She always woke up before the other crows to access their situation despite reaching the same conclusion every day. They were in danger. Food became scarce because farms were abandoned after extreme weather and numerous woods plowed down to make room for new buildings. It forced the crows to scavenge farther for food and live close to humans, and they knew that meant danger.
The crows all gathered in their roosting tree near a Wawa and a Dunkin coffee shop. It provided the opportunity for easy food, but the danger was always close. Some crows wanted to search the larger shopping center parking lots, but she jumped up and down. She knew feral cats patrolled those areas looking for easy prey, and they killed crows in the past. She saw their dead bodies on a recent reconnaissance flight. She was the leader of the murder of crows ever since her partner died when a human shot him. She missed him every day. A kind human buried his body in their backyard while she watched, and she still visited the location.
She flew to a tree that overlooked the neighborhood. What she saw made her feathers tremble. A large number of the animals they feared the most were headed toward the tree.
The cats walked with their heads up, for they knew no fear. Their large eyes saw everything, and their sharp claws left scars in many crows in the past. She wished there was a way to convince them to go somewhere else, but these monsters never listened to anyone. She lifted off and flew back to the tree to warn the others because she knew the battle with the feral cats was about to begin.
The monsters with nine lives came to fight.
Their claws were sharp, but the crows ruled the air, and they practiced fighting scarecrows. Feathers floated down after encounters with the ferocious felines. The battle lingered; a few cats licked sores on their body, and some crows lost feathers. It looked like it would go on forever until she flew to a garden and picked out a specific plant, then flew above the cats and dropped it, and the cats went crazy and forgot why they were there. They couldn’t resist the catnip. Some ran off a hill, but they landed on their feet; others chased imaginary birds, while others grabbed anything they could find and curled around it, then kicked at it with their back legs.
Eventually, they all left with a few hisses as a warning that they will be back. She believed them. They had nine lives.
After the war, she saw a rock with a heart drawn on it. She flew down, picked it up with her beak and flew to her mate’s grave. She dropped the rock near the house as a gift for the human.
The crows regrouped in their roosting tree.
Below them, life went on, and it soothed her to see other creatures so close to them. The Canadian geese caused a ruckus chasing a human that got too close. At the same time, a few mallards rested under a tree, a raccoon braved the cars and jumped into a dumpster, while a red fox snuck into a field across the street. Nearby, a man walked a dog below them and looked up as she cawed at the dog. If she could get a canine to help them fight the cats the war would be won, but that required treats for the dog, and she couldn’t find any yet.
The crows won this time, but the cats still had eight lives. Crows had only one life. She noticed other empty spots in the tree and missed her partner even more. Missing crows. A few others stretched their wings, and she saw damaged feathers, others balanced on broken feet, some scratched at scars, and one was missing an eye. They were all broken. It was a dangerous world for crows. They might be a motley crew, but they were her family.
William Falo lives in New Jersey with his family, including a papillon named Dax. His recent short stories can be found in Vamp Cat Magazine, Fragmented Voices, Dead Skunk Literary Magazine, the anthology of the year’s best dog stories, and other literary journals.