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Coming Home

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The junkyard was a place of change. The pigeon hadn’t meant to stray there late one day, but she’d been separated and lost from her old flock for too long. She was alone now and she found herself here amongst the heaps of junk and garbage. There wasn’t much help to be found by way of shelter or food and the place was more dangerous than she knew.

As she poked around, fluttering to one place and hopping to another, investigating, it happened. Something in the great heaps fell and she became pinned under the object, legs and wings useless. There was pain and no amount of frantic flapping or loud chirps did anything to free her.

It was then the human came, a small man who moved slowly by the garbage, pausing every now and then, tilting his head as if to listen. She cooed and chirped again. Would this human help her or merely ignore her as so many humans did? Or worse, hurt her more for being a ‘pest’ and a ‘dirty nuisance’?

“There you are.”

So the man did spot her. As he approached she stilled and a little of the pain faded. No, he wouldn’t help. His mouth was turned down in that way humans wore before chasing her and her brethren away. Angry or disgusted.

“What are you doing here?”

The man crouched, reached out and the weight lifted from her. She struggled to stand. She’d run, fly away, but her leg wouldn’t work right and she flopped.

“Easy, little one.”

The man’s frown was deeper than ever but the sound of his voice didn’t match the anger he seemingly wore. He spoke quietly and slowly. Soft. There was another small human, a child, who used to speak like that and sat near her old flock, tossing them seeds. Maybe he was like that one. She kept herself still as he reached out, his movements still slow.

Cautious fingers probed. Then the man stood and she wondered if she was wrong after all. Would he leave her? What would she do now? Instead he shrugged off his coat and knelt by her once more. With more of those gentle movement she found herself being wrapped in the coat and lifted. Once again her wings were pinned to her, but this was different. She sensed this somehow was safe and she snuggled deeper into the coat’s warmth.

She was brought into a building on the upper level. It was cluttered like outside but warm. The man placed her, coat and all, on a table and gave her water which she thankfully drank as best she was able while he stood by still frowning.

“Should get you properly looked at,” he muttered. With that he reached for and spoke into the black object like the others she saw outside and sometimes humans spoke into those too. She had eventually decided it was a way for them to communicate, like some sort of long ranged bird call.

The man’s words washed over her unheeded while she finished drinking her fill and huddled into the coat. It was a good nest for now. Maybe she’d sleep…  

She woke in a different place. Her leg felt strange; something was wrapped around it, but she didn’t hurt so much. With a wobble she stood, on the alert for danger and wondering where she was now. And where was the man who took her?

“Awake, are you?”

Oh, there he was. The man stood over her and she was in some kind of shallow box. With a little more effort than she was accustomed to, she fluttered up to perch on the edge, balancing with another wobble. She was on another table and there was a huge, tall white box and a shorter but still big shiny looking box with knobs and some kind of window. The man jerked forward with a frown and hand outstretched before he suddenly pulled up short of touching her. But, it was all right; he was all right and she shuffled along the edge to get closer.

“I don’t want to have to take you to the vet again already.”

“Coo?”

“Oh all right.” He took her into his hands. She cooed again and cocked her head trying to make sense of her surroundings from this new vantage point. It didn’t really help much, but his hands were warm. That didn’t last long however as he then carried her over to a countertop and set her down. Before she could get too offended the man opened one of the many doors and took out a bowl. To her growing approval he then filled that bowl with seeds and set it down for her.

“Let’s get some food in you,” he said and leaned against the counter while she pecked at the seeds.

They were good—much better than the meager offerings she’d been able to find in the junkyard and the man let her take as much as she pleased. When she finished the man took her back to the box, muttering something about needing something else, but it was comfortable here and this human was clearly one of the nice ones.

And so something new began. She rested that night and in the morning they met again. Once again she tried to fly and once again the man frowned and she stopped. She didn’t want this human to be angry, but as he lifted her again ever so gently, she realized it wasn’t anger, but something she saw when a human would chase after their smaller humans and there would be raised voices and then hugs—merely trying to keep their chicks safe.

She would stay low for now. It felt harder to keep her balance and land anyway and the man brought her more water and this time a mix of seeds and fruit. But, they weren’t to stay here today.

“I can’t leave you here alone,” the man said and she soon found herself in the box in a truck and back to the junkyard room.

And the next several days passed as such. They went back and forth between the man’s home and the junkyard office—most of the time was spent in the office, sometimes well into the night and all night in one case during those first days. She didn’t mind. The location made little difference—the man was there either way—and besides the office had more to explore as she regained her strength. As those days passed, the man grew more talkative. She didn’t understand a lot of what he said, especially when he started talking at his desk over piles of papers and objects she also didn’t understand with words like ‘meteorite’ and ‘radiation’ but she liked to hear his voice.

It seemed he liked her too. He had no problem letting her perch nearby or on his shoulder or even a tentative landing into his hair—it looked so soft and better than any makeshift nest she’d tried making of scrap paper and whatever other bits he allowed her to take. He made an odd sound when she landed and then she realized it was a laugh. She hadn’t heard that from him before and found she very much liked the sound. The new perch was added to her daily rounds as she watched him work.

Then the day came. She’d regained her strength and the binding around her leg had been removed a few days prior. She felt utterly normal again as if she’d never been hurt in the first place. The tumble could be an ever growing distant memory to be forgotten.

She perched on the man’s shoulder as he went outside. Was it time for another walk around the junkyard? Or were they leaving early today?

The man’s shoulders lifted then sagged as he stopped just outside the office and spoke. “You did well, little one.” He reached up and she happily waddled into his hands. “It’s time to go now. Back to your life.”

She cocked her head. What did he mean? He lifted his hands up and she fluttered up to perch on a twisted metal rod nearby to stare at the man. Her life? She could leave now. She could leave and… be alone. She often saw humans with others, small flocks of their own that came and went and yet she never saw this man with anyone else. He was alone as she was. No, this was her life now. There was nothing else she wanted to return to. She took off from the rod to return to her perch among his hair.

He twitched, startled and reached up to pet her. “You can go. You’re all better.”

“Cooo.”

“This junkyard is no home for a lovely dove like you.”

“Coo!”

“Hm. That’s it then, is it? Well, come along then.”

Now it was back to being the day it was supposed to be. Their routine continued as normal until that very evening. The man fell asleep over the table his head pillowed in his arms while she’d been strutting around the desk poking at the various items, the coloured sticks and the black chirping box and so forth. She flew over to the table landing near the stack of papers and the other weird object she was pretty sure he’d called a micro-something. She nestled against his arms amongst these items she still didn’t understand, but there was one thing she understood. This here with this man was home now.