Saturday, 7 November 2009

Is This Some Kind of Joke?

‘Here’s a little impression for you. “Kaw, Kaw, BANG, Fuck, I’m dead!”’
-Michael Wincott, The Crow

There are many reasons why someone might kill a pigeon and stuff its carcass into the receptacle for milk bottles around the side of my house. I have fallen out with numerous people this year- some men, but mostly women- people who have proven themselves to be depraved lunatics, including women who punch people to feel good, and women who cling to you like a leech, then threaten to commit suicide when extricated. I have not seen or heard from these people in months. Why would they do this to me now?

Was this carcass delivery an attack against my parents? Did their apparently horror-free lives have a macabre element to them that I did not know about?

My mum, as nice a lady as she is, once walked through a large expanse of the Yorkshire Dales brandishing a sheep’s skull, the curved handle of a walking stick fitted through the eye sockets. Trekkers heading in the opposite direction were glancing horrified at the skull with lips turned up in disgust.

A basic biology class could be aided in some way by the inclusion of a sheep’s skull, found in a field. Mum has worked in early years education most of her adult life. Due to this she has a mind frame that weighs up everything she sees and does, and whether it could enhance her pupils’ education.

Now an advisory teacher, my mum deals more with education staff as opposed to the children themselves. So there was less of a reason, now, for her to need a dead pigeon. Even if she did need it, why temporarily store it in the milk cage? Mum likes her hygiene. I wondered whether this quirkiness was a habit she hadn’t got out of.

She’d been gardening for pretty much the whole morning whereas I had just stepped outside to put some empty milk bottles out. I thought she would have noticed.

I went back to my desk to hammer out some flash fiction I’d been working on.

Hours later I checked the milk cage and the morbid ovarian souvenir was still there. Its feet were still clinging to one of the lower bars; one wing was splayed, as if in mid-flight, and the tip of the wing jutted out from under the cage lid. The neck of the bird rested against the bar of the cage, head lolling outside of it. It looked like it had been alive when it first got there, and had tried to clamber out.

I found my mum in the kitchen, filling up the kettle, so I asked her why there was a dead pigeon in the milk cage. She considered me, bemused, as if I’d developed premature dementia and I’d begun spouting the kind of gibberish more commonly associated with the geriatric. Mum craned her neck around the side of the porch door tentatively. When she saw the mangled bird her top lip upturned, aghast, like the woman who spotted her sheep skull years ago.

‘Matthew, that’s horrible!’

She said this as if I was guilty of killing it myself - or as if I was playing some kind of unhygienic prank.

She got Dad to remove it and respectfully dump it in the wheelie-bin.

Is this going to be a solitary incident, I thought, or a sick hate campaign? An attack from a crazy ex or a maniacal stalker?

A few days later, Mum pointed out a mark on the window in her bedroom. I may have found the body, but Mum had solved the mystery.

Mum and Dad’s bedroom- cuboid-shaped- protrudes from the sloped roof of the house. The vertical window and ceiling look almost like a shelf on the outside. The pigeon must have seen nothing but clouds, a few trees, unaware of the reflective quality of cold, hard glass. Its neck broke and it died on impact.

After hitting the window, the bird presumably rolled off the roof and landed, by fluke, in the milk cage.

Somebody phone Colombo, I thought. Tell him we don’t need him anymore.

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