I was walking my usual path to work down the back alley and across a small parking lot when I noticed a crow eyeing me up from about twenty feet away near the sidewalk. This did not seem all that strange, because the crows in my area are fairly bold, especially at this time of year when they have full nests. I approached cautiously, though, because she didn’t seem too willing to move out of my way. I wasn’t necessarily trying to avoid her either, because I have a fondness for crows and love getting a look into their intelligent eyes. She danced sideways a little to the left and then headed right, walking away from me. Her gait was somewhere in between leisurely and anxious. It was almost a saunter. No bird worth its salt saunters, and I knew then that something must be wrong.
I know that I’m leaving off at the incredibly swiftly arrived at rising action part of the story, but at this point I am reminded of a crow I once knew, so I must inject an aside (although it is not really an aside, because in my mind both stories are of equal importance, and when I started writing this, I had both in mind, and they are both the point, but whatever. Do you care? I doubt it very much. Back to the story of the crow I once knew…). There was a family who lived next door when I was kid, and they had three kids, the youngest of which was a boy who was a couple of years older than me. Boy and his father used to take trips out to the country to shoot at stuff, and one spring they found a nest of abandoned baby crows. They went back two days later to see if the mother had come back, and when they saw that she hadn’t, Boy took one of the crows to raise himself. Boy named the crow Crow (I’m not trying to protect the innocent – his name really was Crow), and Crow took quite well to living with humans. He grew up over the next many months through spring, summer, fall, winter, another spring, and another summer.
Crow liked to be rubbed on the back of the neck, and he liked it when people who visited sat in a circle so he could hop from person to person, and he was really fond of teasing people. Crow loved car rides, and when Boy would call to Crow to get in the car, the bird would hop up onto the corner of our roof. Boy would climb up onto our fence and reach out his hand for Crow to perch on, and then Crow would start his hop-two-forward-hop-three-back tease, and the more exasperated Boy became, the more Crow would cackle and caw.
Crow lived with my neighbours for six seasons before Boy realized that the bird was restless. Fall had arrived, and it was the time of year when the crows gathered together to get ready to fly north. Boy and his father drove Crow out to the field where they had found him one Saturday afternoon and shooed him out of the car. For a couple of hours, Crow flew between them and the growing number of others of his kind that were scattered across the field and in the trees nearby. The flock seemed to slowly accept him, and when Crow had stayed away from the car for more than ten minutes, Boy and his father drove away. For two or three years after that, Crow came to their yard a couple of times every summer, sat on their fence, and cawed at them with his familiar sound, but he would not come closer than the fence.
I was fascinated by Crow. His eyes looked like shiny, black glass, and his look was discerning. He knew people individually and responded to people differently according to each personality. His teasing sense of humour kept people laughing. If my mother was wearing a particular kind of earrings, the kind without the butterfly backs, Crow would sidle up on her shoulder as though to cuddle but instead would swiftly pull the earring from her ear and hop away. He would stay just out of reach of my mother’s hands, hopping forward and back, but would always bring it back to her in the end (except for one time when he tried to hide one of his favourite pair of earrings in a tree across the yard). He was more intelligent and more human-social than any cat or dog I had ever met, and I missed him when he was gone.
So, this morning when I saw that crow sauntering, I was looking at it not as a neighbourhood pest or just one creature among many – I was looking at her as a fellow being, and I had to stop short to watch her for a moment. When she turned to walk to the right, I saw that her right wing was hanging low and away from her body. I was hoping that she was feigning injury to protect her young, because I have seen other birds do this, but she wasn’t trying to lead me in any particular direction. Instead, she looked confused. This was an honestly wounded bird. I decided that it was best to keep walking and pass her, because my presence was worrying her, but what I really wanted to do was miss my morning bus, grab a blanket from my apartment, and save her. I ended up scooping out some of my lunch for her (rice with vegetarian chilli), because she was just an innocent crow, and even mass murderers get to have decent last meals.
Anyone who knows me knows that I save things. I not only bring things home and almost never throw things out, resulting in great apartment clutter, but I also allow this to spill over into my encounters with the natural world. When I find wounded, abandoned, trapped, or otherwise “undesirable” creatures, I feel compelled to help them in any way I can. This is how I ended up with Elliott, a zebra finch. He was the fat one no one else would sit near in the cage at the pet store. The rest of Gordon’s rabbit family was wiped out in the name of pest control, and he was left, all four or five inches of grey fluff that he was, to fend for himself in the cold ass-end of September. Now he resides in my living room. My old cat, Ramòn, was a stray that had set up residence on a friend’s boyfriend’s doorstep, and of course it was me who took him home. As much as part of me wanted to be more callous and chalk it up to the cruelty of nature, I couldn’t. I knew, though, when I saw this poor crow, that saving him and bringing him home was not a feasible option. If there were any facilities around that I knew of that would rescue her, I would have done it, but images of having to have the bird killed after spending time with it if there were no such facilities brought out my practical side.
She eyed me warily as I passed her in a wide arc and crossed the street. When I got to the other side of the street, I met up with a second crow. This one was a much larger male standing guard on top of a yellow fire hydrant. He cawed at me repeatedly and extended his wings over a couple of feet, leaning out over the sidewalk to menace me. I stepped back a couple of feet and looked at the female. She was limping toward the street, hesitating to cross it but wanting to be near her mate. God, but it was heartbreaking.
And what did I do? I left. I kept on until I got to my bus stop. This was so against my nature. From the bus stop I could see the corner where I had left them, and I kept turning to see if I could spot her on the sidewalk, but I couldn’t from that distance. That pair of crows was all I could think about until I arrived at work, because something had to be done. I ended up calling the Humane Society, which referred me to Pest Control. I really hesitated to call Pest Control, because their name makes the outcome of calling them fairly obvious, but I finally did it in the end. They assured me that they would leave the male alone, because he would likely stop being aggressive once he had no mate to protect, and the female was going to be put down quickly. It was embarrassing to be on the phone with him, because he probably kills hundreds of animals every year and thinks nothing of it and I was getting choked up on the phone. He was nice, though, and even softened his voice for me when I stuttered “o-okay, th-that sounds like the b-best th-thing”.
So, in the end, all things worked out in a bittersweet kind of way. I did my duty and had an end put to her suffering. Ms. Crow did not have to spend too many hours hanging on and potentially being molested by a neighbourhood cat. I did not end up with a crow in my apartment (which would have been so stupid anyway). And, I’m sure Mr. Crow will go on to love again, though differently, because no two loves are the same.
Ew. I think I’m on an icky platitude run, which I never should have started in the first place yesterday:
Icky Platitude III: Love and love again, because no two loves are ever the same.
Customer: When customers buy books like this [gestures at his purchase], it makes you wonder things like “so this is who buys books like Ribosomatic Plumbing”.
Ribosomatic plumbing? Huh?