So a couple of days ago I found myself in a new animal supplies shop, trying to ask for food for Picchio the handicapped pigeon. I say 'trying' because I had unsuccessfully attempted to buy him grain in a couple of other stores and ended up with bran for chickens, and bird seed. Not a language issue I hasten to add, more a 'we don't have pigeon food so we'll sell you something else' issue.
"Do you have chicken food or something similar I could give a pigeon?" I asked the lanky young guy sitting surrounded by bags of unknown animal supplies plus a few pairs of flip flops.
"Em, not really," he said. "We have pigeon food though."
"Pigeon food, yes, of course, that's what I want," I said like a twit.
"Have you got a pigeon?"
I resisted the witty riposte along the lines of "no, I've got a lion" which never seems to quite work in Italian, for me anyway. "Yes, I've got one pigeon. He's got a problem with his wing so he can't fly."
"Would you like another one?" he asked me. Now, this unexpected turn of events set me thinking. I was concerned Picchio was lonely. Maybe another similarly afflicted feathery friend would cheer him up. However it turned out that Picchio's future chum was not sick at all, but just on sale.
"We've got 25 percent off all birds on Friday. Shall I put you down for a pair of pigeons?"
"How much are they?"
"Not too much, not 'an exaggeration'" he replied mysteriously.
"Can I buy just one? I mean, three could get a bit difficult." I stopped before I ended up in an awkward conversation about pigeon threesomes.
"One. OK. Is your pigeon male or female?"
I have no idea what sex Picchio is and suddenly began worrying about fights and territorial disputes. "How do you tell?" I asked.
He smiled at me. "Ah. Now that's difficult. You need an expert." (Later online I discovered it is indeed hard to sex pigeons, but one way is to provide a mirror! The males like posing in front of one apparently, and the females couldn't care less. A bit different from our world, eh?)
I ended up ordering a female, thinking that if Picchio was a girl, she would have a nice girlie pal and if he was a boy, then he would be getting a lovely girlfriend. Win win. I hope.
So I emerged from the shop with a10 kilo bag of pigeon food (!)and an order for one female pigeon.
We shall see what happens on Friday…