by Jackie Houchin
Okay, I guess it was my fault, but it was an understandable mistake. Sure, I should have double-checked, but I hadn’t, so sue me! Oops, I didn’t mean to use that word, although being sued was the least of my worries after the “incident.”
I had really wanted to kill the pesky crows that were terrorizing my cats in the back yard. They would come, land on the grass and strut around, crowing their loud, raucous signature “CAW! ”
Even my big Maine Coon was scared of them, though he outweighed them by twenty pounds. It was the strut. And the “Caw.” And the defiant stare from those beady black eyes.
One crow in particular came every afternoon. He’d begin his brazen routine, jeering as the my orange cats, my babies, high-tailed it (well, low-tailed it, is more like it) into the house. Then that foul fowl would walk to my garden and calmly pluck at my tomatoes, strawberries, and raspberries.
“Get out of here!” I would yell, running at it, arms waving. He would hesitate for a moment till I got quite near before floating up to a low tree limb. He’d stare at me, and if he decided I wasn’t going away in any time soon, he would nonchalantly fly away.
Several times he would even hop onto the picnic table, where I’d been eating lunch before the phone rang, and grab at my sandwich! Once, he even brought an egg and dropped it on my stepping stones…. just to make a mess I’m guessing for he didn’t eat it.
Well, that’s when the idea of poisoning the creature came into my head. I didn’t want to inadvertently kill my sweet kitties, so I went online to see what the best of the fowl-slayers would recommend. I paged down through pigeons, wild parrots and finally came to ravens.
They recommended a delectable-to-ravens, but abhorrent-to-cats solution. Food. People food; a sweet, fruity, soft loaf, baked with nuts. Banana Bread. It would be irresistible to the filthy fowls, but discerning cats would turn their delicate noses up at the vague but unnatural aroma wafting from it.
It wasn’t cheap. And they warned perspective buyers to handle the mini loaf with care. But it came with a money back guarantee, so I didn’t hesitate. That one obnoxious crow had bullied my boys for last time!
I quickly gave them my credit card information and shipping address, and clicked on overnight delivery. That night I smiled at the black intruder. I even threw him a few crumbs from a slice of the carrot cake I was eating.
Two days later, an ambulance with lights flashing and siren wailing pulled to a stop at my neighbor’s house. Their adult daughter quickly let them in. She had a petrified look on her face. I wondered if the the old man or his wife had maybe had a heart attack.
The crowd of curious spectators around the house grew, buzzing and speculating among themselves about what possible (re-tell-able) tragedy had struck our neighborhood. Soon the weeping young woman followed two gurneys from the house to the waiting unit. Both were adorned with black body bags.
Several ladies went to the daughter to comfort her (and elicit details of what had happened). Words began to circulate. Shocking! Sweet old folks. A monster! Had there been a home invasion? I determined to double check the locks on my doors after this.
Then I heard, “poison” and “in the mail.” Yikes! Was there another anthrax scare? And then I heard “banana bread” and I stopped breathing.
“They’re looking for the package it came in, to see who sent it,” said the man across the street. “Too bad the trash went yesterday. They probably unwittingly threw out the evidence.”
“Yeah, and the daughter said it looked like they ate it all. There were just a few crumbs on their plates.”
Casually, I made my way home, softly closed my door, and then raced down the hall to my office. I sat stunned before my computer for a few moments, then quickly opened my browser and found the email confirmation for the order.
There it was…my order. It looked fine until my gaze fell on the street number. I had inadvertently sent it to the wrong address! I had transposed the last two numbers shifting the deadly delivery from me to my elderly neighbors. A typo. That’s all. And now they were dead.
I deleted the email. Next, I shredded the hard copy I’d printed out. I went to the company’s website and deleted all my contact information. I tried to delete the actual order, but it wouldn’t let me.
Would the authorities be able to trace the manufacture of the poison from my neighbor’s stomach contents, because I was sure there’d be autopsies. Would my recent order come to light? Would they arrest me for….murder?
But wait, it was the mailman’s fault! Hadn’t he put it into the wrong mailbox? Was he so fixated on the address numbers that he missed my name? Heaven help me, for I prayed he had. If he couldn’t remember the name, maybe I was safe.
But what if he DID recall it upon reflection? Would it go better for me if I confessed now?
That horrible crow! It was its fault. I would tell them how it tormented my cats… and me! A brilliant thought came to my mind. I would video it’s antics and racket as proof. They would believe me then. I looked at my watch. It was about time for his appearance. I grabbed my smart phone and opened the camera app.
Then I waited. My cats played happily in the yard. Maybe I’d missed him in all the ruckus next door. But I would catch him tomorrow. I would exonerate myself!
After that dreadful incident with my neighbor I never glimpsed that horrible crow again, though I waited obsessively for months with my camera in hand.
The officers who eventually came, shook their heads in disbelief as they took me away. “Weird cat lady,” they muttered. The one phone call I was allowed at the station was of course, to my pet sitter.
The jury must have been made up of bird lovers, because their decision was unanimous. They said I was guilty of viciously killing an innocent elderly couple, who’d never done a thing to deserve it. The judge gave me “life in prison.” Of course I had to give away my precious kitties.
And now, three years into my sentence, a crow has started showing up each day. It seems to know the very hour I’m allowed out into the yard.
At first it simply circled above. Then it took to perching on the top of the wire fence. Finally it hopped down jauntily into my enclosure. Along with that brazen strut, that ear-splitting screech, and that beady black-eyed stare, it has developed a kind of smirk on it’s beak.
One day it brought a piece of orange fur in his mouth and dropped on the ground just out of reach. Taunting me.
During my daily 20 minutes of allowed Internet time I found the site. They still had the Banana Bread. I’d get my old pet sitter to order it, I decided. After all she’d earned most of my savings taking care of my house and cats while I went through the long trial process. She’d lived free in my home after that until it was eventually repossessed.
She’d do it, this one last favor for me. Why not? I wouldn’t ask her for anything else. Surely she could buy the article and smuggle in a small piece in her pocket. I emailed her my next visitation date and the link to the site.
She came two weeks later in an outfit I never could have afforded. She gave me what I asked for, and I gave her the promise that our “business relationship” was officially terminated. I couldn’t wait for the next day’s half hour my tiny outdoor caged yard. I slept like a baby and dreamed of my kitties.
Report of Prison Officer Swanson: “It was freaky! I left the prisoner alone for her usual thirty minutes. She seemed totally calm today. No pacin’, no talkin’ to herself. I took a “cig” break, relaxin’ like usual. I heard nothing. I swear it! When I came back, there she was. Dead! Freaky, I’m tellin’ you. All pecked and bloody. It was aliens! I know it! Aliens that did that to her!”
A lone and silent crow perched on the top wire of the enclosure. It watched as they took the body away, glancing for only an instant at a brownish piece of banana bread in the corner of the yard, already dried hard and crumbling in the heat. Then it took flight to join its fellows; free as a…well, a bird.
Thanks for reading my story. If you’d like to see the blog post “WRITING A MURDER” that inspired this story, plus a few links about real crows, visit: The Writers in Residence at https://thewritersinresidence.com/
Photo by Leslie Greene