“Pip! Pippin! Let’s go for a walk!”
Pippin chirps excitedly. His life isn’t terrible by any means, but sitting in a cage all day long doing nothing can get a little tiresome. His walks were the best part of the week.
His owner, Lea, lets him out of his cage and he flies into the air excitedly. Lea grabs her phone and they start their walk towards the park. Pippin didn’t like the park all too much, because the crows there always bullied him. But last time, he had met a hummingbird named Salli, and she had told him that the only reason they were so mean was because they were hungry all the time. Pippin had felt bad for them, then, so he decided he would treat them with kindness, and maybe even bring a little treat next time.
That’s why he is flying extra fast today, trying to become friendly with the crows. Lea is lagging behind though, so Pippin grudgingly slows down. She is talking on her phone, so he flew closer to hear.
“—and he’s so cute! Yeah, he sells pretzels in the park, and you would literally never believe your eyes unless you saw him. He’s also, like, TikTok famous. Yeah, these girls wanted to take a picture with him or something. No, but, yeah, don’t worry. No, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. How dumb do you think I am? What the heck, no! I’m not going to introduce you to him. Girl, no! O-M-G, are you even my friend right now? God. No, I don’t want to talk anymore. No, shut up. I’m hanging up. No. Bye!”
Lea shoves her phone into her pocket with a sigh. Pippin comfortingly flies close to her, and she pats him on his head softly.
“Thanks, Pip. You’re the best bird I could ask for. Humans aren’t as nice, though. You know? Like, a bird would never try to steal your man but a human girl? Yeah, without a doubt. You talk about anything with a pulse and all of a sudden she just goes ahead and snatches it up.”
Pippin chirps wisely. He knows exactly what she’s talking about. It’s the same with him and the crows, and them trying to snatch up all the food in the park.
“It’s not their fault, they’re just trying to get food,” Pippin tells Lea with an all-knowing expression.
Lea just shakes her head at him. “Pip, you chirp so much. It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. Thank God you can’t understand me, though, ’cause that would be pretty embarrassing.”
Pippin scoffs. That’s kind of rude. Humans think they know everything and are the superior race, but they have to poop in a bin and do so many things to get a mate. Birds had simpler and better lives, in Pip’s opinion.
They near the park, and Lea finally starts to speed up. She is solely focused on the pretzel stand that’s right in front of her, so she doesn’t notice when Pippin veers off to meet the crows on the benches.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lea approach the pretzel stand. He briefly wonders how she’s going to talk to him without ordering a pretzel, because he knows she hates pretzels. But then his focus is drawn to the crows, who hop down in front of him and crowd him.
“It’s Pip! It’s little, baby Pip!” One of them coos nastily.
“The pet,” another mocks. “Being fed, clothed, bathed daily like a pet. How pathetic.”
Pippin squares his chest. “Look, I know you dislike me, but I must say I don’t dislike you. Honestly, I feel very sorry for you. I know it’s hard to find food here, and I’m sure it’s really hard to go hungry all the time. I just wanted you to know that I feel for you guys, alright?”
The crows look at each other for a second, then all of them burst out laughing.
“Aw, Pip!” The biggest one of them all comes right up to him. “You’re too funny. Now quit playing and give us some food.”
“I didn’t bring any,” Pippin whispers, as the crows close in around him. “I’m sorry, just, please give me until next week.”
“We ain’t waiting that long, bud,” the crow, Buzz, threatens him. “It’s either now or you pay the price in feathers.”
“No,” Pip whimpers. “No, no, no!” He flies straight up. “Listen, just give me a second. I have an idea, I swear. I’ll give you food!”
The crows all look up at him menacingly.
“You’d better, punk,” Buzzhisses. “‘Cause otherwise we’ll be making pipin’ hot Pippin pie.”
Pippin gulps, looking frantically around for someone or something to save him. He spots Salli in a nearby tree right away, but she looks away as soon as he makes eye contact. Even if he can convince her to help him, she might not have any food either. He scans the park until—there!
Lea and the pretzel boy are chatting it up, while she holds an untouched, beautiful, shiny pretzel.
“There! I’ll get you that pretzel! I’ll get it right now!” Pippin promises. “Please?”
The crows grumble among themselves.
“You have a minute,” Buzz warns.
Pippin flies off, a bird on a mission, barreling straight towards Lea and the boy. He flies right into the side of Lea’s hair, and she yelps and drops the pretzel.
“Pippin!” she cried, mortified. Pippin pays her no heed, swooping straight for the pretzel in the bag. He struggles to hold it and fly it at the same time, as it’s nearly as big as him, but he flaps and flaps his wings until he is off the ground.
“That your bird? the Pretzel Boy asks.
“Yeah, he’s—hey, Pip!” Lea calls after him as he begins the treacherous journey through the maze of human legs and golden retrievers. He flies as fast as he can, and though he has one or two near-death experiences with a child and a husky, he makes it to the bench once again.
With his last remaining strength, he drops the pretzel onto the bench. The crows all stare up at him in fascination and awe.
“Well,” Buzz finally breaks the silence grudgingly. “You’ve got guts, kid, I’ll give you that.”
Pippin sags against the bench, exhausted. “Now will you leave me alone?”
Buzz thinks about it, then glares. “No.”
Oh, please, God! No more! Pippin thinks.
“But!” Buzz continues, and Pippin’s hopes resurface. “If you can get us a pretzel every time you come to this park, we’ll stop bothering you, and you can go play with your little girlfriend.” He motions vaguely towards Salli’s tree.
Pippin’s cheeks become warm. He waves dismissively with his wing. “Salli? Her? No, she’s just—I mean, we’re just—”
“Are you in or not!?” Buzz shouts.
Pippins thinks about it. Lea might not buy a pretzel every time she comes to the park; then again, she liked Pretzel Boy, and maybe that would be enough. And it would be really nice to see Salli again…
“Deal.” The two birds shake wings.
“Pippin!” Lea calls from the pretzel stand.
Pippin nods once at the crows, feeling strangely like they are suddenly equal, then makes his slow trip towards Lea.
“Pip!” Lea has an overly sugary tone coating her voice, and she’s fidgeting with her hair and clothes.
Human girls, Pippin thinks in disgust. Always with their childish wiles and charms. Salli would never sink to such inane levels of flirting. Yet another example of why birds are better.
“Jake, meet Pippin. I adopted him when he was just a baby.”
Jake, the Pretzel Boy, waves at Pippin and Pip nods politely back at him. Personally, he couldn’t see why Lea liked him so much. Half of Jake’s hair was covering his face, and the boy was dressed in some god awful neon hoodie. But Lea didn’t interfere in his personal life, so he wouldn’t interfere with hers.
“He’s dope!” Jake turns his smile on Lea. “Hey, add me on Snap, okay? And come back with him soon, he’s so cool. I think he likes my pretzels.”
“Oh, yeah, for sure!” Lea giggles, leaning towards Jake like a crazy woman.
“Maybe he wants another one?” Jake suggests.
“No,” Pippin began. “I actually would not—”
Lea squeals loudly, cutting off Pip’s polite refusal. “Oh, for sure, for sure!” She basically throws the money at Jake, smiling like mad when he touches her hand to give her the pretzel. She thrusts it at Pip, who takes a small bite to be nice.
“See you soon?” Jake smiles.
Lea giggles. What was it with this girl and giggling? “For sure! See you, Jake!”
She skips away, almost leaving Pippin behind in her daze.
“You, good sir,” Lea addresses Pippin after a few minutes. “Are the best wingman a girl could ask for!”
And so began the trend for the rest of the year. Lea would go to the park twice a week and buy a pretzel from Jake. While she chatted him up, Pippin would bring the pretzel over to the crows, who as they promised, left him alone. He would hang out with Salli in her little nest for the rest of the trip, until Lea called him back. Lea and Jake would gush over Pippin’s cute little eyes, nose, and feet and Jake would convince Lea to give him another pretzel. She would comply (with many giggles) and then shove another pretzel in Pip’s face.
To be honest, Pippin had started enjoying those pretzels. Jake had started putting some fun toppings on them, and it was a nice change from the bird food that he was used to. The only problem, though, was the sheer amount of pretzels that were presented to him.
As Jake and Lea started getting closer, Lea would visit him at the park more. This led to almost daily visits to the pretzel stand. The crows were really happy, sure, but this meant that Pippin got a pretzel almost every day. And these weren’t small pretzels, either, they were huge. Almost as big as his body.
But he couldn’t stop eating them. He couldn’t simply throw it away in the trash because the plain and simple truth was that he had become obsessed, truly and utterly obsessed with those pretzels.
As if matters couldn’t get worse, the crows suddenly uprooted and left. Without a warning, even. Pippin would even say that him and Buzz had gotten kind of friendly, or if not friendly, then at least they had come to a mutual agreement of not hating each other.
But for some reason, the entire family wasn’t there one day when he arrived. Or the next, or the next, or the next. Without the exercise of lugging the pretzel to the crows, combined with the fact that not having the crows meant two pretzels a day for Pippin, Pip started to become extremely fat.
Now, he was a fat bird to begin with. That was just his body style. And Lea had always fed him well before their pretzel visits. But with these huge pretzels twice a day and being in the cage for the rest of time, he had become huge.
He confessed this to Salli one day, high up in her nest. “Salli, I don’t know what to do. I can’t stop. I just can’t.”
Salli just shook her head. “I can’t help you anymore, Pip.”
Pippin looked up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Salli wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I’m breaking up with you, Pippin. I’m sorry.”
No matter how he begged and pleaded to tell him what was wrong, to take him back, to just tell him so he could fix it, she wouldn’t budge. He went home that day with a heavy heart and an even heavier pretzel.
That night, he couldn’t sleep. He kept hoping for a sign that would mean everything was going to be alright. He gazed out of the window longingly through his cage and just by chance, he saw a shooting star go by. He jumped up in amazement. He was wishing for a sign, and there it was, loud and clear.
Pippin closed his eyes. Dear Shooting Star, he prayed. Show me the root of all my troubles, show me what I have done wrong, show me why Salli left me. And if what I have done is truly irreversible and a heinous crime, then let it be imprinted on my body for forever. Let the world know what I have done wrong, if it truly is as bad as it seems.
Nothing happened. Pippin heaved a great big sigh, and shook his head in sadness. With one tear slowly leaking out of his black eye, he fell asleep.
Lea Taylor woke up early in the morning, ready to get her cup of coffee and to feed her bird, Pippin.
“Pip!” she called. “I’m up!”
She made her way to the cage, holding an open bag of bird food. She looked up from her coffee and dropped the bag in horror. Hundreds of little bird food pellets scattered everywhere, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.
Because in Pippin’s cage, sat a tiny black bird—with a pretzel for a body.