The Black Notebook
Meanwhile we had been too absorbed to notice that two new pigeons had arrived in the trees opposite. They now began to coo, apparently without any intention of co-ordination, for the two streams of soft sound continued, sometimes together, sometimes not.
‘They are very pretty,’ said Maryrose, protesting, her eyes still shut.
‘Nevertheless, like your butterflies, they are doomed.’ And Paul raised his rifle and shot. A bird fell off a branch, this time like a stone. The other bird, startled, looked around, its sharp head turning this way and that, an eye cocked up skywards for a possible hawk that had swooped and taken off its comrade, then cocked earthwards where it apparently failed to identify the bloody object lying in the grass. For after a moment of intense waiting silence, during which the bolt of the rifle snapped, it began again to coo. And immediately Paul raised his gun and shot and it, too, fell straight to the ground. And now none of us looked at Jimmy, who had not glanced up from his observation of his insect. There was already a shallow, beautifully regular pit in the sand, at the bottom of which the invisible insect worked in tiny heaves. Apparently Jimmy had not noticed the shooting of the two pigeons. And Paul did not look at him. He merely waited, whistling very softly, frowning. And in a moment, without looking at us or at Paul, Jimmy began to flush, and then he clambered up, walked across to the trees, and came back with the two corpses.
‘We don’t need a dog after all,’ remarked Paul. It was said before Jimmy was halfway back across the grass, yet he heard it. I should imagine that Paul had not intended him to hear, yet did not particularly care that he had. Jimmy sat down again, and we could see the very white thick flesh of his shoulders had begun to flush scarlet from the two short journeys in the sun across the bright grass. Jimmy went back to watching his insect.
There was again an intense silence. No doves could be heard cooing anywhere. Three bleeding bodies lay tumbled in the sun by a small jutting rock. The grey rough granite was patched and jewelled with lichens, rust and green and purple; and on the grass lay thick glistening drops of scarlet.
There was a smell of blood.
‘Those birds will go bad,’ remarked Willi, who had read steadily during all this.
‘They are better slightly high,’ said Paul.
I could see Paul’s eyes hover towards Jimmy, and see Jimmy struggling with himself again, so I quickly got up and threw the limp wing-dragging corpses into the shade.
By now there was a prickling tension between us all, and Paul said: ‘I want a drink.’
‘It’s an hour before the pub opens,’ said Maryrose.
‘Well, I can only hope that the requisite number of victims will soon offer themselves, because at the stroke of opening time I shall be off. I shall leave the slaughter to someone else.’
‘None of us can shoot as well as you,’ said Maryrose.