Failure to fly

She watches the pigeon struggle with a crust of bread almost half its size. It’s more than a crust. Torn from the heel of a loaf, it’s chunky and solid. The beat of the pigeon’s wings isn’t enough to lift it. One of the bird’s feet is a deformed curl of claws, a club that gives no traction. One wing droops lower than the other, and she wonders whether it is broken or whether that entire half of the bird’s body doesn’t work properly.

The colours in the wings of the pigeon surprise her. Grey marl on the outside, tips varying from dark to light with a pattern like a Scandinavian jumper, and an underside of soft paleness edged in soot. She watches their motion as the bird tries to lift the bread. Sweeping and rotating, scooping the air to create a draught that the bird then fails to climb onto.

She looks at her own winter plumage, a pale grey cotton and wool cladding with its subtle flashes of colour. She is muted and unremarkable. Anonymous. She moves through the world like a ghost.

From the other side of the window, the pigeon gives her a pink-eyed sideways look.