Dangerous Objects - Excerpt
I’d examined seven thousand, six hundred, and thirty-three pigeons without finding any dangerous objects. Or any objects at all, in fact. In the initial briefing, six months ago, ‘dangerous objects’ had never been defined; to be on the safe side, I would have classified anything I had found as dangerous. If I had found anything. I wiped my forehead with the top of my arm. I was always tempted to scratch my face or rest my head on my hands, which would have been unfortunate, given that my once bright yellow gloves had become stained with shit.
Despite everything, the pay and hours were okay. I knew that I had to do something like that to get a foot in the door. And I got to sit in a room unsupervised with my friend Adam for most of the day. It could have been worse. The people on the grade below us had to do cats.
During the briefing, we were told that there was intelligence that dangerous objects were being hidden in various animals. The groups who were doing it, we were told, aimed to place a number of the items as a test, to see whether they were uncovered. If the trial plot was successful, more objects would be planted, for assassinations, to damage buildings, and for other types of subversion.
I took the next bird out of the cage to examine it using the technique I had been taught. First, I checked around the beak whilst keeping my other hand firmly around its body. That was what most pigeons disliked about the process, but that one only cooed softly, making it seem to expand through my gloves. What had surprised me about the job was how much personality pigeons have. Apart from being more or less aggressive, some enjoyed being petted whereas others would buffet my hands with their wings the moment I let go. Some are quiet, others noisy; some prefer to be at the centre of their group. I think that all creatures have individual quirks if viewed closely enough.
After finding nothing wrong with the beak, I ran my hand down its neck, feeling the tiny bumps there between my fingers, before parting the tail feathers. No matter how delicately I did so, they always made a tearing sound, although the pigeons did not seem to mind. After checking that nothing was attached to the legs, the final part of the examination was to put a finger far enough into the ‘rear’ (as it had been called during the briefing) for me to ensure that nothing was inside and that it had not been tampered with. I then transferred the bird to the other side of the room and removed a glove to make a mark on my tablet.