Feed on

 In the confessional the priest asked me if I practiced self-pollution. The words were formal, unfamiliar, but I knew what he meant. So, I thought, kneeling there in the dark, crushed with shame, there’s a name for it. I looked at the shadowy grill, looked toward the source of the soothing voice of absolution, the voice of forgiveness and hope, and I lied. ‘No,’ I whispered (108).

This story hints at a central theme that is, simply, sexuality is a sin. The main character struggles internally with his developing feelings that his religion condemns. As a twelve-year-old boy, he has an idea what “self-pollution” is and he feels ashamed that he has been doing something that is deemed dirty or self-harming. With the arrival of the bird, things turn sexual. Suddenly, “seedy” men are standing in the streets and the protagonist becomes antsy and wants to be part of the action.

I glanced up and saw my father in the back of the crowd, standing close to Mrs. Schlecta and whispering something in her ear. Her lips were wet. I didn’t know where my mother was. At the far end of the lot a girl in a college sweater was leaning against the fender of a convertible while her boyfriend pressed himself against her as if he wanted to dance (107).

Looking at the bird, which is symbolism for the lust the main character might have for a girl, the town and even his father seem overcome with desire. This passage also hints that his father is having an affair with Mrs. Schlecta due to his mother being nowhere in sight and his father being so close to the woman. Even the mention of her wet lips draws one’s attention to how much this story seems to be drenched in sexual innuendo. This is a coming of age story where the main character is being pushed into the confusing and strange adult world. Not only is he being told what is happening to him is unnatural, he is also trying to develop his own feelings on what is right and wrong. Looking at the bird, he is drawn closer and closer to the wonder of it; the amazement it fills him with. But he also scared of this thing that the adults tell him is wrong even as they themselves indulge in it. Going back to the fire and hanging out in the abandoned house, he is stuck between letting go of his inhibitions and staying away from what the church deems as “pollution”. In the end, he views the wound of the bird; the “raw”, “red”, and “wet” element between its legs. The fear overtakes him and pushes him to deny the feelings as he “threw the first stone” (109).



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