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OCTOBER 26, 2005

All this fearful event of the fast-spreading avian flu has reminded me of this short story by Patricia Highsmith. It would have graciously fit in her collection of stories about animals-turned-revengers, The Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder, but for one reason or the other it wasn't included and was shamefully left unpublished for life. Fortunately, Highsmith's editors rescued it from their papers and published it after her death in Nothing That Meets The Eye. Although it's an outstanding story, read it at your own risk —it may hurt your feelings, you're warned.

Two Disagreeable Pigeons, by Patricia Highsmith

They lived in Trafalgar Square, two pigeons which for convenience shall be called Maud and Claud, though they didn't give each other names. They were simply mates, for two or three years now, loyal in a way, though at the bottom of their little pigeon hearts they detested each other. Their days were spent pecking grain and peanuts strewn by endless tourists and Londoners who bought the stuff from peddlers. Peck-peck, all day amid hundreds of other pigeons who like Maud and Claud had nearly lost the ability to fly, because it was hardly necessary any longer. Often Maud was separated from Claud in a bobbing field of pigeons, but by nightfall they somehow found each other and made their way to a cranny in the back of a stone parapet near the National Gallery. Uff! and they'd heave their bulging breasts up the two or three feet to their domicile.



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