Author | Anna Konradi
On August Street the pigeons are altogether unafraid. This is in part due to Albert Moss, who on weekdays reads his scripts to the birds. Albert’s plays are never remarkable, but the pigeons don’t mind one way or another. They are a respectable audience as any, quietly milling about and kissing the earth in hopes of an afternoon meal.
On Tuesday Albert sets the scene in Brooklyn; he often writes about New York, although he has never been more than a short drive away from his home, which is a short walk away from August Street.
“The skyline is dark against the colorless sky,” says Albert. “The people can sense the approaching snow.” He is sure, down to his core, that this script is something momentous. He can feel the words tremble as they leave his lips; the sheer potency they possess is something Albert is sure he has not felt in quite some time. Because of the magnitude of the occasion, Albert throws little chunks of dense, dark bread into the air. The pigeons form small, starving cliques around each gifted morsel. Albert’s delight in each line grows until an entire loaf has been dismantled and fed to the scavengers.
Two weeks previously Albert’s script had been something extraordinary. He performed for the pigeons, his movements jerky and exaggerated. Once he nearly tossed his papers into the air, unable to control his muscles for all the excitement. To any passerby, Albert was nothing but a mad man. He was nothing of the sort, of course. Albert knew his script was extraordinary. In celebration he threw bread and crackers into the air and shouted his play to all of August Street.
This is the cycle of Albert Moss. On weekdays he reads his scripts to the pigeons, who are as familiar with his enthusiastic displays as they are with the feasts he provides. Every now and then Albert writes something spectacular, something momentous and fabulous—a play that will make history. The play two weeks before? Spectacular, alone, but mediocre—dull, even—in the shadow of its successor.
Alfred turns August Street pigeons beautiful. In his excitement he tosses the bread and crackers high in the air, and for a moment each and every bird cranes its thick, iridescent neck toward the sky. On slow days, or when he is still in exhaustion after a performance, Alfred marvels at the birds’ necks. The otherwise plain creatures are made extraordinary by deep, lustrous hues, which they wear like necklaces around their throats. In the sunlight the purples and greens seem to reflect a color which is unrecognizable to the human eye. If he closes his eyes tightly, lets the memory of color bloom like bruises on the insides of his lids, Albert is sure that he can recreate the colors of the pigeons’ necklaces. Albert wonders where the colors came from. They serve no purpose to the peasant birds. Perhaps, once upon a time the pigeons were the kings of the birds, but time or rebellion or betrayal took from them all the glamour and perks of kingship save for a string of jewels round their throats. When they gather around a chunk of bread their necks connect like a blossom, unafraid to bloom brightly even in such a pallid landscape.
August Street pigeons are unafraid as an audience is unafraid. Albert is something of a spectacle, even to them. They watch, absentmindedly or pensively, Albert isn’t sure, and wait for something spectacular. When inspiration hits, and Albert becomes overtaken with the excitement that comes with the realization that you’ve discovered something momentous, the pigeons feast like kings. A passerby might hurry past, but the lovely, extraordinary pigeons are still, listening and waiting.
About the Author | Anna Konradi is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is a Howard Nemerov Writing Scholar. She grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended The Episcopal School of Dallas all the way from elementary school to senior year. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes include taking mediocre pictures and trying out new coffee shops.