A Wierd Tale
The waning moon hung in a clear, black sky. Smoke rose from the chimney of the wood-planked farm house. Four crows sat on the sagging roof. One ruffled his feathers and its caw echoed in the chilly night air. Inside the house, Farmer Jones passed through the kitchen illuminated with one single oil lamp.
Calliope music bobbed over the hedgerow towards me, along with the smell of popcorn. A bell clang- clang– clanged three times and a child cried. This was the last night of the carnival. They always headed out of town on the first of November.
Driveway gravel crunched under tires, but not the four tires of a car and no headlights shined. A bike chain squeaked in cadence with labored breathing and then it stopped. Light footsteps approached the house. A figure stopped by the corner of the house and a woman’s face illuminated as she lit her cigarette. On tip-toes she peered into one darkened window, then sneaked on to the next. The crows cawed and flew from the roof, landing on my shoulders.
One crow perched on my hat. I shivered and tried to shake it off. I unhooked my left sleeve from the wooden post, heard straw halms snapping as I bent my elbow and whacked at that bird. He squawked and flew off. The woman had pulled the squeaky back door opened, looked over her shoulder left and right and silently entered the house, leaving the door open.
An electric light came on in the kitchen. The woman’s voice demanded and reprimanded Farmer Jones. He stood silent.
She gesticulated wildly and raised her voice. “I’ll go to the press, then I’ll go to the police,” she said. “Unless…”
“You brought this all on yourself,” Farmer Jones said, his voice barely audible from where I hung.
“I need more money. I’ll sue you for slander. What have you been telling the neighbors? You should hear the things they’ve been saying to me this weekend at the carnival.”
“I haven’t told them anything. You gave them enough stuff to talk about!” Farmer Jones said. “First you broke up Harry’s marriage and moved into his wife’s bed, then you ran away with the carnival! Harry’s wife was your best friend.”
“Harry’s wife is a deadbeat. It’s her fault that I moved in there.”
I bent my head forward and the nail securing my neck to the wooden post pulled free. I unhooked my right arm and my upper half slumped forward. Caw, caw a whoosh of crows flew off the hedgerow and landed in the vegetable garden at my feet. The weight of my upper body loosened the nails holding my boots to the post and I fell into a pile of rotting tomatoes. Crow wings flapped and tickled my face as they noisily soared up to the roof.
Inside the house, a door slammed. Glass shattered. Furniture overturned.
“I don’t care if you’re my father. I’ll take what I want from you and you won’t stop me,” she screamed.
“I don’t have any money. I used the rest to pay my apple-pickers.”
“When I sue you, you’ll pay big. You just wait. When I’m done here with you, I’m going to see Harry’s wife. I’ll give her a piece of my mind.”
“You hurt that family enough. Just go back on the road with your carnies,” Farmer Jones said.
“You all hurt me and it’s time you all paid,” she said, her voice a high-pitched hysteria.
Next to the fish pond, the migrant apple-pickers ignited a bonfire. They sang a song in their native tongue. The crows cawed along, a slow budding piece blooming into full crescendo. The veil between this world and my world was as thin as it would get this year. Spirit rose into my legs and I could kneel. I felt a glow in my belly and I could stand. Heard the wind in my ears and I could walk. Sensed the mad rage that had engulfed Farmer Jones’s daughter and I opened my arms. He came running out of the house with the crazed woman behind him.
I closed myself around his shaking body and she stuck my straw-filled body again and again with a blunt, sharp object. I felt no pain, but deflation and spirit draining. She heaved and huffed, stabbing and spitting vile words. Chanted cawing rose to override even her most poisoned profanity.
With the force of a gale wind, flapping wings threw us all to the ground. The crows squabbled, wrangled and pecked. The stabbing stopped. So did that woman’s breathing. The crows devoured in an inky-black frenzy.
A wispy cloud slid over the waning moon. After three clangs from the bell, the calliope wound up a melody. Farmer Jones crawled out from under what was left of my tattered burlap body and scattered straw stuffing. He shook himself once, went into the kitchen and poured himself a whisky.