They wait for me in the graveyard. I see them when I pass by on my way home from school, hopping about on the gravestones, pecking at the gravel paths. Their black feathers are ruffled by the wind coming down from the mountains, and we can hear their cawing from the schoolyard.
My friends are sure they belong to a witch. Crows, they tell me, are always signs that a witch has moved into the village. We spend most of recess passing tales around about why she sends them to the graveyard every morning. Tommy Mitchell thinks she sends them to collect souls from the gravestones. Janet Fletch says that’s stupid, and that they’re only after the worms in the garden beds.
I play along, sometimes. When they ask me to. I say that the gravekeeper likes the way they look, and he hired them from the witch to stay in his graveyard and scare away visitors, because they trample on his flowers.
None of the others liked that story much, but I thought it sounded plausible.
More likely than their being sent to collect souls, anyway.
I am always the last one to leave the school. I’ve gotten pretty good at making up excuses lately. There’s always one last question I need to talk over with the teacher, or a library book I forgot to return, or a bathroom pass that I forgot to use and need desperately. Whatever the reason, my friends are already halfway home before I trot down the steps, and I never make much of an effort to catch up with them. They’re all headed home to switch on their televisions, but I’ve got other things on my mind. Things that can’t be hurried.
I walk past the graveyard slowest of all. The crows are playing when I pass, so I have to whistle a time or two before they hear me. They aren’t after souls, really. Or there to frighten anyone else away. They just like how cool and shady it is, how the gravestones line up like a stone maze. They have to play somewhere while I’m in school. They wouldn’t have any fun otherwise.
The Baron is the first to hear me. He likes me the best, I think, and he’s always listening. He comes winging out of the trees to land on my shoulder, and the rest follow him. I stroke his breast and his shiny head, and he nibbles at my ear to tell me that he missed me. We walk home together like that, with him on my shoulder and the rest flying after me, and I take the back road behind the church so no one sees us.
When we get home, he and the others fly off to my workshop, and I leave my backpack and my school books in my room and follow them outside. The old shed in the back garden isn’t much of a ‘workshop’, but it’s the best I can do for now, and no one will bother us. The Baron sits on my shoulder as I fiddle with the old radio we found in the dump last week. It should work—eventually. The Baron cocks his pretty head, watching me with one eye and then the other. He’s very interested, more so than the others. They perch on the back of my chair or on the shelves and flutter about, squabbling over beetles and which of them is allowed to sit higher than the others. Sometimes they get too loud, and I have to scold them and send them outside to play.
Not the Baron, of course. He’s always quiet, and if I’m missing a tool, I’ll send him to find it. He’ll hop around the room with his bright eyes and his funny gait, and if he can’t find it here he’ll go looking in my father’s shed. I’ve never sent him to the graveyard after souls, but I think if I asked, he’d try his best. He’s obliging like that.
As a reminder, my book, The Birdwoman, is still available for FREE on Amazon. Enjoy!
Also, I would like to thank @BringeGloria for inspiring this story with her tweets. Check her out on Twitter, she is the best of the best and I adore her!