Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And partridge in a pear tree.
|We do know that the original gift was Collie birds - which means "black" and refers to crows - but I like green birds.|
|I can't transfer the images, so here are sketches.|
My technical adviser said I should put the story right here. He is rushing off to play organ for a funeral, with a saxophonist. (No, he isn't running off with the saxophonist; he will accompany the saxophonist - just so we are clear here.)
“Merry Christmas, Jimmy!” Charlotte landed with a whir of feathers and whipped her neck back and forth as she danced beside the bulbous male pigeon who still had his head tucked in nearly level with the rest of his body.
Sour Jim opened one eye. “Again?”
“What do you mean, again? It's only Christmas once a year!”
“Precisely. So it was last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so I say, 'again?'.”
“Ah Jimmy, you're funny.” And she giggled.
“And you're...” muttered Sour Jim, but his adjective was lost in Charlotte's chatter.
“I just saw the most charming ad this morning on TV. It's about an old guy who fakes his death...”
“Hah!” burst out the male, standing up straight and flaring his flashy neck feathers, suddenly genuinely amused and interested.
Charlotte cocked her head sharply and looked at him. “...in order to bring all his busy grown children together one last time. It's very touching.”
The iridescent feathers folded and Sour Jim tucked himself into a ball again. “Sappy sentimentalism. Bah.”
“Oh, be that way,” said Charlotte, undeterred. “I thought it was sweet. But what I actually came to say was that today being Christmas, you are cordially invited to participate in the Annual Christmas Reward Against Parsimony. That is...”
“You realize what that makes as an acronym, yes?” Sour Jim interrupted her, straightening himself up again. “Not to mention you and your mates from the neighborhood club probably mean plain old unkindness, not parsimony, because we pigeons have nothing to do with money. And thirdly, I'm not interested.”
Charlotte was silent for a moment, but she rallied. “Well, you can participate anyway. We're looking for the most remarkable good deed done by a pigeon on Christmas Day. This evening at sundown we'll give away a baggie of hemp seed to the winner.”
“How good of you.”
“Anyway, you're in, Jimmy. Bye. Merry Christmas.” She sounded a bit less chipper when she flew away, but Sour Jim didn't care. Charlotte was new to the area. The new ones always thought they could make a mark for themselves by getting cozy with Sour Jim. And they always sidled off in the end. He knew the routine by now, how to keep his peace and quiet.
He dozed for while until the sun was strong enough to give a little warmth. Then he shook the frost-turned-dew from his feathers and headed out to find food.
Six hours later he was back at his perch under the roof of a pawnshop, and in a worse mood than usual. He hadn't found much to eat in the dirty, day-old snow, and he was hungry. It was getting dark now, though, so better luck tomorrow. More people would be out tomorrow, too; there'd be food then. These silly holidays kept everybody at home, and when there was snow on top of it all... Lousy business.
He was just tucking his head under his wing when he noticed a plastic baggie one rafter over. He studied it for a moment. It had seeds in it, that much he could see. His first impulse was to fly over and help himself, but he remembered Charlotte's chatter and was immediately on the alert for any catches.
Maybe she'd thought herself terribly smart, thinking he might have the hidden decency to
return, or at least keep the baggie for its rightful owner, whichever dumb pigeon had, what, done the
biggest and best good deed that day. Or she and the other neighborhood club busybodies were hidden somewhere, just waiting for him to help himself, and then lay into him and take it away... Yeah, that was it. It was a trap.
With a little pigeon whistle-snort he pulled in his head.
Just then the street lamp came on, making him look up. He saw a whole flock of pigeons flying in. Hah. No doubt they were expecting to find the baggie gone, or open, or scattered... He was going to pretend he hadn't even noticed it, but he inched in the opposite direction anyway, until he was snug against the far rafter.
The pigeons set down on the pawnshop roof, and the streetlamp, and the telephone wires. Sour Jim was annoyed at being surrounded, but he sat plopped in a fluffy ball as if it didn't concern him in the least.
He heard some quiet consulting among the pigeons; then Charlotte flapped up to his spot and landed. “Hi Jimmy!”
Her cheeriness was back. Well, she was in for a letdown...
“Well?” he replied. “Did you find a pigeon that did a great and wonderful good deed on Christmas? Because after all, they count extra on Christmas, when everybody is nice to each other anyway...”
“Oh you,” she laughed. “We weren't looking for biggest and best. We were looking for most remarkable. And you betcha I saw something remarkable today. I saw Sour Jim down at the train station save a homeless guy's sandwich – his one meal of the day – from a rat.”
Sour Jim shot bolt upright. “Say what? I wanted that sandwich. The...”
“I know, I know,” Charlotte said, hopping around excitedly. “But then you saw a rat going for it too, and you fought off the rat, and the homeless man woke up and was able to rescue his sandwich and eat it himself. It's pretty cold out; who knows – he might not have lasted through tonight if he hadn't had something to eat.”
“Tonight isn't...” Sour Jim stopped himself. He'd wanted to say, “over yet,” but he realized that in this moment silence was golden. So he twisted his gape up in a little smile and tried to look proud of himself.
Charlotte beamed, and another pigeon, Tom or John or Matt or something, flew over with the baggie of hemp seeds. “We're glad to be able to give you this, Jim” Tom-or-John-or-Matt said, ruffling his wings a bit. “You've been around a long time, and we're always a bit worried about how you're doing, you know... We're real happy we can share a bit of Christmas with you this year.”
Sour Jim kept his gape curled just right and nodded, then grabbed the baggie and pulled it toward him. “Thanks, folks. Been a pleasure. I'm pretty glad of this prize, since I didn't get much to eat today...”
Tom-or-John-or-Matt laughed, and Charlotte laughed, and all the pigeons laughed, and after a whole round of Merry Christmases they finally flew away and left Sour Jim alone.
That was the point when he started grinning for real as he tore into the baggie, trying to make enough holes to scatter the seeds. “The suckers. 'Most remarkable good deed,' indeed! The bum was sleeping off his latest fifth, and his sandwich was out for anybody to grab. Doggone rat got there same time I did, so yeah, I had to argue with him, and it woke up the bum, who put his sandwich where it won't do anybody any good, and I went hungry. But hey!” He suddenly stopped pecking at the seeds. “I am doing a good deed! Charlotte and her clubbers wanted a sappy Christmas anecdote, and they got one. No matter if they put their own twist on it. Hah. I earned this prize after all.”
Quite pleased with himself, he tucked in.
Over Christmas dinner we had a discussion about the meaning of this story. Several different views were propounded, but I was asked to let you comment before I say what we said. Was Jim actually a Grinch and Scrooge or not, Should one write grinchy stories?
What do you think?
The Christmas song will have to wait until technical assistance gets home again.
But in the meantime, we send a big THANK YOU to all for Christmas cards and letters. They mean a lot to us, in whatever form they come. We did notice that this year has seen a return of sending cards and letters in the mail. A couple of years ago we got almost none, and we thought the digital age had taken over real life. Not so - so thanks.
|This came from sunny Florida today. It shows you what Floridians wish they had - well, maybe not.||Thanks, Mom.|
|Our annual card wall - full this year, with more still likely to come.|