Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bagel Eater, The Crow (Part I)

       In a tree above the busy downtown, where the asphalt gave up more crumbs than corn, Bagel Eater the crow lived in his warm and full nest, with his wife Jam and his son Rebo.

     The Crow family were growing fast in the town, because conditions were becoming right for them, being scavengers, they could live anywhere on anything, but in the midst of human society with all its waste and excess, Life got to be pretty fat for most of the crows in Del Orso.

     Most days, Bagel Eater could depend on finding some morsel outside the bakeries that lined the street near his tree. One day he found a whole box of bagels, abandoned, which is how he got his name. The other crows who gathered in the eaves of the building to watch said that Bagel Eater surely was a good name for such a clever crow.

    One of the bakery workers noticed that Bagel Eater liked the bakery’s bagels, so he began leaving more of them out on purpose for Bagel Eater, or any other crows, to come eat them. Pretty soon, Bagel Eater came to rely on leftovers from the bakery. Jam would expect him to bring at least two bagels a day back to the nest for her and little Rebo. Sometimes he could, sometimes other crows would get to the bagels first and fight for them, and he could only bring back a little half a bagel someone had walked away from.

     When he was able to bering home enough bagels for Jam, Rebo and himself, he would sit on the edge of the nest and rattle his crop for hours, because it was always better to brag to the other crows when things were going good than to be silent and seen to be lacking.

     One day a whole murder came passing through, and almost every crow in Del Orso made it to the gathering. Only Bagel Eater, Jam, and Rebo stayed behind, at home, happy to be eating the fine bagels that the bakery man had left out that morning.

     What Bagel Eater did not know was that the reason for the big murder in the first place was that all the other crows in Del Orso were jealous, and wanted more from the bakery for themselves. They had to plot to find a way to make the bakery man leave more bagels out, or else, they would have to gang up on Bagel Eater , Jam and Rebo, and maybe even murder them. To get a fair cut of  the bakery man’s bagels.

     Because Bagel Eater’s tree was so close to the bakery, it was easy to confuse what the other crows thought was an unfair advantage with the simple fact Bagel Eater lived closer, and he knew the bakery man’s schedule, so, obviously, he got more of the bagels.

     Upstart, the leader of the massed murder, got up on top of a telephone pole and began to lecture the rest of the crow crowd. Nearly 100 crows were there, all preened and slick and ready to have themselves a great pecking party, if it came down to it. Half of them would respond with an approving rattle if Upstart said something good they liked, and the other half would caw if they heard something they did not like.

     “My fellow crows of Del Orso We are gathered to discuss the problem of the Del Orso bakery and the fact that one crow, one crow gets the best of the bagels off the bakery man. I want you to go out and find out more about how Bagel Eater gets more bagels! And when you do, I want you to discourage him from being a greedy glutton!”

     There was  a huge ratttle. “Greedy-glutton, greedy-glutton” rattled the rest of the crows.

     “Caw, Caw! The law, the law,” cawed the disapprovers. The majority, though,
 was with Upstart. Maybe Bagel Eater could be murdered in his sleep by a special team of assassin crows. Maybe Jam and Rebo could be crippled, or fed robin-berries so they crashed drunk into windows, or maybe a special “accident” could be arranged so that they, the entire Bagel Eater family, could be snuffed out in a quick minute.
“What we ought to do, said a new crow, named Tokyo, “is to get a third party to make them pay, and nab them in the middle of the night!”

     The crows who were for vengeance all rattled, and when their rattling had died down, Upstart spoke again.

      “A good idea, Tokyo. We will start by going to the Hamster Brothers who live beneath the bakery, and through them, we will pay the ferocious Hairball the Cat who lives at the yoga studio upstairs and Hairball will make mincemeat pies out of them”.

       More rattling. The anti-vengeance crows began to caw sad long caws, and gradually, began to melt away back into the tall pines and redwoods of the Del Orso neighborhood.

     “What shall we pay the cat?” asked one of the younger crows who had remained, polishing his beak on a small piece of porcelain tile that had caught his  eye one day,and  he used as his talisman.

     “We should pay the cat in bagels!” was one wag’s answer. 
 "Bagels? " asked Upstart. He gave the crow who’d bleated that silly response a tilt of the head and the full of his stank eye. “Don’t you know  a cat will only touch meat?”

    “I have a Better Idea” said Tokyo.” Let’s pay the Cat in Hamsters! We’ll get them out of the way as well, and kill two stones with one bird!"

     “Now you are talking, said Upstart, "With them out of the way, there will be even more bagels for everyone in our murder. Are y’all with me?"

Two dozen crops all rattled in unison. The next agenda would be to conjoin and cajole the Hamster Brothers into the plot.

     Bill and Mike Hamster were just average, ordinary guy Hamsters. They lived in a little comfy nest lined with old napkins and woven plastic forks as protection, underneath the grease trap at the bakery. They had known Hairball for years, and sometimes paid him protection money to allow them to continue living rent-free at the bakery. It would not be within or beyond their minds to have the thought occur that one day, Hairball might look them over for a midnight snack, too, someday, but for now, the Hamster Brothers could dawdle and run in their wheel and sneak out now and then to grab an old crust from off the bakery floor.

       Tokyo came to the bakery, and hopped around the back door, and knocked with his bill on the lid of the grease trap. “Why, it's one of the big black birds! How ya doin', Mr Bird? Y’wanna beer?”

      “Sure,” cracked Tokyo, "An' I'm Tokyo Crow, da meanest muddafugga in da Del Oso moider." He sat back as Mike brought a can of Pilsudski Trappist to Tokyo who sipped at the bubbles with his beak, and played with the pulltop ring while the conversation continued.

     “Us crows, we have a problem, Hamsters. We gots one of our own here lives up in dat tree back there. Actually, there is three of him. Him, a hen, and a little one. They have got us strangled for da bagels the deuceboy leaves out here in the mornings. We’re getting’ cut out of all of it. When we get here, he’s already jinxed the whole bag by grabbin’ the best. Sometimes we catch him in the act and we get more, but this can’t continue. Da moider can’t have dis kinda shit for long, not in dis crow’s Del Orso.”

     The Hamster Brothers looked to each other, then to Tokyo. “So what do you want us to do? He lives way way up in the tree.We can’t possibly get up there to do anything… whatever… to him…”

     “No here’s da deal. You know that cat lives up in the yoga studio, Hairball?”

     “Do we know…” They looked at Tokyo, and simultaneously gulped.

     “Mmm, yeah… we know him…” The Brothrs looked at one another with long faces, once again.

     ‘Da moider wanches you to go to Hairball and tell him to go for da crows live in dat tree. Anyt’ing goes, nothing is verboten. Got that? Da moider will pay him handsomely, he’ll see... We’ll be seein ya Hamstas’ You have three days to get da cat to do da job."
     A big yakuza like Tokyo would be feared wherever he lived, but here in Del Orso, he could be a big fish in a small pond. He spat the beercan ring into the gutter as he swaggered out of the greasetrap onto the parking lot tarmac, gave a loud flap, and flew off.

     The Hamster Brothers, milktoast meek as they were, had no desire to face the cat. Hairball was unpredictable by event, but predictable in habit. There was a chance they could talk to him through the wall where the vent opened, and that way they would not have to face him in the open where they could run away. It had to happen in the morning before the owners came and turned on the bakery lights, when Hairball would be out patrolling. With Hairball on his side of the vent and the Hamster Brothers on theirs, they could hold a parley with the cat and slide back to their nest in the grease trap without any fear of Hairball catching them.

    So they set up a picnic chair and a sun umbrella near the hole in the  vent and waited for Hairball to make his rounds. “Hey, Hairball, yelled Mike, as Hairball finally showed, his black and white mittens blocking the holes in the event as he bent closer sniffing their scent.

    “Hairball, we need to  tell you something. The big black birds what are they call The Murder want you to do a hit job on one of their friends. They say he lives in that tree back there in the parking lot. They say, do whatever you need to do, but they need your hired claw in there to do a good clean hit. They say they will pay you… “very handsomely. Ask for the one they call Tokyo.”
     Hairball, curious, sniffed them again and twitched his whiskers. “They want me to fight one of those big black birds all by myself?”
     ”If they did not trust you to do it, they would not have asked. They would not have asked us to be the ones to tell you, o great Hairball, for we are ever in your debt, o landlord.”
     Bill piped up and said “They say they will give you three days to do the job. I guess when you do it they will pay you.”
   “Well, that’s ONLY fair” said Hairball, “but if I get hurt doing the job because he is bigger than me, what do I get out of it then?”
  The brothers looked at each other. “We really have no idea, o great Hairball. We just passing the word on…” 
     In his hurried hamster fashion Mike began packing up the picnic chair and sun umbrella and began hauling them back down the air vent passage. Harball sat and listened to the footfalls of the hamsters scuttle on the aluminum vent until they reached the nest, and the scuttling stopped. 

Hairball began the work of casing out Bagel Eater’s tree, noting the habits of the three birds, who came and went quite freely, and thought of them in terms of their size and weight, and what it would take to fight one and win. 

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