450 – Frances An

Two pigeons flap to avoid a car. The plump light-grey one manages to escape but the scrawny dark-grey one’s body crunches like a plastic bottle under the car’s front tyres. The pigeon’s corpse lies along the dotted line which splits the left and right lanes. Its wings are torn and the head is twisted sideways.

‘… Yum,’ I murmur. When I was in Year 3, there was a Chinese restaurant in Bankstown which my family frequented. My favourite dish there was the crispy roasted pigeon – the head looked just like the one on the road, round and shiny at the top with the beak gaping open.

I glance at the two people sitting at the bus shelter, wondering if either of them has noticed the pigeon. At one end of the rusty bench, a woman who resembles Fan Bingbing scrolls through the real Fan Bingbing’s Instagram pictures. An obese white man spills over the other end of the seat, chin tucked into his neck as he squints at How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie –

Crunch – a red convertible drives over the pigeon’s corpse. The bird no longer reminds me of crispy roasted pigeon as lumpy yellow innards ooze from the split in its back. I glance at Imitation Bingbing and Carnegie-wannabe for silent reassurance, but they are still reading. Maybe actual Strathfield-dwellers will notice – sure, this bus shelter is in Strathfield too but the 450 bus passes through Lakemba where I’ve seen plenty of dead cats and crows on my walks back home. Crushed pigeons might be a normal sight for Imitation Bingbing and Carnegie-wannabe.

My head jolts from side to side as I survey my surroundings like the still-alive pigeons who glance at each other, then at their squished comrade. Come to think of it, this bus stand is the only area covered with bird poo. The rest of Strathfield is made of wooden signs displaying shop names in typewriter font and posters of silicon-faced K-Pop idols. Herds of Korean couples wearing round glasses, culottes and oversized t-shirts swish across the zebra crossing. Young Chinese men wearing navy suits and leather laptop bags gesture to one another, some of them rattling in Mandarin while others rave in bogan accents.

Another car drives along the curve but thankfully, its wheels miss the bird. I glimpse the time on Imitation Bingbing’s phone, 5:35PM. Shouldn’t the bus have arrived five minutes ago? I walk over to check the bus sign again, tracing the grid of numbers with my finger – ah, right. It’s a Saturday so buses come every 30 minutes, not 15 minutes like on the weekdays. I head to a park bench in Strathfield Square where I can finish the last bit of houjicha in my tea bottle without watching cars pulverise the pigeon further.

When I return to the bus stop, only a dark blood stain remains where the pigeon’s corpse was.

Frances AnFrances An is a Vietnamese-Cantonese-Australian writer from Sydney, Australia. Her short stories have been published in Rigorous, EastLit, ZineWest2017, Romanian-Australian bilingual anthology, Seizure and Lost In Books. She is a member of the writers’ collectives Finishing School and NewWritersGroupINC. Frances also studies Psychology (Honours) at Western Sydney University. Her research project focuses on moral self-perception.