Kim Ross ~ The Business of Crows

On the third morn­ing of the con­fer­ence I ducked into Whole Foods for break­fast and there she was again, the tall young barista with the two-toned hair, horn rimmed glass­es and that smile that could eat a dic­tio­nary all by itself. I pitched her my lat­te order before cir­cling the buf­fet, grin­ning in a way beyond friend­ly that made me feel old and creepy, like my dad flirt­ing with wait­ress­es a third his age even before he could blame it on senil­i­ty.

I chose a break­fast bur­ri­to, already wrapped. The barista wasn’t busy, so the lat­te came out quick­ly and she said, “See you tomor­row?” To which I answered, “Sure,” like we were on for a whole month of tomor­rows even though in a day and a half I was head­ing home.

I thought I might be able to catch the 8:40, but the check-out line was slow and the 8:40 was pulling away from the bus stop just as I came out the door. So much for hur­ry­ing. I invent­ed excus­es for return­ing to the cof­fee counter while saun­ter­ing across the park­ing lot.

The sun felt good. Cherry trees blast­ed pink blos­soms all along the street. Six sleek black crows walked steady lines through the beau­ty bark by the bus stop, like a stag­gered row of gar­den­ers hoe­ing in seeds.

They eyed me as I approached. I said, “Hello.” The clos­est crow tilt­ed its head at the shiny sil­ver in my hand.

I said, “You all look busy.” The crow stepped towards me, curi­ous, hes­i­tant to com­mit.

Her part­ner gave her a look half-way between get back to work and maybe I’ll come with you. I opened the foil wrap­per and took a bite, care­ful not to spill. The crow hopped onto the fence.

I tossed her a piece of egg and that sealed the deal. She tipped her head back and gulped it whole.

At the con­fer­ence I’d been learn­ing tid­bits, try­ing to make con­nec­tions. I was look­ing for an agent, for a back and forth that would last longer than a few emails end­ing in, “We’re sor­ry, but we didn’t fall in love.” I want­ed some­one to fall in love, with me.

One by one the oth­er crows found promis­ing strips of bark and flew off towards a bank of trees where I real­ized they were build­ing nests. But this one stayed, watch­ing me eat. I tossed her anoth­er tid­bit, and won­dered if the trade-off was worth it. It was ear­ly yet. She had time.

I had time, too. I could have gone back inside. Could have bought anoth­er lat­te. Could have tried for a back and forth that might have sur­vived going home. But I didn’t.

Two more bites and the shiny foil was emp­ty. The crow watched me wad it into a ball, toss it into the trash. She edged clos­er, side­ways, along the thin rail of fence. I want­ed to talk with her. I showed her my emp­ty hands.

She squat­ted like she might be set­tling on some­thing worth keep­ing, then leapt into the sky.

~

Kim Ross’s work has appeared in Vitamin ZZZ and the 2019 Whatcom Writes anthol­o­gy. She was a 2019 AWP Writer-to-Writer Mentee, and is cur­rent­ly work­ing on her sec­ond nov­el.