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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