Excerpt of Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu
(Page 2 of 7)
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But when the others left and Our Many leaned low to nudge us, or
cooed down at us with her horn barely parted and trembling like two reeds, a
wondrous warmth filled the nest. A blue-black cast spread out and covered us
like our mothers worn patch of brood feathers, and sitting over us, she
hummed out slow winding histories, or ballads of the afternoon, or long
ancestral songs of nothing but names that repeated and trailed off and left me
dreaming my baby bird dreams in a tree.
My Other woke me up for no reasonor the only reasonhunger.
I found him ripping at the frayed weave of our nests inner bowl. He gulped on
the air. "Im hungry." He clicked against the waddle. "Im
hungry! I Am!"
I looked up.
Above us, no mother.
No crow with worm in the sky.
Only a peaceable sun-filled blue. As if that were the skys
Then the sky sent a panic of bushtits our way, along with a lost
little kinglet whose crest flared up into a red eye of agitation. He seemed even
more lost, hanging on to the mixed flock. Their fleeing only excited my hungry
brother. His eyes blinked, and his veins pulsed, and he flapped his naked
elbows, ready to fly off to wherever small birds go. He wanted to eat them and
become them and cry out their wee bird calls. There was no way he could have
scared them, not with his round, splotched head much too big for him, wobbling
around on a skinny neck without much control. His stomach was already engorged,
but he kept stuffing it so that his twiggy legs could hardly lift him, which
they did only so that he could get to the food before me. The points of our new
pinfeathers did nothing to cover our gray and brown, liver-spotted skin. I
laughed at the sight of him, but in pained recognition. Was I really just like
him, so naked and helpless? No, worse. I was afraid of everything. A leaf blew
past our nest and I shrieked and hid myself down in my own dung. But My Other
saw it as an opportunity to fill his belly and raised his gaping beak to the
sky, crying, "Me! Me! I Am!" as the leaf blew past, tumbling.
Then a disturbance took hold of the leaves.
The wind flew round in circles and gave no sign of going
anywhere else. It grew in force until it shook the trees. They groaned. Their
ancient arms whipped around in different directions, clacking against one
another, making the sound of knocking antlers. Above us, the sky rolled up into
a dark cloud mass and whispered along the limbs. Everywhere the wind said yes,
first yes, then no, then yes and no in rankled
argument with itself, pushing our tree as the sky and the leaves hissed.
A crow Id never seen before hung onto the sky, blown sideways
without making headway, calling, "Keeyaw! Keeyaw!"
What? What do you see?" I asked.
Down in the familiar crags and burrows, I always asked my hungry
brother what he saw. Because My Other was destined to be a crow of Pure Flight,
at least in the eyes of our father. Already My Other could travel to the
extremities of the nest and beyond, almost. He was an early hopper and climber
and full of reckless curiosity as he teetered on the uppermost twigs of our
nest. Above all things, our father valued this ability, as crows who possess it
fly practically in legend. No other bird from our aerie had it. But My Other, he
What do you see now?"
The winds toppled him down beside me.
Nothing," he said, kicking his claws to stand
back up. "I was looking for Our Many through the trees."
So was I." I hoped it was our mother whod
frightened off the flock, bringing us more good gorge and spittle. "Whats
Excerpted from Song of the Crow, © 2006 Layne Maheu. Reprinted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.