The sun was tightly tucked behind the clouds and Maurice was watching the pigeons.
He’d been told they carried messages. Not like the ones in the olden days, during the war for example, but ones that would reveal themselves to you if you watched them long enough.
Some pigeons were by the gutter, pecking at the bars. Others were under the bench Maurice was sitting on, hopping off the flower bed that had once housed chrysanthemums. Stumps now, covered with green plastic.
Sun-hating, weed-hating plastic, Maurice thought, there to make things look tidy.
“Enough of ‘pristine’, you cow!” he’d told his wife, and she’d sent him out to look at the pigeons.
In fact, she’d just sent him out.
It was one of her doolally friends who’d told him what pigeons do when they’re observed. They form shapes.
Maurice gathered some madeleine crumbs out of his pocket and threw them at the birds. They flapped and ate.
They weren’t making any shapes he could make sense of, though. Far from an arrow, that formation. And even if it had been an arrow, pointing one way or the other, what the hell would he have done – followed it?
Could be a paperclip.
Or the pigeon cluster in the flower bed, with the few dotted around the bench and the gutter could be one of those weights you might find at the gym. Did he need to start weightlifting? He held his belly and sniffed.
Maybe his wife was a weight.
“How was your walk?” he pictured his wife saying when he arrived back at the flat.
“Fine. I’m sorry I called you a cow”, he pictured himself replying.
But instead the pigeon spoke.
“Retirement hurt?” it said.
“Got a hobby?” it said.
The pigeon blinked.
Maurice imagined his wife listening to the story about the pigeon and phoning Dr Maynard.
The creature was just beside his boot, tilting its head
“Well find one,” it said.
With that, Maurice said absolutely nothing, got up and walked home.
Kik Lodge is a British teacher/translator based in Lyon, France, where she lives with her two kids. Her work has featured in Litro, The Moth, Tiny Molecules and the Common Breath, and she is currently working on a short story collection based on the churchgoers next to her flat.