Fly Diamonds

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Chapter 13

From the first time Juan had read about pigeon Sputnik traps, he’d been fascinated with their simplicity and their clever design. The trap was just a shelf attached to the middle of a box, really, that was built of sticks and walls made of chicken wire. The birds landed on the jutting shelf that resembled the landing pads of flying cars in The Jetsons. Then there were open bays set at a forty-five-degree angle that the birds could hop through, which put them on a level about eight inches lower, where there was food. Though the pigeons could hop in, they couldn’t fly back out, because the openings only allowed them to squeeze through with their wings closed. If they wanted to fly out, there was simply no room. The trap was a one-way door, basically, into their home where the food awaited. The trap was then attached to the main aviary building, and the birds moved in to meet their partners or feed their young. It was a beautifully simple device that allowed them to enter at any time, leaving the pigeon keeper carefree about their arrival time.

But carefree was the opposite of what Juan was right now. He needed to figure out a rudimentary alarm system. He needed to know the exact arrival time of that last pigeon.

“Juan!” Virginia called.

“Qué” (What), he responded.

“Tengo que salir. No puedo viajar sin mi estuche de coser.” (I need to go out. I can’t travel without my sewing kit.)

“OK. ¡Aqui te espero, pero no te tardes porfa!” (OK, I’ll wait here, but don’t be long, please!) he screamed at the sky as he lay on top of a small parapet wall about eight inches high as the entire roof was still wet. He looked as if he could fall off with one hand dangling off the edge. But the fall wouldn’t be lethal, because the house was only about ten feet high in its entirety.

Then it dawned on him. Sewing thread! He quickly concocted a simple alarm, a single strand of sewing string traversing all three doors of the Sputnik trap, attached to a small bell his mother kept in the dining area. She rarely had help, but when she did, she loved to call the cook with the tiny bell. Virginia kept all sorts of traditions of a better time.

He found thread in the sewing machine; not all of it was kept in the sewing kit Virginia went out for. He quickly assembled the string system, allowing him to leave the roof and continue his plans. He returned below to pack all the household items, carefully placed his mother’s Dalí prints in a box and enclosed all six prints in plastic bubble material, making sure they were safe.

From time to time he carefully ensured that the pigeons were fully burned to ash. He kept adding lighter fluid to the steel drum and relighting it so that the smoldering would continue.

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