Earl Lowell "Robbie" aka "No Sweat" Robbins
August 22, 1961. Paris, France
The racing homer stood on one foot looking tranced into the yellowy light directed into its face by Francis Marroux's flashlight. Sometimes when a pigeon was at roost it would rest and lay on its keel keeping its legs and feet tucked just so, balancing as if it were sitting on eggs.
But sometimes not.
Sometimes when trying to roost the bird would stand on both legs.
Especially when the mosquitoes invaded.
Sometimes a pigeon would nearly close one eye while its other remained wider yet just as asleep.
And some rare times, both eyes closed and the bird dreams as birds do.
Pigeons own such rich lives in which they forget themselves.
They are aware to sunsets and shades of green and fireflies and how the moon is or is not full.
And because they see more beauty, see more light, they fly in heaven in their dreams and coo ever so gentle as they go.
In August in Paris it was impossible for a pigeon to dream for the air was warm and still, the Seine River's mosquitoes were searching for the skin of the bare legs and the fleshy eye ceres of pigeons.
Francis Marroux heard the birds tap dancing in the dark and knew his birds would have no dreams in their loft this night less the one they shared together called life.
That word Sion, kept bothering Francis.
. The Notre Dame cathedral was built on an island in the Seine River called Mount Sion.
Years ago, while Francis and the man he chauffeured and protected with his life so many times,, Charles de Gaulle, had stepped from that cathedral he glanced up at gargoyle looking down at them as the the bells were being rung when he noticed bits of rock chipping oddly around them.
Bullets hitting in protected noise.
Such close call.
Francis continued thinking.
His birds had been in the French Resistance.
And they had come indirectly from a man named Paul Sion.
Francis Marroux always found refuge in his loft.
No cathedral could compare.
It was a paradisiac place to rest and shut out the rest of the world.
And for a precious while allow his heart to be with his pigeons.
Ideologies and morals changed but the poor pigeon remained the same.
In his solitude, Francis Marroux, beguiled by his birds, thought of the car he always drove, a black Citroen Deesse, such a sleek and French beauty but still, nothing compared to his Sions.
In no way was it so bewitching.
Those Sions were brave and unsung and in this he found them as wonderful kindred spirits.
How many times had he and de Gaulle escaped death?
Yesterday, he had shifted down to third gear with two flat tires to gain control and keep the Citroen Deesse from flipping as thirteen bullets ripped through the metal all around them.
Last month, a bomb exploded in a sand pile and de Gaulle never paused, ordering him to drive straight on through the flames.
So much, yes.
The pigeons listened to Francis Marroux's confessions.
He was afraid of dying.
But if he had to die then let him die with de Gaulle.
Let him die with a man as brave, no, more, than himself.
De Gaulle mocked death. "Such poor shots," he'd say. He said it so often, And always with no expression. De Gaulle's insistence upon the right of self-determination for the French colony of Algeria caused the shots.
The huge, round, stained--glass rose window centered atop the west entrance of Notre Dame cathedral crept into Francis Marroux's mind as his flashlight moved to another racer trying to roost.
Its feathers were such a lovely red.
The reddest blood of all, a pigeon owns, thought Francis Marroux.
So very red...
Oh how the pigeons love to play.