Sunday 7 June 2020

GREEN STORIES: ‘The Rewilding of Eddie Roberts’ by Claire Boot

This piece is part of our Green Stories series, showcasing the winners of Green Stories' first flash fiction competition in which writers are challenged to envision what a sustainable future might look like. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series.

Highly Commended, 2020 Green Stories Competition

The Rewilding of Eddie Roberts
by Claire Boot

As expected, Eddie exploded.

 “Shut off the top two sodding levels?”

There’d been a message from head office, Faisal tried to explain. Due to declining usage, Levels 7 and 8 of the car park were being de-commissioned, so Eddie needed to lock them up during his shift.

 “Bollocks to those new speed limits,” fumed Eddie. “Soon there’ll be no cars left and we’ll be out of our bloody jobs.”

Since speed limits were reduced by a third, more people were walking or cycling or taking the new solar-powered trams. Faisal thought it was great – his daughter’s asthma was much better – but he wanted his breakfast more than he wanted an argument. He shrugged noncommittally and left, wishing Eddie a good shift.

 Two cups of tea later, Eddie took the lift up to Level 8. As he stepped out into the spring sunshine it struck him again what an ideal spot this would make for a sniper. He was assessing the line of sight along the main shopping street when a bundle of feathers shot past him and crashed on to the lift shaft roof.

“Bloody pigeons!”

 Eddie put his foot on a railing and heaved himself up.

 It was a bloody pigeon, being ripped apart by two – what were they, hawks? Hooked yellow beaks, matching yellow talons, and checkerboard chests. And there, under the ledge, three brown eggs.

Back in the office, Eddie googled ‘lost hawks’ but nothing came up locally. More googling, and he worked out they weren’t hawks at all. Peregrine falcons, the world’s fastest bird. He spent his fag break watching YouTube videos of them powering through the sky like missiles. Eddie felt an affinity with the peregrines – skydiving had been his favourite part of army training – until he read on Wikipedia that they mated for life. He’d failed spectacularly at that.

 After lunch, Eddie returned to Level 8 with a stepladder. Only one of the birds was there, cleaning its talons. Very carefully, Eddie re-angled two CCTV cameras towards the nest. Then he climbed down and took the ladder inside, locking the doors behind him.

That summer, Eddie watched the peregrines every day. He saw the adults come and go, taking it in turns to sit on the eggs, and sat open-mouthed as the first chick hatched, a wet wobbly blob pushing through bits of shell. By June, there were three balls of fluff tottering around and gobbling down chunks of mashed-up meat. Throughout August he watched them clumsily coordinate their wings and feet, and then, by the last Monday in September, Eddie knew they’d gone for good.

 When Faisal came in for the night shift, he heard an unfamiliar sound in the office. Eddie was whistling. He gave Faisal a broad grin and a thumbs up. Faisal wondered if Eddie had been drinking again.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

 “Yes mate,” winked Eddie. “I’ve got a new bird in my life.”

And Eddie Roberts exploded with laughter.

The audio recording is read by Connor Allen.

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