(One in an occasional series)
11 November, 1955
Today on the pavement a fat domestic London pigeon waddling among the boots and shoes of people hurrying for a bus. A man takes a kick at it, the pigeon lurches into the air, falls forward against a lamppost, lies with its neck stretched out, its beak open. The man stands, bewildered: he had expected the pigeon to fly off. He casts a furtive look around, so as to escape. It is too late, a red-faced virago is already approaching him. "You brute, kicking a pigeon!" The man's face is by now also red. He grins from embarrassment and a comical amazement. "But they always fly away," he observes, appealing for justice. The woman shouts, "You've killed it--kicking a poor little pigeon!" But the pigeon is not dead, it is stretching out its neck by the lamppost, trying to lift its head, and its wings strive and collapse, again and again. By now there is a small crowd including two boys of about fifteen. They have the sharp, watchful faces of the freebooters of the streets, and stand watching, unmoved, chewing gum. Someone says, "Call the RSPCA." The woman shouts, "There'd be no need for that if this bully hadn't kicked the poor thing." The man hangs about, sheepish, a criminal hated by the crowd. The only people not emotionally involved are the two boys. One remarks to the air: "Prison's the place for criminals like 'im." "Yes, yes," shouts the woman. She is so busy hating the kicker she doesn't look at the pigeon. "Prison," says the second boy, "flogging, I'd say." The woman now sharply examines the boys, and realises they are making fun of her. "Yes, and you too!" she gasps at them, her voice almost squeezed out of her by her anger...Meanwhile an efficient frowning man bends over the pigeon, and examines it. He straightens himself and pronounces, "It's going to die." He's right. The bird's eyes are filming, and blood wells from its opened beak. And now the woman, forgetting her three objects of hatred, leans forward to look at the bird. Her mouth is slightly open, she has a look of unpleasant curiosity as the bird gasps, writhes its head, then goes limp.
"It's dead," says the efficient man.
The villain, recovering himself, says apologetically, but clearly determined to have no nonsense: "I'm sorry, but it was an accident. I've never seen a pigeon before that didn't move out of the way.
We all look with disapproval at this hardened kicker of pigeons...
The kicker moves off, but the woman goes after him, saying: "What's your name and address, I'm going to have you prosecuted." The man says, annoyed, "Oh, don't make such a mountain out of molehill." She says: "I suppose you call murdering a poor little bird a molehill." "Well, it isn't a mountain, murder isn't a mountain," observes one of the fifteen-year-olds, who stands grinning with his hands in his jacket pockets. His friend takes it up, sagaciously: "You're right. Molehills is murder, but mountains isn't." "That's right," says the first, "when's a pigeon a mountain? When it's a molehill." The woman turns on them, and the villain thankfully makes his escape, looking incredibly guilty, despite himself.
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook.