Bye Bye Blackbird

I was at Manny’s, Chicago’s lunchtime hangout for cops, political hacks and sharpies. A guy I knew called me over. He was known as The Tuna (nicknames are big at Manny’s).

He invited me to join him in a back booth. “Got a story for you,” he said. “About a good deed I tried to do.”

“A good deed that went bad?”

“How’d you know?”

“I can see it in your face, Tuna.”

“Well, I bet you’ll like this,” he said, “You bein’ a birdbrain and all.”

Tuna was the birdbrain as it turned out. But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let him speak.

“We found this little crow in the backyard. Couldn’t fly. Just sittin’ in the grass, not moving. It had spunk, though. Nipped my fingers.”

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“A young one,” I said. “Since it’s spring and all.”

“Yeah, even I knew that,” Tuna said. “Now I figure the bird might not make it overnight, out in the open. We got animals comin’ around, you know?

“It’s a jungle out there.”

“Raccoons, coyotes, we have to lock up our garbage cans like bank vaults.”

“So what’d you do? Take him inside?”

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I bit into my bagel, a Manny’s specialty. Tuna chomped into his usual. A sloppy tuna sandwich. Between bites he continued the sad story.

“Nah, wife wouldn’t let me. So I hid him behind some bushes, up against the house. A good hideout, y’know? Then, around 3 A.M. we hear squawking. Next morning, just black feathers and some blood. I feel terrible.”

“Well, at least you tried.”

“Yeah, I did. I even left a midnight snack for the little guy in case he got hungry. So he could build up his strength.”

“Midnight snack? You didn’t say anything about that before.”

“I was tryin’ to do a good deed, y’ know?”

He was getting heated up, leaning across the table as he spoke. I had to back away from the fish breath. That was the clue I needed.

“Tuna, I know what you gave him.”

He slumped against the back of the booth. He stopped in mid-chew. And he said, “So what? Birds are fish eaters, right?”

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“Pal, you can smell canned tuna for blocks. You sent out a message to the neighborhood animals, loud and clear. It said ‘come and get it.’”

Tuna looked down, knowing I was right and that he messed up.

“You made that crow a sitting duck.”

 

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