redline

by essayan hart

there was a crow, observing the clatter of business through the dimly lit window of a tavern. the tavern stood near the edge of a clearing in a town full of strangers. after what felt like hours, the bird beat her body against the windows and the doors, only to watch the slow crowd rouse itself to a mystery.

the crow wanted to see if anyone was there

the barkeep muttered “damn birds”
and a farmer from the hills said “s’not ordinary behavior”
the crow was about to turn and go, when a small girl turned her eye to the bird and laughed.

the girl was told she belonged to the barkeep, but she felt more that she belonged to the barkeep’s wife, or even possibly the crow, or the wildness of her own laugher. she was too small to reach the bar, and the strangers often set cherries down to her reaching hands, which she collected in a mason jar

on her notice of the crow, she began crushing cherries in her palms
drawing out juice and seeds
staining her hands sticky and bright

the crow watched as the lines in her palms unfolded like maps
wishing they were close enough to read
she then dug a small hole in the barroom floor
and placed the seeds there

from this moment, none of the strangers could see her
and the barkeep, and his wife, stared blankly through a high pane of glass
as if there was something they had forgotten

the moon that night was so exceptionally bright
that the sight of two crows admiring their own shadows
cast a stillness
cast a spell
and the strangers wept

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