Paul had brought outside with him one of the birds from his dovecote. A mottled rock dove, a handsome winger. He toted it manfully to the curb, using the two-handed professional bird handler's way he's taught himself. I surveilled him like a spy, slumped behind the steering wheel, the shadow of the big tupelo making me not especially noticeable, though Paul was too intent on his own business to see me.
At the curb he took the pigeon in one small hand, slipped the hood and neatly pocketed it. The bird cocked its head pechisky at his new surroundings. The sight, though, of Paul's familiar, serious face calmed it.
Paul studied the pigeon for a time, grappling it once again in both hands, and via the still darkness I could hear his boy's voice talking. He was coaching the bird in some language he had practiced. "Remember this house." "Fly this special route." "Be careful of this hazard or this obstacle." "Think of all we've worked on." "Remember who your friends are" -all of it good advice. When he'd finished, he held the bird to his nose and sniffed behind its beaky head. I saw him close his eyes, and then it was up, pitched, the bird's large bright wings seizing the night instantly, up and gone and out of sight like a thought, it's wings white and the quickly small as it cleared the closure of trees -gone.
Paul looked up a moment, watching it. Then, as if he'd forgotten all about any loosed bird, he turned and stared at me across the street, slouched like Officer Carnevale in my cruiser car. He had seen me probably for quite some time, but had gone on with his business like a big boy who knows he's watched and doesn't care for it, but understands those are the rules.
Paul walked across the street in his little boy's ungainly gait but with a gainly smile, a smile he'd give, I know, to a total stranger."Hi Dad", he said through the window.