You were cleaning out the side porch since there’s not much else to do when the business had to close because of a pandemic. It needed it anyway, and would be a nice place to start up the online version of your shop while the weather was still somewhat bearable before full-on summer took over and you’d be able to see the humidity before opening the kitchen door. The walk-way between the house and mother-in-law suit your Mamaw had built when she was still living there was overgrown with peace lilies that had no reason getting as big as they did and a rosemary bush that would have been tidy if the dogs hadn’t kept rushing through it barking at the mourning doves and damn-squirrels and family of black snakes you called the Ewells—Bob was the big one, Ella May the mid-sized snake, and Baby the smallest at about three feet. Since you were down to only one outdoor cat who was too fat to climb up any tree and too lazy to do more than sprawl out under the ceiling fan closest to the door, the birds were getting bold. They didn’t even pay attention to the old CDs you hung up in the fig tree by the garage to try to keep them from eating half the fruit. Cardinals would swoop under the awnings from time to time while teaching their babies to fly, not paying any attention to the cat who’d reach his paw up at them but rarely ever move.
You’d named the hawk Larry Brown, would talk to him sometimes when you’d be sitting in an almost-broken Adirondack chair watching the dogs run laps around the magnolias, stumps of orange trees, and somehow still growing lemon tree and Larry was building his nest in the old oak that was growing along the fence line. Sometimes he’d drop bits and pieces of the fish or neighbor’s chicken he’d be devouring. Once he dropped a bone that you stepped on and got a tetanus shot for, but you didn’t blame him, he was just a messy eater.
You were warry of the crows, though. They’d been around the neighborhood, sure, but they generally stayed out of your yard. Sometimes you’d hear them in the Ligustrum trees bordering the privacy fence, just yelling mostly, turning the early evenings into a Hitchcock montage. They made you shudder because you would only see one but hear a dozen. Or maybe it was only just the one who had the voice of Legion. Or maybe you should have stopped at that second bottle of rose. Or maybe you missed Main Street. You always manage to shake them off your psyche, though.
Still, that mid-afternoon as you were clipping back the peace lilies and wondering if the Edison lights you used to drape between the walkway and the garage still worked, Larry turned on you. He divebombed underneath the roof that was always in need of a new paint job, would have skimmed his wingtips or talons on the top of your head if you hadn’t ducked, and barreled out the other side. Before you could finish your thought of what possessed him to go after you after all of your evening talks, three crows follow suit. They screamed, it sounded like his name, and took his exact flight path. This time you sat down on the dirty concrete to make sure you were out of the way. You scrambled up, chased them to the back yard to check on Larry, you may have been isolated for too long, but you lost sight of Larry and the crows were squawking and swirling around the house before flitting off across the median to swarm your neighbor’s chickens.
Betsy Rupp’s work has previously appeared in Emrys Journal, Burningword Literary Journal, Delta Poetry Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Blue Mountain Review, and Tar River Poetry. She earned her MFA from Florida State University and her MA in English Literature from Mississippi State University. She writes about the beautiful absurdity of her small hometown in Central Florida.