space of the store to stand in, and the wall is largely bare. The Good Bird Pilot moves to stand closer to the counter and is tense. He stretches up and arches his body forward to point, and speaks. It is a ridiculous scene.

     “Could I?” he asks.

     The Pilot is tall. Still, he peeks his head well over the counter. Something is not right. Charley looks at him. He’s wearing an older, insulated leather jacket. Cut fur lines the collar, unusually. He points now with his entire body and his hand to the meat franks warm on oily metal turners, their edges soiled from the slowly turning meat. It is as though he is indicating a direction as an usher would in a church, who is unfamiliar with exactly how to behave. Charley follows this elaborate introduction and looks at the franks, which are simple.

     “Sure, that is no problem. We throw them out anyway,” he says. “You know that.”

     Charley drops four meat franks into a thick, plastic deli sack, with a heavy seal, designed for selling sandwich meat and delicatessen foods that drip, and hands it to the Pilot. The man’s face alights reverently and he speaks, finally relieved, the tension completely gone.

     “Thanks, she is looking very good.“ He smiles. “She has been nursing for weeks now and she hasn’t lost her weight,” he says.

     “Is she a good mother?” Charley asks. His arms are unnaturally at his sides.

     “Yes, she is a mix of hunters. All mixes make good dogs,” the Pilot says, comfortably.
“You’re right,” Charley says. He stands feeling noticeably weary seeing   
the Pilot with a line of well-lit refrigerators behind him at the very back of the small store. The man seems to be saying something, as if an almanac could speak. Charley’s eyes are tired and his mind feels transparent, without substance, and he does not understand entirely.
The Pilot looks at his package. He speaks, again.

     “These make good milk.”

     “I bet,” Charley says. His eyes are drawn with weariness to the man’s

jacket. The shape of the man’s body beneath it, though normal, makes him feel sadness for no apparent reason. The sheep’s fur collar appears designed to be cheerful, but something has been lost. He looks at the Pilot and knows he is seeing something but is too tired to know what it is. The man’s face is not right. It is late at night.

The Pilot looks at the package and then back at Charley. His eyes are blue and non-threatening. His pants on his legs are not right.

     “Thanks,” he says.

     “You’re welcome,” Charley says.


     “Come back for more hot dogs,” Charley says.

     The night is penetratingly black outside the full-size, medium-thick, glass front windows of the store. It is like an animal. The fluorescent lights outside, though bright, are strangely meaningless. They are like white teeth extending into an irreverent dimension. Charley returns to his place significantly deep behind the cash register, the appropriate place to stand. It is very quiet in the store….

….Time is kept by a largely out of date clock on the wall….

….The colors in the store are largely wrong….

Charley stares at the bland vinyl tile on the concrete floor strangely recovering his breath…. His eyes function “disassociatively”….

….It is very nearly time to leave.



A Bitter Heart Of Saint Valentine
               Josh pulled his Schwinn up to the house. The air was frigid and his exposed hands cracked from the harsh dryness of the winter air. His old jalopy had broken down and he felt humiliated pulling up to his date’s house on his childhood ten-speed.  The gas lamp that illuminated her front walk reflected against the windows of her Volkswagen Jetta. Josh bent down, checking his tousled hair in the reflection. He was painfully self-conscious now that he could see the silhouette of his disheveled condition.

            “Ah, Damn!,” he said as he bounded down the walkway before meekly pressing the doorbell, suddenly not quite ready for Heather to behold him. She was upstairs in her bedroom still debating which top to wear for their date. Josh contemplated the evening as he stood in the cold while Heather obliviously hummed along to her Katy Perry cd, trying out different colors and materials.  Noticing her lack of attentiveness to his arrival, Josh cursed the cold and wondered why he had bothered with such a seemingly vapid girl in the first place, as he pressed the doorbell again; this time with more force

            Above Katy’s triumphant bubblegum blare, Heather finally became attuned to the doorbell.  “Damn!, I must have lost track of time.”

            “Coming, Josh!”, she said as she bounded down the stairs. She paused momentarily in front of the door to flatten her hair and make herself look presentable for her prince. Her friend Courtney had set her up on a blind date and Heather had the utmost confidence that she had picked out a stud for her.  Holding her breath, she slowly opened the door for the big “reveal”—she loved that word ever since “Extreme Makeover” decided that the word "revelation" was too hard for Middle America to understand. What greeted her was... “Epic Fail!”

            “Oh my God,” she said visibly disappointed. “Are you Josh?”

            “Yes, Heather I presume? May I come in?..."

            “No wait…hold on…wait. Where’s your car? How did you get here?”

            “Oh you see, I had a bit of bad luck getting here…I was hoping we could drive your car.”

            “Um…no, I don’t drive my own car and... take myself out on dates, when someone else is supposed to be taking  me. Nice meeting you but I’m afraid this isn’t going to work. No offense...”

            The door slammed in his face. He texted Courtney: “Thanks for nothing,” he said, and gave a stiff boot to his kickstand before riding off into the bitter cold, a bitter heart of St. Valentine.
(The Above Tinted Image  Is The Flemish Painter DAVID TENIERS III's, "St. Valentine Kneeling In Supplication", Completed In The 1600s) 
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