Blackbirds

“Here it is.  It’s the only picture I have of my mother.  I took it the day she died.  We were vacationing in the south of France.”

“Oh, yes, she was beautiful, but sad, always sad.”

“You’ve never been to Europe?  Pity.  I think you’d really like it.”

“Yes. Yes.  I don’t mind talking about it, not really.  We were in a quaint little beach town, Collioure, I think it was.  There were artists set up everywhere, it seemed.  She told me about Matisse and Picasso, how they had walked the very streets we were walking.  It was so much like her to make it an adventure.”

“It does not bother me to discuss it.  Really.  It was an accident, an accident that occurred a very long time ago.”

“I was eight.  Just a child, you know, with a child’s imagination.  I’ve been corrected many times about what I saw.  My guardian has helped me remember correctly.”

“Who told you about the crows?  No…no.  That is not what she was looking at.  There were no crows.  You are mistaken.”

“Of course she was crossing the street.  You can see by the picture she was crossing the street. I was sitting on a bench over here.  You can’t see me, because I took the picture.  She was crossing to get a brochure from one of the galleries.  She told me to stay on the bench and take photos with my new camera and she would return momentarily.   I was very excited to be like an artist taking pictures.  That is why I snapped her picture.

“Yes, I can see there is…she is… they are all looking at something.

“I know the photo appears dark, but I assure you it was day…lunchtime, I think.”

“No, I don’t know why it’s so dark. “

“You read about the birds?  What did you read?  Where?”

“Yes,  if you have it with you.  I would very much like to see it.  Wait.  I shall tell you what I thought I saw first, and then you see if it is the same as the paper; okay?”

“Of course I can still remember.  I just don’t choose to believe it.  That’s all.   I took the picture of my mother.  I turned to look in the direction everyone was looking.  But then the sky turned…well, black.  I looked up and saw hundreds, maybe even thousands of blackbirds or crows.  The noise was so intense.  I set my camera down and covered my ears.  Then the first one dropped at my feet.  Then another, and yet another.  The streets were flooded with dead or dying birds.  They were everywhere.   One bird landed on the bench next to me.  It walked in circles not making a sound, not attempting to fly.  I remember being mesmerized by that bird.  It seemed everything around me had stopped and all there was was this one dazed bird walking in circles on the bench.”

“May I see the article now?  Was my story the same?”

“Well, not down to the minute details it wouldn’t be.  Thank you.”

“It was real.  The birds, I mean.  I hadn’t imagined it.”

“She looked back at me and then stepped into the roadway.  The cars were veering every which way.  She just waved at me and walked into the road.”

“She fell dead and so did that crazy bird on the bench next to me.”

 

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