The Kestrel

A neighbour and a brother collide in a highly unusual situation in this very short story by J A DuMairier.

My brother likes a drink. Every time I see him there’s an open can in his hand; liquid depressant. In the long run I guess it’s better than heroin. He often drops by to say hello, lager breath and brown-stained fingers. Sometimes he’s missing another tooth.

My neighbour loves animals. He’s the kind of guy who would rescue a worm, nursing it back to health in a mug of mud, just to save a life. That morning he knocked on my door holding something wrapped in a blanket.

“Can I leave this in your bathroom for a minute?” he asked.

So my brother turned up, slightly drunk, just after my neighbour put the bundle in my bathroom. Perhaps I should have said, ‘why my bathroom?’ or even, ‘what is it?’ but some days you just don’t ask questions.

“Alright mate,” my brother said. “I really need a piss.”

My neighbour was on the phone, the bathroom door was closed.

“No,” my neighbour shouted as he saw.

My brother looked over, confused.

“Why not?”

“There’s a kestrel in there.”

I probably should have stopped the conversation, asked why a bird of prey was in my bathroom, but my brother thought he meant something else.

“Kestrel?” he said. “Don’t worry, mate, I’ve drank loads of those before. They’re not scary, only five per cent. Lightweight, mate.”

My neighbour was calling the RSPB, and looked up a second too late, as my brother opened the bathroom door and the bird swooped out.

“Bloody hell,” my brother said as he ducked out of range. “There’s a bloody kestrel in there.”

“Told you so,” my neighbour replied. “I didn’t know it could still fly.”

“Why,” I finally asked, “is there a kestrel flying round my living room?”

“It looked injured,” my neighbour said. “I didn’t want it to die.”

It looks angry now.

My brother leaned back, knocking a picture off the wall. The kestrel shrieked and dived for him, slicing his hand with its talons.

“Don’t open the window,” my neighbour shouted at me.

But it was too late, I was setting it free. The RSPB said that if it can fly we needed to let it go, so my neighbour helped my brother and I wave it outside with some tea towels.

I don’t see my brother so much anymore, but he still likes a drink or three. He steers clear of Kestrel beer these days, even though it’s only five per cent. It must bring back bad memories. He says it makes his finger hurt. He’s probably right.

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

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