The Pigeons

A short story of scavengers in a desperate town.

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© 2015 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

They trot along the street, their heads bobbing and nervous, as if they have lost their way amongst the parked cars. They are just looking to find some shelter, something that’s away from the non-existent breeze that ruffles their coats, so they stop under a doorframe.

His hat is pulled down tight and it muffles his reddened ears and she has done the same even though the day is still warm and clear. She mumbles something incoherent, then takes another swig from her can of beer. He tries to explain how the government have ruined the country, but she can’t see what he is trying to say. Not that it makes much sense to him out loud, but now he has spoken there’s no way he would admit that he has got it all, everything, wrong.

Looking up he can see the silhouette of a tower block with signs plastered on it advertising offices to let. He tells her that they should rent an office as it’s cheaper than a flat. At least then they could sleep in the warm. She replies, yes, and gazes off towards the horizon for a moment, then resumes her mumbling and asks for the end of his cigarette.

He takes one more long drag before passing her the measly remains that are still yet to expire. She holds it tight between her fingers and wraps them back around the can of beer. The cigarette embers still burn away and ash collapses from her hand.

She asks him for a smoke, now unaware of the smouldering filter that she holds, lost in drunken oblivion. He stares at her hand and laughs, but she still can’t solve the riddle of what burns her fingers. He reaches down and looks inside, through the hole of the plastic bag for something to eat.

They’ve finished the tangerines that they stole from the supermarket; all that’s left is a small cake. He unwraps it and devours it greedily. Still wobbling, she watches a pigeon land across the road. The tower casts a shadow over its tiny frame. She points it out to her companion and he tells her they and the bird are the same. It pecks the pavement. The cake in his hand feels heavy so he breaks a small piece off and throws it to the pigeon. She smiles. It’s a traveller, he says, it’s lost like us, a wanderer covering miles. A scavenger that lives amongst the rocks and steals to live. It’s beautiful. They let it peck up all the cake. He sniffs and coughs.

She asks him for another cigarette.

Originally from Thanet, J A DuMairier enjoys writing and long walks in the country.

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