May liked to set out bits of meat for the big birds. It was one of her few pleasures. She would dice up some cheap round steak and set it out in cubes along the porch rail. The part she loved, the thing about the ravens she adored was, they left her presents. She left them food and they left her a fake pearl, a thimble, little shiny things.
She watched out her window as the big black birds landed and took pieces of meat. A raven landed and dropped a rock-like object and they all flew away. Some had bits of steak in their beaks. She donned her housecoat and stepped out on the porch curious about the rock.
It was an uncut diamond the size of a cashew. Her gaze snapped up to the wire where they perched.
“Where the fuck did you get this?” she asked the raven she knew as the alpha. He and she had a relationship. They communicated. Sometimes he sat near the steak pieces and he nodded thanks to her and she nodded back, you’re welcome. He gave one quick nod like one passerby to another – not too friendly, but enough to show where their hearts were.
This time, as he perched on the wire he turned his head staring straight at her, as his eye was more to the side of his head. Behind his black silhouette on the wire, the gray sky was a solid backdrop and enhanced his face and eyes. He wrinkled his brow and dipped his head – a human gesture of thanks from the heart, for the food.
She wasted no time. She cashed out her diamond in downtown Seattle and received enough to nest for a while. The broker asked where she got it. Ta fuck difference does that make! she had shouted back at him. They had to do a background check on the stone, he had said. He came back, offered her a dump truck full of cash.
She didn’t need her meager disability checks now. A bank-to-bank transfer later, and she opened an account in the Cayman Islands. May rode the bus home with a genuine, breathless smile, the first time she’d been this excited in years.
The next day, May watched her neighbor, Ken Stritter, standing in his nasty fenced-in back yard. It was dog-shit strewn and mud-packed. He wore blue print boxer shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of sandals with his beer belly hanging out. He aimed his Crossman 1077, CO2 Air Rifle toward the power and cable lines. The lines ran along the single light rail tracks they finished through here last year. She peered through her kitchen window at the disgusting man.
Bap! The CO2 rifle smacked feathers off one of the two big ravens on the power cable.
The ravens fluttered and flew, raising their gurgling croak to a shrill alarm, “Aaarrng! Aaarrng!” Blood dripped from the wing of the wounded bird as it flew. Others joined them. There were four ravens now. Her four ravens.
She wrapped her housecoat good and opened her kitchen door. She was going to put an end to this. She clutched her housecoat at her bosom with one hand and held to her railing with her left. She negotiated the steps sideways down from her porch. Her black curly hair mixed with gray bounced in front of her eyes as she stepped down.
The rain left her wooden steps slick, as usual. She meant to repaint them last summer. The white paint had peeled off the ten steps down to the yard. Her house was set high off the slope atop her walk-in basement. The front of the house set at ground-level.
This neighborhood in Seattle was old, rotting from the outside-in. Like everything in this wet, like me. She stepped sideways down the steps.
May counted three dead ravens in his backyard.
“Don’t you come down here bitching at me, May!” Stritter said as he took aim at the big black birds circling around. “If you didn’t feed these damned things, they wouldn’t come around.”
May paused and glared, her large dark eyes narrowed. “You need to go put some fucking pants on!”
Stritter snatched down his gun and faced her. He jerked down the front of his boxers and showed his junk to May and grinned. His rotted front teeth were nasty.
She snorted. “Seen longer cocks on the rats in my basement!” Nasty man! She took a couple more steps down. “You need to stop shooting my ravens! In my yard I’ll feed whatever the fuck I want to feed, nasty man!”
“And in my yard, I’ll shoot whatever the fuck I want to shoot, dirty lezzie!”
Stritter turned, shouldered his pellet rifle and searched the sky for ravens.
“Like fuck you will,” May said as she reached the bottom step.
The ravens lit on the roof of the house on the other side of the tracks. Stritter smiled as he took aim.
May picked up a stone the size of her fist. She backed up two steps where she could clear the chain link fence separating the back yards. May was a high school softball pitcher. She pushed the rock out and went into her wind-up, wheeling her arm around and releasing the rock at her knee. It flew like an arrow and popped Stritter upside his head. He wheeled his arms and peddled his feet in the slick mud and landed on his back. May laughed.
“Aaarrng! Aaarrng! Aaarrng! Aaarrng!” The ravens cheered and flapped their wings. Stritter scrambled up holding his bleeding temple and went inside.
Before sunset, she put small pieces of round steak out on the rail of her back porch. She sat at her kitchen table until the black shadows passed by her backdoor and window. Something was different this time. Two birds flew together in a tight ball. It was a frantic flapping of black feathers.
She jumped up and went to the kitchen window and peered sideways across the porch. They brought her something big. She waited for them to eat their food and return to their wire before she went to see. Easing the door open, she looked up to the wire. The four ravens sat watching her. The alpha bent forward, anxious to see her reaction. She eased the door open and stepped out.
It was a pistol.
She looked up at the alpha. He nodded toward his mate on his left. The raven held out her wounded wing. The alpha raven growled to get May’s attention. He looked at the gun and pointed his head next door to Stritter’s place with a lift of his beak.
“You want me to wing him,” she said. “An eye for an eye.”
The alpha leaned forward. He nodded to the dead ravens, looked back at her. He frowned and trilled a low growl, “Arrrr.” She studied the look in his eyes, the furrowing of his brow.
She gripped the rail and leaned in. “You want me to kill the fucker!”
They all stood tall flapping and yelling, “Aaarrng! Aaarrng! Aaarrng!”
The alpha raven flew to the roof of the house across the tracks. He took a few steps down the far slope and flew back to the wire with an object in his beak. It was another uncut diamond, but this one was huge. He leaned forward on the wire turning his head right and left, making sure she got a good look at it. He nodded his head toward Stritter’s house. His message was clear.
Do him, get this.
His crew all looked toward him. He nodded at them and they flew.
She craned her neck watching them disappear – with the diamond.
“That’s a shitload of fucking money,” she whispered to herself.
She looked down at the pistol at her feet. “Let me get a close look at what you brought.” She picked it up and ducked inside her kitchen. She shut the door behind her. She knew what doing this meant. Life would be running and hiding, looking over her shoulder. She scoffed.
“What have I got going on here?” Loneliness, bad memories. A shitload of fucking money will buy a new life. She could live good for a while. She looked around and stopped at an old framed portrait of her and her old love Patsy, long gone. Fuck it. I hear Vanuatu is nice. Hotels and bungalows by the beach. Swarms of pussy in bikinis. No extradition.
She made reservations.
She bought a wig and some new clothes and packed up what little she would take. She busied herself tying off loose ends while she observed Stritter for a couple days. He lived alone after his wife came to her senses. She took off years back, got away to who the fuck cares. Good for her.
May watched out her living room window on her knees on her sofa with a small pair of binos. She wanted to catch him in the basement where the washer was, where the noise was. But the nasty fuck didn’t do laundry much. A thought hit her, and she crawled off the sofa.
Early that evening she went through the gate in his chain link fence at the side of his house near his front porch. She trotted to the shadows and stopped. She set the paper bag on the ground and pulled out the contents. It was a disposable yellow gown worn in the hospital emergency departments. Plus, disposable booties, plus hair covering which she set on the ground by the bag. She finished dressing and put on nitrile hospital gloves. The final piece was the particle mask over her nose and mouth. Squatting, she took a rock from the sack and broke out all the glass on his basement window.
Bap! “Ahhh!” She let out a muffled yell, grabbed her shoulder and spun.
Stritter shot her! That stung! She looked at her hand. There was blood. She planned to surprise him. He stood at the corner of the house in his boxers aiming the little rifle.
“What the fuck you doing breaking in here!”
She reached to the back of her blue jeans, and quick as a cat, brought around the .45 AutoMag. She gripped the big automatic handgun with both hands. BOOM! The recoil brought the pistol up above her face. The power and recoil surprised her, and she almost dropped it.
Stritter, dumbfounded, fell on his ass. He started crab-walking backwards, hard as he could go, toward the back porch. She marched toward him. He scrambled around and got to his feet picking up the Crossman 1077. As he reached the back porch he fired it with one hand over his back and smacked May in the chest.
“Fuck!” She staggered back a step.
He crawled into his backdoor. She was right behind him. He got to his feet and crossed his kitchen. She stopped and levelled the .45. May snarled, curling her lip.
BOOM! Her ears rang. Stritter slammed against the refrigerator. Blood streaked down the fridge and splattered all over the wall. He grimaced, left arm across his chest, then slid around and ran down the hall. She followed him to the hall. He turned and aimed.
She awoke and saw him standing down the hall. He held his chest with his left hand leaning against the wall, the rifle in his right. His breathing was short and labored. Blood trailed out his mouth.
Blood ran down her face into her eyes. She huffed for breath inside the hospital mask. He had shot her in the forehead. Damn! He was a good fucking shot with that thing! She moved and fell over onto something hard striking her cheek. It was her gun. She felt around until her left hand was on it.
Stritter slid down the wall toward her leaving a long smear of blood. He raised his bare foot and stomped her hand on the gun.
She looked up at his wide-open boxer shorts above her, and his rotten teeth. He grinned. The hallway tilted. Her head wobbled. She grinned back.
She shot her free hand up the leg of his boxer shorts, grabbed his nut sack, and yanked hard.
The look of alarm on his face was priceless. The pain registered, and his knee came up. His foot lifted off her hand and she got her gun. She rolled over on her back and aimed.
Stritter’s head jerked up. His brains went all over the wall and ceiling.
At her back-porch steps, she carried the sack full of bloody hospital coverings in one hand, and the gun in the other. May struggled to pull herself up the steps holding onto the rails to her porch. The front of her t-shirt was bloody, the light shirt she had worn over the t-shirt was in the sack bloodied. She bled from her shoulder, chest, and forehead. Luckily, the small caliber pellet didn’t penetrate her skull, but she figured she had a concussion.
Once at the porch she knelt and set the gun down on the floor and turned to the power lines running along the track. The setting sun behind the ravens on the wire streaked orange and blue. She nodded at the alpha raven.
It’s done. He nodded back, eyeing her wounds.
She opened the door to her kitchen and sighed. All she wanted was a stiff drink, the first aid kit, and a hot bath.
The next morning the gun was gone. They had taken it away like they brought it. In its place was an uncut diamond, the huge one the alpha raven showed her yesterday. And beside it was an uncut ruby. She picked up the jewels and turned the ruby in her hand. “From her, his wounded mate,” May said.
She got busy. “Shouldn’t cash any more jewels local.” She checked the flight itinerary. Vanuatu, palm trees, beach blankets, and sand up the ass. She smiled at the thought.
She would sell the jewels in San Francisco and wire the money to the Caymans. Can’t land in Fiji or Vanuatu with too much cash. She made a checklist of shit to do. Passport… check. She updated it recently to cross over to Vancouver. No time for a phony one… yet. Need international burner phone.
She knew they would catch up to her. The cops were like hound dogs. But she was going to live good for as long as she could in the meantime. Movement out her window told her ravens had landed on the wire. She stepped out onto the porch and locked eyes with the alpha. She saluted him. The alpha bird raised his beak, stopped, and raised his wing in a proud salute. He dropped it, signaled to his comrades, and they all flew away. Somehow, they knew this was goodbye.
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