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.
“She sounds like a pigeon!”
“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 Rocky 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.