'Birdie' is the third part of Cilla McQueen's Serial, which is being published on this blog in small sections every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The first chapter was titled 'Higgs' (see full text) and the second Hotdog (see full text).

Next week, we begin chapter 4 - 'Inflation'.

Doris looked up and cleared a swathe on the window. Mrs Good coming up in the rain, a baguette protruding from her bag.

No news but Olympics. Talking rubbish bins in Finland that speak with celebrity voices.

City Council. The plot: from next year onwards those without reservations must go to town, not up the hill behind the pines. Gravestones on the sky.

A swooping plastic bag tangled in the fence, brushing off pink rose petals. If the wheelie-bin had a celebrity voice, in what language would it thank you?

Chicken soup on a day like this, nipping off a few dead buds.
A splendid concoction. Stressing the second syllable like Nigella Lawson.

Mrs Good at the gate, the baguette drooping. Hello sweetie, are you all right?
Fine thanks. You’ve got your bread wet.

Did you know Digby who won Lotto and went out of control? They didn’t find him for a week. Mrs Good straightened the bread. His daughter was out jogging.

No chance with this hip, Doris thought. Two years jogging every Sunday with Roger until Edwin put his foot down.

On TV a winner kissed his gold medal. An exhausted woman finishing the marathon wobbled and collapsed. She won’t die wondering! shouted the presenter.

Die wondering, repeated Doris, leafing through the exotic birds. Overdue. Her eyes stung. All gone, feathers for hats, vanity, stoats, rats.

She turned to the smallest flightless bird in the world, seen only once and shortly afterwards dispatched by the lighthouse-keeper’s cat.

An artist’s impression showed the robust legs and soft loose plumage of the Lyall’s wren glowing like a coin on a branch above a fairy prion on the forest floor. Two green geckoes and a lichen moth among the upper twigs.

The scientific world heard almost simultaneously of the wren’s discovery and its disappearance. No sooner said than done. She blew her nose.

Sky dark in the west. At the council office she filled out the form for a funeral plot. Ahead of her was the massive back of Mr Billing. He stepped backwards and crushed her toe, then nearly knocked her over.

She bought a cheese roll and sat on the seat by the rocks. Waves thumped against the sea wall. Sparrows and seagulls sought her crumbs. As she put the wrapping in the bin a seagull screeched and dropped a white deposit on her arm. Thanks, she said.

It’s lucky. A man was sitting on the seat, his parcels beside him. Lucky. Birdshit. Local? Shopping for one? None of your business, she thought, picking up her bag.

Sorry, he smiled. That was rude, nobody to talk to. I live up the street, said Doris. Nice to meet you. He was Digby’s cousin, winding things up.

Drop in for a cup of tea any time, he invited her.

She remembered Digby with a glass in his hand on the porch of his weatherbeaten cottage. I don’t think so. Is your bottle leaking? The brown paper was stained at the bottom.

Sound as a bell, he grinned, banging it down. There was dark liquid on the seat between them. Hell, soggy parcel, it’s the chicken.

She took a tissue from her handbag and wiped a splash off her hand. Chicken juice, she said primly. Campylobacter.

Walking home past the native bush she peered under branches, listening to a bellbird’s song. A sparrow hopped away through the leaves.

The Lyall’s wren ran as fast as a mouse. Couldn’t there be one pair left in the world, in some lonely place?

The letterbox coming off its hinges. I don’t think so, she said in a loud, firm voice. Organised for survival, sound finances, even paid for the plot.

A man is so sudden, she thought.

In her quiet kitchen she remembered Roger’s lavender bouquets and evening runs on the beach.

Edwin’s blue eyes above his antiques book as she stood in the doorway ready to go out, toned and slim in her shorts, her brown hair soft and glowing like the plumage of the Lyall’s wren.

Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service recruit learning semaphore on Somes Island, during World War II.
Reference Number: 1/4-000164-F

Modelling Jantzen bathing costumes, 1940.
Reference Number: 1/2-036931-G

Molly Mawk colony, Courrejolles Peninsula, Campbell Island, 1910-1916
Reference Number: 1/2-100366-G

Miss Judy Young and Mrs W M Preston at Trentham race course, 21 January 1957
Reference Number: EP/1957/0298-F

Nelson Lighthouse, Boulder Bank, Nelson, ca 21 March 1936
Reference Number: 1/2-032647-F

Kimberley Supply Committee: Permit to purchase bread
Reference Number: Eph-C-WAR-SA-1900-03-2

Members of the Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service, at signalling training, during World War II
Reference Number: PAColl-8844

Physical training at Sling Camp, Bulford, 1918
Reference Number: 1/2-014067-G

Running race for married ladies over 45, location unidentified, 1931
Reference Number: 1/2-C-016197-F

Hunting party, probably Christchurch district, ca 1915
Reference Number: 1/1-023909-G

Photograph of a city gate, Manilla, Phillipines, ca 1900
Reference Number: PA1-f-146-03-3

William Gilbert Rees, Mary Rose, 1859.
Reference Number: E-199-q-041

Photograph of Richard Savage's watch
Reference Number: MS-Papers-1361-5-02

William Swainson, Cupressus sempervirens. Strait cypress. Callitris Gunni. Egg cypress, 1852-1854
Reference Number: A-023-010

Approved lunch for Zoo feeding, Wellington Zoo, New Zealand, 8 January 1968
Reference Number: EP/1968/0090/9-F

Display of household consumer items, mainly food, with prices attached, showing rising costs between 1972 and 1975
Reference Number: EP/1975/3245/13a-F

Douglas MacDiarmid, John Drawbridge, 1949
Reference Number: A-135-027

Wooden water trough used for catching birds
Reference Number: PAColl-3039-1-001

Man, outside a hut in the gum fields, holding loaves of bread, ca 1910
Reference Number: 1/1-006360-G

Man and bird, 1950-1950
Reference Number: 114/138/10-G

Woman at Trentham races, 1950
Reference Number: 114/207/16-G

William Godwin, S S Storm-Bird, 1860s
Reference Number: C-059-009

William Fox, Bird's eye view of Waitoi, 1848
Reference Number: C-013-001

Wooden sculptures, carved by George Wakelin, in the garden of "Rose Cottage", Moroa, Wairarapa
Reference Number: 1/2-135973-F

End of the Old Miners Race at the 50th Jubilee celebrations, Gabriels Gully, May 1911
Reference Number: 1/2-111409-F

North Family scrap album: Page 21, of flower scraps, ca 1890
Reference Number: Eph-A-SCRAPBOOK-01-21

Percival Vega Gull plane, ca 6 April 1951
Reference Number: 114/278/04-G

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