Flash Fiction: Champion Pigeon by Meg Pokrass

That time I took a train to Cornwall and sat on the beach thinking about nobody. That time I thought about finding a dog. That time I remembered nothing about the house in the city, the home my ex and I used to feel happy in. That time I decided that life was about this moment and the next, one solo beach adventure at a time. That time I stood up and kicked off my flip flops. That time I stood up and waved to invisible dolphins. That time and one other time after that, I missed nobody and nothing.


The days were all about sandwiches. Which ones to enjoy and which ones to improve on. One sandwich had floppy bread and stringy cheese. Another sandwich had too many seeds and not enough meat. My sandwich-making skills were depleted. My life as an adventurer living alone in her kitchen felt unhappy. Some days, even the normal things felt they needed forgiveness. Some days, I wanted to take a train ride to Cornwall and stop trying to make sandwiches. To eat at cafes, with a travelers’ smile.


The man from Alaska texted to say that he was experiencing boredom. I told him I was experiencing a similar thing. Is boredom an actual thing? he said. Yes, boredom is certainly a thing, I said. He asked me what I was cooking up for dinner. Shrimp ragout with yellow lentils and shiitake mushrooms, I lied. That sounds fantastic, he said. Damn right, and I’m somebody lucky, I said. After that, I went into the kitchen to prepare myself a non-gooey sandwich. This time, I added fresh basil leaves for kicks, sprinkled pepper on healthy bread, hoping it would calm everything down.


There was that time I heard an actual scream. It was no longer living in my head. I ran outside to see where it came from. I looked around the quiet cul-de-sac, saw nothing. The man across the way was outside, feeding his pigeons. The pigeons were champions of living in cages. I wondered about striking up a conversation. How are the birds today, I might say. But then, I remembered the echo of a scream. How easy it could be to wear a disguise, I thought. I stared at the man. Why did the people around here have such vapid smiles, yet nobody said a word? I decided that a simple encounter could easily become one big accident and went back into my house.


In his text, the man from Alaska said a visit would be like a winter gift. “It’s warmer there than here, at least,” he said. I could hear a pigeon cooing outside the window while his positive thoughts chirped on, and my heartbeat grew regular. But later, I turned off my phone. Life became simple, walking outside and back in the house, looking for mail that had yet to arrive. I probably needed an office, I thought. I needed to get out of the house, a house can become an enemy. That time I realized the man’s visit would not cheer me up. That time I felt only a tiny bit of shame for not encouraging him. How much I wanted to visit a relative, one who no longer lived on this earth.


On the beach in Cornwall, I decided that living alone was all about imagination. I thought about bringing home a puppy. All of the beautiful reasons to do it. I imagined the kind of friendship I might have with a gifted dog. But then I remembered how the best dogs weren’t terribly smart. You don’t want a smart one, a friend said. What you want is the kind who won’t take over your life. I would research dumb dogs as soon as I got home, I told myself. I put back on my flip flops. They hurt my toe skin, but I was becoming tough. I would not think of the old house, the divorce. I walked to the parking lot, called a taxi. I would return to the pleasant hotel. I would grow old in my cage like a champion pigeon.

Meg Pokrass is the author of 8 flash fiction collections and 2 flash novellas, including Spinning to Mars (Blue Light Book Award, 2021) and The Loss Detector (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). Her work has appeared in over 900 literary journals has been anthologized in 3 Norton anthologies: Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015), New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2018), and Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton & Co., 2023). She is the Series Co-Editor of Best Microfiction and Founding Editor of New Flash Fiction Review. Meg lives in Inverness Scotland. Find out more here: http://www.megpokrass.com

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