Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cat and Crow

He had a pet crow with feathers black as coal that shimmered blue sheen in the sunlight. He had a pet cat, with fur dark as deepest night and soft as velvet. The crow rode about the farm on his shoulder, struggling to hold on as he did chores, flying up to perch above on the beams of the barn when he moved too much or when he brushed her off. The cat kept near his feet, just far enough to keep out of the way of boots and tools and trouble, but near enough to catch the milk he squirted in her direction at milking time.
One spring morning he missed the crow landing on his shoulder as he left the house for the bus stop, but some days she was busy hunting or riding the breezes and was there to greet him after school, so he did not worry just then. He missed her again as the bus pulled up to his home stop when she was not on the jagged branch of the oak tree on the corner. He missed the cat too at milking time. He called for them and poked around the farm, in out buildings and along fencerows, half certain they would both turn up soon from their oddly coincidentally-timed disappearances. As the number of days grew greater, he missed them a little less each day and soon summer swimming and fishing and biking into town with friends kept him distracted. It was a mystery he would occasionally ponder, and missing them would make him sad, so he would allow himself to move on to other thoughts.
Late in summer, he and his friend were tossing a ball back and forth in the farthest reach of the farmyard, where evergreens formed a border between the lawn and the cornfield beyond. He jumped for the high ball, missed, and turned to run for it. His friend came to help look, and lifted spruce branches so that he could look on the ground under for the ball. That is how he found them. Perfect skeletons of a cat and a crow, meshed together.
How did it happen? Did the natural enemies that normally coexisted peacefully for the sake of the boy give in to instinct and battle with each other? Were they after the same mouse or grasshopper and crashed by accident? Who died first? Did the crow attack first and dive at the cat and dig its claws deep into the cat’s loose coat? Did the cat turn and claw or bite some critical artery and kill the crow, whose claws remained firmly locked onto its spine? Did the cat crawl off with its horrible burden finding rest under the tree for shelter, to bleed to its own death or to slowly starve over days?
The friend held the boy’s shoulders as he threw up his lunch, then stood silently by as the boy panted to catch his breath. They found shovels in the barn. They dug a trench along side the skeletons and scraped them in. The boy and his friend buried their bones, cat and crow together, tentative friends, ultimate enemies, partners in their tragic death. They covered the white bones with black black earth.

5 comments:

Paddle said...

Twisted. Disturbing. Scary. Is this a vague commentary on our 2 party political system? Well written.

Chuck Comstock said...

Damn! Did you just make this up? Or, are you channeling Erdrich? First doves and now crows? Never mind. I know the answer. I know you would never post someone else's words without attribution. Speaking of Erdrich, you're not the only one confused: From The Washington Post review by Ron Charles

"History works itself out in the living," says a character in Louise Erdrich’s new novel, and, indeed, the history in The Plague of Doves is something of a workout. She's challenged us before with complex, interconnected stories about the Ojibwe people of North Dakota, but here she goes for broke, whirling out a vast, fractured narrative, teeming with characters — ancestors, cousins, friends and enemies, all separated and rejoined again and again in uncanny ways over the years. Worried about losing track, I started drawing a genealogical chart after a few chapters, but it was futile: a tangle of names and squiggling lines. That bafflement is clearly an intentional effect of this wondrous novel; the sprawling cast whose history Erdrich works through becomes a living demonstration of the unfathomable repercussions of cruelty.

goprairie said...

chuck - it is a mostly true story from a potter friend who keeps making me crocks with crows and then selling them before i get down to get it - i can steal his story and play with it because he hates the internet.
i read the erdrich book and it was a good read with a frustrating ending - the killer is revealed but absolutely no clue to motive. unless i missed something.

goprairie said...

boat dude - you know who told me this story and claims it is true - he also says he has another crock done - i am buying it this time, screw the budget. no, not the Rs and the Ds - remember i LIKE cats and crows both . . . sometimes a crow is just a crow . . .

Paddle said...

I had not heard the complete story. Just that he had a crow that he schooled on killing things. Hadn't heard about it's unique demise. Great story and very well written although I liked the story a bit better when it was a dark perspective on the future of the 2 party political system (which I think is headed in the same direction). Anyway, no problem with the budget. It was going to be your Christmas present anyway so it's budget neutral if you buy it for yourself...