Of Clockwork Pigeons

In the grey city, in a greyer square, a haunched old lady sat still at a bench with a hand in a brown paper package. The city grew quiet on this day, as was expected after the long mornings of religious worship in the nearby abbey-mosque. The sky was just as grey, and threatened to pour wet streaks of silver over the ashen land.

The only motion in the square were the small grey birds with their dark heads and wings. They twitched in the manner only a mechanical being could manage. Some of the birds feathers were ruffled by the wear and tear of years of poor maintenance. The old lady’s eyes also sat still and had lost all pretence of what she once was. She’d been there almost as long as the birds.
Ebon sat on the old bench near her, and rested his cane against his leg. He stared at the birds.

As if to sense his thoughts, the old lady’s mouth creaked open, and the voice unit creaked “tuppence,” with all the elderly grace of a mechanical matriarch. Ebon turned to look at her, but she didn’t mimic his gesture. She merely sat, and offered again. “Tuppence,” she creaked.

Ebon blinked and a moment passed before he thumbed his currency in his waistcoat. Standing, he stood before the elder and slotted his two pennies into her eyes. He pedantically made sure that the Monarch’s head faced upward. She clicked and whirred somewhere in her ancient joints below her cloak and then grew silent. Another hum, then her hand slowly made its way from her brown metal-paper bag. There was bird seed on her open palm and Ebon took a small pinch. He tossed some to the clockwork pigeons and sat down again before the old lady placed her rusted hand back inside the bag.

The faux pigeons made their faux feed last precious few moments. When these moments had passed, Ebon stood once more and polished the plaque on the bench with a silken handkerchief. It read ‘This amusement was donated by Ebon Hampton, in memory of his mother, Mary Hampton’. His own withered hands found purchase of his cane and, after kissing the old lady on the cheek, walked home.

– by Kier Sparey

© Copyright Kier Sparey 2013

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