Chapter Five – …and Ticking
Summer became the autumn., as summers always do. The winds would rise and the temperatures dropped. The mornings were a series of puddles frozen over with an ever-increasing regularity, each day their ice a little thicker. Little Cocoa was now hauling himself up to his feet using the coffee table as leverage, and becoming more mobile with each day. Myra loved to watch as he wobbled back and forth on his round little feet, then would fall on his round little arse. “Whoopsie!” Myra would laugh, then help him back up to his feet to begin the process all over again.
Today is an exciting day in the Pelley house. Little Aurora Borealis Pelley is turning one year old today! The last orbit around the sun saw many developments in Cocoa’s physical and mental facilities…and, he’s learned a trick.
“Ches, Ches! Ask him how old he is!” Myra squealed, “Watch what he does when you ask him”. Ches would then lean in and say “Cocoa, how old are YOU today?!”
“Wun!” Cocoa would squeak holding his index finger up in the air like a miniature flagpole. “Wun! Wun! Wun!!” Then child and parents would fall over one another in peals of laughter! “Who’s birthday is it today Cocoa?! Is it Cocoa’s birthday today?!” Again the family collapsed in a pile of silly giggles, snarks and laughter. The moment hung on in the glory of the present. Then didn’t.
“Oh Chesley darling, there’s the door…would you get it for me honey… It’s probably Mom and Dad”. Ches went to the front hallway and opened up the inside and then the outside storm door. A blustery gust of frigid air squirted in around his feet and along the floor. Triple Eff’s nose curled up all crinkly as he flashed his butt to the porch, then disappeared into the house, the chill air an apparent insult to his catness. The doorway light illuminated the faces of Myra’s mother and father, both stamping their feet and slapping their arms under their armpits, grumbling about the state of the current weather.
Stan and Susan Avery stepped into the porch quickly. “Man, it’s cooling down fast out there today. You can feel Old Man Winter in the wind” Stan said as he made his way to the kitchen, kicking his boots off on the stairway as he stepped up into the warmth. “It’s cold enough to cut ya for sure!”. Susan added, “Ohhhh…I’m not ready for winter yet…I hates it!”
Then, in a flash of Matriarchal remembrance, “Where’s my little man?! Where is he?!” She scurried over to Cocoa squealing like a banshee and swept him off of his feet and jet setting him into the sky as she skipped about the living room. Stan came into the room next, carrying a cold home brew in his hand. Obviously Myra’s old man wasn’t about to wait until after the ice cream to have a beer! “Susan! Put that little feller down for Gawd’s sake will ya? He’s never gonna learn to walk if you keeps picking him up like that. More likely he’ll be three or four years old before he figures out he can’t fly!” Putting him down in a final swoop that sent his socks flying Susan grinned good naturedly and said “Blow it out your arse Poppy, Gramma’s baby boy is growing up!” then added “and Gramma can’t pick him up and swing for long! Whew!”
Cocoa’s grandfather came over to him and said “Who’s birthday is it today Bud?!” Cocoa screeched “KoKoes Bird day ‘day!” All hands roaring! Then at last the inevitable, the long anticipated moment…the moment that had been rehearsed for weeks now…” How old are YOU today?!” his grandparents said in unison.
“WUN!!! KoKoes wun day!!!” little Aurora beamed.
Watching from the remote safety of the underside of the chesterfield, Triple Eff said “This is frigging ridiculous. These people are whack! Think I’ll lick my butt for a few minutes then stretch…and then maybe I’ll have a nap until the crackpots have left the building again”. Of course, what the Pellys and the Averys heard was nothing actually. Had they been listening, a haughty “Meow Purr” would have made them all believe that the cat was entirely contented…which, for the most part he was, at least as long as the crazy people fed him his three squares a day, plus treats, especially in his mind now that he was licking his butt again.
Outside the house a large black crow settled high in a tree. He watched the proceedings with interest, shifting from foot to foot on his perch. The winter wind pushed against his feathers, ruffling them awkwardly against the gale. One would not be entirely wrong to say he looked less than impressed. Still, his attention was unwavering. The wind howled in union with the wolves.
Chapter Six – Big, Black Birds
It has been said of crows that they are the smartest bird. If this is so, then this big bird surely was in the ranks of the smartest of crows. On most days anyway. Well, on days when he hadn’t lost anything. It is also been said of crows that there is seven drops of Devil’s blood in every one. They are full of mischief. They love shiny things, are favourably partial to eating dead things, especially dead things that rather conveniently arrange for themselves to be dead, squished onto paved or smooth rock surfaces. Undoubtedly a crow’s absolute favourite thing to gorge itself on are dead things that have shiny things attached to them!
“Yummy” is what a crow says to itself when it sees shiny road kill. If a crow were to have been an actor in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that crow would certainly convince the Cowardly Lion to grow some balls, kill Dorothy and Toto, tear the stuffing out of the Scarecrow (perhaps constructing a nest in the process) and leave the Tin Man tits up in the middle of the road shining up to the high heavens. That’s what a crow would do. It’s no wonder then that a flock of the black buggers is known as a ‘Murder’ of crows. It’s also said that a crow mates for life. If you were to ask a crow the validity of this statement the answer might surprise you. Like people, most crows mate for sex. Life or no life.
But this crow, the crow outside the Pelley house is no ordinary crow. This crow is bigger and stronger than your common variety and this crow has a mission, other than eating dead things with shiny things. And now the crow is settling in to the treetop to observe the strangeness going on inside. “What is going on?!” he thinks, bewildered “ They look like they’re at a nut convention in there”. Then, remembering the importance of his purpose in that spot on that day, the big bird sighed and accepted his lot “I gotta keep a close watch on that kid, or there’s gonna be some real trouble!” His spirt passed over his eyes as momentarily he thought of troubles in the past…”That can’t be allowed to happen again”.
So, the crow sat and watched as Cocoa smeared cake on the whole world, watched as Cocoa dropped ice cream into the laps of the laughing adults, watched as Cocoa giggled and squealed his way through the birthday presents, the birthday hugs and kisses.
The crow perched and watched as Cocoa had four more delightful birthdays in that house as he sat shivering in the branches of the spruce tree. Four more years of preparing for the coming storm, observing the child’s skills as they flourished in the Pelly’s house of love, and reflecting on just how much they would all need that love.
There was so much crow shit accumulating on the branches that the crow had to watch where he was perched even while he watched his young ward grow. If you’ve ever watched a crow in a tree hopping around, that’s what they’re doing…avoiding stepping in shit.
“Soon my little buddy, you and I are going to have a little chat” the crow thought to himself “and then your whole fucking world is going to turn upside down…again.”
From various points inside the house as he made his rounds Triple Eff watched the big, black bird in the treetop. For his part, Triple Eff wanted only to catch and kill the bird. “ Soon Birdie Boy, I’m going to be picking my teeth with your waxy old tail feathers ‘cause soon, I’m going to be eating crow”. The cat turned and proceeded to lick between his claws feeling the needle points with his tongue, and feeling very good about himself indeed.
“Purrrrrrrrrrrr.” Said Triple Eff as he fell into his forty-fifth nap of the day, dreaming of smells and tastes yet to be enjoyed, not for once considering he might be out of his league on this one.