Forced Retirement
Bev Vines-Haines
Doorknobs Winner
Hasty Bowers counted pigeons.  Every day.  For money.  Used to be he just pan handled in the park.  Much of that money had gone for pigeon corn and cheese puffs  from the food bank.  Feeding those birds led to a discovery.  Hungry people will eat nearly anything. 

Not pigeons.

They’re like ducks in that manner.  Families crowd to the parks on weekends, most of them carrying plastic sacks filled with old bread.  He’d watched them for years.  Throwing those hundreds of slices and gumming up the water.  Fat globs of dough settling into the silt just because a smarter family showed up with popcorn.  Or potato chips. 

Ducks favor salty stuff.

Now he fed the pigeons official food from local shop owners.  The ones who paid him.  And he counted the birds.  Numbers were going down, he’d noticed.  He’d suspected they would.  He wondered just what was in those little brown pellets.

Life has so many moving targets.  Children love pigeons and bread.  Parents worry about sharp beaks and lice.  Shop owners are partial to happy adults and poop-free sidewalks.  Hasty liked smokes and wine and sticking to rules. 

He’d once loved the circling pigeons, the flock suddenly taking flight when a dog ran by, all that movement and activity.  Now it made the birds hard to count.  Empathy turned to irritation.  Sometimes anger.  Days like that he threw extra pellets. 

Soon the pigeons would be gone. As would his paycheck.

Who would he feed then?

First published: May 2016
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