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At the café in the gardens, I order a coffee and a date muffin from the waitress. The sun shines down on the climbing roses. An assortment of reds and pinks and scarlet. I want something to read so I go inside the café for a newspaper. As I do so, I pass the waitress taking my order out to my table.
Back at my table again, I am taking a bite of the muffin when a woman comes up to me.
“When you went away,” she says, her tone stern, her cheeks red, “the sparrows flew down and began to eat that muffin.”
“Oh,” I say, my mouth full. I want to spit out the uneaten bits that I have yet to swallow. I look about for a napkin but mine has blown away.
The woman shouts out to the manager. “These birds are so annoying.” She flaps her hands at a small cluster.
The manager comes over. “They are annoying.” He directs this to me. “They come in, eat the food, poo everywhere but when I wanted to poison them, my staff said, ‘Don’t do that to the poor little birds.’”
“Well,” the woman says, “you have to do something. Look at that one.” She gestures angrily to a small speckled bird which has flown onto my plate and is pecking at what is left of the muffin. “Why should we have to put up with it?”
The manager flaps his apron. The bird ignores him.
“Indeed, madam,” he says. “If it troubles you, I will do something about it.”
The bird pauses and seems to glance up at me.
The manager reaches out a strong tanned arm. His hand clasps the little bird. The other snaps its neck.
“Oh.” The woman stares fixedly at the little limp body, before scuttling away from us. Overhead, heavy clouds fill the sky, darkening the red, pink and scarlet blooms.
Kate Mahony has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University,Wellington, New Zealand. Her short fiction has been published in numerous publications including Best New Zealand Fiction (Random House), Takahe, Blue Fifth Review, Headland Literary Journal, the International Literary Quarterly, and Blackmail Press. Her short story, The Journey, received an Honorary Mention in this year's Fish Publishing (Ireland)'s short story competition, her flash fiction, Regrets, was long listed in the Fish Flash Fiction competition, and Rumours was longlisted for the New Zealand Flash Fiction competition.