When I was six years old I murdered my cousins’ bird. I have no recollection of the murder or that they ever had pet birds to begin with. The first time I’m hearing of the incident is July 4, 2013. I’m 31 years old, my family is barbecuing, and my cousins are telling me about the day Chubby died.
The birdcage was somewhere in their two-bedroom apartment in Woodside, Queens. I was trying to scare Chubby, they said, the fattest of the parakeets. I slid a 12-inch (30.48 cm) metal ruler between the bars of the cage and used the tip of it to fuck with the bird.
I imagine stainless steel poking Chubby’s feather armor—a twisted game of child and caged bird. But one of the pokes was a sharp one and ended up slicing Chubby either along the neck or belly. He fell to the floor of the cage lined with newspaper and died over a forgotten headline or coupon long expired.
One cousin’s heart broke for the bird. Another cousin says he never liked the thing in the first place. The youngest was too young to remember—yet still does.
I have no idea what six-year-old Louie felt at the time, but 31-year-old Lou feels shock at the cruelty the he was capable of, amazement that he could forget such a thing—were there other murders? corpses piling up? …his missing neighbor?—and remorse.
Sometimes I feel like I’m making up for the shitty things I did as a kid. I hope I’m doing a good job.
(For Lisa, John, Brian, and Chubby.)