Authors: Julia; Green,Jane Cope
. The big hand on the clock clicks round to three. At last! Luke pushes back his chair and lets out a big sigh. He doesn't mean it to make a noise, but it does. His teacher frowns.
“Thanks for the reminder, Luke. OK, everyone. Time to go home. Put everything away in your drawers, please. And don't forget tonight's homework. I want each of you to prepare a short talk about something that interests you, for tomorrow. Off you go.”
The playground is full of people: mums and dads and carers and big sisters and brothers, all waiting to collect children from St Giles' Primary School.
Luke pushes past them. He goes home by himself.
Well, not home, exactly. Luke goes to Grandad's house, which is twelve minutes fifty seconds' walk away from the school.
It's his favourite place ever. For a start, Grandad is there. Grandad lets Luke make pancakes for tea (and supper and breakfast).
He doesn't ask questions like
what did you learn at school today
what homework have you got tonight
? He doesn't moan about Luke's muddy shoes, or tell him to turn the TV off. There are interesting things to look at on the shelves: fossils, and a small brass telescope, and a compass.
And then there's the garden. It's long and thin, with trees you can climb and grass you can run on.
At the bottom of the garden are the sheds. One is empty apart from a few tools. It's the perfect place for sitting in when you want to be quiet and think. It smells of hay. The other shed is the pigeon loft.
Luke pushes the door open. It's like stepping into another world.
The air is full of the sound of soft bird calls:
. It makes Luke think of cats purring. Feathers float in the warm air. The birds peck at the seed in their boxes and preen their feathers. Their eyes are beady bright. They watch Luke. They know him. They're not scared.
Luke talks to them. He tells them secrets, sometimes â how he doesn't like school. Today, he tells them about football.
“I'm useless at it. I don't even like it, really, but everybody else does. So that makes me different.”
The pigeons coo back. One tries to peck his finger when he holds his hand against the wire mesh. It tickles. He laughs.
Close up, you can see all different colours in their feathers. Green, and purple, and pink and silver.
Luke hears Grandad coming slowly down the garden. These days, he walks with a stick.
“Shall we let them out for a fly around?” Grandad asks.
Luke nods. Together, they watch the birds hop onto the edge of the cage as each door is opened. Suddenly they all take flight, off and up into the blue, summer sky. Their wings flash like silver in the sunlight as they wheel round, a silver arc above the houses and gardens and streets.
“Let's have our tea outside today,” Grandad says.
They are still there when the pigeons come back to roost. They hear the swish of wings as the birds circle over the plum tree.
Mum tuts at Grandad when she comes to collect Luke on her way home from work. “You'll catch cold,” she says. “The garden's all in shadow, now.”
In the car, she tells Luke he ought to help Grandad in the house more.
“Didn't you see the piles of dirty dishes in the sink?” she asks.
“And dust everywhere. He's getting old. He shouldn't really be living by himself.”
Luke knows Grandad wouldn't dream of living anywhere else.
“Finished your homework, I hope,” Mum says, like it's a question.
Luke nods. He hasn't, of course. He's forgotten all about it, on purpose. He doesn't want to give a talk. He hates talking in front of the whole class.