mpThis week’s story is going to be split into more than just one part. This is Part One.
The writing prompt was 9. Animals: Choose an animal. Write about it! so I did. It got a bit deep, so sorry for that. Here is the first part, once again I have to stress that this is unedited or refined, so there will be spelling mistakes and it may read clumsily at parts. my apologies for that!
with this in mind, if you have ANY constructive comments on how I could improve or alter this, please let me know in the comments below and I will try to change what I can. I hope to get Part 2 ready for you next week, but for now, enjoy.
The Climber (PART 1)
There is something just simply fun about about squirrels. Even the word ‘squirrel’ is fun to think about. Squirrel. The speed and precision with which the tiny creatures move, the perfect flow of their bodies and tails as they run, then suddenly stop bolt upright as though with complete, paralysing paranoia, and then up a tree as quick as a flash! They are playful and curious – so curious, always sneaking around and exploring fearlessly.
Alphonse watched the small rodent climb the perimeter of the park bin, then perch in a perfectly balanced pose on the bin cover, staring at some unknown point in the far distance. It twitched it’s nose. Then, with the seamless flow of the wind, it shot under the cover, through the opening and into the bin proper. Alphonse had seen this many times and admired the squirrel’s intrepid nature.
A moment later the creature’s head shot up, looking through the bin opening like a nervous thief checking that the coast is clear before making his escape with the goods. In a heartbeat he was out, his stolen trinket in hand. Alphonse watched from his position on the park bench, amused by the perfect wave of the creature’s body, like a gentle stream moving in natural, pleasant arcs. It approached a tree, checked his surroundings, and with the inert grace born only of squirrel-kin, scaled the tree to a branch high up, where he sat and nibbled at his bin-found treasure. Alphonse pecked at some bread.
Out of all of the fascinating abilities of squirrel-kin, the ease in which they climbed trees was, to Alphonse, the most beautiful skill of all. Oh how he would daydream about being able to climb in such a way. To be able to reach the heights of those tree branches with such effortless finesse.
A slight tear came to his eye. He pecked at his bread. Alphonse would never be able to do such a thing. Alphonse would never be like the squirrel. Alphonse was a pigeon.
A human couple walked past the bench upon which Alphonse was perched. Another pigeon came to land on the bench’s backrest shortly after, but missed and fell next to Alphonse, with the scrap of bread in between them. He recognised the newcomer as Brother Jeremy, a close relation to Alphonse, but highly respected in the upper tiers of the pigeon council. He cocked his head to the right and let out a soft coo, which translated in Alphonse’ inner ear into the rich, semi-telepathic speech of his breed.
‘Brother Alphonse. I demand you share me the bread acquired.’ he spoke He gave Alphonse a look, then followed his gaze to the squirrel high in the tree, then back to Alphonse. ‘Why you must torture self with deep unending not happy?’
Alphonse lowered his head in shame, and uncontrollably flapped one wing in a frantic effort of wipe away the tear that had emerged. He hit himself in the head several times and unintentionally stroked Brother Jeremy with his wing-tips during the struggle.
Alphonse cooed. ‘Brother Jeremy. Berate me not, but spill sorrow. My heart longs for climbing. Yonder branch my soul desires.’
‘Stupid Brother Alphonse! Desire not the climb, instead desire most important; inclusion into upper echelon of pigeon-kin!’ The two had spoken around the subject on many occasions, and what Brother Jeremy had said was true. Alphonse’s interest in squirrel-kin had become more of a distraction of late. He had become a recluse from his own kin, his fascination transforming day by day into something more. Into an obsession. Or at least that is what it looked like from the communities perspective. But the truth of the matter was quite different. It was not an obsession, it was not a mental issue of discovering more, it was about his personality, his need. And that broke Alphonse’s heart. ‘If branch is what you require, you have power to achieve this. Fly, my brother, it is what do we do.’
‘Brother Jeremy.’ Alphonse replied, ‘it is not destination that hold importance of soul, but journey. It is not branch accessible by wing that happy-fills me, but though of climb. Be one with tree, not with air. Transport brings many different meaning to life. Climb is my love.’
Brother Jeremy considered this, he let out a long breath and twisted his head to the left, a sign of concern. After a while he cooed again, and the authoritative voice spoke in Alphonse’s mind. ‘Brother Alphonse. Take consideration. To climb is not possible. Consider the squirrel. It has grabbers.’ he stretched out his wings, wobbling from side to side slightly. ‘Their kin have grabbers. Pigeon kin have flappers. To have hearts want is physiologically an impossible.’ Alphonse waddled as he stretched out his wings in a display of understanding. They inadvertently swiped each other across the beak and nape of neck as they rested their wings back by their sides.
‘Kind Brother Jeremy, your speak is true, but stabs at my heart also. For I know my part as my pigeon-body denotes, yet in my soul I wish to climb’
‘Poor, confused Brother Alphonse. Do not mourn an impossible dream, but be thankful of the gifts you have. For certain, it is to be pleased for those whom climb, but your gift is something more beautiful. Work to strength and achieve best things. Do not wish you were what you are not, but grasp what you are. You to be the best you you can be. First step of this is accepting who you are.’
Alphonse thought on these words. There must be a reason; something deep inside, that has given him the desire to climb. Maybe it was more than a physical thing, something deeper. Maybe to be the first pigeon to climb a tree was who he was. Maybe that was his goal. Face down, avoiding eye contact with his brother, Alphonse cooed with determination.
‘This is who I am.’ he said in the mind of Brother Jeremy. ‘Be gone now! Leave me in peace! Soon you will see. Pigeon Kin will climb. I will show the world. It will be done!’
Jeremy sighed. ‘Be now at home, but please, quiet this disobedient dream. Mother Janice the All Seeing Wing Bearer requests it. Come now and be Pigeon. But keep this living as you are, and be exiled. This is the message Mother Janice has given Brother Jeremy to give to Brother Alphonse. Be wise.’
And with that, Brother Jeremy pecked at the bread, taking most of it in beak, and clumsily flapped his wings until he took off. He flew into the distance, narrowly missing the heads of Human passers-by and a small branch from a tree. He left Alphonse behind, with his thoughts and his pain.
As the sun began to set over the park, Alphonse made flight. He must speak with Mother Janice the All Seeing Wing Bearer.
The sleepy canal passed lazily under the bridge as busy human commuters queued in cars on the road above. The towpath that ran along the side of the canal was a mix of the white and grey of droppings that gave the place a faint ammonia smell. The metal girders that formed a structure for the road above was now occupied by countless cooing pigeons arguing and discussing the important issues of the day. As Alphonse approached the council, his confidence faltered slightly. What he was about to do would be perceived by many as foolish, even offensive, but he had to be true to himself. And with this, he pushed forward.
A stunned silence settled upon the Pigeons of the Highest Girders as Alphonse came to settle on the towpath under the bridge. Brother Jeremy descended from his metallic perch. ‘Brother Alphonse, good it is that I see you here. I am glad the words I gave brought light to you and now you are back.’
Alphonse took a deep breath and cooed quietly to his kin, ‘Thank you, Brother Jeremy, but I do not do this for you. I do this for me. I must–’ his dialogue was cut short by the mix of loud cooing from above. Voices impacted his brain; curious murmurings, doubtful tuts and concerned mutterings. Many of the voices he recognised; Father Algrid the Haggard commented on Alphonse’s self imposed dismissal, Sister Jackie the Boisterous gossiped on Alphonse’s mental health, Brother Hershel the Effeminate spoke concerns about Alphonse turning his back on the community and disgracing the Kin. The constant cooing fed doubt into Alphonse’s mind, growing concern over the decisions he had made in life, but with a stride of disobedience to those thoughts, he pushed through, and their judgemental cooing did nothing but fuel his ambition.
He gave a coo of attention, but it did not overcome the noise from above. He tried again, but his cooing did not reach their ears. A third time he tried, but just before his coo, everyone fell to a hushed silence. Mother Janice the All Seeing Wing Bearer emerged from her nest on the Girder of the Most High. In reverence, all pigeon-kin bowed before her presence. Alphonse observed this, and participated.
From her high girder at the centre of the bridge, she looked down upon Alphonse and cooed. Her voice was elderly, but calm in his mind. It carried authority, but also a gentle kindness unlike any of his pigeon kin.
‘Brother Alphonse,’ she said, ‘you approach the council. What would you ask of us?’
Alphonse stood before the council, the weight of their stares and preconceptions on his feathery shoulders. Doubtful Brother Jeremy by his side. Then a cyclist passed under the bridge and every pigeon flew from girder to girder in a blind panic for a moment or two. Alphonse Cooed.
‘Mothers, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters of the council. I, Brother Alphonse, come before you today to state my claim as an independent.’ A cloud of whispered shock fell under the bridge. Alphonse continued, ‘for a long time now, I have been rejected by my pigeon-kin over my ambition to become a Climber, to state my place among the Squirrel kin–’
‘You are the one who have rejected us!’ shouted the voice of Brother Theodore.
His objection was swiftly shushed by Mother Janice, ‘Quiet, Brother Theodore, let the young Brother speak!’
‘I shal take it no longer,’ continued Alphonse. ‘If you cannot accept me for who I am, then I reject you as my Kin! There is no loyalty in this den of fools! If you see a brother turn from your traditions, you turn your back on him!’
‘Watch your tongue, Brother Alphonse!’ cooed Mother Grennet, ‘We have not rejected you! We only wish you act in wisdom!’
‘Here Here!’ responded Brother Tim, ‘we only want what is best for you! But you wander too far!’
‘How dare you tell me I know not my own mind!’ Alphonse replied, ‘Where is your authority, that you may rule over my life! Who are you to tell me what is best! You do not know me, you do not understand me!’
Alphonse was outraged, he could feel the blood filling his pigeon-head, burning like fire! Then suddenly a dark shape descended from the girders and silence with it.
It was Mother Janice. She glided with an awkward kind of elegance to the dropping-filled towpath to be with Alphonse. A gasp of awe whispered under the bridge and she laid one wing on his back, and with a soft coo she spoke to him.
‘Brother Alphonse. You are a member of our kin, and we would never desert you. You must recognise that we have your best intentions in mind. It is not that we don’t want to see you happy, it is just that we fear for you!’ Silenced, Alphonse looked up at her. She continued. ‘We fear that you will never be happy, that you will not be able to reach your self appointed goal to be as the Squirrel-kin. We just fear that you will not appreciate who you truly are.’
At this, a coldness filled Alphonse’s heart. ‘Who I truly am?’ he asked as he stepped away. ‘I will show you who I truly am.’ He addressed the whole council. ‘I am no longer Brother Alphonse! I am Alphonse the Climber, and you will know my name!’
At this harsh outburst, Mother Janice stretched herself to her full height, wobbling backwards slightly. ‘Then I issue you a challenge, Alphonse the Climber, he who has rejected the wisdom of this council and turned his back on his kin!’ her voice was heavy as rock and unforgiving as the girders on which the council sat. A sudden pang of regret shot through Alphonse’s heart. Mother Janice continued. ‘Before the Sun sets on the third day, if you have achieved your goal as a climber, you are free to do as you wish! You will be free to live among the Squirrel-folk as one of their Kin and we will heed you no longer.’ Alphonse listened as shocked coos came from the council. ‘But if you do not achieve this madness, you must give up this silly ambition and accept the fact that you are member of the pigeon-kin. You will do so without grumbling and be thankful for what we believe you to be!’ Her voice softened as her wings descended onto his shoulders. She looked him in the eye. ‘Brother Alphonse, do we have a deal?’
Alphonse held her gaze for a moment, fear battling determination, his anger at his unjust treatments battling the kindness he is faced with now. He backed away, from under Mother Janice’s warm wings of care, and took the measure of the council’s staring eyes. ‘Before the Sun sets on the third day,’ he repeated, ‘we have a deal.’
In that very same moment, Alphonse took flight and exited the bridge as the pigeon council erupted in a cacophony of coos.
Mother Janice the All Seeing Wing Bearer stood silent on the towpath, watching him fly into the cool evening sky.