The Crow's Word
by Stephen Case
I'm not sure if I should start with the crow or with Carla. It began with them both,
but it did not end with them. The crow spoke his word and flew. Carla spoke hers
and did the same. It ended, as all stories do, with Mab. But Carla and the crow
were the keys. They were the first cracks in the wall.
When I try to remember, I'm not sure which found me first.
I'll start with the crow, because I can no longer recall Carla's eyes. Here in the
hills, I imagine that fact should pain me more than it does. I know her eyes were
sharp though. The crow's were sharp too, tiny points of flint that studied me one at
a time as it cocked its head. (Mab wears a crow's head at times, but her skin is
Fall started early, and the crow found me one clear day in the middle of August
when it should have been warmer than it was. There were about half dozen crows
sitting on the antenna of a house a few down from mine. They were having some
kind of debate, rough and loud enough that their voices would have woken me had
I not already been up and walking to school. I usually biked the several blocks to
campus, but one tire was flat and I hadn't had a chance to repair it.
They broke off when I approached. When I passed, one spiraled away and perched
in a low branch farther down the sidewalk. I fished out the peanut butter sandwich
I'd packed for lunch, tore off a piece, and tossed it. The crow caught it deftly in its
That was more or less how Hamilton adopted me. I did not know then that Mab
had sent him, though I would like to think that on a cool August afternoon like
that he would have found me anyway. I'm sure he gave me a name, but I never
learned it. I couldn't decide whether to call him Hamilton or Lagrange, but he
struck me as a crow more Irish than French.
The first day he followed me all the way to campus, watching me pass on the
sidewalk and then flying to a tree where I would pass again. By the time we
reached the gates, he had gone through half my sandwich. He didn't come any
farther, just perched on a lamppost and watched me walk down the brick pathway
into campus. I know he couldn't have waited there all day, but when I walked
home in the evening he was sitting at the same lamppost.
It only took a few days of that before he was riding my shoulder and I was packing
an extra sandwich for him. I was never sure he'd come back, but he always did.
I had always wanted a pet crow. You don't see many people walking around with
a tame one on their shoulder. (Hamilton certainly wasn't tame, but he pretended.)
We had only been together for a few weeks before he started talking.
There are many crows, and they all talk. They call Mab's name, and in the stormy
evenings they bring her news of the far and the wide world. I've asked them about
Hamilton, but they say they don't know him. Perhaps they've disowned him for
the word spoken on my behalf.