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(A short story of 3473 words)



by Gillian Best

Charlie Carbunckle, an obsessive pigeon fancier, suffers the loss of one of his birds and the blame falls at the feet of his son Seamus.

Seamus flings the front door open and drops his backpack. The two pigeons roosting on top of the grandfather clock take flight – around the foyer and living room – unsettling the other twenty-six pigeons lounging around the main floor of the house.

"What the?" Seamus says, ducking and waving his arms. "Mom?"

He surveys the living room: the couch is covered in plastic and on the back of the sofa four pigeons sit preening. The bookcases serve as roosts. A red chequer perches atop a lamp, two on the fireplace mantle, and one on the stairs. The rest scuttle around the hardwood floor pecking at bits of food and grit.

On the coffee table, the expensive one that Liz insisted Charlie buy for her last Christmas, the one from Restoration Hardware made of teak, the one she doesn’t let anyone even put a glass of water on, sit three large bowls: one of bird seed, one full of grit and another with water, the water having been turned a piss yellow from the addition of liquid vitamins.

The table is covered with a sheet of newspaper, but the pigeons have moved it so it half the wood is exposed. Seamus looks at the surface and sees several hardening shits.
Mom's not going to take this well.

He sneezes and then suddenly the smell of the room is inescapable. It's no longer the vanilla scented candles from the dollar shop around the corner, it's a stench of shit and bird dander that Seamus has never encountered in such force before. There have been days when the heat and humidity of the Toronto summer have caused the pigeon loft out back to emit wafts of stink, but nothing like this.

He plugs his nose and opens the two windows in the room. From underneath the side table, he hears a familiar cooing, and a pigeon scuttles out, chased by another – obviously male. His tail is fanned out and he circles her, cooing enticements. Eventually she relents and bends down; he jumps on her back.

Seriously? Seamus thinks. I come home to pigeons fucking in the living room. Child Services wouldn't even know where to start...

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