Word Bohemia September Writing Challenge: Day 4

Day four of the writing challenge over at WordBohemia.co.uk. Really enjoying these, great pictures!

(Image by Cassie Tillett)

(Image by Cassie Tillett)

The Pigeonhole

“Clever bird, who’s a clever bird?” the man coos, reaching out a hand. The hand is missing two fingers and a thumb. The first war. It’s ruled him out of action this time around. That, and his age.

A clever bird? Not this one, anyway. Some bizarre connection has tied it to the earth’s fields. It doesn’t know why people keep grabbing it, sticking things to its leg and setting it free. It does know the way though. Always, it knows where it’s supposed to go.

This frees up less brain than you would think. Pigeons are not great thinkers. They are far from the most intelligent birds. That would be ravens, or crows, or a bird of prey. The Germans use hawks. But nobody can get a crow to home, or stop it from pecking messages off its leg and scattering confidential information all over London.

The old soldier sighs. He doesn’t like pigeons, but his father used to keep them, and that’s why he’s been put in this post. He always shared his mother’s view. “Flying rats,” she’d spit, scrubbing pots and pans until they shone.

Yet he feels sorry for the stupid creature, cowering on the doorstep. It looks so pathetic, too stupid to fly into the special flap in a door built for birds. If locals notice the red door with the number 22 touching the ground and a false panel, they say nothing. It’s London after all. Plenty of strange things here, and people are largely concentrating on not being hit by German bombers.

Nothing for it except to grab it. He reaches forward and feels the shiver of repulsion he always gets when he touches a bird. The bones are too light. He feels for the tiny cylinder on the leg and pulls it. Suddenly the pigeon makes a break for it, escaping from the gap where his fingers used to be. And then, a warm and wet sensation on his shoulder. The stupid thing flutters up to the eaves, leaving Corporal Glover standing below with a coded message in his hand and birdshit all over his uniform.

“Bloody birds,” he mutters, and slams the red door.

(Author’s note: I didn’t do any research whatsoever before writing this, so I realise it probably contains glaring historical inaccuracies!)

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