|They had nothing in common.|
At this early hour the village square is quiet. The square’s lamps are still lit casting weird patterns of light and darkness over the cobblestones. The fountain dominating the center of the square is shrouded in mysterious tales. Some say it was a gift from a long forgotten king thanking the villagers for attending to him after hunting accident. Others relate a romantic story of a dashing prince who fell in love with one villager’s fair maiden. The poor girl drowned in the nearby river trying to save a small child. The prince was heartbroken. In his desolation he had the fountain built in remembrance of his lost love. Today, nobody quite knows the real origins; fables often get embellished and misinterpreted as the old pass the stories down to the young. No matter, it stands there in splendor for all to admire.
The piece de resistance of the fountain is a life-sized statute of a horseman astride a large stallion. The horse is magnificently sculptured in a galloping posture. The cavalier is cast as a romantic figure, with cloak and hat flowing with the movement of his steed. This imposing scene is mounted on a large round basin, raised about a foot off the ground. The basin overflows with water, still and inky in the half-light of the early morning. Every morning as the church’s clock strikes ten the fountain’s water jets are turned on. Within seconds the water encircles the horseman in a spray of sparkling foam. As the spray only reaches the cavalier’s thighs one has the impression the stallion is galloping across a lake.
It is in the brim of the horseman’s hat that Jeremy makes his home. From this elevated position he can survey the activity of the square, amuse the child, and enjoy the cooling effect of the water spray below him. Several years ago he had fought hard for this place and won. Once comfortably installed he set about chasing all the unwanted creatures from the square. He is the sole judge. It had been an exhausting struggle; even today he occasionally struts around the square making sure no undesirable characters are lurking in the dark corners. He remembered two years ago an undesirable dog had created quite a problem, but with the help of the regular canine population the unwanted character was chased from the square. Cats, he never touches, they are allowed free reign in his territory. His grandfather told him you could be never be sure of cats, very unpredictable animals, especially confronted with a mass of feathers.
Jeremy likes to spend the nights under the eves of a barn situated some two miles outside the village. He generally arrives in the square just before dawn, washes in the cool pool of the fountain before taking his place on the brim of the hat. Days with no morning sun always find him in a bad mood. Elegantly perched aloft he awaits the opening of the grocery store, scheduled for 7.30 a.m. Mr. Hatterway is a very punctual man. His morning ritual never varies, shutters opened, a glance at the statute to make sure Jeremy is there, disappearance into the store only to appear a few seconds later with Jeremy’s breakfast. The evening’s meal is found in the many tidbits left lying in the gutters after a day’s business. Occasionally dinner is in the company of his extended family. It is his territory; he sends out the invitations, otherwise no other pigeons come into the square.
One day, quite out of the blue, an extremely odious character started regularly spending his day in the square. Jeremy was a quite a loss on how to get rid of him. An annoying problem that had to be dealt with swiftly before the weirdo became a permanent fixture.
After a satisfactory breakfast Jeremy settles comfortably on his elevated vantage point in anticipation of the coming day. To his left over in the far corner the bakery has opened and is already busy attending to the early morning customers. The frontal edifice of the village church dominates the right side of the square. Next to the church is the vicarage, a handsome house, which gives the square a sense of dignity. In the next half an hour Jeremy will see the vicar leave his house on his way to open up the church for morning prayers. This signals the arrival of the school children hurrying across the square on their way to morning lessons.
Jeremy rearranges his feathers carefully so he can amuse the children. This requires tucking one leg carefully in the heavy feathers of his under carriage. The movement gives the odd impression he is a one legged pigeon. Jeremy always delights in the shrieks from the little girls as they stop and stare. Often he hears “ poor thing it has only got one leg”. The little boys are less impressed. He can tell their stares hide the uncontrollable desire to try and knock him off his perch. Happily the square’s paving stones offer no ammunition.
Like an orchestra rehearsing, the rhythm of square’s morning activity is in full swing. The jeweler and shoe shop have opened up. Soon it will be time to turn on the fountains. Suddenly like a dark cloud that spoils a cloudless day he sees in the left hand corner the problem coming into the square. The apparition is a grubby and filthy old man shuffling into the square propped up by a walking stick. He is carrying two dirty old bags filled with an odd assortment of rags. When he reaches the fountain he dips his disgustingly dirty hands into the basin. Jeremy sees the trace of muddy water; the wet hands are moved up to rub his face. This movement completes the individual’s morning ablutions; Jeremy shudders.
The morning, “the day”, is again completely ruined. Jeremy stands firmly implanted on his two feet in a sour mood. So far all his efforts to rid the square of this pest had come to no avail. His first attempt was to dive bomb the old man in hopes of scaring him off the bench on which he always sat. To Jeremy’s great surprise the old codger used his stick with surprising effect. On his fourth attempt he received a glancing blow on his left wing that had put him out of action for several days. His next endeavor was to bombard him with an army of his relatives. This proved disastrous, the stick swung with great precision, two of his cousins got badly hurt. The relatives retired saying it was his problem. In desparation he turned to the dogs trying to persuade them to chase the gaffer from the square. They politely told him the man smelt too awful to get near and no doubt he harbored a multitude of diseases. Jeremy was at his wits end. Why couldn’t the shopkeepers chase him away? He disfigured his lovely square. For some reason, only known to man, they seemed to pity him. On occasions the baker gave him a crush of bread.
Jeremy, in deep thought, moved his weight from one foot to the other. This challenge was proving difficult. What was the answer? In frustration he tapped his beak on the soldiers hat. Suddenly an idea came to him, why not shit on the old man? Maybe this was one form of filth the gaffer could not support. Over the years he noticed most people had an overwhelming disgust of being hit by a bird’s droppings from the sky.
Jeremy prided himself on being a bird of clean habits, never would he do his droppings in the square; they were reserved for his nightly visit to the country. To muster up enough damage during the day was going to be a considerable feat. He sat there cogitating his plan of attack. He decided any movement in his bowels could only be incited from the sound of the fountain. He waited in despondent silence. The water came, sending a cooling spray to his lofty perch. He waited. Nothing budged. He pushed on his stomach muscles, still nothing moved. It must have been well into the afternoon when he felt a flutter in his stomach. Something was on the move. He felt an elevated sense of joy; his patience had been rewarded. A quick flight around the square proved the load was ready. He soon realized this required a certain skill. He adjusted his flight pattern to take account of distance and the prevailing wind, never an easy calculation. He flew in over the target and let go. Missed, his shit spattered in a messy pattern behind the seated man. The weirdo never noticed. A day wasted.
That night Jeremy thought long and hard about his mission. To get his bowels moving quicker he needed to eat a big breakfast. That was the easy part. But how could he achieve more accuracy? Practice, that meant spending valuable time; he was impatient to clear the square of this eyesore. No, what he needed was a marker. Today he had released too late. He needed to mark a space in front of the seated man denoting the moment of liberation. A spot marked with his sharp beak would do the trick.
The fountains were in full force; the horse felt as if it was being lifted to the skies by the pressure of the water. He felt his stomach extended beyond the reasonable. He waited patiently for the rumblings. Slowly they came like a herd of cattle frightened by a fox. He was ready. A swift flight around the square; he lined up his flight path. He saw the spot and released. Missed again, this time only three inches in front of the man’s nose. The shit spattered on the cobblestones. The tramp looked up not quite understanding what had happened. As Jeremy soared into the clear blue sky he caught a quick glance of the grubby face of an old man, decidedly horrified with the thought of being spattered with bird shit. The mark had to be moved three little inches. He felt his wings outpace the thundering beat of his racing heart.
Breakfast the next day was gluttony gone mad. He had difficulty reaching his perch. The little girls seemed sad when they noticed the one legged bird was not longer there. Under the circumstances it was impossible to stand on one leg. His impatience was boiling through his veins. Everything was ready- the old codger was sitting in his usual place after having dirtied the fountain’s water. Jeremy felt the spray and waited for the sign. Out of the corner of his left eye he saw the baker coming over with a loaf of bread. Without a word he handed it to the tramp who grabbed it with glee. The baker retraced his steps. The old man started to eat the loaf. The perfect time! Jeremy push hard on his bowels, the rumbling started. Within seconds he was in full flight around the square. Little hammers in his brain were thundering with the words, three inches. The new mark was there, he released. A direct hit; the gaffer’s face and the bread all gloriously splattered with a large, delicious, satisfying breakfast. The old man screamed in abject disgust. In that moment Jeremy knew the gaffer would never return to the square.
The next day in celebration of his victory he stood on one leg all day long, much to the amusement of all and sundry.