“Good morning, Ralph,” Sam said. Ralph didn’t say anything back, being a pigeon and all, but Sam liked to think that it understood the meaning and the sincerity behind its statement. Birds were very intelligent, after all. And pigeons were especially intelligent. Maybe not like an African Grey or a crow, but they were still pretty smart.
All you had to do was put a little bit of thought into it and it was plain to see. Ralph’s toes were a horrible mangled mess, probably from an encounter with a predator, or some kind of a disease, or getting caught in a bit of human trash. It would be difficult for a pigeon like that to roost outdoors or to compete with others for food. But down here, in the subway tunnels, such a pigeon could survive. It would take an intelligent animal to realize that, and therefore Ralph had to be intelligent.
But maybe that was the sort of thing that had to be proved. What couldn’t be denied was the tragedy of such an aesthetically pleasing animal being forced to live underground. Sure, the tunnels were well-lit, but the light was artificial. Nothing like the full-spectrum warmth that the sun would have brought. Ralph’s plumage now was inspiring; in times gone by, when the bird could strut and flutter under the open sky, it must have been breathtaking.
Sam dropped a few french fries on the ground and Ralph hobbled over to peck at them. Instead of grabbing a fry and darting off, it kept hobbling forward, settling underneath the bench Sam was sitting on. Strange behavior for a bird. Such cautious animals. But Ralph did it every time, and that was how Sam knew it was smart. Ralph did it every time, and that was how Sam knew they were friends.