Flash Fiction - The Crow Who Came to Breakfast
It's been a horrible, hot, muggy summer. The apartment manager, Dwight Flood, hasn't been mowing the lawn. Nobody cares. The grass that's remained green is about shin-deep now; it reminds me of the farmer's chant for corn - knee high by the Fourth of July. This would be a great year for corn, if that's what was planted in the lawn.
I can hear the morning crow while I sit inside, with air conditioning, drinking my coffee. It expects me outside for breakfast, and probably misses the bread crust I throw out into the yard. It dips down into the grass, flies back up to the tree, and spouts admonitions every damn day. I don't care about that, either. It's too hot to worry about a crow's breakfast, and I have no appetite myself.
It seems, though, that Dwight Flood has decided to mow this morning. I can hear him cursing over the racket of the lawn jalopy he's lugged out of the shed. The crow is screaming, too; I pull up the louvered blinds to investigate.
The crow is dive-bombing Dwight Flood. It screams something surely obscene in crow-speak from the tree branch, then swoops over Dwight in his wife-beater and khaki shorts, tube socks pulled up and just visible over the yet unmowed grass. The hair on Dwight’s back and shoulders erupts from the wife-beater as he dances with the crow: at once ducking, waving, cursing and attempting to push the mower with the arm he's not using to fend off the attack. I open the door and call out to him.
"I don't think he's really trying to hit you," I say of the crow. "He's got a specific maneuver…he's just trying to scare you" Dwight flips me off. I don't think he can even hear me over the motor.
The mower stalls. Dwight stands up straight, waves both arms at the crow, middle fingers extended, and retreats angrily into the office. The crow settles on its branch and emits a satisfied caw. Once the office door slams behind Dwight, the crow swoops down into the freshly-mowed part of the yard, digs around a bit and flies away with a glint in its beak.
This is curious. I've not been breakfasting outside in the heat, and I don't know that anything else ever happens outside my door. I feel like even if something fell off the mower it wouldn't be shiny. I peer toward the office to see if Dwight Flood is coming back out - don't want to make him think anything else needs his attention - and I shut my door behind me. I sidle out into the yard and lean over the area the crow has just vacated.
Nestled among the exposed roots of the grass I see bones. They are small and shiny; they sparkle in the sun. They are laid out in a pattern resembling the skeleton of a very small human, lacking a skull. I think I see coins interspersed - I find a stick in the yard and poke around. Yes, coins: dimes, pennies, little golden circles that I can't identify. Huh.
I look up to the branch where the crow usually sits, and it's there, sparkling orb in its mouth. The orb has eye-holes and a grimacing jaw. The crow tucks the round thing under its claws and squawks at me. It reclaims the shiny skull-object with its beak and flies off.
Leprechauns in the desert? How long has the crow known?
Maybe it's never been about the bread crust.