City Rats

I had a run in with Carl today. He had been bugging me for weeks and I knew things would come to a head eventually. He cornered me next to the copier and dumped the Anderson loan file on the machine. He asked me point blank if I’d lost my mind. There was no way the bank would ever approve that loan; the business plan was shaky. Didn’t I realize procedures had to be followed? I told him, politely, that it wasn’t his call; Gerald gave me his blessing. Carl huffed and puffed, swore this wasn’t the last of it, and barged out. I pretended not to care but my heart was beating in my throat. It was ridiculous. I shouldn’t let Carl upset me. I had to get out of there. The Indian deli on the ground floor made decent egg sandwiches and I needed creature comforts. I found an empty park bench and tried to put the incident behind me. In a month, I would be on a mountain bike, with Giorgio and Sam, exploring new trails and trying not to break my neck on the down slopes. These guys were hard to keep up with. I might be sweating bullets, but Carl, that gnat, would be sweating less pleasantly over his dumb spreadsheets. Looking for a way to cut me and sabotage me with Gerald, no doubt.

I didn’t notice the old woman at first. She must have come from behind. Anyway, she put her dried wrinkled ass down at the end of the bench and started cooing. Roo cootacoo coo. One gray molting dove! I watched her from the corner of my eye. She pulled a paper bag out of a ratty coat pocket and took forever to open it. Watching her swollen arthritic fingers struggle with the bag made me wince. I wanted to grab it and go: here, lady, get with the program, life’s short, time flies, and then – I couldn’t believe it – she started throwing bread on the path right under the pounding feet of the joggers. Looked like seasoned croutons actually. The birds came. En masse. Good Lord! All the pigeons in goddam Chicago! The flying rats that crapped on my car, aimed for my suit, at significant cleaning cost I may add, and plain fucked up the entire blasted city! And this walking coffin bait fed them croutons. I could feel my egg sandwich somersault. Now she ruined my lunch. Happy snacking, feathers! I got up and the entire revolting feeding party took flight in alarm. I wished the old bat took the cue and flapped away with them; I was about to clip her skinny wings. She looked at me as if I was a spawn of hell. I smiled. My wife says I show too much teeth when I smile; it disturbs her. I wished the woman a good, productive day. I suggested she try croissant crumbs next time. They were flakier and the butter would plump up the birds.

Pigeon meat is black, I’ve been told.

M.E. Proctor worked as a communication professional and freelance journalist. After forays into SF, she’s currently working on a series of contemporary detective novels. Her short stories have been published in Bristol Noir, TildeFiction Kitchen BerlinThe Bookends ReviewThe Blue NibFiction on the Web, and others. She lives in Livingston, Texas. @MEProctor3

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