There is nothing like a wood-fired pizza, and Hard Knox Pizza makes an inspiring pie. I am a fan of the Iron Mike. The crust is paper-thin, the ingredients über fresh, and the spinach gives you the illusion of health when chased with Blackstone ale.
From the parking lot, my date and I could see a ton of Friday night people lined up to order. Standing on the sidewalk outside the front door was a muffin-topped blonde in spandex chirping on the phone. I followed her downward gaze to the strange thing on the cement two feet away from the door. My brain did a double take: Lying in repose on the cement was a falcon.
“Is that real?” Princess Muffin Top quacked. Humphrey Bogart’s Dingus was as big as a shoebox and eerily still. The glass awning over the restaurant failed to reveal any signs of impact, nor did the windows. Perhaps the impact merely stunned this bird, or maybe it was dead.
Back inside and ready to order dinner, I could not stop staring out the window. I was hoping my bird would wake up and fly away from all the people stepping over it. The specter of this scene became unbearable. So out I went with two copies of Metro Pulse to wrap around the victim and find an appropriate crypt for it. The bird was heavy for her size, with surreal wings crossed around her chest like Tutankhamen. The perfectly interlocked feathers showed no sign of trauma and there was no blood. Both vulnerable and formidable, she had the potential to open her eyes and tell me I had been admitted to Hogwarts School.
No such luck.
My date gently put his hand on her breast and said, “I think this just happened.” I cradled the paper-wrapped falcon closer to my heart. “I want to help this little thing, I have to do something. It’s only fair and right.” He leaned over and whispered, “Sweetheart, this is just the vessel that held the falcon. This creature is already free; she is already gone. There is nothing you can do except respect the precious box that once held her soul and let it go.” Apparently my companion was both poet and philosopher. We found a little hedge in the corner of the shopping center by a tree and placed my falcon and its shroud of newsprint in the midst of some underbrush.
Do birds have souls? Why did this one have to die? Was it pilot error that caused the fatal crash? Was this actually a murder? The sadness of all the unanswered questions and my own impotence was as haunting as the bird enshrined some 500 feet away from date-night dinner.
We plunked down on opposite sides of a table with Iron Mike and two beers. I wondered how many other of Wonderville’s two-legged creatures are found inexplicably dead, only to be discarded because there is no one to claim them. Worse still, if the body is just a temporary captor of the soul, does any of this really matter?
My father always mused that funerals are for the living, not the dead. Eleven years after his passing, I think I finally understand what he meant. It’s been three weeks since I held the Maltese Falcon of Wonderville, and I’ve yet to shake the specter of its beauty, the mystery of its demise, and the relationship puzzle between body, soul, and universe. My mother believes everything in life is a puzzle waiting to reveal a deeper meaning. Churning through the existential relevance of the falcon plummeted our pizza dinner into buzzkill territory. Was the falcon a sign from the universe or was it just a dead bird? The mental masturbation was exhausting.
Like Gertrude Stein’s rose for Emily, a dead falcon is still a dead falcon. Angst and grief will not change the truth of the moment. Such is the Zen of events in our ordinary little lives that remind us how reality shifts unexpectedly and we are often powerless to do anything about it. Except weep over a pizza and beer.