My mother has purchased antique cap guns to get the crows.
She hates the crows because they cornered a squirrel in her backyard. She watched them from the kitchen window not comprehending what she was witnessing until they bookended him as he was gathering the nuts she’d left out for him and then they carried him away.
She was formerly using plastic cap guns, but according to her, they weren’t loud enough. The crows came back within a day.
The man that sold her the English blue cap guns didn’t want to sell them to her when she said she’d be using them to scare away crows. “They’re too expensive for that sort of thing,” he’d reasoned. “They’re meant for collectors.”
“I won’t tell anyone you sold them to me.”
She keeps them on top of the microwave, which is just beneath the kitchen window.
She runs out the front door to shoot at them if she hears them caw.
She runs down the street after them if they seem to be flying too slowly away.
“Those crows are smart,” she whispers to me on the phone. “They work together to kill. They’re evil. Did you know they attack little dogs, too?”
I think of her small Yorkie, Olive, who I’d named. Olive, who I had to save when my grandmother left the front door open during our first visit in over ten years. It’s hard to believe my mother’s reaction that day now that she stalks crows with cap guns she carries around on holsters. When she realized Olive was missing, she ran outside and dropped to the ground wailing as I ran past her in flip flops, calling for our then new puppy. With the help of a band of neighborhood kids, I cornered Olive behind a trashcan. Before that, I was sure that someone had stolen her. Knocking on silent doors as my dad cruised by in our Mini Cooper calling out Olive’s name. My dad dished out all his cash to the boys as I got in the car clutching the shaking dog. “Oh, no, Sir. We go to church,” they’d said. “We just wanted to help your wife. She looked like she’d die crying like that.” I remember nodding my head in agreement.
I crawled to the backseat with Olive thinking that we would pick my mother up from where she’d fallen and go straight home. I thought my mother would hate my grandmother after she let Olive out, that this would be another reason—albeit valid—my mother could use instead of her anxiety for not wanting to go see my father’s family. But instead my dad asked me to get out, and I walked with my mom back to the house keeping Olive on her leash in my arms, not even letting my mother take her back and hold her. Surprisingly she didn’t snatch Olive back and she didn’t want to leave my grandmother’s on such “spoiled terms.” While I was ready to leave, my mom wanted to stay for at least another hour, which we did. And within that hour, my grandmother opened the door once again. When I asked her if she was crazy, she flung her arm at me, and I wished I’d been closer to her, that she had hit me so we could’ve gone home.
My mother hates the crows for what they did to that squirrel.
“They swarm dead bodies. Did you know that?”
She’ll drop the phone at the sound of them. Run outside after them. My dad will hand her her guns if he’s closer to them than she is. He’ll call her from outside if he hears them now, too.
“My doves haven’t been around in two days,” she tells me. “I’m worried.” Her voice is choked, and I string together something like they probably are on vacation.
Later, I research doves and learn that they tend to pair off and mate for life. I don’t want to tell my mother this in case one comes back without the other, so I don’t call her back.
The day we almost lost Olive, I ran faster than I’d ever run before. I remember Olive turning her head back in fear of me as she ran as fast as her small body could take her. It was over ninety degrees, she had only been with us for a few weeks. My mom’s previous Yorkie had died of cancer a month before. And before that she was (and to this day, still is) coping with the loss of her Pomeranian who was strangled by a veterinarian. (Even though it was confirmed by an autopsy, my mom failed to seek legal action, preferring instead to take up handfuls of days recounting the events, which I took upon myself to repeat to the veterinarian’s only worker—“I know Boo was vicious, it could have been an accident, but why not say that? Why give Boo back to her limp like that and tell my mother he was o.k.?” And then I’d add, “How can you work for a killer!”)
Olive was everything to us. My dad was recovering from surgery that removed a large portion of his colon, peppered with cancer. I had to run. I had to find her. I only wondered later, and only for a brief moment, what would have happened if we hadn’t found her? How would I have faced my mother? My dad nearly fell out of the car in relief as he saw me running towards him with Olive in my arms.
When I finally call my mom, she confirms that the doves are back. She thinks that they have a nest somewhere else in the neighborhood, so her patrols are going to have to be more frequent. She can’t come visit me, she says, fall is almost here, which means the crows are going to multiply.
“How do you know that?” I ignore the anger I feel bubbling in my throat that once again she’s not coming over to see my new apartment with my now husband because instead, I’m starting to feel bad for the crows. My mother had always taught me to love everyone and everything. I try to remind her of this, but there’s a caw and there’s the sound of the cap gun and her running. I can even smell it. Feel the smoke billow in front of me.
Tiffany Jimenez is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz, and her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California. Other than being an ardent supporter of the imagination and the art of storytelling, she writes a lot, laughs a lot, startles easily, and loves potatoes.
featured photo by Tiffany Jimenez