Fiction

Pigeon

By The Lighthouse Keeper

The wind had picked up from the northeast. For late April, the weather was unexpectedly pleasant in Biker's Grove and Melanie had taken advantage of every second of it for the past three days. Despite the aching of her small back, she didn't mind walking. The park was Melanie's kingdom, and on this day, and for two days before it, Melanie had graced her subjects by walking with them in the sunlit glade of the cool grass of the park. Her Royal Jester, Mr. Bippy, was slung over her tiny shoulder. The jingle-bells attached to his shiny green hat kept time with her footsteps. The lady-in-waiting, Cindy the Bear, was clasped close to her chest and Melanie hummed a tune as she walked that changed pitch and direction with every breeze that caressed her angelic little face. At seven years old, Melanie had achieved quite a bit in her own mind. She was the Queen of Biker's Grove Municipal Park. Everyone knew her here and loved her for being a benevolent matriarch. The peasants busied themselves with the jungle gym on the top of the central hill on the park's grounds… while her royal knights practiced swordsmanship in the baseball diamond which sat nestled in a clearing to the north border of the park.

The soft sounds of a flute interrupted Melanie's humming, and a smile crossed her face as she came upon the small, concrete block which served as the stage for her Royal Minstrel. "PIGEON!" she giggled as her small face beamed at the sight of her friend. The quickening of her pace nearly caused Mr. Bippy to fall to the grass… but she shifted his bean-bag weight on her shoulder and ran quickly towards the flutist. The man sitting on the concrete block smiled and placed his flute in his lap.

"M'lady." smiled the man as he brushed his curly, blonde hair from his face with a hand of many rings. "My music isn't suitable for ears possessed by one of such beauty." Melanie laughed. The pigeons at the feet of the musician cooed and bobbed out of Melanie's way as she reached up to give the soft-spoken man a hug. Pigeon smiled as he reached his long arms towards the small girl and pulled her towards him. "It's good to see you again Mel." Said the man as he held the small girl to his shoulder. Melanie closed her eyes and breathed deeply as she enjoyed the closeness and safety that Pigeon's arms provided her. He tended to hold her tightly… but the pleasant scent of blueberries in his long, blonde curls and the softness of his vests which always felt like velvet against her cheeks, took away the sting of the reminding bruises on her small shoulders. Pigeon placed Melanie on the concrete block next to him… and at their feet… the cooing birds returned as they eyed Pigeon opening the black and silver box that sat at his side. Opening it, Pigeon retrieved a small, brown bag and handed it to Melanie. "Ginger snaps, Mel. Your favorite."

"And milk?" asked the small girl as she took the bundle of cookies from the ringed finger of the man.

"I'd NEVER forget the milk." Pigeon reached behind him and pulled a large thermos from his black leather backpack, opened it, and poured milk into the cup that served as the top of the thermos. "Here, Mel."

Melanie smiled as she took the milk from the kind man's hand. "Thank you, Pigeon." She smiled as she sipped. Pigeon placed Mr. Bippy and Cindy the Bear on top of the black case that the gingersnaps had come from and broke a snap up and sprinkled the crumbs down on the ground at their feet for the masses of happy park birds who waited patiently for his attention.

"They love you, Pigeon." Said Melanie as she stared wistfully down at the birds.

"I give them respect. They trust me." replied the man as he ran a finger through a tangle in Melanie's fire red hair. "They know that I would never hurt them."

Melanie sipped her milk and placed the cup down beside her, looking up into Pigeon's verdant green eyes. "Pigeon…" she started, but then suddenly became hushed.

"Tell me all about it, Mel. Tell me everything." He said as he crossed his booted legs underneath him, sitting Indian-style next to her and facing her.

"It happened again." She said without meeting his gaze. "It hurts to sleep. It hurts when I lay down." Pigeon nodded solemnly. "I know."

"Sometimes… when I'm walking… things… pop. In my neck. Like when my fingers pop… but I can feel it in my back."

Pigeon twirled one of her red pigtails between his fingers. "Would you like me to carry you home, Mel?"

"No." she said almost instantly. "No. If he saw you… he'd get mad that I was talking to you again." She stared at the multitudes of birds that were now silent. Vigil. Sitting at their feet, watching the two of them like a feathered audience.

"I understand. Did you tell your mother that your back hurt?" he asked.

"She told me that I slept wrong." Melanie replied as she wiped her nose with a finger. "Mr. Bippy and Cindy told me to tell you. They told me that you'd help me. They said that you told them the last time this happened to come tell you if it ever happened again… so I did." Her blue eyes filled with tears as she looked up at Pigeon's kind, chiseled face. She whispered softly "Please help me, Pigeon."

Pigeon smiled.

"Indeed." He whispered kindly and leaned towards her, placing his hand behind her ear. "I will, your highness. I will." Pigeon's hand moved quickly from behind her ear, and held a long, gray feather in front of her face. "Take this." He said.

Melanie's eyes widened as she gently took the massive feather from the hand of her friend. "What should I do with it."

Pigeon picked up Mr. Bippy from his resting place, held his hand over his mouth, and whispered something to the small doll that Melanie couldn't hear. "When you need it, Mel, Mr. Bippy will know what to do. I promise."

A cool breeze blew across the two of them. Pigeon's eyes closed as he smiled softly. "It's getting late, Mel. You shouldn't be late for dinner."

Melanie sighed and handed the thermos to Pigeon. "I better go then."

"Wait." Said Pigeon. With a click of his tongue, one of the purple-headed street birds at his feet fluttered to his finger. Again… Pigeon whispered. Again… Melanie was unable to hear what Pigeon said. The bird fluttered off and Pigeon stood, carefully picking Melanie up from the concrete block and sitting her on his shoulders gently.

"Walk with me until we get to the entrance of the park, Mel?"

Melanie giggled as she held on to his ponytail. "Okay!" Pigeon walked slowly, playing his flute softly for Melanie as they walked through the park at the beginning of twilight and the street birds followed them, walking as a mass and keeping time with the music. At the entrance of the park, a horse drawn carriage was waiting for Pigeon and Melanie. Pigeon gave the driver of the carriage Melanie's address, and he kissed her softly on the forehead as he sent her safely home.

Melanie's father roared at her mother as Melanie softly closed the door behind her. Melanie could smell something burning in the kitchen… and the living room seemed to be cloaked in a thickening veil of greasy smoke. "… COULD BURN WATER!" the man shouted and Melanie heard the sound of a pan hitting the floor. "Between your cooking and HER whining… I don't have a goddamned chance around here, DO I?"

Melanie felt her heat beat quicken. She walked slowly into the living room and tried to sink in to the couch as far she could go. She held Mr. Bippy and Cindy close to her as her eyes started to sting from the combination of fear and smoke.

"Mitch… please…" pleaded her mother. Melanie could tell when her mother had been crying by the tone in her voice. "I can order a pizza. I'm SORRY!"

"Pizza?" the man bellowed. "Well shit! Why the hell not. Money grows on trees, right? I mean… at least that's what you and Melanie think!"

"Mitch…"

"SHUT UP! I've had it with the two of you trying to leech every single dime I make for all your petty BULLSHIT! You burn dinner and you want ME to pay for it? Forget it. For all I care… the two of you can starve tonight."

Melanie could hear her mother sobbing and the man coming from the kitchen. His eyes were wild… and she knew that talking to him was the worst possible thing she could do. If she just stayed quiet… maybe he wouldn't notice her. Maybe she could sneak back into her room…

"Well! Look who decided to come home! YOUR LATE MELANIE!" Melanie felt a rock on her throat as she swallowed. "How many times have I told you to be home before sunset, young lady? Huh?" The man was pointing a finger at her… and she could see his face contort in anger. She tried to talk… but her mouth wouldn't open. The man unbuckled his belt and slowly slid it off of his pants. "Go to your room, Melanie. I'll deal with you in a minute." Melanie knew what was coming. She knew that her mother wouldn't stop him, either. She knew that as long as she closed her eyes and couldn't SEE the belt coming… it wouldn't hurt as much.

She sat on her bed and waited. Her stomach churned with butterflies as she talked softly to Mr. Bippy. "If he hits my back again… I don't think I'll be able to walk. I won't be able to go to the park again for a long time… and Pigeon will think I don't like him anymore." Mr. Bippy's sewn on smile stared back at her. Silent.

"Maybe if I hide under the bed he'll think I ran away?" Mr. Bippy's hat jingled a bit as she pulled him closer to her chest. "I'm scared." She whispered. Mr. Bippy's hat felt soft against her face as tears streaked down them hotly. His hat smelled like velvet… and she could smell blueberries. She closed her eyes and whispered to Mr. Bippy softly… "Help me?"

Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she remembered the feather that Pigeon had given her. It was tucked inside of Mr. Bippy's hat… and the jingle-bells on the doll chimed softly as she removed it. She closed her eyes tightly, squeezing tears through them as she whispered quietly "Pigeon… I need you."

Melanie opened her eyes when she heard the cooing of pigeons at her feet. She was standing at the crosswalk between her apartment complex and the park. The street was completely empty and the only light came from the streetlamp above her. She looked down at the birds and noticed the feather in her hand. She heard footsteps behind her… but didn't feel at all apprehensive at the approach of a stranger in the darkness.

"Queen Melanie." Said the voice softly as she turned. Pigeon stood smiling above her. He looked so strong… so tall. Like a knight. HER knight. She sobbed as she threw her arms around his waist. Pigeon kneeled in front of her and gently wiped her eyes with his finger. "Are you ready, M'lady?" asked Pigeon.

"Ready? Ready for what?"

"To cross?" said Pigeon as he pointed to the park."

"Where are we going?" asked the girl as she tried to smile at her friend.

"To a place where you can trust. A place where you know no one will ever hurt you." Melanie hugged Pigeon tightly. He reached down and picked her up, placing her gently atop his shoulders. "Let's cross, Mel." The two of them crossed the street. Melanie held tightly to Pigeon's ponytail and the mass of street birds walked with them as they traveled.

The soft sounds of a flute interrupted Christine's humming, and a smile crossed her face as she came upon the small, concrete block which served as the stage for her Royal Minstrel. "PIGEON!" she giggled as her small face beamed at the sight of her friend. The man sitting on the concrete block smiled and placed his flute in his lap.

"M'lady." smiled the man as he brushed his curly, blonde hair from his face with a hand of many rings "My music isn't suitable for ears possessed by one of such beauty." Christine laughed. The pigeons at the feet of the musician cooed and bobbed out of Christine's way as she reached up to give the soft-spoken man a hug. Pigeon smiled as he reached his long arms towards the small girl and pulled her towards him.

"It's good to see you again Chris." Said the man as he held the small girl to his shoulder. Christine closed her eyes and breathed deeply as she enjoyed the closeness and safety that Pigeon's arms provided her. He tended to hold her tightly… but the pleasant scent of blueberries in his long, blonde curls and the softness of his vests which always felt like velvet against her cheeks, took away the sting of the reminding bruises on her small shoulders. Pigeon placed Christine on the concrete block next to him… and at their feet… the cooing birds returned as they eyed Pigeon opening the black and silver box that sat at his side. Opening it, Pigeon retrieved a small, brown bag and handed it to Christine. "Peanut Butter, Chris. Your favorite."

"And milk?" asked the small girl as she took the bundle of cookies from the ringed finger of the man.

"I'd NEVER forget the milk." Pigeon reached behind him and pulled a large thermos from his black leather backpack, opened it, and poured milk into the cup that served as the top of the thermos. "Here, Chris."

Christine smiled as she took the milk from the kind man's hand. "Thank you, Pigeon." She smiled as she sipped. Pigeon broke a peanut butter cookie up and sprinkled the crumbs down on the ground at their feet for the masses of happy park birds who waited patiently for his attention.

"They love you, Pigeon." Said Christine as she stared wistfully down at the birds.

"I give them respect. They trust me." replied the man as he ran a finger through a tangle in Christine's brown hair. "They know that I would never hurt them."

Christine sipped her milk and placed the cup down beside her, looking up into Pigeon's verdant green eyes. Pigeon clicked his tongue and a large, red crested street bird fluttered up onto his shoulder and nibbled happily at a ginger snap he had taken from his pocket. "They know I keep my promises."