by Janice Daugharty
Copyright 2010 Janice Daugharty
I was writing on the front porch of our mix-matched old farmhouse the morning that the pigeon came. Like a kite finally freed of its string, he sailed between the fluted white columns and landed at my feet. I didn't move, just stared into his tarnished-nickel eyes. His feathers were a dull gray ruff, like peeling paint, but his feet were Easter-egg pink. He looked old. He had a gold band on one leg and what looked like a cuff of white paper on the other. Had somebody given up trying to reach me by phone or mail and sent me a message by way of carrier pigeon? Maybe one of my grown children, or the IRS, was trying to break through the fog of my imagination.
I held out my writing hand and the pigeon flew up, wings whooshing over my head, then lit on scrolled back of my wicker swing near my right shoulder. He made a burbling sound, like water over rocks.That was the first time I saw what would become as commonplace as the sand tracked in from my dirt yard every day--pigeon poop like pilled cotton from a stuffed animal.
I eased up from the swing, careful not to let it creak and sway, and went inside.Got a cup full of dry grits, came back, and sprinkled it on the porch floor. I went inside again and watched through my kitchen window as the bird pecked grits and jigged, his knotted-rag head yanking side to side and up. Leaking pigeon poop onto the floor with every step, especially when he flew up and settled on back of my porch swing. I expected him to be gone the next day.
But come morning of the next day, he was still perched on my swing; his ashy poop had turned mushy and he looked puffed up. His head had retracted into his neck feathers, his bead eyes were half-closed, lids like crinkled gray plastic.