20th January

The Crow

The metal pole had once had some road sign or other at its top, but now a crow was perched there instead, cawing angrily at every passer-by. Against the snow lying on the pavements the crow looked exceedingly black, and in the quiet of a Saturday morning his cries echoed loudly round the surrounding buildings.

Nearby, a man in orange overalls was at work picking litter into a black bag. The crow seemed particularly to direct his rage at him.

‘Och, shut it,’ the street-cleaner said.

A middle-aged man and woman were strolling arm in arm along the pavement. They could not ignore the crow’s raucous display.

‘What are you making that racket for?’ the woman asked it.

The cleaner pointed his litter-pickers at the creature, provoking another round of corvine abuse.

‘There’s something spooky about that bird,’ he said. ‘I was in Melville Street five minutes ago and he was there, behaving just the same. Then I come round here, and here he is again. He’s following me.’

‘They’re intelligent creatures, crows,’ the woman said. ‘People can train them to do all kinds of things. My mother used to have a jackdaw that sat on her shoulder. She wasn’t bothered by it at all, even when it pulled her hair. She liked birds.’

‘Well, I don’t like that one,’ the cleaner said. ‘It’s like Dracula or some- thing. It’s got an evil way of looking at me.’

‘She’s reading Dracula at the moment,’ the man said. ‘My wife, I mean, not her mother.’

‘My mother’s dead,’ the woman said.

‘You see?’ the cleaner said. ‘Spooky.’

The woman frowned. ‘You’re depriving it of its breakfast,’ she said. ‘It’s saying feed me, feed me, and you keep putting last night’s chips and things in your black bag.’

‘Well, why doesn’t it go ahead of me, and save us both some trouble?’ the cleaner said. ‘But it won’t. It’ll follow me, just you watch.’

And the crow did follow him, cawing ceaselessly as if he might at last relent and empty the contents of his bag out onto the pavement. Every so often they stopped and eyed each other malevolently.

‘My money’s on the crow,’ the woman said.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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