Short Story – Country Life part 1

This is part one of a two related stories that were inspired by the prompt to write something related to the month of June.

Country Days

Six o’clock this morning, there was a crow emergency. Enough squawking, baulking and cawing to wake volunteer fireman three towns away. It was right outside my bedroom window.

How could I tell it was a crow crisis that rudely awaken me? It was different from the every day, constant yelling I expect from the local crows. Members of a family array themselves amongst the treetops of a neighborhood, then call across to one another. Pumping their bodies like bellows to project their voices over claimed turf – a few blocks of our tiny town.

What might they discuss? Could it be:

“The price of oil is up another $3 a barrel.”

“Did you tell the kids they could have garbage for breakfast? We discussed this before and you know how I feel about it.”

This morning was different.

More intense. Over a dozen black birds gathered in close proximity.

They squawked over top of each other. None of the usual lilting, poetic wail across the distance, answered by a kindred spirit from afar. Nope. This was the bird equivalent of snarling and growling at close quarters over a prized possession whose possession is in dispute.

And on it went, and on, and on.

And on. There was swooping too. I could hear it. Crows swoop well. It’s their size. And the blackness. Sleek, well-feathered. As carrion eaters, they are naturally intimidating.

For all their bravado, I am concerned about them. Are we destroying their natural habitat? Seems like the silliest thing in the world to worry about for scavengers. But I do. Recently, the town bylaws were amended to keep ‘animals’ out of the garbage. The only animals I’ve ever seen eating my garbage are crows. If we make the garbage less accessible, will they go hungry?

The nerve of us humans. Mucking about with the ecosystem again. Poor things.

***

Emilia plucked a non-existent louse from the joint between her wing and breast. She preened a little more, but knew every blue-black feather was in its place. As she did, she listened to the idyl banter that drifted across the treetops.

“The humans.” That was Darryl. He was inquisitive.

“Who?” Sara. Her youngest. Not too bright, but would probably breed a good clutch when she matured. Good egg-laying hips.

“The animals that don’t have any fur and walk on two feet,” Darryl said.

“Like birds?” Phoebe, Sara’s older sister. Should be mating this year.

“Yes, but they haven’t got any feathers or wings.” Aunt Bea.

“Poor things. No fur or feathers or wings? How do they live?” John, always the bleeding heart.

“Aren’t they the ones that come in boxes?” asked Sara.

“They’re the ones with the stinky machines.” Cranky Grand-dad.

Fred swooped in. He did like theatrics, but I wouldn’t share my nest with another male. “They’re surrounded themselves with things that they think are going to protect them. I’m worried. They think they have control over their environment. But we all know where that gets you, don’t we? You can’t control it. It controls you. Any species that can’t go with the flow and live in harmony with their world is doomed. Those poor humans. Don’t they know what they’re are doing isn’t sustainable?”

“Poor things. They just aren’t as adaptable as they should be.” I had to get involved.

“I like the big black and white animals. What are they called again?” Jane, from the adjoining family. She was such a busybody.

“Cows.” Darryl.

“Yeah. That’s it. They have it made. Get the humans to put up fences around their territory and bring them all the food they want. Grow big and fat and useful. Make a whole bunch of valuable contributions to the food chain.”

“They are quite cute but don’t need our help. The cows will be fine,” I said. “It’s the humans that are in trouble.”

“We should set up a fund.” Jane’s sister.

“Start a program.” Jane.

“Where’s Angela? She’s great for getting things going.” Aunt Bea.

“Especially for lost causes.” Cranky Grand-dad.

“We need a new organization. How about: Help our humans.” Sara.

“Like we saved the bacteria. Antibiotics almost made them extinct, but we managed to educate them about drug resistance just in time,” Fred said, thrusting his beak in the air. “Genetic integrity indeed. That kind of conservative thinking can get you competed out of the ecosystem.”

“Yes. But let’s not rest on our laurels.” Jane’s sister.

“Where are those again?” Sara.

“Err. I’m not sure birds actually have them. But that’s not the point. I think the humans really need our help.” Our next cause. “Let’s get together Saturday morning to work out what we are going to do. We’ll start early so the meeting is over in time for the morning garbage run at Mac’s diner. Does 6 am work for everyone?” A number of caws of assent. “Excellent. Let’s meet in the tree beside the brown house on Maple St.”

***

Whatever the emergency, it was solved by the following morning. Nothing but random calls across the treetops. Answered from a few blocks away.

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Short Story – The Cult of Sleeping In

This is a piece I performed in a Poetry Slam competition in July 2012, which got me as far as the finals.

I am a high Priestess.
The high Priestess of sleeping in.
I started a page about it on Wikipedia,
At the crack of noon.
So it must be true.
What gods do I worship?
Red Bull, the king of night,
Halicon, the queen of slumber
Minor deities, Simons, Serta and Sealy of the firm mattress.
And the heroes who bring us spoils of their conquests,
Delivering heavy curtains, co-ordinated sheet sets, eye shades and a phone that’s silenced with a touch of a button.

What rituals do my followers practice?
The sacred pulling of the covers over the head,
at the sound of church bells, 10 am on a Sunday morn.
The hurling of the alarm clock beneath the bed,
if ever it erroneously sounds before a respectable pub would open.
Feasting on eggs, bacon, toast,
and a galloon of coffee,
in a chrome-edged diner that serves an ‘all day breakfast’.
The sacred objects we revere,
those that shall be handled with care,
Stored in a hallowed spot,
Safe-guarded at all expense:
The fuzzy slippers,
The soft terry bathrobe.
The custom made pillow,
And the fluffiest of duvets, so light that it rests on the skin with no more weight than a kiss but bestows the warmth of a sun-baked beach.
What do we sacrifice?
The right to buy breakfast sandwiches,
shop at farm markets,
line up for the release of the latest Apple product release.
The respect of the god-fearing,
The Family people.
The Right.
No matter that we toil from mid afternoon to midnight.
Clearly a good solid days work begins at dawn.
Decent folk start things early in the morning.
But who are my brethren,
those loathsome creatures, lazing away the day, out and about in the night?
Cops, nurses, taxi drivers and pizza delivery guys.
They serve us all, care for us and keep us safe.
And are there, when we need them.

 

 

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Short Story – Patrimony

She rested in the shadows, the damp retaining wall at her back, and ran her tongue from one to the other of her overdeveloped canine teeth. The taste of blood lingered.

Though her hunger had been sated, her mind still reeled from what had just transpired.

Her intentions were shrouded in conflict when she had decided to visit her father this evening.

Would she always resent his attitude ? His attitude towards her kind?

Why did she answer him at all?

After a year of silence, he had called.

 Dutifully, she answered.

 Too many times she had tried to convince him of the advantages. Youth. Immortality. Mystery.

 To exist forever at the fringe of humanity, almost a part, never wholly revealed. But a member of an elite, other community.

“You convince me of nothing.” His words slashed into her core. His bite sharper than any other’s. She, defenceless against his attacks.

 Tonight, the circumstances had been different.

 He was conciliatory. He asked careful questions. Thoughtful. Interested. Not the usual combative tone.

 In the end, she understood. He was dying.

 Did he glamour her? He hadn’t asked, yet she felt compelled to act.

 Tonight, she had turned her father.

 Was it a desperate act of self-preservation he made?  Or an act of contrition, born of love and achieved by personal sacrifice?

 She knew that if she asked him this question, she could never be sure if his answer was true.

 Just as she knew she could not answer herself. Was it her love for him that made her want to save him? Or did she act in triumph, gaining the ultimate proof that she was right?

 It both disturbed and comforted her that they were so similar.

 She believed she acted with the single-mindedness of her own freewill.

 But every action of hers turned out to be a mere reflection of him, of his mirky motives and desires.

 Patrimony superseded all.

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