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Of Mice and Crows?

by Bernie Brown

Bernie is from Raleigh, NC. Her debut novel I Never Told You was  published in 2019. A collection of short stories will be published in September 2021. She was a winner in the Grateful Steps Publishing short story contest, a Pushcart Prize nominee, a writer in residence at the Weymouth Center for the Arts, a member of Women's Fiction Writers Association, and the Author's guild. Sewing, reading, playing the harmonica, and British television occupy her when she isn't writing.

After retirement, I developed an interest in feeding birds. I hung feeders and enjoyed learning the names of my new avian friends. I already knew cardinals, bluebirds, and robins. I learned to identify chickadees, wrens, and brown thrashers as well. I doubt any of them cared about my name as long as I kept the feeders full. I even set out a royal blue bird basin, which is a bird bath without a pedestal. My winged companions splashed and drank and had a fine old time.

The birds and I happily coexisted through summer and fall. The first really chilly night in late October I spied something floating in my pretty blue basin. I investigated and found a furry little mouse floating face down. Poor guy, he probably dropped by for a night cap and fell in. My sympathy didn’t last long, though, when the ick factor took over. “Ken! There’s a dead mouse in the bird basin.” My husband, ever my hero, removed it to some happy place deep in the woods. I changed the water in the basin, and thought the story was over.

            Next morning—now this part gets downright ghoulish—four mouse carcasses lay perfectly lined up next to the basin, their stiff little paws pointed skyward, tummy side up. Wha . . .? Weird. Disgusting. Those little fellas did not drown, then crawl out and assume formation all by themselves. No way. 

            Summon Ken.  “Keeennnn!!” My hero husband came at a run.

            “What happened?”

            Again, he rid the back yard of rodent corpses.

            I couldn’t erase the visual so easily from my mind. Why was my backyard bird sanctuary becoming a graveyard for mice? This called for Google.

            Some chap in Australia supplied a reasonable, though creepy, explanation. Crows eat carrion (decayed stuff) and dead things don’t rot very fast in cold temperatures. To accelerate the decay, the crows dunk their dead in water, a sort of post mortem baptism, if you will. I understand crows are highly intelligent creatures. It seems to me this macabre process required more than smarts, it took logic, something I’m a little short on. Maybe the crows got my share.

            I had enough logic to know I must remove the water source. With heartfelt apologies to the cardinals, blue birds, robins, chickadees, brown thrashers, and wrens, I took away their combined drinking fountain and swimming pool. Their beautiful blue ceramic bird basin became my beautiful blue ceramic flower pot. The only bird that comes near it now is a hummingbird on a stick.

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