Winter 2007 Volume One Issue One
Crow-Boy - by Kurt D. Kirchmeier
I was sitting on the roof with my back to the chimney when the crows started talking to me. One by one they landed on the shingles, their mechanical steps bringing them closer and closer. I was blowing bubbles with Fun-Blow at the time, imagining how neat it would be if I could blow one around my whole body and just go drifting out over the neighborhood.
"Crow-boy," the nearest one said to me, as though it had sensed my longing to fly, "you are Crow-boy." It spoke without a voice, the words coming directly to my mind. The other birds cawed in unison, as if to echo the proclamation.
Nine years old and surrounded, terrified beyond words. Had it not been for the fact that my father was drunk, I probably would have scrambled to the tree overhanging the eaves trough and swung myself back into my bedroom window. As it was, I didn't dare set foot on the ground, let alone in the house. So there I stayed, my last few bubbles drifting out of sight.
"You will fly with us," the bird went on. "Black-Feather has seen it."
I stared at him for long seconds before replying, unable to wrap my brain around the fact that he was actually talking to me, and without words no less.
"But...but I can't fly," I stammered. "I haven't got any wings."
The other birds laughed, or at least that's how it sounded. A second one inched forward, stopping just short of the one that had spoken. It cocked its head to the side. "But you are Crow-boy," it said, as though the words might somehow cause wings to suddenly sprout from my back.
I shook my head. "I'm just a boy."
Again they laughed. "Fly! Fly!" they screeched.
The largest bird--the one who had called himself Black-Feather--flapped his wings, sending the others skittering back toward the eaves. "Impatient murder," he said sternly.
"Murder! Murder!" they squawked in reply.
Black-Feather silenced them with a caw that hurt my ears, and then turned his beady eyes back to me. "Crow-boy needs no wings," he said. "Black-Feather says so."
I heard the screen door slam down below, and then my father's voice immediately thereafter.
"Boy!" he said. "Where are you, Boy?" That was my name when he was drunk: Boy. Not Jeremy, just Boy.
I pressed myself up against the opposite side of the chimney, my heart hammering in my chest.
The crows began to scramble back and forth, as though they sensed my unease. Black-Feather crowed loudly, and then hopped up onto the chimney, his wings spread out at his sides.
I heard my father swear at the birds, and then a clunk as a rock slammed into the chimney.
Black-Feather looked down at me, but remained where he was. "Crow-boy must fly now," he said. "Crow-boy must jump and flap his arms. Black-Feather says so." A second rock skipped across the shingles as he spoke, followed by another loud curse from below.
"You should go," I whispered. "You're making him angry."
The other birds had retreated to the relative safety of the elm trees along the fence, but I could still see their eyes peering over at me. It looked like they were waiting for something.
Black-Feather ignored my warning. "Now," he said, his eyes like shiny marbles, "you must fly now."
A third rock came sailing over the eaves, bounced once, and hit him square in the chest, all but knocking him from his perch.
"Go," I pleaded. "Fly away!" My dad would kill him, I knew; he was always complaining about the crows, about the noise they made. He said it gave him a headache.
"Crow-boy must come," he said, defiantly standing his ground.
My father abandoned the single stones in favor of handfuls, which began to pepper the rooftop like grapeshot. Black-Feather cawed in pain as several of them struck home. But still he didn't move.
I looked down at my Fun-Blow. "Can I really fly without wings?" I asked.
"Black-Feather says so," was the bird's only reply.
And so I tried. With trembling hands, I pushed myself up from the roof, shared a look with Black-Feather, and then followed him down the shingles with tears in my eyes.
I can't remember if I flapped my arms or not. All I remember is jumping, Black-Feather wheeling directly above, and then I was falling.
There was the briefest flicker of surprise in my father's eyes before I landed on him, and I'm fairly certain he was about to call me Boy one last time, but he never got the chance.
His head hit the lawnmower with a thump that reminded me of the time I'd tried to break open a coconut by tossing it from the roof. I'd just wanted to taste the milk.
There was no milk in my father's head. Just blood.
The crows leapt from the trees, cawing loudly as they descended to where I lay. They circled over me like a cyclone of black. "Murder! Murder!" they chanted.
When I finally managed to get to my feet, I found Black-Feather perched atop my father's chest.
I stared down at his unmoving body for a long time before speaking, still half expecting him to open his eyes any second. He didn't, though, and I soon realized that he never would again.
"Did I...did I fly?" I asked Black-Feather.
He bobbed his head up and down. "Crow-boy flew," he said. "Black-Feather says so."