Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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MAY 25, 2011 8:06AM

Pigeon Voyageur - Fiction Wednesday OC

Rate: 19 Flag

As some of you know, Fiction Friday has undergone some major changes.  One of the biggies is that it's now Fiction Wednesday.

You can find information about this, as well as prompts and a list of stories for each week, at the new blog I've created (with former Fiction Friday heads Rita Bourland and Naomi de Plume's blessings),


This week's prompts were to either do your own thing, or to write a story from an animal's perspective.

I chose to to the latter.

There's still time, so if you feel inspired, why not give Fiction Wednesday a shot?

If you post a story, please go to the 
Fiction Wednesday Stories for 5/25/11 page, and add your story to the list via the Comments section.

And if you just want to read some great OS fiction, the aforementioned page is the place to go for a full list of all participants' pieces.

Happy reading and writing!  


 Pigeon Voyageur


Now, when I first flew off that train, I didn’t panic.  I just tried to find out where I was.  If I’d known I was going to spend my new life as a laughingstock, though, maybe I wouldn’t have been so calm.

I didn’t take me long to read “Paris Gare du Nord” on a sign, so that was that.  I was in the capitol, the City of Lights.  I flew a little ways from the train station – they’re noisy and too dirty for my taste – and came to a small park near the city’s outskirts.  There was a nice, sprawling tree, and I let myself sit down and scratch a bit at my feathers.

I’d just burrowed my beak into my chest when three or four fat birds flew up to me.  Some were missing toes, and one hadn’t bathed in a while, but mostly I liked the look of them; their rotundity meant they were getting food from somewhere.  In fact, I’d learn, food was very easy to come by here: On one side of the park there was a trio of buildings, angled towards each other like the leaves of a newspaper held up by a frustrated passenger in a cramped Metro car.  The trash bins were outside in the paved courtyard, and little morsels always escaped them.  Better yet, some of the people who lived in the buildings even put out seeds and bits of bread on their windowsills.

“Where are you from?” a well-shaped fellow asked me now.  His smooth, blue-gray feathers were neatly trimmed with white, giving him the look of a finely dressed marquis in one of those history movies you sometimes see on television.

“Well,” I said, aching to add, “Monsieur le Marquis” -  “I travel quite a bit, but I was last in Lille.”

“Lille?” the fatter, grayer pigeon to his left – I’ll call him Featherball - cooed out.  “So far!  What made you fly all the way here?”

“I came by train.”

And I wish it could have ended there.  But soon they had the whole story from me, how I’d entered the train following a trail of dropped crackers, how I’d eaten my fill and realized the doors had closed and the train had started moving, how I’d settled in and somehow against all reason fallen asleep – and ended up here in Paris.

This city is much bigger than Lille, but word gets around among us pigeons, and within a day or so, I’d bet every bird in the metropolis knew what I’d told the Marquis and his friends.  Every day other pigeons flew to the park to try to get a peek at me, the idiot who’d fallen asleep and ended up far from home.  Of course, they didn’t know two important things: 1. I have no home, as I’ve never been the kind to like to stay in a place too long; and 2. this wasn’t the first time I’d done something like my unexpected trip to Paris. I’ve hopped onto trains before.  I’ve even stayed on a ship for a week-long Mediterranean cruise.  I left the boat in Naples, and flew around Italy.  I would have continued on to other countries, but when I got badly injured by a bee-bee gun someone aimed at me in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, I decided to head back to France.

Besides that, there’s nothing very remarkable about me. All right, maybe the fact that I still have all my toes, unlike many of the pigeons I’ve met. Here in the park there was one among us, the Pirate, I dubbed him, who in place of his left foot, had now only a pink stump.  Horrible.  I can’t imagine the pain of losing even one toe.  Like the other pigeons do, you might think I always look down when I walk because I’m scanning the ground for crumbs.  But that really isn’t entirely the reason.  I want to avoid any toe-related mishap, any crack in the sidewalk or ill-placed twine.

The loud, laughter-filled visits to my new tree aside, life went on more or less peacefully in that park for a while.  But then the seasons changed and Monsieur le Marquis and some of the others started to see me as a threat to their well-established families, as it was about time to get on top of some of the lovely hens (and there were some lovely ones indeed) and start a nest.  So they began to intimidate me by little actions, like jutting their heads into the crumbs nearest me, when I knew they had enough just in front of them.  But what really made me snap was when Monsieur le Marquis stepped on my foot. I don’t know if he did it deliberately – I thought I’d kept my fear pretty well secret – but whatever the case, I didn’t want it to happen again, and so I decided to move on.  

“Where will you go?” an old biddy on the branch beside me asked, seeing the look of leaving in my eye. 

“Somewhere different, and far away,” I muttered, about to take flight.

“But the weather is bad – you can’t go now!  Oh, what will you do?” she clucked in despair.  

I was mystified. Aged as she was, with her feathers practically falling off, she didn’t know anything. We’re pigeons – we take what’s there, and we make something of it, and usually that’s pretty darn good.

 “Don’t worry, old thing,” I told her, and she said, “What did you call me?!” but already her voice was fading away as I soared up to the sky, over the rooftops.

Truthfully, I didn’t know where I was headed.  With my reputation, would life in any of the other Parisian parks be very pleasant?  Rumor had it that the city had set up some houses for us in certain locations – but these were prime property, and I could never get into one.

Anyway, I wanted a change of scenery, as I often do.  Then, suddenly, an idea came to me in mid-flight.  I changed direction, remembering something I’d noticed on a brief jaunt to get some air a few weeks ago.

Back I flew, till I saw it: a high, white block of a building, with lights and large images all over its façade. 

Now, it wouldn’t be easy to do what I wanted, and I wasn’t absolutely certain it would work, but it seemed like a good plan. I stayed all day in a tree across the busy street, watching.

The next afternoon, when I saw people lining up out front, I flew over to the sidewalk near their feet, where I lingered, supposedly pecking for crumbs.  A short while later, as I’d expected, someone opened the building’s glass doors from inside, and the whole waiting crowd rushed through them, and so did I.  I kept to the dark corners of the place, till I reached a low, carpeted stairwell, which I hopped down. I knew what I was doing, because I’d seen a place like this on a television show once, when I was staying in a tree near a curtainless apartment in Lyon. 

Sure enough, at the bottom of the stairs was a heavy-looking door.  I waited patiently.  When I heard human footsteps behind me, I flattened myself as much as possible against the wall, then followed closely as they flung the door wide.  Now, I was in.

There were rows and rows of soft chairs, and beneath them, I found what I’d hoped: popcorn kernels, pools of soda, and puddles of melted ice cream.  I could be quite happy here, and I thanked myself for my brilliance. I just had to make sure I stayed away from where the people were sitting. But the theater was so big, I couldn’t imagine every seat in every row could ever be occupied.

Now, I knew there’d be something on that enormous screen, but I confess when the lights went down and the images started flickering onto it, and the sound was so loud, I got a bit surprised. And with a bird’s reflex, I flew up, up, towards a small window containing a flame-like white light. 

Below me, I heard: “Look – a pigeon!”

The whole theater filled with laughter and movement, but I was too high up for them to catch. I knew I’d made a serious mistake. I’d have to stay flying, or find somewhere to perch near the ceiling, and then hope they’d forget about me.  And if not, well, I’d have to leave before a professional came in to catch me.  I knew if that happened, there’d be more than my toes to be worried about.

So I kept flying, far above the people.  I turned my head away from the window with the white light, and that left me facing the screen.  And on it was the most wonderful image of a flight over fields and then deserts.  Far below, as if I were looking down on them from the sky, men galloped on horses, their hats’ brims like wings.  “Well look at me,” I thought, “I’m in the Wild West!” 

I flew the length of the screen and back in happiness, following those cowboys as far as I could into the sunset. 


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In French, "pigeon voyageur" means "homing pigeon" -but when I was thinking of a title, this phrase got stuck in my head. I loved the combination of "pigeon" and the idea of a voyage, perfect for my narrator. So, though it's a mistranslation, I decided to use it in a very literal sense.
You're remarkably creative. Thanks for this! rated.
This is so funny! You had me laughing all the way through!!!
I loved that some of the pigeons were missing toes!
Now I would call this a travel pigeon..:)
Alysa, a home run and nothing but.
Rated with hugs
A great children's story here. Four feathers! :)
Your pigeons are quite delightful. Cute story!
I love this story, Alysa! The preoccupation about the pigeons with missing toes cracked me up. You kept the voice and point of view consistent all through, telling a seamless story by your 'pigeon voyageur', and added other very interesting and colorful minor characters along his adventure. So well done, brava! 10-10-10 !
Love it! I'd love to see it illustrated...
Hold onto your toes--excellent advice for any pigeon. And what a cosmopolitan bird he turned out to be. =o) Loved his train voyage from Lille. But since he'd been clear down to Venice, Lille to Paris was just a hop for him.

rated with a coo and half a pomme frite
Thanks so much for reading, everyone, and for your kind words. I'm so glad you liked this! It's actually based on a true story: a few months ago, I went to see "True Grit" at the movies, and there was a pigeon flying around in the theater - he even got in front of the projector and we could see his silhouette on the screen!

As for the toes, many of the pigeons here are missing toes and even have just stumps for feet. They seem to be okay, and move around normally, whatever their foot situation. But I always wonder how they could lose their toes.

And Macco - Please don't hurt anymore pigeons! :-p
Very entertaining, Alyssa.
Adorable! My sister actually told me a true story of seeing a pigeon calmly walk alongside her onto a commuter train. It just stood on the ground, calm as can be, when the door closed and the train started moving. And at the next stop, it just as calmly waited for the door to open and stepped out!
Who knew pigeons could be so sophisticated. I guess it's just like people... some rubes and some dandies, all mixed in together. Dynamite dialogue!
Great Stuff.

I could see this as a Studio Gibli anime feature.
I liked it very much. Creative writing you do it well. After reading this I have started to like the ones that come to my bedroom and wake me up... rated
I've heard of someone being a "Pigeon", but this is ridiculous. Just kidding, I love this. I remember reading "Cujo" by Steven King and he was talking as a rabid dog, just like a rabid dog would I guess. Great Job!
So I kept flying, far above the people.
I turned my head away from the window with the white light,
and that left me facing the screen.

And on it was the most wonderful image
of a flight over fields and then deserts.
Far below, as if I were looking down on them from the sky, men galloped on horses...

this resonates. i am pondering the symbolism of
the image-seeking pigeon
hates her toes stepped on.

Sorry I couldn’t respond to the messages left yesterday – I came home and passed out due to a HUGE sinus headache caused by the rough weather here.

Thank you all for reading and I’m so glad you enjoyed this story!

Felicia – That is delightful. Yet I’m not surprised – I think pigeons are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for!

BB – Thanks! For me, pigeons are the ultimate city dwellers.

steve –Thank you – that is high praise indeed.

Simone – Thanks for reading and I’m so glad you liked this. Pigeons are fascinating to watch. Ours here wake me up, too, though…

scanner – Thanks . I haven’t read much Stephen King, mainly because I don’t like being scared (I have read some of his non-scary stuff, though). I didn’t know he wrote “Cujo” from the dog’s point of view. That’s really cool!

James – I am flattered you liked those lines so much – and thanks for seeing something I didn’t see….