Push your cheek against the porch window. Ha! How fitting the ruckus should come from the neighbors! you snicker. Then, remember how whenever you’d complain about the young couple next door, your son called you judgemental, saying, They’re just trying to live their lives. You’ve been trying to change, but you’re sure the screeching you heard came from the tall maple in their front yard.
Can’t see much of anything from this angle, so mash your face against the windowpane. Now, crane your neck and squint.
When the quarrel starts up again, spy a blue-black body glistening in your mountain ash. Heat spreads across your cheeks. A second sleek shape rushes to join the first, and bedlam breaks loose. The tree discards a flutter of feathers and leaves.
Risk the sun-sprawled swelter as you step onto the deck to broaden your perspective. Study the rotations of two plump crows. One crow slingshots itself from the tree. It sweeps up over the roof, plummets to the tree and tags the other bird. Then the second shoots off—and you recall the swarm of bats, sharp claws on your scalp, tangled in your hair when you were seven or eight. Cover your ears, your hair. Crouch against the door, your hand curled around the knob. Sharp talons curve towards you with each swoop and whoop of crow.
A shimmer tugs your mind from the dive-bombing birds. Eyes graze the neglected mandarin portulaca on the far side of the paint-chipped deck. Shake your head to clear away thoughts of the neglected lawn, overgrown garden, and spurned cherry tree dropping over-ripe fruit. Why did these things matter so much before? This damned heat brings tears to eyes, constricts airways.
Another glimmer, and your damp eyes catch an unexpected gleam of onyx. Heart jumping up your throat, see a half-grown crow peeking from behind the patio furniture you dragged here months ago. Your son used to help haul it out, used to sit with you in the late-afternoon shade. Nobody’s sat here all summer.
The young lady at the SPCA says, Yeah, we don’t deal with wild animals. Try calling Wildlife Rescue. The number she gives goes directly to voicemail. You speak into the digital void your voice breaking, What if its parents are begging for help? What if their baby is sick or injured?
You watched the uncertain young crow from the safety of your porch. It lacked confidence. Not once did the smallish crow flap its wings, though its parents shed plumes as they paroled the perimeter of the deck. A Google search explains this is high season for “fledgling” crows to hop out of their nests. After a few days, it’ll get accustomed to life on the ground and attempt to fly. The parents must be shouting imperatives, readying their progeny for the leap that will land him in the sky.
You began preparing for your son to leave the day he started school. You mourned missing the day, but had your own high school students to greet on their first day. Your now ex-husband described your son’s proud little face when, at the school’s front desk, he squared his shoulders and said, I can walk myself! He trotted down the hallway, and halfway down, he turned and yelled, Dada, stop following me! I can make it on my own!
At thirteen your son patiently explained that he wouldn’t always be by your side. How he coaxed you into dating again. Wince at the memory of his late teen rebellions—skipping school, smoking, and daily defiance. So much like his mother, your own mom tut-tutted when you cried into the phone. At eighteen, your son left home in a huff. Refused to let you help with the move but accepted cash for his damage deposit and a cart full of groceries.
For months, you sobbed yourself to sleep. You, alone in the husk of your home, prayed he would be okay. Prayed it wouldn’t take him as long as it has taken you.
Your son has long since taken flight. You’re the one who is still shaken. Who pretends the neighbors, the screeching crows, are enough reason to step out of the deafening silence in your empty nest.
Rachel Laverdiere is a writer and language instructor from the Canadian prairies. Her creative nonfiction, poetry and short stories are published in journals such as The New Quarterly, filling Station, Bending Genres and Entropy. Rachel’s flash fiction was shortlisted for the Geist 2015 Short Long-Distance Writing Contest. To read more of her writing, please visit http://www.rachellaverdiere.com.
featured image photo credit: Britton Minor