• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 07

Storm Crows

The crows always come after the storm. Black, skinny legs pushing through cowslip and burdock, sleek heads curving left to right, combing the meadow for what tumbles in with the rain.

Alice and I have stopped to listen. We close our eyes and press together, smelling wet grass and distant rainbows. The damp squish of crow’s feet, more immediate than the muttering cattle and church bells. Hard beaks thud into soft earth and tap around for little treasures. When we think they have found something interesting—by way of a glassy crack or fabric rustle—we peek. The crows find all the sparkling things that are washed down from the woods or out of the gutters: red bottle stoppers, slivers of mirror… once we watched a crow yank a golden chain from a mud-thick puddle.
    Alice grips me tighter and gives a little shake. I peel an eye open to see. Half-buried in the mud and the damp weeds, is a little crow. Its wings are a soft crumble of broken bones and stunted feathers. We lean over the small stone wall we’ve perched on to get a better look. It couldn’t be more than a fledgling. I inhale sharply, but before I can ask Alice what she thinks—she’s already half over the wall.
    “Alice, stop.” I hiss, one hand snatching her ankle.
    “I just want to see.”
She tries to shake my hand loose, but I tighten my fingers until I can feel her anklebone rubbing.
    “Who knows what that died of!” What if it has a sickness? What if it has the sickness.”
    This arrests her struggle, and as she wavers on the wall, shoulders over the far side, legs dangling by me. In that stillness we hear the approach of wet crow’s feet. The adult has hopped close enough to witness our treasure.


Storm Crows

I hold my breath as the crow—ignited by the list-refracting mist that follows great rainstorms—tilts its head to take in the dead young. It stops, as if driven by the same curiosity as Alice, but then it splits the sky with its anguish.
Alice pulls herself back to me and we crouch down, trying not to look.
Soon there is a murder, all sobbing in their hoarse, full-throated way.
This funeral is a different kind of storm, one who’s clouds are condensing inside our bellies, and who’s rainbows are the reflections in our eyes—a soft knowing—that promises of answers to questions we aren’t ready to ask.