Home » Flash fiction » Short story: “Birds of a feather”

Short story: “Birds of a feather”

This is more of a scene than a proper story with a plot, as I try out this idea of writing a longer work featuring corvids. Here some new characters appear, the crow is meant to be the same one monologueing in the scarecrow story I wrote earlier.

***

“Hey! Hey there, tough guy!”

“Up here, yeah that’s right.”

“Think you can get us, do you?”

“Want to give it a shot, huh?”

“Oh, we’re too high up?”

“Just put your back into it!”

“Oooooh! Close, but not really.”

 

Bronze watched Fast-foot and Fleet-foot as they bounced up and down on the thin, but sturdy branches of the birch tree, while a furious dog was trying his best to reach the chattering pair. Every leap, every lunge and snap of jaw that missed them by many feet resulted in another gale of laughter from the two magpies.

 

“Will they ever stop tormenting that brute?” Bronze asked, fluffing up his feathers to keep the chill wind at bay. The delicate leaves sprouting on the trees said it was spring, but it didn’t quite feel like it today.

Black-eye shrugged and yawned.

“They’ll grow bored with it eventually, they always do”, he said and preened his wing feathers lazily. “If it had been my brothers, they’d have picked a proper fight with that dog and it would have been me laughing as the dog pulled the feathers from their tails.”

Bronze shook his head.

“You’re too hard on your brothers”, he said. “And at least they leave you alone for the most part.”

Black-eye tensed his jaw. “Yes, they leave me alone, except when they get themselves in trouble or otherwise need my help.”

“You’re supposed to help your family”, Bronze said, but the statement came out sounding rehearsed. Another lesson from his mother that had been beaten into his head from the moment he began to grow his first proper feathers.

The sun was briefly blotted out as the distant rush of wings and chatter of birds calling out to one another announced that Bronze’s flock had finished their circle of their vast territory. Soon enough Bronze’s private time would be over and it would be time to rejoin his family.

Black-eye followed Bronze’s gaze to the group of jackdaws, circling above them, trying to decide on a tree to land in.

“So, are you going to let your mother pick a mate for you this year, or will you be going solo again”, he asked, peering over at Bronze.

Bronze straightened out his belly feathers, though they were already in perfect order.

“I don’t know”, he finally said. “I’m not sure if I am ready for all that, though if mother ends up not having another clutch of babies this year, I really will feel useless.”

“I’m sure she will”, Black-eyes said and snorted. “I swear, you jackdaws breed like rabbits.”

Bronze felt flustered, but he tried not to make it apparent in his voice.

“We don’t have more babies than other birds!” he said defensively. “It just looks like it because we’re more…family oriented.”

“Well, I really don’t envy how you have your parents and siblings hanging around you all the time”, Black-eye said. “It must be exhausting.”

“Oh, it is…” Bronze mumbled and puffed out his feathers again.

The sound of Bronze’s flock was briefly blotted out by the loud cackling that announced Fleet-foot and Fast-foot’s arrival. They landed as close to them as they could, sending the branch into violent motion.

“Hey, stop being such jerks!” Bronze gasped as he nearly lost his footing.

“Oh, relax, my friend”, Fast-foot said.

“We just want to be close to you”, Fleet-foot said.

“Really close.”

“Close as friends should be.”

“And now you’re close enough that I can smell what you had for breakfast”, Black-eye said and frowned. “Did you rummage around in the garbage again?”

The magpie brothers huffed in unison.

“The humans throw away so much perfectly good food”, Fast-foot said.

“You’re just too proud to have a look for yourself”, Fleet-foot added.

“I just don’t want to smell like you two”, Black-eyes snorted.

“Suit yourself”, Fast-foot said.

“That means more food for us!” Fleet-foot said with a grin.

“Mother says we should be careful about the human food we eat”, Bronze said cautiously. “They have all sorts of strange diseases.”

Fast-foot let out a laugh and Fleet-foot responded. “Your mother is old and set in her ways. You’re almost two now, much too old to listen to mother.”

Feeling slightly bold Bronze edged a little closer to the magpies.

“Maybe…Maybe I could come foraging with you sometime?”

“Our little jackdaw friend would always be welcome!” Fast-foot said.

“Always welcome”, Fleet-foot added.

“You just have to keep up”, Fast-foot said and with grin he dove down from the branch, soaring up into the air. Fleet-foot followed closely behind, the pair laughing as they left Bronze and Black-eye to themselves.

Black-eye let out another yawn, stretching his wings.

“I should be off too”, he said. “I was up early, poking around the farmer’s field for tasty bits left on top after he planted yesterday.”

“And I suppose I should return to my flock”, Bronze said with a heaving sigh, which sent his feathers into trembling motion. He always treasured these moments away, either alone with his thoughts or like today, time spent with friends who thought so differently from his flock-mates.

“I’ll see you tomorrow perhaps?” Black-eye said. “If you want to go foraging with someone else, you should really come with me instead. You don’t have to go through garbage to find tasty human stuff.”

“Maybe”, Bronze said. “Hopefully. Mother gets anxious if I spend too much time away from the flock.”

“Those two are right you know”, Black-eyes said. “You listen too much to your old mother.”

The crow nodded towards Bronze, then took off with a few careful and calculated strokes of his powerful wings. Soon he was nothing but a black speck on the blue spring sky.

Far off Bronze could hear his mother calling for him. There was nothing left to do but heed it.

 

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