November 9, 2016

Merrycrow was prepared to be stubborn. Rows of lines crossed her forehead. Arms crossed her chest.

‘Everyone else has a sparrow,’ she pleaded.

Shrike’s expression remained unruffled. She was used to encountering pleas, had in fact had her ears specially curled to avoid hearing them. Merrycrow glared, attempting to convey that classic feeling of outraged majesty so prized by her kind in the face of opposition.

‘I really don’t see how I can be expected to remain with a coven that denies me what is obviously regarded as a basic individual right. For everyone else.’

Shrike sighed. ‘You know it’s not a matter of spite, pullet. It comes down to the numbers, only. You yourself went to the freezer this morn. It’s hard enough, making two last for five of us, each month for all year.’

The fire cracked, and the cauldron spit. Shrike got up to stir it, and did not return to her seat. She stood dreamily over the pot, stirring slowly, eyes lost to its swirling depths. The fragrant steam softened her face, and the warm low light made her look suddenly young, and tired. She drooped, a little.

Merrycrow was not so easily thrown off. Had they not all agreed last winterfest, sage and fathomless on dandelion wine, that her own portrayal of damsel in distress was the very finest? Pah!

She strode purposefully to the fire. ‘Let me take that a moment, banty,’ she said gently, removing the ladle from Shrike’s surprised fingers. ‘You look tired. Perhaps too much falls on your shoulders of late.’

Shrike looked at her levelly. ‘Perhaps. Perhaps not. The state of my shoulders has nothing however to do with this sup, nor the getting you of a sparrow.’

She took the ladle back and stirred some more. Merrycrow was aware that something bubbled beneath the surface, both in kettle and out, but this cool, prescient creature was a rendition of Shrike that she did not tinker with. Burning as she was with impatience and a fully righteous indignation, she somehow managed to hold her mouth closed and keep her toes from scuffing. She too looked into the tureen, and let its slow swirl soothe her. Her gaze grew loose at the edges. The dense velvet of the night suddenly lay close upon her. Her shoulders unhinged and her arms flowed down her sides like water. She waited.

The moon was high, and the soup had been done for some time. Neither woman had noticed. The sound of girlish laughter echoed suddenly from the mountain path, and they each brushed as it were cobwebs from their eyes, jolted from deep ruminations. Shrike glanced quickly toward the wooded path, and took Merrycrow’s chin gently between her thumb and forefinger. Her eyes spanned Merrycrow like the infinite white of the sky above a fresh snowfall.

‘If wants a sparrow, darling, there shall have to be a fatter larder. Five is certainly not much less than six, but six is too much to be rich on two. Blood out, blood in. Not blood out, gristle and bone in. You’d swear I was right when you were eating toes and nose each bitter cold month in winter, with all the vitals seeping out of you.’

Shrike grinned, her teeth sharp, her eyes warming to the hue of singed paper as they always did when she was pleased with her own jokes. Merrycrow twitched with impatience for the final decree. Shrike’s mouth grew stern again.

‘But hear me. Turtle is growing frail, and Pidge is growing daft. As it is they haven’t the strength nor the cunning to manage the moonfeed much longer. If there’s to be another sparrow, you shall have to take on the snatching of an extra nestling each year.’

Merrycrow’s whole face glowed with triumph and delight. Joy buzzed at her fingertips.

‘I promise,’ she cried, and went flapping up the path to tell the others.

Her boots pounded the moss. Her heart pounded with pride. She would be a most enthralling mistress, teaching with mystic manner and musical tone the ways of the wild wood to a fresh and earnest pupil. I’ll start with herbage, she mused, and charms, and then of course snatching.



One Response to “perigee”

  1. “her arms flowed down her sides like gentle water”
    One of many excellent lines.
    Let’s write a short-story poem together, it will be fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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