The Great Migration

This short story was submitted by Shannan Conlon to our 2020 Europe Week Contest. Shannan Conlon is a student in the UNC TransAtlantic Masters Program.

Story author Shannan Conlon

She did little to hide her disdain as she crossed the street to walk past them. The urchins groveled on their knees, begging for food as she avoided a puddle. So filthy, she thought, as she crossed another street. We should really get rid of them somehow. She contemplated the likelihood of a bulldozer scooping them up and carrying them away. To where? That part wasn’t her problem, she just didn’t want them in town.

The urchins spoke in clicks and grunts as they groveled toward the next passerby. Nobody was quite sure where they came from, but they were certain it was not Europe. They arrived in the dark, and they multiplied daily. They crawled out of dumpsters as the garbage collectors came, and they scurried from the gutters when it rained. They were spindly and small, will glowing yellow eyes that never blinked. Their expressions held questions they never asked. They barked when they were kicked and yelped when rocks were thrown at them, but stayed curiously silent when food was thrown nearby. Instead of fighting for it they approached cautiously, then divided the bread carefully amongst themselves. They drooled as the smell from a nearby bakery drifted toward them with the breeze.

“We must save our precious pets!” declared the mayor. “The urchins will eat our dogs and then go after our children! Where will we play football, if they are all huddled on the fields in their filthy masses?”

An urchin shrieked as one of its spindles was run over. A motorcade was parading through the center of town. The International Conference on Urchin Strategy would soon be held in Rome, and the town was preparing for an influx of visitors. Scientists, politicians, businessmen, and spectators would all come to observe the local urchins. Some politicians suggested flushing them out with anti-urchin spray, a new technology developed to reduce their numbers. Others suggested luring them to the sea with trails of food, and still others suggested rounding them up and housing them in vacant barns until they decided what to do next.

The woman walked past them again on her way home from work. This time, she threw a half-eaten sandwich in their direction. Disgusting, she thought, as they carefully picked it up off the ground. Still, she did feel a little sorry for them. She just wished that they had their own home, and she felt like she could possibly grow to like them if they did.

This post has been created as part of CES’ 2020 Virtual Europe Week. The Center for European Studies takes no institutional positions. All views represented within the post are the author’s own. Visit the Europe Week 2020 page for details about our contest, events, and more.