In the first place, there was the damned pigeon. It had said that it was tired of flying, and so all it did was walk around me while I tried to get the wall patched up. I could have used its help, but I didn’t have any. All I had from him were complaints about how hard done by he was. It was exhausting to listen to.
If I had just relaxed and let the wall go, then it would fall over and I would get blown away. So, I had to keep patching it. The wind kept pulling bits of it off the top. I had to keep an eye out for them, so that I wouldn’t get a chunk of the wall falling on my head. The little bits of gravel weren’t that much of a problem, since they were generally blown away on the wind. But the bigger pieces often just got blown off to drop out of the air a foot or so from the wall. Those were dangerous and I had to keep an eye out for them.
I was wearing a steel helmet, so I didn’t think the flying bits of stone and concrete would manage to kill me, but I didn’t want to risk it. And there was certainly a good chance that if one hit me, I’d be knocked out, at least. And then the wall would fall on me, and I’d die that way instead. So, I had to keep going.
I was astounded that the bird wouldn’t notice that there were more important things happening than his hurt feelings about lack of garbage to eat or the fact that he’d heard people call him “flying vermin.”
And eventually I got sick of it. I just couldn’t listen to it anymore. I told him that if he wasn’t going to help, he could at least shut up. He was astonished at that, but it did quiet him down. He scowled, but any vestige of sympathy he might have expected from me was gone by that point.
In the relative peace that followed, I kept slapping on new mortar accompanied by the roar of the wind, and the occasional thud of rocks falling off. But I didn’t have to listen to his moaning anymore. I briefly felt bad as he frowned and looked hurt, but it soon wore off. I didn’t have time to feel bad.
Then a part of the wall simply collapsed completely. The pigeon was slightly under it when it fell, but he flapped a couple of times and got out of the way. And I saw that it was good he wasn’t flying anyway, because even just giving a couple of flaps meant that the wind nearly carried him away. With a bit of a struggle, he managed to get back to the ground.
However, it must have convinced him how serious the situation with the wall was. He picked up the bucket of mortar in his claws, and then flapped up into the air. He was sheltered by the wall, and so he was able to have some control.
Not only did this let me mortar faster, but he was able to find new holes as they started to form. I was rushing from spot to spot, and I didn’t generally even find a hole until it a bit of the old material had been blown out completely. With his help, I could start filling holes that were just getting loose, instead of having to wait until they had burst apart.
But despite his help, it was clear that we were fighting a losing battle. The wall was already as much wet mortar as rock, and it wouldn’t be long before the rest of it fell over.
So, I gave it some thought, and then told the pigeon that I was going to try something else. He looked at me quizzically, but then he nodded. I had an idea, and I wished that I’d thought of it earlier when the wind started. But I hadn’t, and it wasn’t worth getting upset about it.
I grabbed a flat, wide stone and started digging. There was no way that I had time to dig a proper hole, but I did have time to dig a trench. I scraped dirt up as fast as I could. I dug just past where I thought the wall would eventually fall. As a guide, I was able to use the remains of that part of the wall that had already so I could get an idea of how far I should dig.
It only took me a few minutes to dig myself a shallow trench to lie down in. It wasn’t a moment too soon. Another part of the wall had fallen down, and now there was just a kind of pillar of rock holding the wind off. The pigeon clung desperately to the backside of the pillar, and looked at me desperately.
But by that time, the ditch was deep enough for me to pull myself into. The pigeon came and nestled in beside my leg. I grabbed some more rocks that were close to bury myself in rubble. I made myself a kind of low cairn. Enough rock to provide some shelter, not so many that it would get blown away. That’s what I was hoping, anyway.
It obviously wasn’t comfortable or anything, but It did the job. The wind blew over us, and while it did manage to pick up a few of the rocks on top of me, I was able to replace them. As I had thought would happen, the rest of the wall blew over not ten minutes after we got into our ditch.
We were there for about an hour, and then I could tell that the wind was starting to die down. Another hour, and the storm had mostly blown over. The rain was coming down, but the wind had largely stopped.
Once that happened, I pulled myself out from under the rocks and gave the pigeon a smile. He smiled and then he said, “I’ve met some rats, and I’m nothing like them.”