Some time ago, the pigeon's proud ancestral line took up nest on the streets of New York City. The intervening years moved very quickly around it. The buildings would steadily push higher day by day until eventually, even the most ignorant creatures became disinterested in soaring to the top. Layers of smog held down the clouds, stapling them to the sidewalk. The largest settlement of pigeons lived in a small green patch at the center of a gray quilt. It was an allowance made to give perch, with trees that dried like prunes during the winter and wheezed like a smoker's laugh under fall wind. The earth, dusted with grass as it was, relinquished nothing more nourishing than the concrete surrounding it. Those inquisitive enough to tell the buildings apart would venture out, the wastefulness of flying offset by hunger. The sight of a pigeon with talons gripped to all manner of delicious scraps attracted in turn all manner of unexpected followers: the sleek brown rats, who’s fur had been mussed from scampering past the traffic jammed in unaware patterns above them, the round shrill chickadee groups that fluttered down from tree branches as if mischievous confetti, and of course, the pigeons, their bobbing green heads and beady eyes sticking out above the rabble. Bickering was secondary to food, especially as they began to navigate the jungle as a buffet. Half eaten hamburgers picked by the wrapper out of metal vases next to fruitful, rotten metallic pits with mouths split wide, filled to the brim of enough to last a lifetime. Within a few years there was agreement among the cacophony. If on the hunt for food, also be on the hunt for those to give it to. Their community mutated steadily off instinct. Generations would grow up with the sky open to them in their mind. An excitable wave of filthy animals would slide down the gullet of the road into the heart of the city, splashing up towers and leaving stains at their peak. Mark appeared suddenly one day, as if to quell that dream.

Not many of those featherless, long legged human things took root nearby; Mark was the exception. Mark would talk to himself about it, saying things like "so many rats, scaring everybody off I bet." and "shit!" when the benches split apart under years of hungry rain. He was withered and spotted with neglect, his body moving with the speed of moss limping up a rock. At first, only a few perplexed little ones ate from his outstretched palm. That was, until the breadth of his generosity became apparent. It seemed like seeds were all he carried in that loose fitting jacket. Soon, those little ones would flutter onto his shoulder and peck at his ear as he read the news, a grin stiffly bending his cracked lips upward. His unthinking smile placed itself hovering as a beacon. It had the glow of any windowsill placed two stories above the street, beyond where pigeons could fly without being brushed away. Eventually, those gathering food would return to see many of the hungry waiting for something better; waiting for a man who would not appear for the rest of the day. They would starve themselves, as if moldy cheese and blueberries weren't filling anymore. Mark, as well, had grown picky at the same time. Though he would plead on street corners to the high minded and straight backed, his blood was running dry. First to go were any old and inelegant, or those with wings incapable of reaching his shoulder. Pigeons especially, were graceless. They shuffled out, unnoticed as they had always been.

Now the bright and beautiful captured his attention; birds beginning to appear with the arrival of summer glinting in the sun as if gifted its warmth, pruned to artificial life. Each morning, he peered expectantly at the open windows in which they lived, until descending on warpaths and twisting expertly through outstretched branches, they would arrive on his shoulder. The sky was warm and idyllic when they swept through, stars peppering the ragged gray and black of the small man they clung to. He held them close always, even as he slipped from the sunken mud covered stone platforms he now sat on in place of benches. A natural scene of kindness, as it is imagined to look. They would always wait for him to rise again and sprinkle out whatever he had left. He would let rattle a creaking laugh at how his perfection danced for him. Over time his greetings wavered, eyes wandering hopefully toward the sea of passerby he was drowning in. He could call the stars down, but above the night grew deeper. Its breath kept him flat on his back, shivering under torn blankets for hours before falling asleep, famished. It did not occur to offer him food, nor did it seem abnormal when one morning he did not rise on time for breakfast. Even the next morning, hunger was what struck the creatures before worry. By the third day, careful pecking at an ear tore it from his head as if it were held in place by loose string. By the fourth, they had eaten it and begun screeching for more. The desperate wailing nagged at the husk of Mark but did not move it. By the fifth day, the birds settled back with their owners, not noticing as tall men took Mark away. No cry from Mark had split the waves until they stole him. On this day and forevermore, the pigeons nested elsewhere.