Jacqueline heard the crows outside and felt called. Their caws brought her first to the window to see their black bodies balanced on the telephone wires and then outside to peer up at them. Caw caw caw they sang and she felt a sense of calm. They brought her peace in a way that she didn’t understand.
A young woman was walking her dog right then and saw Jacqueline gazing at the birds. “I live on the 8th floor and I can see their nest right from my balcony.”
Jacqui looked at the high rise across the street and saw where she was pointing.
“I watched when they had a nestful of eggs and how they took turns sitting on the nest.”
“Lovely,” Jacqui said, wishing she could have seen that too.
“People complain that the crows make a mess on their parked cars, but I love them.”
“Me, too,” Jacqui said, still not sure why crows, of all the birds she could pick, held such power for her.
The woman and her dog walked away and Jacqui went inside and made herself a cup of tea. She was lonely, but not excited to get to know anybody new. Without Chet, she had lost most of her tolerance for people. She had no room for chit chat or worse yet, another of those “How are you doing?” talks. She felt happiest when she was left alone.
Weeks passed and the crows were out in full force. They gathered at dusk before settling into the nearby trees at night. One chilly late afternoon, Jacqui heard an especially loud ruckus. She looked through her window to see at least twenty crows on the telephone wires squawking at an unprecedented level. She went outside to get a better look and saw a dead crow lying in the street, the apparent victim of a speeding car. When the traffic ebbed, several birds flew down to get a closer look at their friend. It was as if the whole community was upset and didn’t know what to do with their emotions other than caw and caw and caw.
Jacqui thought back to when Chet had died. It seemed as if everywhere she went, people just talked and talked and talked. As if they could make things better if they could just keep repeating what they hoped were comforting words. For Jacqui, most had been empty platitudes about how “he was in a better place” or “how lucky that he hadn’t suffered.” That was the one that really got to her. What did they know? Didn’t time elongate when you were in an accident? Chet could have endured a protracted period of fear and suffering even though the total “outside” time was only a few seconds. That’s when she’d started avoiding almost everyone.
Her attention was drawn back to the crows who had reached a fevered pitch. They were clearly distressed. Should she get a rake and move the bird off the street? Maybe get a bag and take it to the dumpster in the back? She hated seeing it getting run over again and again. It felt disrespectful.
She was just grabbing some gloves when she heard a knock at the door. There stood her crow-loving friend looking as disturbed as the birds who continued to squawk. “What can we do?”
Jacqui shared her plan and the woman, who quickly introduced herself as Camille, immediately said, “Let’s go.”
The two women soon returned to the street and, amid the thundering caws, scooped up the dead crow and placed it on top of the paper bag. Camille carried the rake, Jacqui the bag and they walked solemnly, as if in a funeral procession, down Jacqui’s driveway, through her backyard and out to the alley where the dumpsters were. They were just opening the green waste when they heard a new burst of squawks. Looking up, the crows had flown and were now on the telephone wires in the alley, looking down at them. Jacqui placed the crow on top of a pile of grass clippings and left the lid open. “In case they need to say their good-byes,” she said.
When the two women reached the back gate, they turned and saw four crows already balanced on the edges of the bin.
“Crows are one of the few animals that actually mourn their dead,” Camille said,
Aw, fellow grievers. Jacqui thought. Yet another reason she was so drawn to them.
As they headed back to the street, Jacqui realized she didn’t want to enter her empty house all alone. “Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked.
Camille’s face brightened. “Of course, it seems only fitting.”