It happens when you can’t swing more than five hundred a month in the city; they don’t put screens in your windows. One bedroom, no air-conditioning, hotter than average summer, so the window had been open all that day and into the night.
It was the only window that opened.
My patio doors were glass and I had a balcony, but the doors were bolted shut. Seven bolts. I asked the guy when I rented it, why can’t I get to the balcony?
“We’ve had jumpers.” I thought, ‘From the third floor?’
I stood there, about two that morning, my cell in hand and I was staring at what looked like a black alley cat with a beak. And no tail. Just big and kind of hairy looking, but it had a beak.
I looked from the creature to my phone not sure what to do. It was dim in there at that time, so I flipped the switch for the one kitchen light. The thing hopped from its position beneath the window a few feet to the right, placing itself between me and the refrigerator.
In the moment, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a raven and a crow, though I knew it. In retrospect, I probably stared at the thing too long without acting. That was my undoing, because then it started to trust me, think of me as a friend.
It was large enough to be a raven, but I kept thinking it was a crow. Or a variety of one or the other. I dialed emergency services.
“Nine one one, what’s your emergency?” the voice said.
“I’m out on Fuller Street,” I started. I could almost hear the woman sigh. The police were on Fuller most nights.
The crow, which is what I was thinking of it as, cocked its head and looked at me out of one eye.
I went on. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m supposed to call someone else, but I have a crow in my apartment.” Saying it like that, committing to it. Now it was a crow.
“Could you be more specific?”
Was she kidding? I had a box of leftover pizza on my counter, the fridge being too small to store anything else the previous night. I opened it and tossed a slice at the crow, which it lunged at and tore at ravenously. Can a crow be ravenous, I thought?
“Not really,” I said. “I have no screens. I heard a noise in the night and came out and there was this crow in my kitchen. I’m looking at it.”
“Crows don’t typically fly at night,” the woman said. “Are you sure it’s not your pet bird?”
“I don’t have a pet. It’s—they’re not allowed in my lease.”
“I can send an officer by?”
“Yeah, that’s good.”
“I mean, it’s not really something we would send the fire department to. It’s not—your life is not in danger, is it?”
I looked at the crow pulling at the gooey cheese and struggling to pull it into its beak. “I don’t think my life is, no.”
“Sometimes, it doesn’t just happen in movies, you know. Sometimes, people will give us code because a perpetrator is in the house. Or an abusive partner.”
She left it hanging, waiting for a response, I suppose. The crow had kind of hopped toward me, ignoring the pizza. Still admiring me with one eye.
“No code,” I told her. “Look, you know what? You don’t need to send an officer. I’ll be fine. I’ll get the crow out.”
Her voice picked up a little. “Well, you could always call us Monday. The animal control team is available.”
“What if I had a rabid raccoon?”
“We would just send an officer out to shoot it,” she said plainly. “Was there anything else?”
I hit End on my cell and squatted down, hand outstretched. The crow hopped closer and rubbed the top of its head against my palm.
“Weird. Kind of cool, but weird,” I said out loud.
The crow stretched its wings and leapt onto the one counter I had. Using its beak, it opened one of my two cabinets, the one I had my Grey Goose in. It looked at me.
“You…you want a drink?”
I had a stack of Solo cups on the counter—don’t judge—and the crow responded by knocking them over with its beak.
I poured two cups, one for each of us and watched as the crow dipped its beak into the cup, apparently imbibing with me.
It reminded me of having drinks with my old friend, Lyle, who had died in high-speed collision only months before.
Jim Mentink's publication history has included feature pieces with NewEnglandFilm.com and the Clovis News-Journal, and he has short fiction forthcoming in Pangyrus Literary Journal and in the inaugural short story volume, ‘Dirigo Dreams’. He was also a runner-up in the Eliza So 'Finish Your Book' fellowship and named an Honorable Mention in the Literary Taxidermy Short Story Contest. Additionally, he had the privilege of being invited to the Writers in Paradise conference in 2019, and was granted art residencies with Hewnoaks (2015) and Wildacres (2019)–all on the merit of my fiction. He is a current member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.