Crows Crows Crows

"Alright here's my plan," Baz says. "See that goose over there?"

"I see it," Quux says.

It's not the same goose from the other story. It's a greylag goose, entirely average in size and colour. It is minding its own business, standing on the perimeter of the pond. There are several other geese milling about with it, and some ducks, and one swan.

"Watch this."

Baz descends from his perch, on top of the "J" sign on top of the bus stop, swoops casually down and hops to a halt on the park lawn somewhere a few paces — human paces, we should say — behind the greylag goose. The goose waggles its stout little tail a little, and turns its head. It sees Baz, then looks away.

Baz bends low and hops forward. Wings spread for balance, he hops up to the goose's tail, stretches out his beak and nips at one of the fluffier tail feathers.

The goose moves, just at the last second. Baz misses.

There is a furore of crowing from the crows on top of the bus stop... but there's a continual ebbing and flowing of craaw and waaark from the crows there, and the crows on the telephone wires, and the ones on the fences and the trees and a few gutters and every other vaguely tall object in the area, so it doesn't attract significant attention from the target greylag goose or any of the other water birds.

Baz straightens up again, checks his surroundings, acts natural. He bends low again and makes another grab with his beak.

Contact. Brief contact with a downy feather at the rear. The greylag turns suddenly, pulling its tail away, and glares at Baz, who hops back a little, spreading his wings to prepare for a getaway.

"Eff off," the goose says.

"What?" Baz asks, hurt.

The goose goes back to grazing.

Baz moves forward again. A proper tail feather in the beak this time. A solid tug. There's no way he's going to pull a feather out, but he pulls hard enough that the goose rounds on him again and makes a snap with its own orange bill. "Eff off!"

"What? What?" Baz pretends to have no idea what the goose is on about. "Did you find my contact lenses yet? I'm half-blind without them."

The goose frowns. It stands up straight, several times taller than any crow, although crucially not quite as mobile, looking askance at Baz, although this is the only way any goose can look at anything, really.

Then, it waddles away a few paces and grazes in a bush near the edge of the pond.

Baz goes for it again. The waggling white backside is just too tempting, like any shiny glittering trinket. He gets a proper tug on the goose's tail and hangs on for a full second before the goose is able to slap him with a wing and bat him away. "Off!"

"It's not my fault! I can't see where I'm pecking! It's my eyes! Can you help me look?"

The goose honks loudly in Baz's face. Baz flaps back out of range, although not further than that, and scraws back.

The goose moves smoothly into the water and sculls away. It pretends like it was its plan all along to take a swim, but regardless of appearances, this is Baz's victory condition. It means he wins. Conveniently, as it also means the goose is out of reach.

Baz hops around for a while, making sure everybody is watching, taking a little victory lap, then flies into an oak tree, where Quux and some others join him.

"That was a treat," Quux says.

"What a life," Kzip says. "Squabbles, food, big square things to look at, bigguns to harrass."

"Speaking of bigguns," someone else says.

"Peanuts are late," someone says.

"If they take much longer I might have to go snaffle some scraps from the greasy spoon diner," Baz says. Everybody knows this is a boast. The crows are all emboldened and curious and not without some smarts; going up close to a bigger animal like a greylag, or a human, particularly the one who brings them peanuts most days, is within their limit, but going inside a human building is just plain hairy. Hazardous. They've seen doors. They know getting trapped is on the table.

"I ever tell you the time they binned some uneaten bacon?" Kzip says. "Didn't bin properly, though, spilled it in the alley."

"You did," Quux says.

"Divine stuff. Humans eat it all day at that diner. I'm wracking my brains trying to figure out how to get some more other than just by waiting in the alley forever. Can't do it. It's driving me batty. You can smell it at the pub on occasion too."

"You'd have to go indoors to get it," Quux says.

"I've had bacon," Baz says. "Gone indoors to get it."

"No you haven't."

"Stole it right off a big fat one's plate. Waltzed out."

"It's lies," someone says. Baz varks at them. There's more fractious squabbling. Flapping and feather ruffling.

This is it. This is the entire crow day. Every day.

Then a familiar sight is seen rounding a corner and the call goes up. A few crows were lazily circling them as they came down the street towards the park, but everybody knows the show doesn't begin until they get to the park. Even the geese know that this is the place and time to be to get peanuts. Competition is fierce for this person's attention (peanuts), but they bring so many peanuts, reliably, that it is worth showing up.

"I ever tell you I caught one of their peanuts when they threw it?" Kzip says. "It was awesome. You have to kind of time your run from behind and they throw them up over their shoulder or to one side."

"I've done that," Baz says. "I do that most days." It's a lie.

"That's a lie," Kzip says.

Baz scraws at Kzip. Kzip kraaws back.

"Catch one now then," Kzip says. "Go do it. I'm watching."

"I can't be bothered today," Baz says. "Look at that. Is that a bigger camera lens than yesterday?"

"They had a package, someone said," someone says.

"What's a camera lens?" someone else asks.

"They take pictures of us and share them on social media," Baz says, not taking his eyes off the approaching peanut donor. "They've got an Instagram and all that."

"Oh, yeah. Got it." More of the crows would use Twitter, but from the name it feels to them like more of a passerine website. They'd use it if it was called Caw. Or, just, Crow. Also, a lot of them feel that continual doomscrolling is bad for their mental health anyway.

The feeding begins. It is noisy chaos for a good several minutes. The person with the peanuts is also handy with their camera and takes a long collection of photographs of the crows, and also, to Baz's minor irritation, the geese, including greylag whom he most recently pestered. Baz scores a few peanuts but only on the ground. It is chaos, though, and nobody really notices that he's not able to make any flying catches.

Finally, all the peanuts are gone. Most of the crows clear off promptly, but Baz lingers as the peanut person folds their empty bag into a triangle and stuffs it in the bin. There's a small crowd still circling as they begin their walk home, but it's reasonably well-understood that they are carrying no secret cache of additional peanuts.

Baz lands on a post box just ahead of where they're walking and scraws at them as they approach. "Oi! I want a word with you."

"What do you want?" the person says. They consider taking a photo, but the moment isn't entirely appropriate.

"I'm following you," Baz says.

"So? So are a lot of people," the human says. "Hope you like the photos."

"Yeah," Baz says. "You're selling crow photos now, I noticed. We should be getting a percentage."

"That's the peanuts," comes the response.

Baz flaps irritably. He also considers the cost of the camera lens, which is somewhat beyond his limited means, if he insisted on being an equal partner in the endeavour. "Also," he lowers his voice, "you don't have any half-decent photos of yours truly."

"...Alright," the human says. They heft their camera. "Hold still."

"No!" Baz flaps irritably. "Not here!" He looks around. "Over there, on the fence. Still catching some natural light. Where there isn't a ratty old cement wall behind me."

Baz poses a little, shows his best side. In the end, they settle on a few pictures which look decent.

"What's your name?" the human asks.

"Baz."

"Baz, cards on the table. What's the photo in aid of?"

Baz contrives a way to look embarrassed. "I need to build the app, first."

"...Crow dating app?"

"I'm trying to learn Rails. It's quite tricky."

"Oh oh."

"That's another thing I could use a hand with. You do computers, right? I've got some seeds funding."

"...Seeds funding?"

"Yeah." Then Baz reacts to the human's expression. "What?"

The person with the camera doesn't know where they thought this conversation would go, but it suddenly occurs to them how difficult it is to lose a crow once it knows who you are.

Next: Terminally Online

Discussion (7)

2020-11-24 23:57:37 by qntm:

1,790 words. Running total is 48,329 words. Almost done! This is obviously @tef_ebooks crow fan fiction, with apologies. I went through way too many permutations of the punchline but ran out of time to square it away to my satisfaction.

2020-11-25 00:18:46 by rhuz:

This is marvelous.

2020-11-25 05:17:44 by T:

Something about this one really tickled me, I loved it.

2020-11-25 22:31:08 by Robin:

But crows _are_ passerines!

2021-01-04 19:14:09 by Justin:

I think that word choice (passerine) gives it even more flavor. It's like if I said "Frank, you look _simian_ in this picture." Now, all humans are simians, but the word simian includes monkeys and apes and at least to me has a nuance of being _common/undignified_.

2021-02-17 07:57:52 by adam:

Flawless. I think you've found your true cawing^H^H^H^H^H^Hcalling

2021-04-14 01:59:13 by satya:

"I'm trying to learn Rails. It's quite tricky." That made me laugh out loud.

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