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© 1998 Robert M. (Bob) Leahy                                       

2110 E. Crosby Road

Carrollton, TX  75006

(972) 416 - 6098

 

Approximate Word Count: 2,270

 

 

 

The Lodestone:  Inky

 

 

Inky scanned the roadside for the glittering bits of colored foil he enjoyed bringing back to his nest.  Most of the grass along the gravelly thoroughfare was too tall for Inky to see many reflecting shreds of foil, and the sun was low as dusk approached, so there was little light penetrating the greenery.

            As the sun inched ever closer to the horizon, Inky gave up his search, heading back to his nest to sleep.  As he circled over a small clump of trees, however, he descended to swoop over a soft whitish speck at the edge of the road.  Then he arced back toward the treetops and perched high in a tree somewhat apart from the others.  Inky tilted his head and focused an eye  toward the leaf-strewn ground at the edge of the street.  Among the softly swaying bits of foliage, a small, white glow winked back at him.

            It was not a piece of foil.  Nevertheless, Inky was drawn to whatever glowed among the leaves.  The black crow fluttered down, landing several hops away from his destination.  Again, he cocked his head and fixed an eye on the winking light.  It looked like a small marble, like so many others Inky had brought back to his nest--except this one did not reflect light.  It seemed to shine on its own.

            Inky peered up and across the tree tops to see if some breeze wafted through the trees causing the pulsing light in the marble.  But the sky was now purpled with the growing darkness.  And, yet, the marble continued to shine.  Hopping closer, Inky kept his eye fixed on the small ball.  It continued to pulse:  On--a white but soft light--and off.  It was still white, translucently so.  Then Inky took directly over the marble.  And it started to glow with a golden light.  And it didn’t turn off.

            He pecked at the small ball.  It felt more like rock than glass to Inky.  His pecking moved the object out from the grass and closer to his feet.  It continued to turn more and more gold and less and less white.  Inky watched the marble and wondered what to do.

            All at once, Inky picked up the stone in his beak and jumped into the air.  He flew straight to his nest.  It was very dark when Inky reached the south eave of a white clapboard house on the edge of town.  Inky noticed the white car parked in the drive directly under his nest.  He was fascinated by the red and blue lights that spun around on the vehicle’s top.

            Inky landed on the roof and hopped to his nest.  He placed the small marble along the edge, covered it with bits of silver foil and blue jay feathers, and the settled in among his other treasures. 

            From his roost, he could see people scurrying around the car.  Someone opened the doors on the back of the vehicle.  And then a bed on wheels was rolled out toward the opened doors.  A man on either end helped guide the bed.  The woman who lived inside the house trailed just behind.  A man Inky had never seen had his arm draped across her shoulders.  She shook her head back and forth, but the engine of the car began to roar with life, and Inky could not hear what the man or woman said.  Suddenly, the vehicle’s siren started to blare, and Inky huddled in his nest.

            When Inky heard the doors of the vehicle close, he looked down.  The woman stood in the driveway and watched as the vehicle pulled out into the street.  It sped down the road and out of sight.  Inky could still hear the siren long after the car was gone.  And the woman remained standing in the drive looking down the now empty road.

            As the first rays of sun edged over the eastern horizon and fingered the twigs and branches of Inky’s nest, the crow stirred a little.  He was still scrunched down, his feathers puffed out against the early morning cold.  But his eyes were open.  As the sun crested the treetops, Inky rose to his feet and hopped out of his nest.  He skittered down the eave toward the only window in the south gable.

            The bird flitted to the sill, and twisted his head to fix an eye on the interior.  He expected to see the boy, Billy, who lived in the room just beginning to wake.  Instead, he saw the woman who lived in the house sitting on the bed by the boy.  He was crying.

            Inky watched as the woman drew the boy to her lap, pressed his head down against her shoulder, and rocked him back and forth.  If the woman spoke, Inky could not hear what she said.

            Inky didn’t know what had happened to the boy or the woman.  But they were sad.  And he was, too.

            For some reason, Inky remembered the terrible storm that tore his nest from a nearby tree.  He lost off his foils and feathers.  And even after weeks of finding new bits to replace what was lost, he was unhappy with his collection.

            Inky wanted to peck on the pane of glass that separated him from the boy.  He wanted to fly to him and comfort him.  Just as the boy had tried to help him after the storm with several small gifts of colored string and tiny bits of foil and his first glass marble--the boy called it a cat’s eye.

            Inky did not really know the woman.  And he wasn’t sure how she would react to his pecking on the glass.  So he hopped back to his nest to search for something to give the boy from his growing menagerie.  Standing back in his nest, Inky cocked his head and looked about.  There was the boy’s gift.  Should he give it back?  There was the pretty blue foil that looked like the sky.  And a robin’s breast feather, a soft orange in the early morning sun.  Other bits of string, red and blue and white, glistened in the sunlight.  But these were woven into the twigs and grasses of the nest.  Inky did not want to undo his nest to retrieve these. 

            Just as Inky was about to hop up and fly off in search of something special for the boy, his eye came to rest on the new marble he had found late on his foraging trip the night before.  It had become more deeply buried in the wall of the nest that Inky had almost missed it.  It no longer glowed.  But its translucence hinted at the golden light Inky saw yesterday evening.

            Inky worked the marble up out of the twigs and yarn and feathers and moved it to the middle of his nest.  Then, leaving the marble there, he flew back to the sill to check on the boy.  When he fluttered to the window, Inky could see the woman was still in the room.  Inky thought about just waiting for her to leave.  But then he suddenly felt hungry, and swooped off to hunt for worms or ants or caterpillars.

            Normally, Inky was selective in what he ate.  But this morning, with the boy needing him, Inky went no further than the rose bushes at the edge of the house.  There were always roly polies and slugs in this garden’s rich loam.  He cawed at his good luck, as he found a green caterpillar munching on a red-fringed rose leaf.  Eating his fill quickly, Inky jumped into the air and dipped down past the boy’s window.   The woman was no longer there.  But the boy lay in his bed.

            Inky fluttered to the sill.  He pecked at the glass, but the boy rolled over on his side, looking away from the window.  Inky pecked harder.  But the boy still ignored him.  He pulled the blanket up over his head.

            The boy never ignored inky before.

            Since the pecking didn’t work, Inky started to scrape his sharp beak along the bottom of the pane of glass.  The scrape of the window produced a high-pitched whine that sent shivers through Inky’s tiny body.  Twice, he stopped to ruffle his feathers back into place.

            Inky was about to give up when the boy rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed.  He looked toward the window.  His eyes were red and swollen.  And he didn’t smile.  Slowly, the boy rose and crossed the room, the blankets trailing behind him.

            “What do you want, Inky?” the boy asked, kneeling in front of the window.

            It wasn’t what Inky expected to hear.  Usually, the boy said, “How are you, Inky?”  And Inky would caw in response.  Inky didn’t know how to answer the boy this time.  The boy’s voice had a strange quality to it.  It wasn’t anger.  He had heard the boy yell in anger at the little girl who lived on the other side of the street.  It wasn’t fear.  Inky had heard fear when the boy screamed while being chased by some big dog that didn’t belong in the neighborhood.  Nor was it the boy’s customary delight he heard.

            There was hurt in the boy’s low inflections.  And a hint of tears.

            Inky croaked his most compassionate croak.

            “Just leave me alone, you dumb old crow,” the boy said.

            Inky fluttered on the sill.  Cocking his head to one side, he focused his eye on the boy.  He didn’t know what the boy said.  But he heard the tiredness and pain that came with the words.  And the sadness in the boy’s eyes.  It was both distant and enveloping.

            Inky didn’t know what to do.  He decided to go back to his nest and get his present.  He picked up the stone and, a moment later, was back at the sill.  But the boy had vanished from the room.  But the window was now open, so Inky slipped into the room and swooped across to the boy’s bed.  Inky nestled into the depression in the pillow.  He tucked the marble down just under his wing.

            A moment later, the boy returned.  “Inky, what are you doing in here?” he asked.

            Inky focused his eye on the boy, but he remained silent.

            The boy crossed to the bed and sat down.  At first, he just sat there, not even looking at Inky.   But soon, he turned and stretched a hand toward the bird, and ran his finger across the top of his head and down his back.

            As the boy pet the bird a second time, the little marble began to glow again.  It was a soft, warm glow.

            “What’s that?” the boy asked, pointing with his finger at the white light coming from beneath Inky’s wing.

            Inky picked up the still glowing marble with his beak.  He rose and hopped over to the boy and laid the small, round object in the boy’s lap.

            Picking it up, the boy said, “It feels warm.”  He stared at the shining object bow cradled in his hand.

            As the boy watched, the stone pulsed first white then gold.

            “Oh,” the boy whispered.  “It’s beautiful.

            Inky cawed softly in agreement.

            “You want me to have this?” the boy asked.

            The boy looked hard at Inky.  Inky felt shivers.  No one had ever looked at him that way before.

            There were tears in the boy’s eyes.  Inky thought his gift would make him happy.

            As the boy continued to watch the stone pulse from gold to white to gold again, his tears streamed down his cheeks and dropped to his lap.  “It makes me feel like there’s a hand rubbing my heart,” he said.

            Inky was so absorbed in the boy and his continued staring at the tiny object in his hand that he didn’t hear the woman come back into the room.  He only noticed her when she crossed in front of the window to stand near the boy.  She looked down at her son and whispered, “What is it?”

            She picked the marble out of her son’s hand and held it just inches in front of her face. 

            Inky twisted his head to watch the woman.  She was tense, at first; but her stiffness softened slowly was she continued to hold and watch the tiny stone glow gold then white.

            “Where did you get this?” she whispered.

            “Inky,” the boy answered.

            The woman looked down at the bird for the first time.  It made Inky feel uncomfortable.  But she smiled at him.  Inky croaked softly, scrunching down into the boy’s pillow.

            “Well, Inky,” she began, “it’s beautiful.

            “I’m not sad no more,” the boy said.

            The woman smiled down at her son.  She touched the stone with the fingertips of her free hand a few times before returning the small marble to her son.  The woman sighed as she let go of the stone.  The brushed the straggles of curls from the boy’s forehead then bent and kissed him there.  Inky felt her look at him through the corners of her eyes.  But then she straightened and left the room.

            The boy continued to cradle the marble in his hand and to gaze upon it.  He, too, touched it with his free hand.

            Inky grew tired of watching the boy, but he felt so comfortable in the nest he made in the pillow and was so happy that the boy no longer seemed troubled, that he simply closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

 

 

the end