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The Invisible Truth: The Pigeons

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Pigeons

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Pasek left a newspaper full of rice for the neighbourhood pigeons to peck at. His neighbour, Srinvatti, an East Indian grocer, loathed the pigeons because they shit all over the sidewalk in front of his store. Pasek understood the situation; every time Srinvatti went out and saw the cooing mass, he would swear loudly, and lately he had taken to jumping up and down on the spot and chasing the birds away with a broom.

Pasek felt only the slightest bit of remorse after the first fit that Srinvatti threw, after which he regarded his neighbour’s perturbation with an ironic smile. He didn’t continue feeding the pigeons out of spite; he merely enjoyed the sounds of their cooing close-by as he worked. That, and he was aware that birds often fell dependent on those that fed them, like the geese in the park who stayed the winter when people started feeding them, but died when the feeding sessions were discontinued.

As he went back into the store to do the daily inventory, the familiar swell of bird contentment accompanied him. He heard Srinvatti come out and start cursing his name, knowing that if he went outside right now, Srinvatti would smile his biggest “Hey neighbour, how goes it today?” smile without batting an eyelid.

He heard the invective stop suddenly. A moment later, Srinvatti redoubled his efforts to shoo the birds away with a torrent of oaths and by the swishing he heard, Pasek presumed the broom had been fetched. Pasek firmly strode to his own front door, infuriated with Srinvatti. Srinvatti had done the same thing for years, and it had never gotten under his skin like this before. Now his skin trilled and crawled with indignity. He opened his door abruptly, barely missing Srinvatti's stooped, bulky frame. Srinvatti's loose-fitting red pants swirled around the purple and irridescent vermilion speckled pigeons, erupting higgledy-piggledy in half-flights all around him.
Srinvatti swung around, his body bolt erect, and he stared sullenly at Pasek like a child caught lighting a newspaper on fire.

“Ach, why you always shoo birds away?”
“Dese piles of shit, it drives dee customers away. No one wants to step through bird shit when they’re shopping for nice sound.”
“Well I have store here too, and who could mind such creatures?”
“My customers complain. Customers always right.”
“Why don’t you come tell me you not like me to feed the pigeons?”

The corner of Srinvatti's mouth lifted in an uncertain, barely controlled sneer, but he didn’t answer. Pasek sensed that Srinvatti enjoyed madly sweeping away the small flock on some level. It never occurred to him to tell his neighbour the fondness he had for the birds.


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