Iridescent Noir

Sidewalk in suburbia. An actual neighborhood — fifty, sixty years old — instead of a housing development/subdivision. Nine out of ten streetlights shedding a sulphurous mist just post sunset. New sidewalk. New cracks. Brick bungalows maybe ten yards back from the roadway. Mailboxes a lesson in suburban diversity.

A crow followed me from lightpost to lightpost. I didn’t notice until just after the third one — when he swooped by at arm’s length and waited for me at the next one.

I slowed to a halt and stuck out a raincoated arm. He fluffed up on the post, considering, then dropped down in a less-than dramatic swoop, ending up on my forearm.

Even though I’d been acting like I expected it, I was caught off guard. I couldn’t tell you whether he weighed more like a grapefruit or a bowling ball. Adrenaline surged while I thought of what to do next.

I thought about the neighborhood I was in. I hazarded, “What up, my nigga?”

He cocked an eye at me the way birds do, where everything you say or do requires them to look at you in a funny way. “Hello,” it said.

Of course. “So this is where I get the lecture about political correctness in my greetings?”

“Hello,” it said. I sighed.

“Hello,” I replied.

He bounced up and down, the way a bird will when it’s testing a branch to see if it’s springy enough to help with take-off.

“Gum?” it asked. “Hello.”

I was, in fact, chewing gum. I rolled it to the tip of my tongue and presented it.

The crow bounced gently up to my shoulder and pecked the gum expertly off the tip of my tongue.

“Hello,” it said, unmuffled by its beakful, and flew off into the trees behind a nearby house.

“Aloha,” I replied. “Don’t let it drag the ground unless the streets are clean,” I called out after it.

I have no idea what I meant. My own special version of Tourette’s Syndrome. It sounded like good advice regardless.

The footsteps that had been shadowing me for the past quarter mile kept their distance. Hell, I would have, too.

February 9, 2010 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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