Tuesday, February 09, 2010

One dollar

It's been a while since I've solved a mystery in our local area.

Forgive me for the simplicity because it was mysterious for only a couple of seconds but sometimes it's nice to have an easy answer, isn't it?

Every morning and early evening these pigeons arrive at a particular location and wait patiently.

When the roof guttering is full, the brave and the late wait on the footpath, not even bothering to scatter when high school kids, scooters and joggers pass by.

It is only when they see Milly walking with me that they look concerned but even then, no real escape plan is enacted unless we are on their side of the street. Then they head straight for the powerline, cluck-whirring amongst themselves in disapproval and relief.

We walked by for over a week, wondering just what or who they were waiting for, noticing that even the sullen kids in low-slung jeans and booming iPods usually quick with a 'Far Queue' to wedge in between every second word of their shouted conversations were careful to step around them.

On our way back from dropping Sapphire off at school the front door opened.

Out came a little old lady with bags of day-old bread ready to feed them.

Pulling Milly's lead made her sit down obediently as we watched from a safe distance across the street.

I called out, thankful that Sapphire wasn't there to roll her eyes in embarrassment and tell me to shoosh. "Hi, I'm from (I turned around to point) - Number 49; the house that looks like a big purpley-brown brick. I'd love to come and chat to you but I'm afraid that Milly (I bent down to pat her neck) might scare away your friends there."

"Yes yes," the lady nodded. "I see you and your daughter every day. To school." Her English was hesitant, but her smile was lovely.

"Yes yes," I nodded back, unintentionally mirroring her. "Her name is Sapphire and mine is Kath. Dog here is Milly."

"I am Chin," she replied, pointing to her chest. "My pets," she said, sweeping one hand over the scene of happily eating birds on the ground and throwing them some more bread with the other.

"Where do you get so much bread?"

"One dollar. Safeway. Day old Bread. Very good, very cheap," she said.

That was little over a year ago. Since then, we pass by, note the two hundred or so pigeons waiting around for Chin and wave if she's already out there with her bread, tearing it into chunks for the birds. "It must take her ages doing that," Sapphire noted. "And she does it every single day."

We never got beyond a wave and a "Hello" to each other from across the street after meeting the first time, until last weekend.

Sapphire and Love Chunks were on a bike ride by the river, and Milly and I trotted to the school yard to do our weekly round of litter collecting. Long-handled BBQ tongs and plastic bags for me; free reign and plenty of discarded Red Rooster chicken bones and squashed chips for Milly to sniff out.

Picking up litter seems boring and pointless, but it is surprisingly rewarding. Milly gets to scamper around the peppercorn trees and and I get to think whilst doing something manual. Sometimes a walker or bike rider will say "Good on yer" as they pass but mostly we're on our own.

Less than half an hour later our job was done. We strolled past the front of Chin's house, the pigeons now lolling about looking rather satisfied, some cluck-whirring to each other like party guests overstaying their welcome.

The front door opened and the birds obediently moved aside to let Chin approach us. "Here. For you."
It was a satin pillow with tiny beads and sequins sewn on intricately in a butterfly shape.

Tears made the details a bit fuzzy. "Oh no," I swallowed. "This is too lovely. You keep it."

She patted my shoulder. "Yes yes for you. You do good. Give to daughter."

I wiped my eyes and smiled back at her.
"I will. And thank you."

Her roof may now be white with pigeon poo, but her heart is huge.


Cat J B said...

Oh Kath that is lovely, my eyes are teary now too. Funny how you make an impression sometimes that you didn't even know you were making.

Anonymous said...

On ya Kath.
Been missing you in the west, both on this and on the 'wireless' (as my mother and Nan would say) (but as I listen to the ABC myself I'm probably not too far away from uttering that aloud)
Hope your back on track and feeling 100% strong.

River said...

That was so sweet of Chin. It's lovely the way she looks after the pigeons. (like the bird lady in Mary Poppins)
I have quite a few customers who buy up the old bread, one day I asked one of them what he would be doing with so much bread, he said it was for his ducks and chickens.

Helen said...

that's such a lovely story! I'm so glad youo wrote about it, it's made the start to my day that little bit happier :)

Benjamin Solah said...

This was a lovely story, Kath. You almost made me cry at my desk!

Kath Lockett said...

You're so right, Cat. Just because her door was closed doesn't mean she wasn't looking out of her window sometimes....

Thanks Anon - mx - I miss the wireless segment too!

It sounds like you have some lovely customers, River.

Glad to be of service, Helen.

Benjamin, if you had started to cry, how would you have explained it? *sob, sniff* "This spreadsheet is just so awesome, man."

Louise Bowers said...

I'm sorry, I just hate pigeons. They are rats with wings that should be shot on sight. Particularly the disgraceful kind in the city that look so filthy their feathers are now dreadlocks. Your neighbour sounds quite lovely but she could benefit with some other friends that don't have rabies?

Baino said...

Oh Kath nice to see you back on form. You are amazing the way you engage with people. I had a Korean neighbour who used to bring me beautifully designed rice sweets. Tasted bloody awful but clearly the time spent colouring and making them was huge. As is your heart young lady! Love your mysteries and walks around Flemmo. Oh. Had an interview in the city last Friday. Pissing down with rain and of course no camera. All the pigeons in the park were nestled beneath circular fountain out of the wet. Could have kicked myself because it would have been a funny photo.

drb said...

Both of you have big hearts!!
Lovely narration.
Misty eyes too.
Wish I can write like you.

deepkickgirl said...

Very nice story. Thank you.

Reminds me of the three little old ladies (sisters) who live next door to our office. They are all in their 80s, never married, Irish, possibly lived together all their lives.

They always leave me sweet little gifts for the kids, like hand knitted Christmas puddings one festive season. A few months ago when my boss' old dog died they left a card and a $20 note so that he could buy flowers for the dog's grave.

It's these tiny, totally unexpected gestures of genuine human kindness which bring a tear even to this cynical old eye.

Benjamin Solah said...

Haha! Classic. I'd more likely be crying because of how much I despise the spreadsheet, rather than love it.

Anonymous said...

Loved that last line Kath. You are all teaching your daughter the good things by example.x