They were real pigeons. They lived in a huge metal cage with a wood roof, worn and tattered but homey nonetheless. She tippy toed to peer in at the eggs, the feathers, and of course, the poop. It smelled, but not too bad. The pigeons cowered a bit, restless and uneasy with someone else's eyes on them. She moved along the cage, from left to right, all the way down the line. They had food and water, she noted, and they could fly out the top of the cage any time they wanted. There was a hole of freedom at the top.
They all belonged to her best friend, Annie. Annie had a really nice Mom and Dad, and a big brother, too. The big brother did things like play after dark, and he liked to play with bugs, too. He said that the birds were his, which started Annie screaming at him, saying "No! They are mine!" He said that they were "homed", and he was the one that "homed" them, so they belonged to him. They could fly away any time they wanted, he said, then come back. They liked to come back home again, that's why they were "homed". She thought that if he "homed" them, then maybe he was right, and Annie was wrong. It seemed like they should be his.
Little Barbara was only seven years old, and this was going to be the first night that her Mom let her spend the night with any one. Annie was her best friend, and had been her best friend since kindergarten. They played hop scotch together before school, their desks were next to one another in class, and they ate lunch together, too. They called themselves "Bestest Friends". Bestest Friends Forever.
The back yard was wondrous and delicious. There was a huge bush in front of a hill, and trees were scattered about so that there was plenty of room to play, run, catch ball, or do jump robe. Neighbor kids whose names she didn't know just walked on over, because there was no fence around the property. It was just wide open space. The sun was going down now, casting a sideways shadow on the hill. Crispy air surrounded them now, but it was fine because they were running around so much that the cold was unnoticeable. It just wasn't even cold.
It was getting dark now, and Barbara was not used to playing outside after dark. It was beginning to get kind of scary, and the other kids wanted to play Hide and Seek. Well, she wasn't about to be a big baby about it, so she said okay. Since this was her first night away from home, she really did not want them to think she was a baby. Neighbor kids had joined them now, and it was turning out to be a glorious night.
No one knows how it started, really. Somehow, they were in front of a huge, dark green bush with soft leaves and flexible branches. It was a 'suction bush'. When ever some one unwittingly walked by, the bush 'sucked' them in, and their arms and legs were left to hopelessly flail in the darkness. It took some one else to help them out, because the Suction was so powerful. Relentlessly, she shrieked with laughter as a Rescuer helped her out of the dark, ominous suction bush. The neighbor kids took turns, peering out from behind the bush at times, to make sure no one was stuck in it.
Sometimes, the Rescuer would be Annie, and she could see Annie's big eyes peering at her and then pulling her out. They struggled together, with Annie's grip tightening around her wrist then her forearm, then her elbow. Pulling and pulling, until finally Barbara was free. Together, the Bestest Friends ran away from that mean old bush, laughing because they were smarter than the bush.
Other times, as she cried and cried out for help, the Rescuer would be her Bestest Friend's Big Brother, the Pigeon Boy. It was different with him. He didn't need to climb up her arm to get a grip, no. Instead, he just pulled her out in one full sweep, effortlessly and deliberately. She started to close her eyes to see if she could tell who it was that was pulling her out of the bush, and she got it right every time that she guessed it was him. He had big hands, with fat fingers, this Pigeon Boy. His fingers swallowed her wrist and pulled her to freedom in one swoop of strength. She never really knew how strong a boy could be.
So she just closed her eyes and waited to see who would come for her. Again and again, the Pigeon boy gripped her strongly as she shrieked in horror at the bad Suction Bush. Again and again, she was reduced to tears and laughter when she was rescued. And again and again, that Suction Bush pulled her in, as if that was its sole mission.
She rubbed her eyes now, as they were tearing in the darkness, and then she looked at her own slender hands. They had strips of dirt on them, as the bushes were rubbing off on her now. Her brown hair was strewn about, riddled with pieces of leaves, tangles, and knots. Her blue pants and matching blue and white shirt were so dirty that her first thought was that her mother would be mad that she got them so dirty. But it was fun, and she continued to laugh. It was so fun that she forgot about her mom just about the same second that she realized how much fun she was having. The Suction Bush, the Pigeon Boy, and the Pulling and Pulling. It went on for hours and hours, it seemed, and she just wanted the night with its impending bedtime to never come.
She had never stayed out so late to play, she had never gotten so completely dirty, and she had never played that close to a boy before. She wasn't going to mention to any one that it was past her bedtime, because she did not want to give any one the idea that maybe it was time to stop playing. She told herself to stop thinking about stopping playing. She just wanted to play as if it would never end.
So she played and she played and the night went on forever. The Pigeon Boy, the Suction Bush, and The Darkness. The dirt, the laughter, the Pigeon Boy, and well, the Pigeon Boy.