In the evening, the crows gather in the trees of the parks along the river. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Then thousands of them. You can hear them from our front steps, the insistent caw-cawing as they call the audibles of whatever game they play. Flying their black bags of jewels from chaos to chaos.
And as you trot over the hardened snow of Windsor Park, you begin to see them – or at least some of their outer sentinels, rising black, up from the black silhouettes of the trees against the white winter sky. It’s not until you cross the river and look upstream that you begin to realize the magnitude of their multitude. The world has been taken over by crows.
Humanoids have strange collective names for animals. A “pack” of dogs. A “flock” of geese. A “clowder” of cats. A “bury” of rabbits. I am not aware of a collective noun for squirrels – maybe a “tease” would suffice. But the collective term they use for crows is a “murder.” A murder of crows? This winter, it’s more like a holocaust of crows.
Both Lily and the Pup are intrigued by the great numbers of crows that have gathered this winter. But then, Lily is intrigued by the sight of even a single crow, standing in the snow.
There’s always a great temptation to go chasing after a crow, and Lily is young enough to think that maybe, like squirrels, the crows depend upon nearby trees for protection. She will gallop across the snow in pursuit, only to have the bird lift itself effortlessly into the air. And all the dog yapping in the world can’t drown out the sound of the hoarse caw-cawing laughter of a crow who has out-smarted her once again.
The Pup has a darker fascination with the crows. They drive away the songbirds, he is told. In fact, they will even kill and eat songbirds. “Why?” he asks. And when no one can give him a satisfactory answer, he ventures his own theory: “Maybe they want to take the little birds’ songs.”
Humanoids, of course, have their own crow-like behaviours. They tend to gather in very large masses at various times. You can see them flock in from miles around to the big building on the other side of the canal.
In the summer, they sit outside in rows upon rows of seats, facing into a rectangular patch of grass. They certainly make as much noise as the crows. From what I can tell, they’re simply watching other humanoids jump and chase one another and play on the grass. Their time would be put to better use watching something truly entertaining, such as the dogs scampering across the park.
In winter, they gather in similar numbers, but they hustle into the warm interior of the same building. I’m not sure what they do in there, but I imagine them sitting in the same rectangular formations – maybe facing onto a rectangular sheet of ice, this being winter.
They also gather in smaller numbers, but with crow-like cawing and chatter in the coffee shop across the street from the pup kennel. The humanoids who gather here like to caw their opinions to one another.
This is something you have likely observed about their species: they hold a great deal of importance to opinions. In fact, they tend to judge one another, not by their disposition, their character, their appearance, their contribution to the community, or their achievements. More than anything else, humanoids tend to judge one another by what opinions they hold. Very strange.
And if someone’s opinion varies from what seems to be generally acceptable, humanoids can perform their species equivalent of pecking the songbird to death. They will try to root out any divergent opinion, and peck at it to make sure the little songbird does not dare venture to make his or her views known again.
These are observations I make now that the plastic mushrooms have been removed from the snowbanks. Alpha and other humanoids no longer trudge door to door to share their views on the issues of the day. There is still a lot of good-natured camaraderie with the expression of opinions. They are all happy warriors. But they seem somehow anxious, lest a crow begin to peck at them for having the wrong opinion.
Barking, and never cawing,
Many of Zoscha’s frequent readers have observed that she is a very literate dog who often sprinkles her prose with various quotes and allusions to the great writing of the past. If you can identify a riff from some other writing, send your contest entry to email@example.com. Use “Zoscha’s contest” in your title line. Winners will receive a virtual doggie biscuit and a pat on the head.