Here’s an extract from The Pigeon’s Revenge, a tale of London.
The pigeon shook his head sadly. Poison was horrible.
The rat was rolling around on the ground by the drains, holding his sides, his face contorted with pain. The pigeon shook his head again. But there was nothing he could do to ease the rat’s pain. And was that some bird seed over there?
‘Hey, mate, you read this?’
The pigeon looked around. It was the rat. But the rat did not seem to be dying horribly. In fact, he looked rather healthy and surprisingly cheerful for an animal that had been rolling on the ground, holdings its sides a moment before.
‘Read what?’ asked the pigeon.
‘This,’ said the rat, pointing at the newspaper he was standing on. He giggled. ‘Reckon you’d better have a look, Mr High and Mighty Pigeon.’
The pigeon limped over. His right foot was not what it was since he had got a piece of plastic twine caught over his claw. The circulation had been cut off and in the end he had lost two of his toes. Still, can’t complain. That was the great pigeon motto. After all, he could be back where they had all come from in the first place, freezing his feathers off on some exposed cliff in the country, ideally placed to catch every arctic wind howling down from the north. Anything was better than that, even living in cities.
‘Go on read this,’ said the rat, shuffling backwards so the pigeon could see the headline.
‘Mayor Declares War On Flying Rats.’ The headline filled half the page.
The pigeon shook his head, trying to concentrate on the rest of the story. The new mayor of London had decided that pigeons were vermin, who spread disease and dirt, and he had vowed as part of his ‘strategy for a cleaner London’ to rid the city of these ‘flying rats’.
The rat snickered. ‘Thought we rats were the only vermin in the city. Looks like you guys are joining the gang. Reckon I ought to start calling you cousin.’
The pigeon looked up at the rat. ‘But I don’t understand,’ he said. ‘People like us. They give us seed and bread, and we clean up the mess they leave behind all over the place. Why do they want to get rid of us?’
The rat laughed. ‘Get over it, mate. That’s people for you. They just like killing things, that’s all there is to it. They’ve been trying to get rid of us since, well, since forever, only we’re too clever for them. So I reckon they’ve just got bored and decided to go after something easier. Personally I give you guys about six months and then – bye bye.’ The rat waved his paw. His whiskers twitched in a way that looked suspiciously like he was trying not to laugh. But then the rat gave up the struggle and he started to giggle, and then to laugh, and then to howl, until in the end he was rolling around on the newspaper holding his sides, with tears rolling from his eyes, wheezing through the laughter, ‘Enough… no, no, enough… flying rats….’
The rain that had been threatening began to fall. The pigeon stood there, staring at the abandoned newspaper as it slowly began to absorb the falling water. Water trickled off his feathers and dripped to the ground. A single drop quivered at the point of his beak.
The drop fell, and another began to form.
The rat’s sides slowly ceased their impersonation of a bellows and he picked himself up and began to wash his whiskers and clean his toes and his leg pits.
The news print was all but illegible now, having soaked the water up like toilet paper. The rat looked sidelong at the pigeon. The bird was still standing there, without moving, and another drop was trembling at the tip of his beak.
‘Come on, mate,’ said the rat. ‘What’s wrong? It ain’t the end of the world, you know.’
But still the pigeon did not move or respond.
The rat sidled closer under the pretence of cleaning his bottom. He gave it a good wipe on the newspaper. The rat had always found newspapers particularly effective for such functions, and it meant he always had something to read while he was on the lavatory.
‘Look, mate, you can’t let yourself go just because you’ve had a bit of bad news,’ said the rat.
The pigeon continued to stare down at the paper.
‘Let’s clean you up a bit,’ said the rat. ‘Can’t have you all snotty nosed, er, I mean beaked,’ and he picked up his tail and began to wipe the drop from the end of the pigeon’s beak.
The pigeon exploded. Feathers, wings, legs, beaks (or at least it seemed like he had more than one beak it was moving so fast) they all thrashed out like someone had just plugged the pigeon into the mains and pulled the switch.
The rat fell flat on his back, then scrambled upright in less time than it takes to blink (a rat doesn’t stay a rat for long if it can’t get back on its feet fast). He assumed the position known as Crouching Rat, Hidden Cat, the primary posture of rodent martial arts.
‘Kiaaaaiiii!’ yelled the rat, ready to take on whatever had got the pigeon. He was not going down without a fight. Eyes flicked left, right, left, up and down. But there was nothing moving. Only the pigeon, standing there, quivering, every feather on his body standing on end. The rat sniffed. His ears twizzled around. His whiskers twitched. He tasted the air with his tongue.
‘You all right, mate,’ he said cautiously to the pigeon.
The pigeon slowly turned his head and stared at the rat.
‘No,’ the pigeon said. ‘I am not all right. After everything we’ve done for them, cleaning up their mess, and I’ve seen them on a Saturday night staggering around like new hatched chicks, throwing up all over the place, making messes in doorways, throwing their rubbish around, and they have the nerve, the cheek, the sheer sheer… EFFRONTERY to call us, us, vermin. This is it. This has to stop. No more downy chest feathers, this means war, Mr Rat, I tell you, this is war. Well?’
The pigeon stared at the rat, looking suddenly more frightening than an alley cat.
The rat backed away a couple of steps.
‘Well what?’ asked the rat.
‘Are you with us or against us, Mr Rat?’ said the pigeon. ‘Will you join in the struggle to free ourselves and our people from the curse of evil human politicians or will you return to your sewer and wait there until they drag you and all your kind out into the daylight and a long and lingering death. Well, Mr Rat, are you with us or against us? Now is the time to choose.’
‘Er, did you say, Mr Rat?’ asked the rat, his nose twitching.
‘Why, of course, Mr Rat,’ said the pigeon. ‘What else would I call you?’
‘Only, well, no one’s actually ever called me like, Mr Rat before,’ said the rat. ‘Usually it’s ugh, it’s a rat or eek! a rat or filthy rat. No one’s called me Mister before.’
‘In this struggle we are all equal, Mr Rat,’ said the pigeon. ‘You will be Mr Rat so long as you fight at our side.’
‘Right, right,’ said the rat. ‘Er, what will you be?’
‘I, of course, will be Squadron Leader Pigeon,’ said the pigeon. ‘Together we will unleash a new Blitz on the unworthy rulers of this great city.’
‘Can’t I be a Squadron Leader too?’ asked the rat.
‘I am sorry to say only fliers can be squadron leaders,’ said the pigeon.
‘Oh,’ said the rat, his tail drooping a little.
‘But you could certainly be a captain,’ said the pigeon, noticing the negative effect on morale this was having. The tail perked up a little. ‘Why, as leader of our ground forces you could be a major – ’ the tail perked up a little more ‘– or even a general.’ The tail lashed around in excitement.
‘What about Captain General Mr Rat?’ asked the rat.
‘Hmm,’ said the pigeon. ‘A trifle irregular I suppose, but since we are in a state of emergency I think, yes, we could allow that. So, Captain General Mr Rat. Are you with us?’
The rat stood up on his hind paws and saluted.
‘Yes, sir, Squadron Leader Mr Pigeon,’ he said.
‘Just Squadron Leader will do,’ said the pigeon.
‘Oh,’ said the rat. ‘Sorry.’
‘Quite all right, don’t worry yourself about it, my good fellow,’ said the pigeon. ‘Now, we must lay our plans…’
The rest of the story is available to download, in formats suitable for every e-reader including Kindle and as a pdf for a computer, here at Alfie Dog Fiction. It costs 49p (and I’ll receive half of that) so help keep a poor writer in birdseed and download it today (or tomorrow).