The tin of biscuits in my shopping cart reminded me of Sunday tea with my mother, the only day of the week she and the crows had a truce. As a child, my mother and I would spread out a checkered blanket in the soft grass, pull out a thermos, dainty teacups, and a tin of store bought biscuits. The crows would gather, bright eyes gleaming. My mother would open the tin and toss the biscuits into the grass, letting the crows have their pick. There were never any left for us. After they had devoured the biscuits, the crows would gather on the grass at the very edge of the picnic blanket with their greedy beaks slightly open, as if they wanted something more. They didn’t attack. Sundays were truce days. My mother and I never drank the tea we brought with us. It always cooled in our dainty teacups, and we’d pour it away at the end of the picnic.
I had half-forgotten the tea parties as I waited in line at the shop with a cartful of food until I pulled a tin of biscuits from underneath a bag of rice and a can of tomato sauce. I hadn’t remembered putting it there, but I paid for it nonetheless. I found myself in the parking lot, leaning on the hood of my car, tin in hand.
I opened the tin. A crow landed with a flutter at my feet, and a moment later came the rest of them, eyes glittering, beaks wide open, waiting. I took a biscuit from the tin and wondered why my mother had never kept any for the two of us. The war with the crows had lasted well past my seventh birthday, perhaps even my eighth. They had stolen our silverware and rummaged through our drawers. I remembered their squawked demands.
“Why did you stop?” I asked the crow at my feet. I wondered if the biscuits had finally appeased them.
The crow stared unblinkingly as I brought a biscuit to my mouth. Its cruel eyes glittered. With a shiver, I remembered the last of our shared picnics. The crows had stood at the edge of the picnic blanket, waiting, as they always did, but this time, my mother took one long look at me, a look at the crows, and nodded. The crows stormed the blanket. Memories came back, as I clutched the biscuit in my hand, memories of being ripped apart in the soft afternoon sun in the park on a checkered blanket, torn apart as my mother watched.
I blinked back tears, examining my hands as if looking for scars, proof that the crows had tried to pick me apart. I remembered myself sobbing, blood running from my wounds, and my mother handing me my teacup and telling me to drink up. I remembered the metallic taste of the tea, tea that had knitted my wounds together as the crows flew off and my mother caressed my bloodstained hair. My mother’s war with the crows had ended that day.
The crows in the parking lot watched me. I had forgotten what it was like being at war with them, the constant fight and flurry of feathers. I would not enter another war with them. I knew it would end, once again, in my blood.
I dropped the tin, letting the biscuits spill over the pavement. The crows looked at me unimpressed. They had tasted my flesh once, my eyes, my cheeks. I would not let them have that, not again, and they would never again settle for less. I left the biscuits on the ground and got into the car. The war between us had been my mother’s. I did not want it to start anew. On my way out of the parking lot, I watched the crows. They spread their wings and flew away, leaving the biscuits untouched on the pavement and becoming a black cloud of distant memory.
Noa Covo is a teenage writer. Her work has appeared in Newfound and Reckoning, and her microchapbook will be published by Nightingale and Sparrow this summer.