One minds one’s business.
One walks down the street to catch a subway. But the crows, so one tosses them treats and they follow one to the very edges of their territory for more treats, and into (maybe they are new arrivals and don’t know, or just hungry now in the fall) the territory of the attacking crow.
Words are exchanged in crow, on this sunny fall evening. Like, “fuck you get the hell out,” and “fuck off.”
Then it quiets down and one thinks it is over until one receives a blow to the top of the head, and feels the claws of both feet of the attacking crow in one’s scalp.
This is an escalation, this attack. Previously there was a whack on the head from a wing tip, then there was a body slam to the back of the head.
This here, claws, feels like an escalation.
At least it’s not defecating.
It seems desperate, maybe it has a nest close, but it’s the wrong season for babies.
It sits there on a telephone wire, watching.
One throws it some treats.
One throws it some more treats.
Some people walk past, pretending nothing unusual is happening.
One turns and takes a few steps in the direction of the subway station, then looks back and the crow is checking out the doggie treats.
“Don’t reward the crow for attacking you,” one’s daughter texts.
“I’m trying to make friends,” one texts back, “but I see your point.”
Tag Archives: corvids
One minds one’s business.
The ceiling fan turned slowly, as if a small, discouraged helicopter had turned upside-down and began to poke through from the apartment upstairs, but then accepted its fate and given up. The private detective’s office smelled like cheap tobacco, medium-priced whisky and expensive divorces and the afternoon light slicing through the dusty, half-open Venetian blinds gave everything a slicy, dusty look.
“So how’d you describe dem?” said the PI.
I glanced up from my phone, which I had briefly switched on to see if its recent vibration had been from an important notification or something ignorable like “you have achieved your stair-climbing goal” (I had exceeded it) but then fallen down a rabbit hole of short videos of animals that were normally sworn enemies interacting cutely, like a puppy riding around on a goose or a cat with a mouse on its head.
“He was covered with iridescent black feathers and had a slender head,” I said. “So I’m not sure if it was a he or a she or a young he or what.”
“Yeah! It turns out the iridescence might be a way they tell each other apart, like an additional feature they notice. Which makes me wonder if we have an invisible iridescence, invisible to us, but that they can notice, because how do they recognize me otherwise, no matter what I’m wearing, even a hat or sunglasses, or a raincoat or carrying an umbrella? Once I was standing in the middle of about 25 of them and pulled a feather out of my inside suit pocket and showed it to them. No idea what I had expected, but not what I got. They all, like, startled, and took a couple steps back, and a few left altogether. Despite the treats I was giving them.”
“Treats? You sure they like them?”
“Well another one today came over with 2 peanuts in its beak and when it saw the treats it discarded the peanuts and took the treats.”
“This the first time you got mugged?”
“I’m not sure that’s what it was. I mean, ok. It felt… as if someone had hit me in the back of the head with a medium bird. Feathery, initially, but an instant later quite substantial, and moving at a good clip. Not just a flyby and whack you in the head with a wingtip thing.”
“No. Cause that happened too, months ago. Same street corner, in fact. Same perp too, most likely. At the time it felt like a ‘hello!’ or something, to get my attention, but now I’m not so sure.”
“Slender, iridescent etc etc,” said the PI.
“Yeah. I mean, he might’ve figured I was affiliated with the others invading his territory.”
“For all I know I *was* affiliated with them. They did follow me around. Into his territory. I have no knowledge of corvid real estate law.”
“Yeah, makes sense, I see what you mean,” said the PI, and leaned back and put his feet on his desk. He put his hands, which I noticed were oddly-shaped, behind his head.
The back of my neck crawled. I felt a hunch coming on. Then a shoe fell off and a bird head stuck out of his pant leg and I was sure.
This was no human private eye, it was a bunch of crows in a “sexy private eye” costume you can order on the Internet.
My eyes scanned the room for a route of escape. I couldn’t egress via the fire escape, there would just be more out there.
I had to leave the way I had come, through the front door.
“So these treats,” the PI said.
I reached into the pocket of my overcoat and removed a handful. “These here,” I said.
The PI’s countenance took on a greedy aspect. I threw the treats to the floor and they rolled into a far corner of the room. Everything that happened after that is blurred in my memory. I lurched for the door while the detective dissolved into a swarming mass of iridescent black-feathered birds and attacked the still-rolling treats in a cacophony of caws and flapping wings.
To my shock and horror the door was locked. But luckily the key was in the keyhole and by turning it I was able to unlock the door and make my escape after all.
I slipped a few more treats through the mail slot in the door just to be nice before leaving.
“Never leave without treats,” I thought, “no matter where you are.”
It’s one of those days, one of those late-summer days where it is still summer but fall already has your heart by the back of the neck like a fox stealing a goose so I took a walk to fend off melancholy. I filled up the plastic bag in my pocket with a few handfuls of crow treats and went to the park.
There were new crows on the way to the park, some new anyway, and some regulars but they all knew me. How do they describe you to each other? They recognize me no matter what I am wearing, even hats and umbrellas. They leave other people alone, but they haze me when I try to pass through their territory without treats. They swoop me and if that doesn’t work they swoop closer and whack me on the head with their wing. Or touch me with their wing, I don’t know how the gesture is intended, but I love it.
How does a crow describe a human? How does their language work?
Same thing in the park. Some new, some old crows, the ones in the territories where I feed them all knew me. Two sentry crows in the beginning, more as I passed through the trees near the benches, then a lot more over by the ponds. Relaxing off to the sides, higher up in trees, pretending they are not watching but definitely watching because when you toss the first treat to a crow they all swoop down.
I walked to the far side of the pond, surrounded by perambulating crows, some stepping, some hopping, all of us nonchalantly not acknowledging each other’s existence.
I sat on a bench and they surrounded me, waiting. Watching. I look at my watch. I’ll wait two more minutes for stragglers then we’ll start the lecture, I felt like saying. I toss them a few to keep their attention. That works. I feed several of them by hand. They hop up onto the back of the park bench and I stretch out my arms and they eat from my hands.
When people walk by we all pretend not to know each other again.
What do you guys think of this, I say. I pull a black crow feather out of an inner pocket of my suit jacket and show it to them.
They’re all like, whoa! Their eyes get big and they take a few steps back, the whole bunch of them. A few leave entirely.
I’m like, it’s ok, I didn’t pluck it from someone, I found it on the sidewalk!
They were wary after that. No one wanted to eat from my hand anymore, for the rest of my lunch break.
They still followed me around though, so I had to budget the remaining treats to see me through to the edge of their territory.
Man, Woman: (load catfood, dog treats and flea/tick ointment onto conveyor belt)
Cashier: (Rings up purchases)
Cashier: (Hands woman two envelopes of dog treats) We’re giving out these free samples today.
Woman: (Examines treats, hands them back) No, thank you. We don’t have dogs.
Cashier: (Glances at large bag of dog treats they just bought, looks puzzled)
Man: Oh, those are for crows.
Cashier: (Does that half-nod thing where your chin goes up but not back down again, remaining in up position while the wheels turn)
Man, Woman: (exit, whistling)
It’s raining. The light outside is remarkable. Dark sky, with brighter spots lighting various deciduous trees turning gold at various rates. A glossy wet crow stands on the balcony railing outside my office. I go outside and place dog treats along the railing. Before I’m even done, I glance over my shoulder and there’s another crow 2 feet away with a beakful of dog treats hurrying me up.
Hang on a sec, I have to go back out and refill the dog treats.
The problem with life is eventually the crows shit all over your balcony and someone says, hey Mig stop feeding the crows they’re shitting all over the balcony.
Hang on, they’re cawing at me for more treats. BRB
Thing is, though, it’s also nice to tell yourself you know the crows know they can count on you.
Maybe the rain will wash the shit away.
As I walked to the park, coat pocket full of Frolic brand mini-dog treats (i.e. small versions of the normal dog treats, although I suppose small dogs would eat them, too) the asphalt before me warmed and grew hot and bubbled and melted and an asphalt man rose up, like someone in a straight-to-video futuristic action movie with cheap CGI effects, and said, to me: wherefore we shall close the universities and all outdoor gatherings with more than 500 persons and indoor gatherings of more than 100 persons, but leave the schools open and let airlines operate normally and most of all, give extra money to rich people and companies, who suffer most from this Covid19 pandemic which we’re not officially calling a pandemic yet, sobeit.”
And I said, how do you do that, with the asphalt? That’s cool.
And he said, so you got what I said? Is that cool, can I go?
And I said, grabbing his asphalt coat sleeve, no hang on a sec.
But his asphalt coat sleeve tore off in my hand, sort of separated from the rest of the asphalt and I saw underneath was not a genuine asphalt vision guy, it was just a guy in a suit, and the guy was none other than the president of the chamber of commerce.
It was worth a try, he said. Just doing my job, advocating for my clientele, you know?
You know what I find most interesting about this whole covid19 pandemic thing, I said? It’s the way we are accidentally on the verge of a general strike, something we’ve needed for ages.
Now just a doggone minute, he said.
People have now seen everything can come to a stop and the world doesn’t end. Our existence is not predicated on the rich getting richer non-stop.
That’s not what this is about, he said.
Sure it is, I said. It’s even better than when Eyjafjallajökull erupted and there were no airplanes in the sky over Europe for a week. So peaceful. And this is, or will be, an even broader general strike you can’t fire anyone for.
We’ll find a way, he said.
Meanwhile, they’ll be home keeping themselves busy taking guillotine-building workshops. As long as recovery programs start at the bottom, not at the top.
That’ll be the day, he said. And melted back into the asphalt, leaving just a little of that tarry smell in the air.
I fed a few crows and went back to the office, feeling a little tired.
Her: … so your turn, what’s your fantasy?
Him: Instead of Covid-19 it’s Corvid-19 and spread by crows and everyone is afraid of crows.
Him: All but one hairy old guy.
Him: Who they call the Crowmaster.
Him: But he’s not a master of crows. He’s more like a pal.
Him: That’s how it looks from his side. Who knows what a crow thinks.
Him: Could be they just like his dogfood.
Him: But when dozens of squawking crows swirl around him in the park on a windy day, he can understand where the Crowmaster comes from.
Him: And because everyone else is shunning crows, his flock in the park gets bigger and bigger.
Him: And the weather gets windier and windier.
Him: And people get more and more scared. Of him too.
Him: And crows everywhere, hanging in the wind, squawking in all the tree branches.
Him: On the windiest day, so many crows are flying around you can’t see him anymore.
Him: He disappears from view.
Him: The wind dies down and the crows disperse.
Him: And the guy is no where to be seen.
Him: Then maybe it snows a little bit, before the sun comes out.