by Peter Jordan
The front door was locked. The two boys ambled up the side of their father’s house, heads down, bored. The older boy wondered when their father would return. The younger boy thought of his mother.
It was the older boy who spotted it first, between the engine of a Ford Transit and an old outboard motor. He got down on his knees, reached his hand under the engine, and trailed it out. The bird made no effort to resist. There were beads of dark red blood on the breast feathers. ‘It’s a pigeon,’ he said.
‘It’s not a pigeon,’ said the younger boy. ‘It’s a collared dove.’
‘What’ll we do with it?’
The younger boy didn’t answer.
‘The cat must have got it.’
‘We’ll have to put it out of its misery.’
The two boys looked at each other. The older boy tried – without success – to wring the bird’s neck. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the strength to kill it.
He opened the back door and carried the bird into the kitchen. They looked around. He placed the dove in the oven. And he turned on the gas.
They could hear it scrabbling on the grease of the oven floor. They waited. It seemed like forever.
The younger boy opened the oven door. There was birdshit on the bottom of the oven. The smell of gas was strong, but the bird was still alive. He took it out and cradled it.
Their father came in through the back door. The father resembled the older boy. He wanted to know what was going on. The older boy told him what they’d found.
‘Give it to me,’ said the father.
The younger boy reluctantly handed the bird over to his father. The father pulled the bird’s neck until they heard a pop.
Later, when his older brother had gone out in the van with their father, the younger boy took the dove from the bin and buried it. For a long time he stood looking at the fresh earth. Then he opened the back door to the kitchen, got on his knees, and cleaned the bottom of the oven.
Peter Jordan is currently taking a PhD in short fiction.