Saturday 26 June 2021

'Transfiguration' by Chris Drew


That’s what my neighbours said to me when I opened the front door, which I hadn’t done for three weeks. Maybe four. I didn’t know their names. We just called them Laurel and Hardy.

He was tall, bald. Eyes narrowed behind rimless spectacles. Everything about her was short: her stature, her hair. Even her temper. I heard her voice echoing through the wall most nights, ghost-like. She held a blue plastic washing basket with a white towel folded inside.

‘In your back garden,’ she said.

‘Pardon?’ I said.

‘Broken wing,’ said Hardy.

I stood at the threshold and tried to think of an excuse. I’m ill. Allergic. The place is a mess (which was, in fact, true).

‘We won’t be long,’ said Laurel, pushing past me and waddling into the living room. ‘I like your wallpaper.’

‘Thanks,’ I said.

My wife picked it out. Silver against blue. She loved the way it sparkled, how the pattern moved in the sunlight.

Outside, the pigeon flailed around in the long grass. Hardy chased it behind the shed while Laurel supervised from the patio.

The shed was her photography studio. Pictures covered the walls. Insects, stones, weeds. There is beauty in everything, she said, if you look close enough.

Hardy cornered the bird between a chipped terracotta pot and the sagging panel fence. He threw the towel over the bird and lifted it gently into the basket. When he let go, it didn’t move.

‘Is it dead?’ I said.

‘Shock,’ said Laurel. ‘We’ll take it to the vet.’

She smiled and squeezed my arm.

‘It’ll be OK,’ she said.

After they’d gone, I lay down in the cool grass and watched the clouds drift overhead, silver against blue, their shapes transforming, something becoming nothing becoming something again, even more beautiful than before.

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