Sunday, 24 April 2016

Crow Song

Short fiction by William Scott

At the edge of the lake sitting uncomfortable on rock, looking onto the calm surface of the water; wet gossamer stretched between the hills rolling in large soft ripples. 

He says “I love you” too easily.  Too quickly at least.  So he thinks.  Or do others say it too seldom or too late?  He said it again.  She smiled and sputtered something like its reflection, uncertainly.   

Before him the damp shore, small rocks and boulders wading in the shallow edge of the lake.  They look left behind, untidy.  He would move them, but where?  Every square inch of the ground is covered by accidents— mess.  The water is simple though, purely one infinite thing, shimmering, pulling the landscape and sky upside down in the low light of dawn.

He meant it though.  He felt it.  An expanding in his chest a sinking in his belly. The urge to vomit.  Words instead, now out between them with no place to go.  Not rejected but not received. 
Small fish intermittently break the water disturbing the surface with staccato shimmers.  Entropy quickly assumes them back into the grand lethargy.  Further out textured patterns patch the surface as wind coaxes against laziness. 

She was so beautiful just then; penitential grimace after burning the hot chocolate to the pot’s bottom over the campfire.  Black bits floating, “Don’t stir it, Abigail”, David searched ten minutes in the back of the Subaru for a strainer while Abby fished out what she could with a fork. 

He had wanted to say it five maybe ten times before, at quiet pauses when he felt himself blending with her, disappearing merely as himself.  How could it be so out of place?  What sort of world is this?  They share a tent, share bodies, risk pregnancy —trust each other primitively— and yet these words are too much?

A crow lands on a branch just overhead and behind, cawing its broken song.  David just looks at the water for everything.  Something.  The dry beating of wing through air and the crow swoops intently just over his head on its way to a branch hanging over the lake. 

“Caw Caw Caw.  Caw Caw.”  Another alights the branch behind without voice.  The fore crow continues to rasp till the second bird joins him on his branch, swooping closer to David’s head than the first.  They are mated.  He is cawing the way safely for his own.  Then he leads them to a tree back from the shore.   David notes how matter-of-factly they live out the dangers of their day.  Perhaps behind their stoic expressions, held in inflexible beaks, they hide both terror and joy. 

A rustle next to him, “You were up early.” 
“Couldn’t sleep. Hope I didn’t wake you”

Abby manages to settle comfortably beside him, “Cowboy mocha?  Not bad. I put the grounds into the chard chocolate and strained it through a J cloth.”  She passes a cup biting his neck with her lips over her teeth, “You missed out this morning.”   Resting her head on his shoulder,

“I am amorously inclined toward you too sir . . .  I will say it . . . soon.   But you will have to prove yourself worthy first.”

The male continues to caw caw caw, contorting its body pushing the rasping reedy sound forth into the day, pausing only to start again; as if it believed the next time it would be voice or song. 

“Really, what shall I do mi’ lady? 
“Maybe kill that crow?  What is it going on about?”

“Us, I think.”


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