When I raise my office blind this morning the crow is there, perched atop his favorite streetlight, and the sight of him is welcome, because I have seen less of him this summer. I open my window so we can talk.
“Been missin’ me?” He asks.
“Not much, since you mention it.” I am untruthful, because I don’t like to admit I have formed too deep a friendship with a crow. “But you haven’t been by much, have you?”
He cocks an eye at me, archly. “What d’you expect? Cheap replacement lights, that’s the trouble.” He pounds the top of the lamppost with a disparaging foot. “LE – what’s-their-names?”
“LEDs, Light emitting diodes.” I tell him. Last year’s substitution of old metal-cased streetlights for newer plastic ones infuriated him, because they are slippery beneath his feet. As a remedy I invited him to perch on my windowsill instead, but that would place us less than six feet apart, and apparently he has intimacy issues.
“Disgustin’!” He says. “Still, things are what they are. You look worried, though. Marriage problems?”
“Oh, I got over those years ago!”
“Things are better now, then?”
“No, I stopped worrying about them. It’s nice to see you. How are the kids?”
“Kids? What kids? Left the nest, mate. Best thing for ‘em – once they get a decent set of pin-feathers I send ‘em on their way. Same with the Missus.”
“What, you send your wife away?”
“Well…” He shifts his feet awkwardly, trying to avoid an uncontrolled slide from the lamp-top. “We’re not exactly married, are we? And winter time – all the snow and stuff? So I just packs ‘em off to Whitby. Easiest answer. See…(he leans a confidential beak in my direction) they like to go for the Goth Festival, and I tells ‘em about all the fish pickin’s – from the trawlers, yeah? Nuffin’ like greed to motivate a crow, is there? Exceptin’ meself, of course. I got me eye on higher fings, me.”
“Oh, of course!” My mind can only try to encompass his poor wife battling gales over the little east coast seaside town in winter, with its storm surges from the North Sea and those high, bleak cliffs. “You do know there’s only about four fishing boats still operating out of Whitby?” I say.
“Oh, yeah. But they won’t find that out until they get there, will they? And as long as the westerly’s keep blowing they won’t want to knacker ‘emselves comin’ back. It takes weeks, I tell you. I’ve tried.”
“So you’ve a little time to yourself.”
He fidgets uneasily, preening a troublesome mite from his breast feathers. “S’pose. Yes and no. There’s the immigrants, see?”
He hasn’t lost his capacity to surprise: “Immigrants?”
“Yeah. You must have noticed – fousands of ‘em. Same every winter, innit? They comes flockin’ in just because they reckon there’s free food and everyfin’. They takes all the best bits and we don’t get a look in. Bleedin’ gulls!”
“Oh, the seagulls! The bad weather drives them in from the coast. The westerly’s don’t trouble them so much, then? They can fly into the wind, can they?”
“Well, they work harder, don’t they? They work all the bleedin’ time, them!” He fluffs furious feathers. “They don’t even go to roost, most nights. And…and!” He squawks his emphasis; “They eat almost anyfin’. Jus’ anyfin’!!”
“Surely there’s enough for all? I haven’t noticed you losing weight over the winter before.”
“Ah. Ah! But I don’t demean meself, me! You won’t catch me turnin’ over household rubbish like a – like a bleedin’ fox, for fox’ sake!”
“Oh really? I seem to recall…”
“Never mind what you ‘seems to recall’. Never mate, never! I’ve got my pride!”
I treat him to one of my penetrating inquisitorial looks. “They’ve been raiding the bins at the back of the Pizzeria, haven’t they? That’s one of your favorite haunts, isn’t it?”
The crow hunches his wings and dips his head. I cannot remember seeing him so annoyed. “That place is a place for crows, gettit? Crows! Respec’able birds, mate. I got a right to that place! But next few weeks, they’ll be comin’…”
“Don’t upset yourself!”
“…they’ll be comin’, an’ I’ll look down out of my nest, the nest I built special there, just so I could see down into that yard, an’ all I’ll see is bleedin’ gulls! Hundreds of ‘em! Fousands of ‘em! I want to go and eat I have to fight me way through ‘em, stand wing to wing wiv ‘em…”
“Enough!” I protest. “Not thousands! Ten or twenty maybe? Anyway, from my memory of the Pizzeria’s back yard there’s plenty for everyone. You lot leave a right mess there for the bin guys in the morning. I haven’t noticed much variation between winter and summer.”
“Well, you don’t have to rub shoulders wiv bleedin’ gulls, do yer? Takin’ Pizza off yer that was yours by right! If yer did, you’d know what yer talkin about.”
“I know exactly.” I tell him. “You just don’t like gulls, do you?”
“No! Bleedin’ right I don’t!”
The crow shovels his great beak into his luxuriant wing feathers, muttering something inaudible.
“Sorry, I didn’t hear that? Come on, why?”
He stops preening, turns one recalcitrant eye on his slipping feet. “Because…”
“Yes? Go on, say it!”
“Because they’re white.”