Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 06:34PM
Lee Schiller

Scarlett sat on the back lawn, facing away from the house, leaning against the big old Magnolia tree.  It was one of her favorite hiding places at Tara.  Pretty soon, Mammy would be screaming her head off wondering where she had run to.  Scarlett savored telling Mammy that she was a fool to shout so loud, since she'd been right under her nose the whole time.  Scarlett liked the ability she had to turn things to her own advantage.  She fancied it quite clever.  But right now, the big barbeque at Twelve Oaks later that afternoon, was what she'd gone off to think about.  Scarlett had a major crush on Ashley Wilkes, and wanted to secure his affections.


Perhaps seeking some dating advice was in order.  Scarlett stared up at the Georgia sky, and concentrated as hard as she could on who she might call upon.  This thinking business was hard for her.  She believed it was difficult for her to stay focused because her tiny curvaceous waist was corseted so tightly, that it cut off the thoughts to her head.  Of course the real reason was that there was only so much room in her head to begin with.  Even if it benefitted her, putting a plan into action was just across the county line of Scarlett's intellectual capacity.


She pulled out a cell phone from the ribbon waistband of her dress and set it on the grass.  Maybe she should ring Elizabeth Taylor, out in California?  Liz had a great many husbands; one of them twice!  That would be a technique Scarlett would like to learn.  Moreover, she felt that although much plainer, Taylor was fortunate to share some physical resemblance.  It was getting hot outside, and her mind began to drift toward the lovely sensation of ice cream melting on her tongue.  Vanilla was her favorite.  Fiddle-Dee-Dee, she would think about calling Elizabeth Taylor tomorrow.  She got up, intent on sending Mammy to the cow shed for milking, then to fetch some ice and start her brown hands churning right away.


None of this escaped the shiny black crow, who was observing that idiot Scarlett, from his favorite hiding place in the big old Magnolia tree.  He always chose the highest branch, facing toward Twelve Oaks.  Over the farthest ridge, he could just make out the drawing room window.  In leaded glass sunshine, the macaw and elaborate white cage had been placed for all the visitors to admire, more as interior decoration than as a member of the Wilkes family. 


The crow had met the macaw a long time back, in the course of carrying out his rountine tasks.  He was a busy bird, and kept to a hectic schedule.  There was the daily agenda of diving at Mammy's head, leaving muddy footprints where fresh sheets draped over the laundry line, stealing sparkly house keys, chasing those prissy mice into the cornfields and air patrol of the surrounding plantations.


It was natural then, that the crow caught sight of the macaw when he was freshly ensconced at Twelve Oaks.  The crow had been on a mission to leave his calling card on a newly polished buggy being brought around to the Porte Cochere.  But there would be other days, and other buggies.  Instead, the crow landed on the drawing room window sill to introduce himself to this new neighbor.  And it was a good thing that he did!  The macaw was already getting pretty distraught over the lack of appreciation that was doled out to a room adornment.  There were quite a few things to get off the chest.  And over time, the crow could not help admiring what a chest it was!  While the crow was a handsome enough fellow to get attention in certain circles, the macaw was spectacular.  Brightly colored feathers, a fine straight beak and really great feet.


Now, the crow had always been the solitary sort.  He liked affecting others, but others did not affect him.  As the years slipped by sitting on the window sill with the macaw just inside the house, a shift happened inside of him.  "HHhhhhmmm ... Nesting?"


At first the crow sought the company of a starling here and a robin there.  Anyone who had seen that crow passing time perched on the barn's weathervane with those birds would have known nothing was going to come of it.  The crow wouldn't let any of them get close enough to ruffle his feathers.  For, he was thinking about the macaw constantly.  No other could compare.  And it amazed him, based on the secrets shared, that the macaw was even more beautiful on the inside.


The crow did a lot of listening on the window sill, but not much talking.  Speaking was as hard for him, as thinking was for Scarlett.  And as was bound to happen with such a silently dedicated, industrious worker as the crow, his service territory increased.  In the completely opposite direction of Twelve Oaks.  By then, the macaw seemed in a really good head-space and was clicking and cooing about a songbird who was God's gift.  When the crow heard about that songbird he thought, "I'm glad for you, and sorry for me."  When the macaw learned of the crow's new job promotion he said, "I'm glad for you, and sorry for me."


Months and months dragged by.  Seasons changed and changed back again.  The Civil War was coming, even a moron knew that.  Scarlett, who had gotten prettier and prettier and meaner and more selfish than ever, was completely oblivious to the impending war.  Big surprise.  She didn't even think about it.  But, way up high in the big old Magnolia tree the crow was thinking plenty.  And missing the macaw.  His favorite branch had no bark left from the crow's hours thinking and scratching away with sharp claws and a heavy heart.  After a very long time, he began a preening program to gloss up his feathers for when the waiting period on a decision about what to do would ultimately come to an end. 


Then the waiting was over, and Scarlett had a yen for ice cream.  It was that day, when the flibberty-gibbett left her cell phone on the grass in the single minded pursuit of instant gratification, even if she had to beat Mammy over the head for it, that the crow made his move.  He swooped down in dive bomber fashion and snatched the cell phone in his strong beak.  He flew and flew.  Pumping his wings as fast as he could to make a hasty get-away, lest that bossy little bitch should call for a field hand to blast him full of lead and get her phone back.


The crow finally landed on the crest of the golden arches at the McDonald's in downtown Chicapee.  What to say after all this time?  The crow pondered and practiced.  He'd been waiting for this chance that had finally come.  He'd risked.  He'd hoped. He dialed!!  He got voicemail and left, what turned out to be in retrospect, a very awkward message.  He got no call back.


So that crazy crow tried again, many times in fact.  He thought the voicemails he left had smoothed out, but if you'd heard them ... Not so much.  He tried to apologize for the rift, to inquire, to share what he could without coming across as too desperate.  His heart was always racing fast when he was being recorded, and it is hard to collect your wits when that happens.  And, he never got a call back.


With nothing else to do, the crow went back to what he knew.  Solitary waiting and listening to what the winds had to say about how the macaw was making out in life.  But the winds were fickle, and restless, just like in that Patsy Cline song.  And the crow, sick of the wandering winds, decided to leave the lonely shelter of the big old Magnolia tree and fly over to where he'd heard the macaw was now working.


It just so happens that Scarlett was in town that day.  Mammy was with her.  That was a pain in the neck for Scarlett, because it meant she couldn't snub that goody-two-shoes, Melanie Wilkes, if she saw her in public.  Mammy would blab it all over.  But that mealy-mouthed varmint Melanie, had somehow captured the attention of Ashley Wilkes and Scarlett was furious. 


Mammy was sticking like glue, because the war had brought all kinds of riff-raff to the South.  Men who wouldn't know a lady if one spit in their eye.  And Mammy intended to protect Scarlett by doing a lot more than spitting, even if it landed her in jail ... Or on the auction block. 


Going over her options, with the baggage of Mammy trailing along after her, Scarlett stopped to take a gander at her gorgeous reflection in the plate glass window of a shop, and pinch her cheeks for color.  And she couldn't believe what happened next.


A big black crow walked into the shop on his boney little legs.  He circled the joint until the macaw was done waiting on a customer.  Then, obliterating any chance of a conversation, Scarlett saw the macaw run into a back storage room, and the crow walked out right past her.  Bold as brass.  Mammy had missed the whole thing.  She had been looking down at her foot, and quietly trying to work it out from under Scarlett's pointy stiletto.  And then the crow marched right back into the store!  There was a brief exchange when the macaw came out of hiding and saw the crow.  Forced smiles.  Clipped sentences.  Eyes averted to the floor.  And then the crow left a final time.


Because of what she'd just seen, Scarlett understood a lot.  Crows don't walk very well.  Not that it mattered much.  Actually, they walked like ducks.  And that made her want to head for the grocery store and order a duck to be delivered to Tara for dinner right away. 


Mammy finally understood why throughout the day, and into every night, she'd heard that crow calling, "m'caw!  M'Caw!! M'CAW!!" from the big old Magnolia tree out back.  That mattered a great deal to her because it finally made sense of some things.  She was seeing love of a different kind.  The crow certainly looked as though he'd come a courtin' to her.  Those two birds made an odd couple, for sure.  One being as black as she, and the other so vivid and bright.  But they were The Lord's creatures just as she was.  Maybe someday after the war was over, she would have the freedom to do as she pleased and they would have the freedom to marry whom they pleased.  That would be fittin'. 


And as the crow took to the sky, he understood nothing of why the connection between he and the macaw had died, he understood nothing of how time marches love away, and nothing about words unspoken.  But he knew that all of it mattered.


And that's the Truth.

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