On the west side of town, outside city limits and through that terrible intersection that causes at least two fatalities each year, you’ll find an aging man. He lives on a small plot of land once used for raising goats. The goats are gone now, and the land is fenced in even though there are no other houses around.
If you asked this aging man, he’d tell you he has no family. It’s a lie. If you could manage to find someone else that knows him, they’d tell you there was a great falling-out. Why they’d use the word great, no one can ever say. There’s nothing great about emotional warfare. If you were to ask what it was that fell out, they’d all say the same thing.
I’m not sure.
The man keeps no pets as he prefers to enjoy his bitterness alone, but he does have one companion. There is a large crow that frequents his acreage. Its black feathers shimmer in the sun. Its black eyes stare with intrigue as its head snaps in peculiar directions.
The man calls the crow Jimmy. It’s a joke based on some unscrupulous laws that once existed in the south. The aging man remembers the laws well and laughs to himself when he calls to the crow by name. Jimmy doesn’t laugh though. Jimmy doesn’t get the joke.
The aging man feeds Jimmy various nuts. Peanuts, walnuts, and sometimes pecans. He gets them on sale when he can afford them. He’d rather not buy them at all since his finances are very limited, but he’s convinced Jimmy only comes around for the food, for the nuts, so he keeps buying them.
He doesn’t want Jimmy leaving too.
But Jimmy doesn’t come for the nuts.
Jimmy eats them, sure, as all birds do, but the aging man is a peculiar sight to this crow. When Jimmy visits this small plot of land, he’ll often sit in silence upon the rooftop for hours on end and watch the aging man. Jimmy wonders why it is this man works so hard to keep in good repair the fence that closes him off from the world. Jimmy wonders why it is the man sometimes shouts and waves his hands when there is clearly no one else around. Jimmy wonders why the man laughs and has such a wicked smile when he calls the bird by name.
Jimmy wonders why the man so rarely leaves. And when he does, he wonders why the man returns again in such a hurry, rushing back to his fenced in square in the middle of open land.
One morning, one thick with fog, there was a terrible car crash at the intersection so obliging to take people’s lives. That morning, the intersection had taken another one. Jimmy perched on a branch watched the survivors mourn. One of the survivors saw Jimmy and stared intensely at the bird. Jimmy had no knowledge of the superstition the survivor placed on him. The survivor thought Jimmy was there to escort the dead. The survivor thought Jimmy knew what was going to happen that morning, and the survivor blamed Jimmy for not making an attempt to stop it. The survivor ultimately forgave Jimmy though. It’s never the fault of the messenger.
During the scene, Jimmy saw something else. The aging man rolled through the intersection slowly and saw that someone had died. He smiled then, the aging man, like he so often smiles when calling the crow by name.
Again, Jimmy didn’t get the joke. No one did.
Jimmy sometimes thinks to himself, in whatever capacity crows can, that perhaps he’s as entrapped by the square fence in open land as the aging man. After all, even with the power of flight, he returns to that enclosure again and again. Jimmy snaps his head in peculiar wonder, wondering why darkness can hold such strange attraction. How is it misery can so readily find company?
And the aging man just smiles when he sees the bird, smiles and calls him Jimmy. He tosses more nuts on the ground, food that he can scarcely afford, and goes back to shuffling over broken ground, tending to his fence to keep it in good repair, and shouting and waving his hands at people who are no longer there.