I don’t recall my nest very well, but I do remember falling out of it. My wings flapped, but I still hit the ground with a thump, right on my back. I gasped for breath, clawing for air, and finally I was able to call up to the nest. I cawed and cawed until I grew hoarse, but my parents didn’t come.
Then I heard a soft voice say, “What’s wrong with…oh.” Gentle hands picked me up. The woman had long black hair, almost like feathers, and she carried me inside. Her nest seemed enormous–a long room, with white walls and a floor that looked like the wood of a tree, but it slipped and slid under my feet. One back corner was walled off for bathing, and the other housed something called a sink, with cabinets all around it. She set me there and gave me a bowl of water, which I stuck my beak into right away.
“I guess I’d better find out what you eat,” she said. She walked over to what I later learned was a desk, with a computer.
“Google says you eat peanuts, Corbie,” she informed me before long, and she opened a bag and scattered the nuts on the counter. Only I didn’t know how to eat them. I pecked and pecked, but I couldn’t find any food. So, she cracked them open and cut them into slivers, and I gobbled up the pieces. I liked peanuts. And later, I also liked hamburgers and hot dogs and potato chips. And pizza and fruit out of a can.
All the food came in a can or a bag or a box. A knock would sound at the door, and a voice would say, “Delivery for Tica Bokor.” Then she would bring the boxes inside, and we would eat.
The computer was very important. I wasn’t allowed to perch on it, or she would chase me with a broom. She’d bring it out if I tried to walk on her bed, too, so I left it alone.
One day she brought a big box inside and cut the cardboard off. The box held a metal chair, and she said it was for me. She put the cardboard underneath and set it by the desk. Sometimes she would read to me while I perched on the back of it. I didn’t understand the stories, but I liked to listen to her voice.
Tica almost never left her house. She bathed there, worked on the computer, ate her food and slept there.
She had a thing she called a phone, and I liked it, but I left it alone because I didn’t want her to swing the broom at me. The phone would ring, and every time she would grab it eagerly and say, “Hello.” Then her face would scrunch up. She would talk to the person, and afterward she would cry.
“I keep hoping it’ll be Jared,” she explained when I hopped over to investigate. I would caw and dance around, and sometimes she would cheer up. But other times she would bring up a picture on the computer and cry some more. It was always the same man, tall and dark-haired. I stared at his face—if I ever saw him at our house, I would caw at him and drive him off. Just his image made Tica sad, especially when she saw a picture of him with another female.
One day a box arrived, and she took out a white thing that covered her face. I didn’t like it. I hopped to her shoulder and tried to peck it off.
“Hey, stop that,” she said. “It’s a mask. And I have to wear one if I go outside. I don’t want to catch Covid.”
But she still hardly ever went out. Just once, after a storm, she brought in a branch that had fallen. She hammered it onto a base and used wire to fasten it to the kitchen wall. She said it was for me. It went all the way up to the ceiling, and I could fly to the top and perch on it.
I wanted to fly farther, up to the clouds I could see on the other side of the window, but she wouldn’t let me. “No, it’s dangerous outside,” she said. “And if I let you out, you might never come back.”
So, I would fly back and forth across the room, from my branch in the kitchen to my chair in the front corner. One time I tried to fly through the window, over and over again. But then Tica locked me in the bathroom where I couldn’t fly at all, so I stopped.
She did open the window, though, when the days grew longer and the sun bathed us in warmth. I would caw at the crows outside through the screen. Sometimes they would caw back, and I would feel better. They would caw about mates, about food, and about the cat next door. Once they all cawed together because the cat killed another crow.
I was glad the cat hadn’t got me, but I still wanted outside. If the cat or Covid tried to hurt me, I would fly away fast.
If Tica had wings, would she be so afraid of Covid? I felt sorry for her because she couldn’t fly at all.
She mostly used the phone to talk to her boss, and then she would work on the computer again. But sometimes in the evenings, she would call her grandmother. I was glad she did because she smiled when she spoke to her. Sometimes she even laughed. I would strut back and forth across her desk, and she would tell her grandmother about me.
“Gran says you’re good for me,” she told me afterward, and she stroked my feathers over and over. I decided her grandmother must be a wise person.
One morning as the sun was rising, the phone rang, but Tica only groaned. So, I walked over to the phone lying on the desk and said, “Hello.”
Tica’s head rose, and she jumped out of bed. “Corbie, you spoke,” she said, and I had never heard her sound so happy. So, I said “Hello,” again, and she gave me peanuts and canned pineapple. And she stroked my feathers for a long time afterward.
But even saying hello wouldn’t stop her from looking at pictures of that man. I wished he would come just so I could drive him away. Then maybe Tica would see how worthless he was.
“He said on Instagram that they’re getting engaged,” she told me. “Look.”
She turned the screen toward me, but I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want her to see him. I strutted around in the way I knew she loved, but all she did was go back to her bed and stare at the wall.
The weather turned cold, and rain lashed against the windows. A package arrived, and Tica opened it while she was on the phone with her grandmother. “Thank you, Gran,” she said, and then she turned it around so I could see it. “Look, Corbie—it’s a crow. Just like you.”
The crow was perched on a branch like mine, and he was a fine, handsome fellow. Tica took out a hammer and nail, and she hung the picture right in the middle of the white wall. Then she took a smaller picture out of a drawer and hung it on the wall by her desk. “That’s my Gran,” she said proudly, and I studied the face. If she ever came to our home, I would strut and say, “Hello.”
Afterward, we had pineapple cake, and Tica sang happy birthday. I cawed along, and she laughed.
The weather grew even colder, and a box came with something she called a Christmas tree. She set it on a little table and covered it with shiny plastic balls. When she wasn’t looking, I picked one off and flew across the room. I dropped the ball in the middle, and it bounced up. Then I grabbed another ball and flew again while Tica laughed. I would drop them for hours and hours while she worked on the computer.
One day after I’d plucked all the balls from the tree, the phone rang. I said “Hello,” but Tica didn’t smile. She talked to someone on the phone and then burst into tears.
“Gran had to go to the hospital,” she gasped. “And now she’s dead. From Covid.” She cried herself hoarse, and I didn’t know what to do. The next day she just lay in bed—she didn’t even answer her phone.
After that, I hardly saw Tica smile. She threw away the Christmas tree. She didn’t read to me. The weather warmed up, but she spent all her time on the computer. Some of it was work, but most of the time she looked at pictures of that man, over and over again. She printed one of the pictures and put it with a box of supplies. She didn’t open it; she just stared at it for a long time.
“All I do is wait,” she said. “For a whole year now. Waiting for Covid to end. Waiting while Gran died. Waiting for something that never comes. And he’s getting married. He’s happy!” She threw a book across the room, and it slammed into the wall, next to the crow picture.
“But I can fix that,” she said, and something in her voice made me back away. “Even though Gran would hate it. There’s a, a ritual—someone told me about it online. I ordered everything I’ll need. All I have to do is kill what I love most. And then I can stop waiting because Jared will be dead!”
She grabbed me by my feet and shut me in the bathroom. I cawed and cawed, but she didn’t answer, even though I could hear her moving around in the other room.
When she finally came, she grabbed me by my feet again, and I couldn’t get away, no matter how hard I flapped my wings. She took me over by the desk and picked up a knife.
I looked at her face, and tears were running down it. I didn’t want Tica to cry anymore, so I said, “Hello,” and rubbed my beak gently against her cheek.
She stared at me for a long time. First, she turned to look at the picture of that man, and then at the one of her grandmother. She went very still.
Then she turned her head away and threw the knife. It skittered across the floor.
“Corbie, you are what I love best,” she said, and her voice was gentle again. “And I wouldn’t trade you for anyone.” She spent a long time stroking my feathers, and I was glad. That night before she went to bed, she threw out the box and the picture of the man. Then she told me a story where a crow was a hero and saved the day.
The next morning, she opened the back door and took me outside. “I’m done waiting, and so are you,” she said. “I’m going to cut the grass and plant a garden, and you are going to fly as far as you want.” She set me on a tree branch and took a step back.
I flapped my wings as hard as I could and soared up into the sky. I circled overhead until I could barely see Tica, and then I flew and flew until my wings were tired. I landed in a tall tree and ate a caterpillar that was crawling on the branch next to me.
I stayed there for a long time. I cawed to the other crows, and they cawed back, warning me away. They were starting nests, and I wasn’t part of their flock.
So, I took to the sky again, and this time I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I circled down and landed next to Tica, who was shoveling dirt in her garden. I snapped up a worm and strutted over to her. She held out her hand, and I stepped onto it.
Then I said “Hello,” and brushed her cheek with my bill. She smiled and said “Hello,” right back.