The Great Pigeon Rescue

Jimmy and his friend Alex stood outside in the freezing schoolyard, staring up at the edge of the gym roof. ``I know it's still alive,'' Jimmy said softly.

``Me, too,'' Alex agreed.

``Maybe we should call the firemen,'' Jimmy said, stuffing his gloved hands into his coat pockets. ``But they'll never come for a pigeon.''

For two days, Jimmy's fourth-grade class had been distracted by a pigeon stuck to the gym roof like a tongue stuck to an ice cube. Every kid claimed to have seen it move, but whenever Mrs. McQueeny looked out the classroom window, all she saw were gray feathers blowing in the wind. She refused to believe that it could still be alive after two nights of below-zero temperatures.

Now, outside at recess, Jimmy's face brightened. ``I know! Why can't we get it down? Just us?''

``How will we do that?'' Alex asked.

``With a ladder! What are you doing after school?''

``Ski Club.''

``Come over to my house instead.''

A familiar voice interrupted them. ``Hey! Dim Jim!'' Wesley Howard, who was two grades higher and four sizes larger, pushed his way between the boys. ``You still looking at that dead bird?''

``It isn't dead,'' Alex said. ``We're gonna save it.''

``Whoa! Big heroes!'' You could tell he didn't mean it. ``And by the way,'' he grabbed Jimmy's sleeve and yanked him closer, ``I didn't forget about those detentions you made me get.''

``It wasn't my fault,'' Jimmy began when, much to his relief, the recess bell rang. He wriggled free and he and Alex ran into the school.

At the end of the day, Alex nudged Jimmy. ``Maybe I should go skiing.''

``No one will miss you. Walk to my house. Leave your skis there. We'll come back to school right before the ski bus gets back. Your Mom'll never know.''

``What about the teachers? They stay after.''

``We'll wait till 4. They'll be gone by then. We have to save the pigeon!''

By 4 o'clock, Jimmy and Alex, ready for the rescue, were walking toward the school carrying a steel extension ladder over their heads. Alex had a white towel draped around the collar of his ski jacket. The handle of a small Boy Scout hatchet stuck out of Jimmy's pocket. It would be dark in an hour. They'd have to work fast.

They found the parking lot empty, except for the janitor's olive-green van. ``Ray's still here,'' Alex said nervously.

But Jimmy's eyes were skyward. ``So's the pigeon. I hope we're not too late.''

It wasn't easy for the two boys to maneuver the tall, heavy ladder. Twice it fell over sideways, then once backwards. Finally, it banged against the gym wall.

``Oh, no!'' Alex cried. ``It's too short.''

``There's got to be another way up.'' Jimmy pulled the ladder over and jumped back as it crashed onto the rock-hard snow bank. ``Let's bring it around back.''

There, the ladder reached the first-floor roof, and Jimmy led the way up. The roof was flat and covered with a thick layer of ice. From this level, they crossed to the roof of the cafeteria. The deep frozen snowdrifts made a ledge for them to climb to the next level. They made their way around two skylights and reached the gym wall where three horizontal steel bars were bolted into the bricks. ``We're almost there!'' Jimmy cried. ``Come on!''

Alex followed Jimmy to the gym roof, which looked like a giant sheet cake iced with white frosting. ``Be careful,'' Jimmy called back. ``It's slippery!''

``Look!'' Alex pointed, ``There's the shopping center!''

``And there's the pigeon. Let's go!''

As they slowly approached, the pigeon startled them by suddenly flapping its wings.

``It is alive!'' Jimmy exclaimed. The pigeon lifted its head and stared up at him with fearful eyes. Tiny beads of ice stuck to the smooth feathers around its beak. Sticking out of the icy roof were a few long wing feathers.

``It's OK. Give me the towel.'' Jimmy opened the towel and draped it over the pigeon's back. It flapped its wings again, but Jimmy spoke softly. ``Shhh. This'll keep you warm, Pidge,'' he said and rested his glove on top. ``Alex, you put your hand here. Hold it down. I'll chop the ice.''

Jimmy pulled out his hatchet and studied the pigeon's bright pink feet. ``Boy, your feet really are stuck. No wonder you can't get free.''

Chop, chip, chop, chip. Ice chunks sprayed the air while the pigeon struggled under the towel. Chop, chip, chop, chip.

Jimmy brushed away the loosened ice and it fell the long way to the ground. ``Hold onto it, Alex. Are you holding on? I'm almost done.''

``Quiet!'' Alex ordered. ``Listen.''

``I don't hear anything.''

``Duck!'' The boys lay still as Ray's van clanked down the driveway and out of sight.

``I'm glad he's gone, ``Jimmy said, looking up at the darkening sky. ``Let's get this bird and go home.''

Jimmy finished chopping. He tucked the towel under the pigeon, careful not to bend its wings, and left the head poking out. ``OK, let it go - now.'' As Alex lifted his hand from the towel, Jimmy scooped the white bundle to his chest. ``Got it!''

The boys stood up. ``We did it, Jimmy. This will have to be in the newspaper. What a rescue!''

``We should call Channel 9.'' Jimmy peeked at the pigeon's feet, which were still encased in a chunk of ice. He felt a twinge of cold in his own toes. As he wrapped the towel gently around the bird's feet, a sudden commotion came from below.

``Hey, Dim Jim! You missin' something?'' Wesley Howard stood in the parking lot with two of his friends, the ladder held high above their heads.

``They've got our ladder!'' Alex yelled.

``Hey!'' Jimmy shouted as the pigeon squirmed. ``Put that back!''

Wesley laughed and called, ``Have fun getting down! The ladder with six legs ran across the parking lot and down the driveway.

``What do we do now?'' Alex groaned.

Jimmy looked around. ``Well, we sure can't get down without the ladder.''

``It's no use,'' Alex said with a whimper, ``I knew I should have gone skiing.''

``Don't cry. Your face will freeze.''

``What else can we do?''

``Yell. Someone will hear us.''

``Help! Help!''

``We're scaring the bird,'' Jimmy said.

``I should have gone skiing,'' Alex repeated.

``The ski bus! What time does it get back?''

``Not till after 7 o'clock.''

``Maybe someone will come around before then.''

The boys sat huddled on the roof for two more hour while the temperature fell and the sky darkened. The only light came from the floodlights at each corner of the building and one at the end of the driveway. Jimmy was starving. He couldn't imagine how hungry the bird must be. His arms ached but he kept a gentle hold on the pigeon.

Every once in a while the boys called for help and jumped around. Jimmy said they couldn't sit for too long, or they'd get stuck to the roof.

``Parents should be here soon,'' Alex said through chattering teeth.

The bird had closed its eyes, and the fear had melted from its face. The ice chunk on its feet felt smaller through the dampened towel. Jimmy whispered, ``It won't be long now, Pidge.''

``Someone's coming,'' Alex said, pointing down the driveway.

As the car approached, Jimmy and Alex waved their arms and called for help. A man jumped out of his car. ``What are you doing up there?''

``We saved a pigeon! It's still alive!''

``How'd you get up?''

As Jimmy told him, two other parents joined the man. ``I'll get the firemen,'' a father called.

``The pay phone's by the front door,'' a mother added.

Soon, the parking lot was full of cars and waiting parents.

``What time it it?'' Jimmy called down.

``Almost 7. You boys sit tight. The fire truck is on its way.''

``Oh, no!'' gasped Alex. ``Here comes my mother!''

``Alexander!'' she sounded upset. ``What are you doing?''

``Hi, Mom... I'm, um....''

By the time the fire truck came, the boys were chilled through every feather of their down jackets. Their fingers and toes were numb. The pigeon awoke, and for the first time it cooed. The fire truck pulled in, cars moved out of the way, and as the truck backed up, the ski bus arrived and emptied out. Word of the rescue spread fast.

Everyone crowded around, getting as close as they were allowed. A spotlight shone up from the fire truck; the boys waved down to their friends.

``The ladder's growing,'' a child called as the ladder slowly stretched upward into the chilly sky. It grew longer and longer and finally came to rest on the roof.

The crowd quieted as a fireman quickly climbed up. When he reached the boys, he stood silently and surveyed the rooftop. ``How did you get up here?'' They explained it all: Mrs. McQueeny, the ladder, the rescue, and Wesley.

The fireman helped Alex down first, then climbed back up with a box tucked under one arm. When he reached the roof, he set the box down and said, ``Let's see your pigeon.''

``Oh, please. Can I carry him down?'' Jimmy begged.

The fireman kept Jimmy between himself and the ladder as they backed down. Jimmy held tightly to the pigeon with one arm and to the ladder with the other. The crowd cheered when they reached the truck, and a photographer from the local paper snapped a picture. The next day's headline read: Triple Rescue at Middle School; Boys Give Chilling Account.

On the back page, in the Police Log, a much smaller headline read: ``Juveniles Questioned for Theft of Ladder.'' `Kidspace' is a place on The Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will spark imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, usually on Tuesdays.

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