It was the first of several mornings at the stables where everything that had to be done seemed to happen with a light and deft touch. The hay nets were full but weighed less, the stables were just as messy as always but seemed easier to clean and the horses could have been lead out using a piece of cotton rather than lead ropes. And as everything went so well I was able to sit in the sunshine outside the stables with a book and a cup of coffee for a few minutes before going off to work.
The late August sun traced its path over the hay barn casting its bright light and soft heat on to the yard warming the concrete hard standing where I was sitting. Without looking up from my book I became aware of a presence watching me. It was neither of the horses as they had already been turned out and were safely grazing in their paddock. It wasn’t any of the cows from neighboring field and nor was it the neighbor’s cat. It was nothing but it was something on the yard.
The next morning at the yard was just as easy as the previous day. This included that wnen I sat down on the warm concrete with my coffee, biscuit and book after all the chores had been done I felt a presence. I probably had dozed off into a very slight sleep. The sleep where you can hear everything around you but cannot open your eyes. Something did wake me up. I could hear a very soft clicking near my legs. I looked up from my book and there near my feet was a brown speckled pigeon carrying out a close inspection of my shoes and jeans. When the pigeon realized I was a wake it flapped and made a vertical takeoff up to the roof of the hay barn. From there it gave into a curiosity and looked down on me. Before I left the yard I threw some horse feed up on to the roof which it could eat in safety during the day. It flapped in an immediacy of fright. Then when it realized there was no danger in the pellets of goodness settled down to eat. When I left the yard I could hear its feet as they tapped across the corrugated iron roof foraging in its runnels for oats and maize.
It did not take many days for the pigeon to decode that I was not a predator and was in actual facct a source of food. After about a week of what had become a routine the pigeon and I would share our morning breaks. It would contentedly peck at a small supply of horse feed I placed next to me on the concrete while I read. To any visitor we must have looked an odd sight. Man enjoying a drink, biscuits and a book while a pigeon pecked around him for food. What would have been an even more peculiar sight was that the man could sometimes be heard calling the pigeon by a name that could quite happily been written on the birth certidicate of a boy or a girl.
The book I was reading started in Elizabethan times with a young man sitting under a tree somewhere in the south of England either reading or trying to write some poetry on a warm summer’s day. His peace was broken by remembering he had to be back at the family home to help welcome and meet Queen Elizabeth I. He was befriended by the Queen and entered royal service at court. From there he became an ambassador travelling through different eras while changing gender and completing her story in Edwardian London.
The pigeon felt safe enough to sit on my lap after it had eaten and peer into the pages of the book. Even the turning of a page did not scare it. It was almost as if it was reading the same story and wanted to get to the next page as soon as possible to find out what was happening to the fictional hero.
The story ended in a confusion of disputed estates, lawyers and the hero’s death in Edwardian London on the last page. I was sorry the story had ended and I would like to think that the pigeon was. I closed the book and put it down on the concrete. My movements must have been just a bit too sudden for the pigeon as it flapped its wings and returned to the hay barn roof. I threw some more feed up to it for the day and left the yard. From there I could hear its familiar tip tap click as it foraged away.
The next morning I brought another book to the yard. The daily chores felt just a bit heavier and the sun was not quite so warm or bright. After the work was done I sat in my usual spot. There was something missing. I felt very much alone. There was no tip tap clicking from the hay barn roof followed by a brown speckled pigeon landing near me and pecking at thee feed I had put out for it. I could not get started on the new book as I felt so unsettled so I stood up and went for a walk around the yard calling the pigeon’s name hoping we could still share the good things in life but without success.
Orlando had gone.