Paternoster Tales: Chapter 9

A pigeon in a beard tree

Hah! If you thought yesterday was messy, just read to the end of today.

What is the messiest you have ever been? Have you ever fallen – splat! – into a muddy puddle? Or rolled across a rugby pitch on a wet Sunday afternoon, after watching a match in the rain without an umbrella? Or helped a baby eat a dripping ice-cream covered with chocolate sauce and raspberry sprinkles on a warm, sunny afternoon? Or eaten spaghetti and Italian tomato and basil sauce with your fingers because you can’t find a fork and you’re hungry and taking last night’s spaghetti to work had seemed like a good idea first thing in the morning, even if it didn’t appear to be such a good idea now, especially as your shirt was white and you know that tomato stains are really hard to get out? Well … imagine rubbing all those muddy, watery, creamy, chocolatey, tomatoey messes together. Add a dollop of warm pigeon poo and that would be about right for the mess that presented itself to the judge – and all over the judge – that Monday morning.

No – he wasn’t muddy. As … yes, okay … he was in a London Square and there was no mud. And – you’re right again – it was breakfast and there was no ice cream or chocolate. But there was definitely a lot of water from the jug the pigeon knocked over. And the spilt coffee was brown, and its spatters were very similar to mud spatters. And there were tomatoes. The pigeon was sitting in the tomatoes.

The mess and the judge erupted. I could have said exploded. But it was much more than that. He rose up out of his chair which clattered to the ground behind him. He was spitting, and frothing at the lips. The fork which had just deposited pigeon poo into his mouth was furiously flung away. It was spinning over and over like a ferris wheel high-rolling through the air.

He roared a most un-gentlemanly roar. I guess a grizzly bear, with his foot stuck in the picnic box he’s just been robbing and juice from the home-made lemonade someone had packed for their day in the country splashed in his eyes, would make a similar roar. The judge’s roar rippled out, hitting against other people eating at the restaurant tables, making them, in turn, stand and push away their chairs and shout and yell and scream.  And fling their arms around, propellor-fashion,  to keep away more pigeons.

No more pigeons came.

The judge collapsed back into his chair, hastily repositioned by a waiter. Unfortunately, the judge was a man with a prominent, and very full, bushy, red beard – it looked like a red squirrel had curled up and was clinging onto his chin. I’m not saying that there is anything unfortunate in having a beard. Nor in it being red. But it was the having of a beard at all, on that Monday morning, that was indeed unfortunate. For the judge. And in particular, the tempting bits of breakfast caught in the curly hairs of the beard were most especially unfortunate. That he then sat down at the same table – where the pigeon was just beginning to feel a bit damp, as tomato juice seeped into its feathers – only served to push the level of unfortunate-ness even higher.

Now, pigeons, if you take a close look at them, have shifty, beady little eyes that dart around until they see something they like the look of. Lucretia’s pigeon’s eyes were rotating more slowly than usual after their rocket launch, but they suddenly froze, and blinked, fixed on a piece of bacon and a bean just beyond easy pecking distance.

One bounce freed the pigeon’s feet from the squashed tomato.

One flap of wings lifted it just high enough.

One landing tangled its feet in the judge’s red beard.

And two pecks and a swallow ate the bacon and the bean.

What of the fork? Remember … it was spiralling away through the air.

Guess what?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.


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