by Annika Gangopadhyay
The crow perches on a telephone line, just adjacent to my house on the sullen, gray pavement. The neighbors left yesterday, probably some party or funeral or ceremony we didn’t know about, or didn’t care to know about. It caws a few seconds later, its voice mimicking the guttural movement of the clouds today–sluggish, ugly. I take out the trash in my room, reluctant, keeping my eye turned toward this bird that calls, occasionally at me, occasionally at some other companion on the opposite wire. As I lift the bulky plastic lid of the garbage can, the crow observes me and moves to a wire below. I flinch, and the lid nearly falls on my hand as I drop the trash bag. I want to run inside now, but for some reason I look back at the reptilian eyes that won’t blink.
It swoops down on the ground, three feet in front of me. I hope it stays away from me, sharp eye contact far off into the distance. I back away towards the front door and decide to watch the crow from inside the living room; I don’t want it to peck me with its silver beak, angular against the sky like a blade unsheathed. A friend told me once that I shouldn’t feel intimidated by things smaller than me, since I have the arms, legs, and bones to defend myself from beaks no thicker than a miniature cone, or talons that fit around my shoulder. I realize now that the beak has a point, a tip, a curvature that I do not have. If the massive conquered the tiny, bugs wouldn’t bite humanity to death. Birds wouldn’t peck out eyes and limbs and joints.
I stand behind the living room window–3:00pm, almost time to grab lunch–but the crow doesn’t stand. It walks toward the windowsill, still at a respectable but unnerving distance. I head to the kitchen, backing away toward the fridge and pull out a cold sandwich, some orange juice as the crow’s stare pierces my back. I can’t let this thing win, I decide, and so I return to the living room with a sandwich in hand, chewing with conviction, hands cold, feet shifting. It’s still looking at me, except now the talons grip the snapdragon vine we secured onto a wooden trellis three summers ago.
“Do birds eat flowers?”
A pause. “Probably, at some point, when they run out of the usual stuff. You know, bugs, fruits…” My dad trails off, too wrapped up in some Marvel movie to notice me hunched over in apprehension. Even with the TV playing, even with the windowpane insulating the road noise outside, I still hear the cawing in the living room. I still see the crow on the trellis, and the sun hides behind the clouds. I decide to tune into the drone of CGI explosions and superhuman fight scenes instead. Thor flies in with his hammer, invisible wings, almost like a–
“There’s a bird outside, on the plants.”
He doesn’t say anything. “Dad,” I tap him on the shoulder, “There’s a bird outside.”
“Just leave it. It’s a bird.”
“Can you do something?”
He shakes his head and closes his eyes. If he falls asleep on the sofa again, it won’t be easy to wake him up. I walk up to the window and flick it with my index finger; as if entertained, the bird wriggles a little and stretches a foot. Sitting on the sofa, I keep my back turned, eyes fixated on the reflection of the window on the TV screen, still chewing on the sandwich, a glass of orange juice atop the table. Eyes still closed, he asks,
“Did you take out the trash?”
As Thor emerges from the pretend-flames, my dad falls asleep. I nearly do too, eyelids barely flitting open. The action flashes in a predictable way, as if I can tell who is destined to defeat who, and which Avenger will die only to return in the next movie. I stop following along, mind numbed to road sets blowing up out of nowhere and cars crashing into each other.
A crash behind me–I turn and see streaks of red on the window glass–not dripping, more like smudges or maybe fading imprints as the crow flies away with a limp wing. Gulping down orange juice, I wonder if the crow had leaned, how long it took to notice the glass screen. If it would have swooped into the living room–why didn’t it eat the flowers? That bird took my sanity, I scoff, while searching up a crow’s diet on Google. Worms, seeds, fruits. Meat. Just chicken and fish, I reassure myself: this isn’t a horror movie. Movies–Thor just killed these wimps with ease, flung them around like a natural. I head to the kitchen with my empty plate and glass. The garbage in the kitchen’s full, and I grab the trash bag, go through the living room. The companion crow sits on another telephone wire, watching me as I step outside.
Annika is a young writer from the Bay Area. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in LIGEIA, The Incandescent Review, Blue Marble Review, and the borderline. She enjoys performing music in her spare time.
Maria Bezverkh is a junior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. She is a photo major in the visual arts department. Maria specializes in photography because she loves how photography lets her capture beautiful moments in time.