The Runty Pigeon, Pt. 5

When she awoke, it only took a moment to realize that she was much, much further from home than she had ever been. Her wing was still sore, but it didn’t feel broken. She stretched it experimentally … and bumped against a wall. She shifted in another direction — another wall. She was in a cage. Now Olivia began to panic. She had heard of cages before. It was said that old Granny Checker had been put in a cage once, though no one seemed to remember exactly how she had gotten out. Everyone agreed, though, that a cage was a terrible place to be. Ignoring the pain in her wing, Olivia rammed herself at the walls, searching for some weakness that would allow her to escape.

“You’ll heal up faster if you don’t flap so much, dear.”

Olivia stilled, startled by the lilting voice from across the room. It didn’t quite have the sound of her familiar city pigeons, or of her new friends from the farm, but it was easy enough to understand. Olivia peered out from the front of her cage.

“There now, isn’t that better?”

The kindly voice from before was coming from a cage just opposite Olivia’s.

“My name’s Paloma, dear. What’s yours?”

Olivia suddenly remembered her manners.

“H… hello, friend,” she mumbled quickly. “I’m Olivia.”

“Oh, such a polite little one!” Paloma sounded delighted.

“If it’s not too much–” Suddenly, Olivia stopped. She had f
inally gotten a good look at the bird across from her, and it was like seeing herself a still pool of water. The bird was small, sleek, and completely white — just like Olivia! She looked like she would be a fast flier, and strong, though her eyes seemed sad and her feathers drooped a bit.

“Forgive me,” said Olivia hurriedly, “but … what are you?”

“Oh,” cooed Paloma, “I’m a dove, of course.”

Olivia stared at the beautiful bird, amazed. “A dove,” she repeated. “No wonder it never seemed right, living with all those pigeons!”

Paloma tilted her head to peer more closely at Olivia.

“But, dear … you are a pigeon!”

Olivia’s wings drooped, her newfound joy gone as soon as it had come. “I’m … I’m not a dove like you? Are you sure?”

Paloma seemed to find this extremely funny.

“Well, of course you are! You’re a dove just like me. And I’m a pigeon just like you!” She cooed a silly little tune that reminded Olivia of one of Father Pigeon’s lullabies, though the words were different.

A dove’s a pigeon

A pigeon’s a dove

It’s all the same to me, my love



You’re like me

And I’m like you!

She seemed to notice that Olivia was confused, and continued in a more serious tone.

“They’re all just silly names, little Olivia. A white pigeon like us is a dove. But so is a gray one, or a purple one, or a brown one. Birds who aren’t pigeons can be doves too. It depends who you ask, really.” Paloma preened one wing, as if she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Olivia was a little disappointed, but something else was bothering her more.

“Um, Paloma? Why are we in cages?”

Paloma looked around. “Cages? Right, yes, these. Well, I believe this is what they call a ‘quarantine.’ It’s where we go if we’re feeling a bit off, or if we’re new to the loft. You seem healthy enough; I suppose you must be a newcomer.”

Olivia was confused again.

“The Loft? Is that where your flock is? Are you here because you’re sick?”

At this last thought, Olivia peered nervously at Paloma. It was a dangerous thing for a bird to be sick, and you hardly ever admitted to it if you were. Was her sickness the reason Paloma seemed so calm about being trapped in a human cage?

“No, no, I’m well enough. Just a little down, that’s all. But of course the h
umans can’t understand a thing, poor creatures, so they decided I must be ill.”
This sounded a bit better to Olivia. Perhaps Paloma was sick — she did still seem a little droopy — but at least not so badly that she had given up trying to hide it. It wasn’t polite to ask too much about another pigeon’s health, so she tried to change the subject.

“Well, I’m sorry you’re feeling unhappy. There’s probably a storm coming.” Pigeons always blamed the weather for this sort of thing. Sometimes it was even true; thunderstorms certainly made Olivia want to fluff up her feathers and stay at home. To the younger pigeon’s surprise, though, Paloma didn’t politely agree and move on.

“Oh, no, that’s not it at all.” If anything, Paloma was even droopier now. “It’s my poor squab, you see. Poor darling Splash. They had to take him away as soon as his feathers came in, we hardly had a chance to teach him anything. I’m just so worried about him.”

This was certainly not what Olivia had expected. She moved closer to Paloma’s cage and tried to sound soothing, the way the adult pigeons had when her little Cousin Blue had never returned from his practice flight.

“I’m so sorry, Paloma. You said ‘they,'” she added gently; “Was it hawks, then?” A cat would have been alone, but even squabs knew that a prowling hawk often had a mate hunting nearby. Forgetting this could mean losing a flock member, or your own life.

“Oh! No, nothing as horrible as that,” cried Paloma, brightening for jusruntypigeon5t a moment. “No, it was the humans. They didn’t kill him, I don’t think. They’re really very gentle beasts. They took him away because of the other pigeons, you see. My flock is like you and me — ‘doves,’ as you said. Splash’s feathers didn’t come in quite the same, though. Beautiful black speckles all over, like birch bark. Some of the others were certain something was wrong with him, that he’d go straight to quarantine. When he didn’t, they …”

Paloma stopped here, looking more ill than ever, and Olivia wasn’t sure she was going to continue. At last, though, she started again.

“Well, they said they’d give him a reason to be there. Injured birds get taken here too, you see. Pax and I tried to protect him, but they … they would have taken his eyes out, I think, if the humans hadn’t come by at just the right time….”

Olivia was horrified. Her flock had been confused and perhaps cruel, but she couldn’t imagine them trying to hurt her like that. But of course, Olivia had left them on her own. It sounded like Splash had been trapped somehow, or maybe too young to fly away. But all of that seemed like a question for another time. She waited patiently for Paloma to recover again and conclude her tale.

“So yes, they took him away, but it was to protect him. I thought maybe he’d be here, but … no, it’s good he isn’t. That means he’s well. He’s strong. I’m sure they’ve found another flock for him. Don’t you think so, dear?” Paloma shook out her feathers and eyed Olivia hopefully.

Olivia wasn’t sure what to say.


The Runty Pigeon, pt. 4

doveBobby and Jess were not especially cruel children, and they did not especially dislike pigeons. They did, however, like throwing rocks, as children do. And so it was their job to keep the pigeons from getting too comfortable on their family’s grain silo each evening. The idea, of course, was to keep the birds from making a mess and eating the corn. But the pigeons had quickly learned that both Bobby and Jess had terrible aim. Now, the chore was more of an excuse for Bobby and Jess to throw rocks without earning themselves a scolding.

But the twins had not counted on Olivia simply sitting, terrified, as gravel rained down on her. “Fly, Olivia!” cried Rocky from behind the silo. “They’re like crows with a hawk!” called another; “Just flap off a ways and they’ll leave you be!” Even as the pigeons shouted encouragement, the storm began to clear; the twins were having no fun throwing rocks when it looked like they might actually hit one of the poor birds.

They thought they should at least make a show of scaring off the last pigeon, though. Bobby aimed left and Jess aimed right, and both threw one last stone at the silo. The bits of rock should have bounced harmlessly to the side. Unfortunately, the twins were as bad at missing their target on purpose as they were at hitting it. They had not aimed at Olivia, and Olivia had finally decided to get out of the way — but all three realized that their plans had gone wrong when they heard the terrible soft thud of a stone hitting a bird’s wing. Terrified, Olivia took to the air.

Olivia fell.

She heard the twins shouting meaningless human sounds —

“Is it dead?”

“It’s breathing! Get Dad!”

A gruffer voice then, joined again by the children:

“Look at that, white all over.”

“From a magician?”
“Yeah right. Probably from the lady who does weddings.”

“Doesn’t matter right now, kids, let’s get her to Mar.”

There was a shuffling as, stunned from her fall, Olivia felt herself picked up and wrapped in something soft and warm. Then she was somewhere small and cramped, and then something was placed over that, and Olivia was in darkness again. She could feel herself being carried very quickly, and she thought in a fuzzy sort of way that she should probably be trying to escape. But she was so tired, and the faint, soothing murmurs from the humans outside reminded her of pigeon sounds. Olivia closed her eyes and imagined that she was still safe in her eggshell, with her brother beside her, and her parents cooing soft lullabies from above.

Olivia slept.

The Runty Pigeon Pt. 3

Olivia flew and flew, until her wings were tired and the light was nearly gone. She knew that she would have to stop soon — but where? Everything seemed so flat and open, now that she had left the warm safety of the city. Clumps of trees huddled here and there between the fields, but Olivia did not trust trees. They shivered in the slightest breeze, swayed in the wind, and toppled in storms. No, Olivia wanted a sturdy building or a stout bridge.

Olivia wanted to go home.

But even home was far off now, much further off than nightfall. She decided that she would land in the next tree she found, swaying or not. It would be better, at least, than sleeping on the ground in one of these flat, flat fields.

Sure enough, she saw a tall shape up ahead. But it did not look quite like a tree. It looked less and less like a tree as she got closer. Finally, she realized it must be human-made. Nearby were smaller human things — a white house, a red car, a sagging gray shed. And although she did not recognize the tall building, she recognized something else as she flew closer. Pigeons! Beautiful fat gray pigeons. A small flock clustered together along the edge, murmuring quietly to each other as they readied for sunset. Olivia coasted down and landed carefully beside them, trying not to bump into anyone on the narrow ledge.

“Hello, friends!” called Olivia. This was the polite way to introduce yourself a new flock of pigeons, according to Mother Pigeon and Father Pigeon. Olivia had also been taught that a polite reply would follow, usually from the oldest or most-respected member of the flock. These pigeons, however, simply stared at Olivia as if she had said nothing at all.

Just in case, she tried again, more slowly and clearly. “Hello, friends! I am Olivia, from Under the Bridge in the human city. What is this place called? Do … do you understand me?” Olivia was beginning to think they did not. She had already noticed that the sparrows sang different songs out here; perhaps the pigeons had a different language as well?

But at last, the fattest and grayest pigeon fluffed his feathers and shuffled over to where Olivia perched. “Hello, little one. My name is Rocky, and I suppose this is the Silo. We pigeons all just call it the Birdfeeder, though.” He cooed happily, a sort of pigeon chuckle, and the others joined in. They did sound a bit different from Olivia’s flock, but she could understand them easily enough. Rocky stretched his wings sleepily and went on. “We don’t mean to be rude, Miss Olivia, but … what are you? And what brings you out here to us pigeons?”

It seemed the rest of the flock had been waiting for him to ask, because now they all started up at once, heads tilting and necks stretching to look at the newcomer. The older pigeons mostly stared, but the younger ones chattered away.

“Yes, who?”

“She sounds like a pigeon!”

“Sort of.”

“Doesn’t look like a pigeon.”

“Could be a ghost.”

“Can’t be a ghost, you silly squab!”

“Are you a ghost, miss?”

Olivia quickly backed away from the noisy birds, not sure who she was supposed to answer first or whether she was expected to reply at all. But she had to do something, so at last she stretched out her neck and cried as loudly as she could, “I AM A PIGEON!” She thought about this for a moment. “At least, I think I am,” she added quietly. The flock fell silent again, peering more closely at her in the fading light.

“Well,” said Rruntypigeon3ocky after a moment, “If she says she’s a pigeon, I suppose she must be.” He settled down against the cool railing of the silo. “Stay as long as you like, little Olivia. Oh, watch out for the Twins though.” As one, all the pigeons suddenly fluttered away to the other side of the silo, leaving Olivia standing alone and feeling very confused.

“What are the Twins?,” she called, but she was drowned out by a loud zing! from something flying by her head. Suddenly they were falling all around her like hailstones, bouncing off the metal and landing at her feet. Terrified, Olivia huddled as close as she could to the railing and waited for the storm to end.

If it had been a hailstorm, and Olivia had been snug and safe under her bridge, this might have been a good choice. Unfortunately, she was not beneath the bridge and these stones were not falling from the sky. They were being thrown by Bobby and Jess, the twins who lived in the little white farmhouse; and they were aimed straight at Olivia.

The Journey Begins (Runty Pigeon Pt. 2)

The Beginning

Olivia was a little pigeon with a big problem. While no pigeon Under the Bridge was exactly like the other (pigeons can always tell each other apart, even if it’s not so easy for humans like you and me), Olivia was more unlike the others than most.

She was a little smaller than any of the other pigeons her age, and she was very much smaller than her brother Columbus. She was what you might call the runt of the litter, if pigeons had such things as litters. As it was, she was just a very small pigeon. But being small can be helpful for a pigeon. A small pigeon can do some things that a large pigeon cannot, and all the pigeons Under the Bridge knew this. No, being a very small pigeon was not really Olivia’s problem. Olivia’s problem was that, while her brother’s feathers had grown in the same shiny gray as everyone else’s, Olivia’s feathers, when they finally replaced her prickly-looking baby fluff, had grown in completely white.

Right away, the other pigeons had begun to whisper about Olivia.

“She’s so small!”

“Not a bit of gray on her!”

“Do you think she’s even a pigeon?”

“She’ll only draw attention; she shouldn’t be here!”

Olivia was pretty sure she was a pigeon. Her mother and father were pigeons, after all. Her brother was a pigeon. She felt like a pigeon. But the other birds were older and wiser, and maybe they were right. This worried Olivia. If she wasn’t a pigeon, what was she? Where did she belong?

“You belong here,” Mother Pigeon said stoutly.

“Don’t listen to those scrawny old birds,” huffed Columbus (who was immediately scolded by Mother and Father for being rude).

“Your brother has one part right though,” admitted Father Pigeon. “You don’t need any other bird to tell you where you belong; that’s for your own wings to know.”

Mother Pigeon and Columbus cooed in agreement. This was one thing that none of the pigeons Under the Bridge could deny, a reassuring lullaby cooed to soothe young squabs afraid to leave the nest. A pigeon always knows where home is; so long as she can fly, a pigeon’s wings will take her there.

Every day, though, Olivia’s wings felt a little less sure. Maybe she wasn’t really a pigeon. RuntyPigeon2Maybe she didn’t really belong Under the Bridge after all. Maybe there was some place out there with other birds like her, a place where she wouldn’t cause so much trouble. A place where she would blend in. She wonde
red, and worried, and doubted, and dreamed, and one day — after a day of foraging and drinking at the Old Fountain, as the sun lowered and her flock readied to fly home — Olivia did not follow. She was old enough now to know the way back to the bridge, and could have found it easily on her own. But today, Olivia simply watched the flock disappear in the darkening sky to the east. Olivia watched. Olivia waited.

Olivia flew west.

It Begins (The Runty Pigeon, pt. 1)

September is traditionally a month when not a lot happens, art-wise, for me. No Inktober or NaNoWriMo or winter gifts and so on. Not tons of free time, either. However, I’m trying to do something about that this year, so I’ve forced myself to (almost) complete a sort-of-short story I thought up when I was … I don’t know, 13? For the sake of authenticity (hahahaha no I’m just lazy) I’ve kept the original title, “The Runty Pigeon.” All you need to know, I suppose, is that it’s a variation on “The Ugly Duckling” with some of my least-favorite parts of that tale changed up a bit. Also it’s all pigeons. So there’s that.

Since this is ostensibly an art blog, I will *try* to include an image of some sort with most entries, though that may not end up happening. Today’s “cover image” was the work of half an hour or so, most of which consisted of cutting a pigeon out of scrap paper and trying to shade over it without destroying said cutout (because using stuff to fasten stuff to other stuff instead of just mashing it against the paper with my other thumb was … too technical I guess?). The rest was making rectangles in Inkscape. Don’t judge me, I like squares. Even if the end result is basically a 90’s mass-market paperback.

Anyhow, here we go!



Once upon a time, in a city just like yours, there was a bridge just like any other bridge. And under that bridge lived a flock of beautiful pigeons with feathers of every color. On a cloudy day you might have thought they were all the same shade of wet gray as the bridge and the road than ran beneath it; but when the sun shone, their soft feathers flashed with purple and silver, green and bronze. On those days, the pigeons would stand a little taller, knowing how beautiful they looked in the light.

The First Egg

One cool spring day, two gray pigeons were more pleased than any other pigeon, despite the clouds covering the sun. The first of their two eggs was beginning to hatch, and Mother Pigeon was certain it was going to be a big, healthy baby.

CRACK! One gangly pigeon foot kicked out from the egg, then another. “Such a strong little squab!” cooed Mother Pigeon (for a “squab” is a pigeon baby). “Just like Grandmother Columba!”

Columba was well-known among their flock as a brave bird. It was said that she fought off the Old Fountain Cat, a fierce and hungry creature that had hunted the pigeons’ favorite feeding spot for generations. Perhaps the cat had found a tamer flock of birds, or perhaps her owner had finally returned for her; but either way she had never bothered the pigeons again.

“Yes,” sighed Mother Pigeon as the first squab flicked the last bits of shell from its stubby wings; “I will name you Columba, and perhaps one day there will be stories of your great bravery, too.”

And so it was. Columbus (who turned out to be a boy pigeon, when he was old enough to be one or the other) grew plump and strong and handsome, and had many daring adventures. But this is not his story.

The Second Egg

It took a little longer for the second egg to hatch. Father Pigeon was on the nest that morning, and he had been hoping very much that the second squab would arrive during his watch.

CRACK! Sure enough, one little pigeon foot kicked out from the egg, then a little featherless face. As blind as any new-hatched pigeon, the tiny baby could hardly see more than light and shadow. Still, it somehow seemed to stop and look around.

“Such a curious little squab!” cooed Father Pigeon. “Just like Auntie Olivia!”

Olivia was more of a great-aunt, or possibly some kind of cousin — but she was everyone’s Auntie just the same. Known for her great age and her great cleverness, she was one of the first pigeons to live Under the Bridge. It was even said that she had been the one to discover the bridge after their flock left Brown Barn. Only Auntie Olivia was old enough to remember for sure; but either way, Under the Bridge was a good home. It was cool in the summer, sheltered from the rain and snow, and would not burn down in an autumn drought the way Brown Barn had in the end.

“Yes,” cooed Father Pigeon as the little squab pressed closer to his warm feathers; “I will name you Olivia, and perhaps one day there will be stories of your great discoveries, too.”

And so it was. But Olivia (who turned out to be a girl pigeon after all) ended up having a very different kind of adventure. This is her story.