Relocation Specialists by Mark Shearman
Copyright © 2013 by Mark Wayne Shearman
Published by ShearArt Publishing
Cover Design copyright © 2013 ShearArt Publishing
Chapter 1 Pigeon Coup d'état
Towering block of council owned dwellings, twelve-floors sporting its latest refurbishment. Hiding the hideousness of its 1960s design and build, concrete repaired and covered in pastel blue elastic paint. New reflective windows, that alleviate all those horrific multi coloured curtains, glisten in the morning sun. Its previous drug dependent tenants relocated to Her Majesty’s rehabilitation centres. Now the new inhabitants pay rent and enjoy the surroundings with a certain amount of safety and the freedom to complain--a lot.
The block, renamed, Robin Hood House, now has communal gardens with flower beds of roses, edged with box hedges and sectioned off lawn patches with tarmac walkways. All maintained and blend into the surrounding hillside.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, calm and empty, with a slight pinch in the air, a grey feral pigeon lands on the ground and another…
Two large timber doors are open to the central waste room, housing a huge rotund, steel bin on wheels. The occasional slam, from a rubbish bag, jars, as someone deposits last night’s takeaway into the central rubbish chute and kicks up a new wave of stench. The pigeons now a platoon, grow in numbers, not one flinches from the explosive noise.
Harold clean shaven, uniformed in a faded blue boiler suit, white shirt and tie, and enveloped in a brown caretaker’s coat. He’s accessorising with multi-coloured pens and an electrician’s screw driver, stacked neatly in his top pocket. Magnifying glasses teeter on the end of his strawberry nose. Harold thought it was wormer that morning, first signs of spring the frost had depleted.
He wished he had a garden of his own so he could grow a few runner beans and carrots, a couple of rows of jersey royals and few sprigs of herbs, to Harold that would be bliss. Reaping what you sow with a lashing of horseradish and Bisto gravy.
The paths around the block are lined with green boarders containing mainly shrubs, arranged to display a wide range of greens, textures and foliage. The small entrance gardens are plush with herbaceous plants and Dahlias, dotted around the border. Harold prunes each year to keep the border in scale with its setting and in the summer the land that stretchers up the hillside are embellished with drifts of poppies and daisies.
Harold doesn’t react or mind the pigeon muck splodge atop his shoulder, why would he? A pigeon fancier at 62, bordering on retirement from his caretaker's job, he’s seen a lot more to complain about, it shows in his tired, cloudy-blue eyes.
Harold’s wife, used to mop the hallways and clean up body fluids regularly splashed in the two lifts that service the generic floors. She threw the tea towel in a couple of years back, leaving Harold alone. His sadness nearly drove him to join her with inclinations towards suicide, but for the loves in his life, his pigeons and his grandson.
"See David you break small pieces off and scatter them, if the pieces are two big or say, the whole loaf, you will scare them away. Build up trust and then..."
Harold grabs one of the pigeons and strokes it. David’s face is wrapped concentration and a blue hoodie, factor in the rest of his clothes and his swagger, it’s obvious he’s in his late teens. David visits his granddad every day, having no father, his granddad is an adequate substitute.
His mother acquired David one alcohol fuelled night on a package holiday on the Costa Blanca. Drunken, serenaded, loved up and left clutching a signed picture and his promotional leaflet, which read he was a flamenco guitarists from Andalucía, his prison tattoo on his right arm suggested Cardiff, Wales, to her he was exotic. She is happy her son has built a close relationship with her father, but she often worries about some of the advice he is given.
"See you after work," said Harold.
"Okay Granddad." David shuffles off, hands in pockets, broad rim to his underwear poking over the top of his skinny jeans. Harold continues this feeding frenzy as more pigeons swoop down to join the feast. He wipes a patch on his boiler suit with a tissue and stops in thought. His wife had sewn a red cross on a white background over a ripped patch on his arm, and they would joke that he was Saint George going to do battle with the dragon. The nickname they gave their boss from the council.
Cars yawn and filter out of the car park, start of a new day. A black suited, middle aged woman, climbs out her four door saloon, stern faced. She dusts off crumbs from her lap, wets her finger and rubs it on a stain then clip clops around the back of the car and reaches in the boot, pulls out a velvet handbag and clutches it under her arm, slight paranoia as she oscillates her head, her fiery red hair swishing in the wind.
After gaining control of her hair, she marches around the side of the flats with an air of confidence and a slight twitch of annoyance at having to visit, yet again, this council owned asset on the edge of town. She kicks up a notch passing a cream Volkswagen Beetle festooned with pigeon excrement, sitting on four flat tyres with a sign on the windscreen: Caretaker's do not touch. She moves past with haste, a slight skewwhiff in her step, her shoulders lift as she squirms away, the cold air chunters from her mouth betraying her self-talk expletives at the festering sight.
The woman, dragon lady to some, works for the council’s asset management department and facilities with aspirations of one day becoming a prominent figure in local government. She slows to cautions, draws a breath, pushes it out through her nose and barrels through the pigeons, scattering them. She swings her hand bag at one that flutters near to her face, blowing in mid-air as if to repel its fleas or germs. Harold peers over his glasses and lifts his bushy grey eyebrows at her, bites his laugh back, and hides a bag of bread crumbs in his back pocket with the skill of a pickpocket.
"Harold I’ve asked you time and time again not to do this, you can’t keep feeding them here we’ve had complaints about the mess again."
Harold shrugs his shoulders at her.
"I told you to apply for an allotment spot up the hill."
"Five years' waiting list," Harold replies, without looking up as he still carries a smile that was obviously part of a laugh.
"That’s my problem?" She wipes the bottom of her black court shoe on a paving slab.
"Thought maybe you could put a word in like, I heard you date someone from…"
She interrupts him shaking her finger at him as if he were a petulant child.
"What I do in my spare time and with whom is none of your..." she stops herself.
"This is putting your employment at serious risk, now get rid of them or I will."
"They're like friends I can’t just let them starve."
"Starve, look at that one, it can hardly walk, even its legs are fat!"
"Oh-My-God you’ve named them." She turns to walk, stops, turns back.
"And while I’m at it, when are you going to get that wrecked… old jalopy of yours shifted, it’s covered in crap, how they have managed to zero your car out and nobody else’s is a god send. But that will be the next thing the residents complain about. The last thing I want is to be coming down to this…" She wipes her shoe again vigorously on the pavement slab. "…hole."
She spins around and scuttles off. Harold smiles at the three splodges she has sustained from the pigeons. The birds regroup, closed the gap and strengthened the perimeter.
Chapter 2 Operation Swat
Harold rides the lift to the top floor, climbs a flight of steps, slightly breathless, holding onto the rail. He unlocks a huge padlock to the roof door, opens it and walks out on to a flat roof, stepping out slowly towards a roughly constructed timber hut, battered by the wind with mesh hanging off it. Several pigeons huddle in it but most sit in front of an air duct.
Harold tries to repair the mesh, every time he hits a nail in it, something else comes lose. This is his attempt at building a home for the pigeon and maybe containing them for a while to stop the complaints. He looks down at the cage floor, one of the pigeon lay still and lifeless, he scoops it up, sits on the roof and leans up against the lift house, exasperated.
He picks up a broken piece of mirror he had hung in the cage for the amusement of the pigeons and looks at his face. He remembers the first time he saw the bags under his eyes, when he was in his thirties, double shifts, working on the railway he blamed it on, he had a passport photo taken and that's when he noticed them. Harold said to his wife, "why didn't you tell me?" she said "what, so you notice mine," they laughed, she always made things better.
Harold looked out at the expansive landscape, dotted below the tree line are huts that belong to allotments, all he needs is one of them and his life will be complete.
The next morning corrugated clouds shift with an icy wind revealing that a blue sky and sunshine exist if only for a moment. A white transit van lurches to a halt in front of the apartment block's main doors, spluttering black smoke and splashed in pictures of vermin like: Rats, Pigeons and cockroaches. Printed on the side in large bold black letters: Bob the terminator the answer to your future problems - they won’t be back, underneath: also house removals by appointment.
Thirty years have produced this bulking mass of a man, some easy, some hard, but mostly in denial, single and flatulent. He steps out the van, orange overalls stretch around his broad shouldered and bulgy body, he grasps a black clip board in his oversized hand, a tool to make him feel authoritative. His embroidered name tag reads, Big Bob. He’s squints his eyes and pulls on a pair of black shades to hide his deep crow’s feet, straightens his brown leather tool belt and braces, anticipation as if entering a lap-dance bar for the first time.
A young smooth faced boy, his apprentice, big dark brown Spanish eyes, spiky black hair, same overalls, everything identical to Bob’s attire. He scurries obsequiously behind, trying to keep in step with Bob, following the tarmac path towards the rear of the flats and the bin room. They pass several shabby cars, some have cards saying tax in the post and police aware stickers plastered on the windows. They round the corner and abruptly stop dead in their tracks, startled by Harold and his feed frenzy pigeon mates. Captured and unfazed, Harold and the pigeons carry on like they don’t care.
"Excuse me fella," Bob bellows, looks at his clip board. "Mr Shelly, you have been warned about that, now they are mine. Do not feed these birds on Sunday, we will be back."
Harold continues to feed them. Throwing bread crumbs from his fingerless gloved hands and turns his back on them.
Bob counts, weighing up how many birds he is dealing with, he makes some calculations, pulls off his sun glasses and scratches his head, his eyes widening, flips on his glasses and the clip board under his arm and rubs his hands at the total.
"Lovely, five quid a bird and the ones I have to shoot down from the alcoves, ten pounds." He looks at his apprentice. Even though the apprentice is expressionless, he laughs at his own joke.
"Only joking kid, keep up."
Bob sneaks a handful of feed out his pocket when no one’s looking, scatters it amongst the pigeons and walks off. Bob’s grandfather used to have some racing pigeons and on the weekends he was allowed to travel with him and drop them off, some nights he would sit up around a camp fire waiting for them to return and listen to his granddad's stories. That all stopped when his parents moved to the city and he has always felt a big lose in his now empty heart.
Sunday night-time is only a few shades away. Bob and his apprentice, covert and stealth, hand signals, attack mode, black boiler-man overalls, thick rubber gloves. Bob turns to his apprentice, puts his fist out for a potato mash, the apprentice not being the sharpest tool from the van suddenly realises what he is doing and pounds his fist.
"We’ll call this operation, Swat," says Bob.
They move to the rear of the apartment block in single file hugging the contour of the building, keeping in the shadows until they reach the place where they last saw the insurgent pigeons. The leader, Harold, is nowhere to be seen. Bob scans the tableau for danger, steps forward and trips a wire. He is stopped in his tracks, a muffled bell rings from an apartments and a curtain twitches. Bob looks at his apprentice. "Watch where your stepping lad." He points his flash light at the trip wire made out of fishing line.
Bob positions his breathing mask and nods at his apprentice to do the same, he handles a container with caution, which is what it also says on the side of the receptacle. He peels open the lid which betrays it to be nothing more than a Tupperware container that he has painted on the side. Bob scoops and scatters multi coloured feed around. Soon... a pigeon swoops down and another... he looks up, a curtain twitches from the third floor, he carries on. The curtain moves again, he throws his eyes up with speed, but the curtain slams shut.
The third floor curtain twitchier is Harold, who holds ajar his dusty curtain. His eyes sharpen and slash wide peering down at Bob. Bruch: Violin concerto no 1 in G minor blasts in the background. Harold strokes a fat pigeon ‘Beryl’, with a sturdy hand, he has a conspiratorial look on his face, Beryl’s look is constipated. Harold’s persona is cold and sinister. His mouth breaks into a satisfying smile as he slowly closes the floral patterned curtain.
Bob rushes off ushering his apprentice to move sharpish as if leaving the scene of a crime. He steps up into his van in sync with his apprentice.
Bob pulls off his hat, liquid pouring from his thick face and unscrews a bottle of water nervous, deep in thought. He offers his apprentice some. He declines with a hand motion.
"Right tomorrow morning’s clean-up day, meet me here. It can start to get a bit nasty, so best come early, so we can avoid any visual-anti pigeon fanciers."
Chapter 3 Ensconced
The weather is Grey and threatening, a slight breeze whisks up the odd piece of rubbish. Bob and the apprentice stomp around to the rear of the apartment block carrying large weaved baskets. Bob’s smiling face changes to shock and stopping them in their tracks.
Pigeons strewn all over the place, most dormant, some twitch. Harold kneeling, tears tumble down his leathery cheeks. He has a small pile of pigeon carcasses aside a large stainless steel bucket of water. He holds a pigeon under water drowning it, barely being able to watch, so he looks upwards.
"You rotten evil beast... your poison didn’t work, they are lying here still dyeing, a slow, cruel death, heartless..." Harold stutters.
"No...!" screams Bob, "we only drugged them. We’re here to transport them to a new location in the country side, pigeon sanctuary."
Just then the council woman walks around the corner, she’s wearing casual jeans and a three quarter length leather coat, which suggest she is in on a Sunday, off the clock. She quickly scans the situation and throws her hands up to her flushed cheeks in wide-eyed horror.
Harold struggles to his feet, drops the wet cadaver and clutched his chest, dodders, and then collapses on the floor. He lifts his stubby finger stretching his arm out like Michelangelo’s depiction on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, points it at her and cries out in breathless pain.
"And you, God will see who this day’s evil belongs to. You will walk with the devil at Easter."
Harold passes out.
The sky shrouded in amorphous clouds with the occasional glint from the sun, shining through. On top of a grassy hill, above the block of flats, is a freshly constructed, light-brown, timber shack, complete with a wire mesh front and a small chimney poking through the roof which omitted a lazy coil of smoke. At the back of the hut are neat rows of freshly planted veg. Strings of twinkling silver paper spin in a soft breeze, working as crow deterrents.
Harold sits in a cosy, warn, leather reclining chair, beaming smile, covered in his friends the pigeons. Some are coming and going, others sit on perches, and most are feeding on the floor. Harold throws Beryl a piece of cheddar cheese on a wedge of digestive biscuit.
Other allotments nearby are being tended by out-of-work seventy-some-things. Harold holds a pair of 20x50 binoculars up to his face with one hand as he dips a digestive biscuit into a mug of steaming tea with the other. He focuses and can see the council woman, dressed in a blue trouser suit, talking on her mobile phone, leaning up against her Ford car, which is parked in front of the apartment block.
"Yes, bless, we let him retire early as well, least we could do," said the council woman, she terminates the phone call and climbs into her car.
Harold's vision is blurred as Bob’s apprentice approaches. Harold still ensconced in his chair when the apprentice reaches the hut. Music plays in the background, the B52’s love shack, subtle not too loud. It’s days like these he wishes his wife was still with him, so he could tell her about it, she would make him laugh with some sarcastic remark and he would be eating some of her home made pie.
"Hi Granddad," said the apprentice, "mum said are you coming over on Sunday for dinner?"
"I lad, expect so. Did you ask Bob?"
"Yes he’s been talking about it all week. I think he's a bit nervous meeting mum."
"Well, women can have that effect son, it won’t be long before some of me veg will be ready, me carrots are doing really well." Harold leans forward and throws in a couple of smokeless coals into his stove.
"Told you David, a bit of planning in this world, like the feeding process, small and subtle, sow a few seeds and you can get what you want, jump any queue." He slurps on his steaming tea from a steel enamelled cup.
"What about those dead pigeons," asked David?
"God took them son, God. I just collected their bodies for a few weeks. Now then, time for your second lesson, how to play on the compassion of a powerful woman," he pulls off his woollen fingerless gloves. "And get her to buy you a new car. Sit down and hand me, me walking stick, I need props for this."
Other Books by this Author
Streaking For Mother
Flip Flop Flamenco
Spoils of the Moon
Flavour For A Favour
Loose Lips Sink Ships
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My blog: http://shermdonor.blogspot.com.es/