I’m not sure what’s weirder, the fact that, from the sky, a seagull dropped a large mammalian bone on my head as I was walking to class in Rome the other day, or the fact that this has more or less happened to me twice.

Probably the latter.

February 2013:

I had just left my apartment, and slammed the heavy wood-and-iron door behind me. I turned and walked about ten feet, when SMACK! Something bounced off of my shoulder and onto the cobblestones next to me. At first I looked up. Nothing, not even an old lady hanging out the window. Just blue sky and white clouds.

Then I looked down. A bone, much bigger than a chicken bone but, thankfully, smaller than a human bone, lay at my feet. I am regretful but compelled to mention that there was some raw meat still hanging onto the end.

At first, I thought some unthoughtful person had tossed it out of a window like trash, without looking to see who was walking underneath. But all the windows and even shutters were closed, and anyway I was too far from the windows for something to have been accidentally dropped on me. I began to contemplate the horrific, alternative possibility that someone had thrown the fleshy bone out of a window and onto me, on purpose, when, like the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a voice behind me said:

“It was a bird.”

The voice was coming from a man in an apron and a broom outside of the small parking garage next to my building.

“A bird??”

“Yes, have you seen them? The seagulls, they are enormous. They pick up trash and drop them all the time.”

“But this is a bone. A big one.”

“I know, I saw it. I’m thinking a cat or a dog. There are so many strays. One probably died and a seagull scavenged it. Then carried the bone for awhile until it became too heavy.”

“Well, er, ha ha, it sure has good aim.”

I walked away and heard him call behind me, “You should play the lottery!”

January 2003:

I was on my scooter (not the one I have now), on my way to my Italian boyfriend’s house (not the one I have now). I was sitting at a red light, in the front of the line of vehicles. No one was in front of me. The street – the one that circles around Castel Sant’Angelo – was wide enough that there were neither trees nor buildings over my head.


A bird, dead, hit the ground at my feet with a splat. I looked around. Had anyone else seen this? Another lady on a scooter had seen it and said, “Che schifo! How disgusting!”  I was in shock. The sky is large, no? Millions and millions of cubic miles of space and sky, and a bird dropped dead, in mid-flight, at my feet.

When I got to my boyfriend’s house 20 minutes later, I told his family (he lived with his family, surprised?) the story and his mother said:

“You should check the lottery book to see what number dead birds correspond to, and play it!”

That’s why the other day I knew what the man in the apron was getting at when he said I should play the lottery. I couldn’t help but smile. I wonder which has better odds – winning the lottery, or that two birds would attack me in Rome ten years apart.