Today at lunch, I stopped to chat with a crow. I noticed him noticing me with a crooked head and a curious eye. We both watched for a while, and then we decided it was time to introduce ourselves.
"I'm Mike," I said, offering a hand.
He jumped onto my arm. "I'm Crow."
"Pleased to meet you," I answered, nodding and smiling.
"Likewise," he said. "Beautiful day, isn't it? Perhaps a bit chilly, but otherwise wonderful."
"You like the overcast dampness?" I asked, incredulous.
"Of course. It keeps the sun away."
"You don't like the sun?" I asked. "I always thought birds and sun went together."
He looked at me for a moment. "Michael, you've surely heard why we crows don't like the sun, haven't you?"
I admitted I had not.
"Well then, we're both in luck. You because you will get to learn something new, and me because I only know one story, and this is it." He cleared his throat and climbed onto my shoulder.
"You know that we crows have a taste for human food, right? We love it in all its forms, from raw to still warm from the spit to fully cooked but three months old. We have much in common, you and we."
"When both our people were much younger, we crows were not black but brilliant red and blue. Our feathers were longer and more full. You might have expected to mistake us for parrots on a glance, but of course we were smarter and better conversationalists."
Crow paused here, looking at his black feathers, and he sighed. "our songs were beautiful, not harsh, and we were commonly found in the courts of kings. They fed us well, and we never minded singing for our supper."
"One day, we were called to one kingdom, where the ruler had promised us all the food we could eat if we could sing a song more beautiful than his daughters. All the crows came, blanketing the kingdom in our handsome colours. With the promise of fine food and with our pride in high spirits, we took the challenge before meeting the three daughters."
"The king laughed, and called out his first daughter. She was the radiant Setting Sun, and we were surprised, but yet we sang. We sang so beautifully that this first daughter hid her face from us, and her father said that, indeed, our song was more beautiful than his eldest daughter."
"The king then called in his middle daughter, who was the Noonday Sun. Though she too burned with pride, she quickly hid her face behind a raincloud and wept, for our song was more beautiful than she."
"Finally, the king called forth his final daughter, the Morning Sun. She rose in quiet innocence, peaking playfully over the horizon and dancing across the fields in the millions of dewdrops that heralded her coming. She was swathed in pink and firey oranges, and her robust face shined with hope. And we began to sing."
"We sang and we sang, pride and gluttony tugging at our hearts. Our songs could not match the beauty of the Morning Sun, yet we sang on."
"Slowly our voices began to grow hoarse as we sang, and the Morning Sun's sister, so ashamed before, beat down on us and laughed. Our feathers became badly sunburned, turning from the wonderous colours we once had to black. Finally, our pride burst and we fell to the ground, exhausted and admitting defeat."
"It's a sad story, but it's the only one I know," said Crow.
"It is sad," I replied, "but you told it well. A good story deserves good payment." I reached into my lunch bag and handed over my ham sandwich. "I have to get back to work, but enjoy your lunch."
And with that, Crow and I went our separate ways.