The pigeons were on the street and the sidewalk in front of the massive church, Saint Jerome’s on Lunt near Clark. Three men stood in front of one man sitting on a wall near the church. They spoke in English, then Spanish, then English.

“Watch,” said the sitting man, his legs dangling from the wall over the sidewalk. “I’ll do it again.”

The other three turned to look at the pigeons. Then the sitting man raised his hands to the heavens, and all of the pigeons responded immediately as if he’d been a choir director or orchestra conductor. They burst into the air all at once, circled in an arc, and came to rest where they had begun.

“How?” one of the standing men asked.

“Watch,” said the sitting man. The three watched him silently raise his arms to the heavens again, then they turned as the birds once again launched themselves into the air together, swung in a large arc, and came back to their starting point.

“How can you do that?” they asked him, mingling English with Spanish.

He did not answer. Instead he raised his hands again, and the pigeons again left the ground in unison. The four men watched in silence.

Then the sitting man said, “These are our brothers. Their souls reside in these pigeons. They have come to visit us. These are our friends.”

The three standing men spoke at once, Spanish and English joining together. Their questions were a babel.

The sifting man pushed one of his arms before him as if he were doing one side of a breaststroke. “Enough,” he told them softly. “You all talk at once, and I understand nothing you say. Just watch.”

Again he raised his hands to the heavens, and again all of the pigeons rushed in a large arc into the sky. The three standing men watched in awe.

“OK,” said one, and he turned to cross the street. The other two followed. But the pigeons were in their way. Instead of going directly across the street and wading through the pigeons, though, they made a very careful circle around them. Then they stopped before they crossed the street and turned back. One of the men tipped his hat to the pigeons.

The sitting man, seeing the man tip his hat as seriously as though he were saluting God, raised his hands again. The pigeons flew into the air and made an even lower arc than before, so when they reached the standing men they missed their heads by inches.

“Adios, mi amigos,” said the man with the hat. He waved his hat at the pigeons, and then he bowed. “Adios, my friends.”