"Hey, Dan, wanna see my bird?"
That was Jessie's voice, and the gods only knew what she meant by 'my bird'. In her language, it could mean nearly anything. I turned around warily.
She was clutching an old dishrag in her small hands, and I realized she really did have a bird in her grasp. Curious, I walked towards her cautiously across Cat's front lawn and peered in the dishrag. A blackbird peered back out at me with its one good eye.
It was a very injured bird. One of its eyes was clouded over with puss, and it's black feathers were smeared with its own life's blood.
"By the goddess," I whispered, staring with awe at this crow that seemed to cling to life so tenaciously and feeling a little sad that something so beautiful was so injured and marred. Ever since I was a little girl, when I would stare out into my backyard and watch the birds feed, I had admired crows. There was just something about them that was so... beautiful. "What happened to it?"
Cat joined us. "What are you guys doing on my lawn? You're allowed inside my house, you know."
Jessie's face lit up. "Look at my bird!" She peeled back one side of the dishrag, and I could see that in addition to all its other injuries it was also missing a leg.
Cat gasped, a mixed look of horror and nausea on her delicate features. "It wasn't hit by a car, wasn't it?" Cat hated it whenever animals were hit by oncoming traffic- a frequent occurence around this time of year.
Jessie shook her head. "No, a cat was attacking it and I rescued it."
"Oh." Cat looked a little better. She was probably trying to figure out why Jessie would deprive a cat of its meal. "Poor cat." I frowned.
"Do you still have that old bird cage?" Jessie asked.
Cat nodded. "Yeah. You know where we keep it; it should be there. Why? Your mom's not letting you keep it?"
Jessie shook her head, allowing her bun to flop from side to side. "Nope, she's being a real bitch about it."
"Why don't you just take it to the vet?" I asked, putting myself back into the conversation.
They both stared at me for a moment, then Jessie shook her head again. "I'll go find the cage." She headed off.
Cat looked me over for a minute. "You just get here?"
"Yeah," I replied. "I pulled in about the same time Jessie was getting out of her car."
She nodded, then gestured towards the garage. "Wanna come in?"
"Ja, lemme just go get the groceries from out of my car." I headed down her lawn to the edge of the street where my old bucket of a car sat.
"Oh, you stopped at Waldbaum's?" She followed me.
I nodded as I opened the door and began to unload the bags. "Yeah, I figured I'd pick up a few things. Y'know how it is whenever you throw a party- we always wind up at Waldbaum's anyway, picking up food. I thought I'd save us the trip."
"Good thinking," Cat replied with a grin as she helped with the last of the bags. "But you know we'll probably wind up there anyway."
"Yeah, probably." We laughed and headed into the house.
Chrissy, Cat's younger clone, greeted us at the door. I gave her an evil look and she ran upstairs, screaming the entire way. I guess she still remembered the last time she got on my bad side.
"Uh-oh," another voice said from the living room as I deposited the groceries on the kitchen table. "I guess Dan's here."
I smiled and walked into the living room. "How'd you guess? You psychic or something?"
"Or something," Cat's mom replied with a grin. "Actually, I heard Chrissy scream and said to myself, 'That'll be Danna now'." She laughed (almost evilly) and I joined in.
"Yep," I said when I caught my breath. "That be me."
Cat crept up behind me. "HEY!!" she shouted. I screamed and jumped, which made her laugh and her mom laugh even harder. I grinned.
She turned to her mother. "Hey, Mom, you see Jessie's bird?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact she came in here and showed me herself while I was trying to type up a letter. She took it upstairs."
Cat and I nodded, then headed upstairs to find Jessie and the crow. They were in Chrissy's room, where our friend was trying to argue with the little brat.
"I don't want that thing in here!" Chrissy's voice was a shrill, whiny pitch and I had to cover my ears to stop my eardrums from busting open.
"Too bad," Jessie replied in an even tone. "There's no where else to put him."
Chrissy saw Cat and I and frowned even more. "I'm going to tell Mom and she'll make you move it." She stuck her tongue out at me and stomped out of the room while I contemplated the sensation of ripping her tongue right out of her mouth.
Jessie and Cat errupted into a fit of giggles over Chrissy's attitude. I just stared at the creature within the cage, entranced by its very being. The fact that this crow, this wild being of nature, was sitting very docile in captivity amazed me. It must be in shock, I thought.
It was staring at me with its eye and, to me, it looked almost human. Certainly it had a look of intelligence that most humans in this world lacked. But this stare was different- glassy, distanced, and yet totally connected. Almost as if it were staring straight through me to my eternal being, my ka. Almost as if it were a part of my ka.
My staring contest with this being of my ka was ended abruptly by Chrissy, who stormed in her room with discontent upon her face. "Mom said the bird stays here until it's better and that I have to put up with it." She put her face right up to the plastic bars of the cage. "But I'm not going to like it," she said, a note of disgust for the animal within riding on her voice.
"Nobody said you have to," Cat replied, pushing past her sister and walking towards the door. "C'mon, guys, let's go downstairs and see who else is coming tonight."
Reluctantly I turned from the crow and followed Cat and Jessie out the room. At the door I stopped and turned for one more look at the bird. It still stared through me.
After the party, when everyone who wasn't sleeping over had gone to their own homes, Cat, two others and I sat around in her room. My mind kept returning to the bird in Chrissy's room and I knew it was an omen of some sort. Crows had always been the leading birds in my life and this one couldn't have come into my life by accident. But what did it mean?
I thought about telling Cat and asking her what she thought, but she was lost in her own thoughts. Besides, she would have sympathised with the animal that had nearly killed the crow.
I didn't trust the others with my thoughts either- they were more Cat's friends than mine and they didn't seem like the type to believe in omens.
So I kept quiet despite my uneasiness for the contrary. The others were busy watching the movie that glared from the large tv - some old grayscale movie from the 1950's called Plan 9 From Outer Space or some shit like that - and pretty soon they were asleep on the couch. It was just Cat and I that were conscious.
She stared at the tv, but she didn't seem like she was seeing it. She had done this often enough around me, and it was usually not a good sign. Suddenly she seemed distant from the rest of the world - distant from the living room - distant from me.
"Cat?" I asked cautiously, trying to see if she was just engrossed in Plan 9 From Outer Space or really in outer space herself. Her head turned slowly in response and her gray eyes, normally warm and caring, were cold. They bored at me, there but not really there. She was in outer space.
She nodded slowly and then turned her non-existent attention back to the television that I was now sure she didn't really see.