Jihad

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I wrote this in late 1990. I tried to capture the feelings I had then; the 1st Iraqi war was looming just over the horizon, I was of fighting age, no one knew what would happen if Israel was attacked. The possibilities for seemed wide open - good, bad, apocalyptic... And then I really did meet the Indian with his pigeon mentioned here and somehow it all came together.

Submitted: January 07, 2008

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Submitted: January 07, 2008

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My thoughts drifted back to the bird, as she lay dying on her bed in the country.

On the bus which takes me to work the man sat, bird in his lap. He was Indian. The bird, a pigeon.

"I found him in the gutter. Not even this miserable creature should die in that filth.” he said to me that day. "I'm taking him to the ocean. Maybe he'll fly away there."

The pigeon breathed slowly. It's eyes were open wide; wild, scared.

But her hands were getting cold, and her feet. For the fifth or sixth time I fought down the tears.

"Hold me." She said, her eyes shut; her voice lacy, full of air.

"I can't feel you. Hold me."

I held tighter, the added exertion trying to force the salted water from my eyes. I couldn't warm her. I couldn't help her and loved her all the more for it.

"Flying rats." The Indian said at the red light.

"What?"

"Pigeons. My grandfather called them flying rats. Rats of the sky. He hated them. Always shitting on his car, he'd say."

The bus gained speed, passing the now green light by the park. Children played on the swings, the see-saws, and the slide near the sandbox. They ran and called and were gone in the block behind me in the bus.

I thought about that again when I was trying to fall asleep next to my friend after all this was over. Everything children play with in the park starts with s. I wondered why and couldn't sleep. S.

Neither could my friend.

"There's something coming out of your knee." He said in the darkness.

I moved my knee so it no longer touched his thigh. Then I was more lonely but still drunk from Absinthe.

"Promise me you won't call anybody. Promise you won't call an ambulance." She whispered, crying, into the phone.

The water rose within me to finally spill from over the bottom edges of my eyes.

"It'll be too late anyway." She said and I promised.

"I just need someone to talk too. It's taking too long."

The bird moved in its linen wrapping and her voice became more and more slow. In two days the deadline would make way for the war as the Indian's pigeon was dying; something stuck out of my knee the next night; her arms were cold passed her elbow. Armies buried themselves deeper in the ancient battleground sand and I cried because we were making love - for the first time without a condom - for the last time.

"Can I make it over there... in time?" I asked the receiver dreading the answer when she asked me to come over.

"I don't want to be alone right now." She'd said.

"I don't know." Very slowly she was saying. Her eyes sounded closed. "The pills should be taking effect soon. I took another handful fifteen minutes ago."

"Do you think he's dying?"

The Indian didn't know.

"I'm an aeronautical engineer. I only know about the flying machines men make, not god's." He went on.

The bird tried to spread its wings but couldn't, they were wrapped up in the napkin so it wouldn't hurt itself.

The man looked at me.

"Will you go fight in the war?"

"No. I don't think so. I'm too afraid to die." I said.

"This bird wouldn't go." I didn't understand him.

It took too long but she was still able to talk when I got there.

"I'm glad you're here. Hold me."

I held her.

"I'll miss you." She said and I started crying again and I thought of shooting at a stranger, in the scorching desert. Jihad.

That night it was cool and safe, my friend warm. His body, comfort.

"You didn't have to move." He said.

"What's coming out of my knee?"

"I don't know, but it's something; something very sexual."

Something sexual was coming out of my knee to arouse the friend in my bed on the eve of the deadline which I was sure would send us into hot, desert war that cool night two days after I saw the Indian and his bird on the bus taking me to work and my love lay dying.

"Thank you."

"For what?" I said lying next to her.

"You were the only one I could trust not to call the ambulance. Thank you for not calling and thank you for coming so I could see you one last time. I love you." She told me, taking almost five minutes.

"I don't know why I don't. Your arms are cold almost to your shoulder." I listened to her heart. It was very slow but still steady.

Her eyes wide, deep, and sad, "Please don't. You promised me."

I forced down the lump in my throat and nodded.

She smiled and closed her eyes sinking back into peace once more.

Would I get prosecuted? I thought and felt foolish and ashamed.

"I love you too."

"I know." She said.

"I'm very attracted to you." I heard through the still coolness on the eve of war and he turned to face me in the dark. I felt his breath, warm and sweet, on my face.

I wanted to reach out and hug him, hold him, but told him of my loneliness, fear, and confusion.

"She did it on purpose, to die on purpose. How can life be that black at twenty two?" I said to him. "I feel cold inside and knowing all that and that I'm still drunk - you have an open invitation."

On the news they talked about efforts for peace failing every day and about how many men were being sent and the thousand pound bombs to be dropped from the twenty five B-52's and the medics and the horrors of the chemicals expected to be used against Tel Aviv in the first of the resource wars. The pigeon was definitely dying but I didn't care because she wanted to feel my penis inside her without a condom just this once.

"I want to make love to you one last time." She said.

"I'll understand if you don't want too."

How could I not?

I had to lick her so I could slip it in. She was cold and dry inside. Feeling already dead. Again my tears rose and fell onto her face as I pumped into her, slowly, and came. She smiled a little.

"I know it was hard. Thank you." The words in decrescendo faded and she drifted off.

The first time I'd ever been French kissed by a man his beard scratched my face and his strong arms kept the coldness from touching me too deep. All my life I've had a penis, often hard, but the hardness of his, in my mouth and in my hand, surprised me - but I kept looking for pussy.

When she woke up after several hours I could barely control my excitement. She was furious, livid, alive.

"How come I'm not dead? I'm supposed to be dead! I ate enough of those pills to kill a fucking horse. How come I'm not dead?" She tried to sit but she was hung-over and I smiled. She nearly killed me for it but I sent out for pizza.

It was the next day that I went home on the bus to meet my friend for beer and recharging. I told him about the pills she'd taken and the cold creeping up her legs and arms into her vagina and we got drunk and went home to bed.

Even though, or maybe because it looked just a little like a Dove, but gray, forty five thousand more troops were sent to the Arab desert and the pigeon didn't care. It died at

Seventeenth Avenue

and only made it to the beach because a tearful Indian thought it was right, wrapped in its white, linen shroud.


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