Thankful

Morning all! Here’s a piece of flash fiction I’ve been playing with. It’s horror- just a warning.

Before the curtain rises, I just want to say that I’m getting on well with the Nottingham Festival talk and have completed the first draft. There’s quite a few creases to iron out, but that’s to be expected.

Without further ado, ‘Thankful’.

It started with birds. I found this pigeon, toes missing, with flies buzzing around its eyes. It was still alive- just. An odd smell lingered around its feathers, and although I didn’t want to touch it, I wanted it. I wanted to keep it.

I wrapped the bird, tenderly, in a plastic bag. Its wings struggled beneath my fingers, and I could feel its life, the strength which remained. We grappled for a while, and eventually the bird lost the will to fight. I was more desperate than ever to have it in my care. After a quick rinse in our shower and hid it under a crate in my room. I heard it walking around in its prison, buffeting the sides of the box with molting wings. But it didn’t cry out.

When Mum and Dad weren’t around, I threw some seeds under the box. I waited. I checked later, but the bird hadn’t eaten any, just spread them around. I held the pathetic creature up and met its gaze with mine, ‘Listen stupid, you have to eat. So eat,’ and as I set it down again, I noticed its jaw. It didn’t sit right. The lower jaw shut to one side as if it was trying to avoid being fed. Not like any pigeon I’d ever seen. I found Mum’s tweazers and held the bird’s throat open. I fished around a bit, but I was gentle, and slowly, ever so slowly, I drew out a shard of plastic. The next day all the seeds disappeared.

The box began to smell. I fended Mum off with a fog of air freshener, ‘I might have left some food in there. I don’t know, I’ll find it. I said I’ll find it.’ It wouldn’t be difficult, not with the crate and carpet ruined by poop and feathers. I covered the lot with my rug. Still, I wanted to keep it. I hadn’t finished with it. Then I noticed next door’s shed. The woman who lives there never opens her curtains. I think she’s afraid of the light, or maybe the world.

Anyway, once I’d cleared her shed out, I let the pigeon in and that’s how it started. As the pigeon healed, I wanted another patient. More animals, to make better. I found roadkill, but there wasn’t much I could do except bury them. I started a habit of carrying plastic bags and gloves with me- just in case. Mum and Dad want to know where I go, so I lie. I might be at a friend’s house, or at a movie. How would they know?

The pigeon became well again, with a new strength in his wings. I didn’t let him go. I waited. I read books on animals , and told my parents I’d met a friend who was into birds. They told me to invite him over, I made up more lies.

Then I saw a cat.

It was just wandering around, collarless, and I don’t know why I did it. I threw a rock. I missed, and it ran towards an alley. I chased it and the next rock hit its target. The cat fought when I picked it up, covering me in scratches. It was strong. There was so much life in my hands, and it felt wonderful.

After a few days, the cat was eating from my hands. It purred at me when I came in after school, settling on my lap as I read. It was so grateful for my care. The cat and the bird, they’re mine now. Even if missing posters went up for ‘Kevin’. What did these people know about animals? ‘Kevin’ isn’t even a boy. They don’t deserve her. But two aren’t enough. I’m happier now. When I talk they listen to me, and I’m getting used to having her soft warm fur bundled in my lap. But then I saw you.

You were just walking, minding your own business. There were no cars, and  all curtains were shut. I threw a rock, and you glanced back, then sped up. I chased you, and I am faster, my legs stronger. It was so much fun, wasn’t it? So I tossed another stone. It hit your head. You didn’t stop running. You didn’t go down- wouldn’t fall down. I wouldn’t have had to hit you again if you’d just stopped.

You kept running. I hit you again, this time with the rock in my hand.

When you’re better, it won’t be the same as the cat or the bird, I know that. You won’t eat from my fingers. But I can cook for you and change your bandages and talk to you.

You’re going to make me so very happy.

You’ll be so, very, thankful.

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