Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Breathing Together

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Breathing Together 

Jarrod flew home. 

He flew home?


But he was carried to the canyon by a hawk? 


With the murder behind them? 


And the murder returned with him? 

Yes. Subdued. They flew very slowly, some flying in circles around a small number flying closely to Jarrod. They didn’t call or scream. They came in silently. 

Where are they now?

They took Jarrod into the beeches where they nest. They all appear to be resting. 

And we don’t know what happened in the canyon?

No, sir. Our spy there was eaten. By a hawk.

I sense some irony there.

It’s possible.

What do we know? 

Next to nothing. The crows aren’t talking. Jarrod appears asleep. The crows are watching him closely. 

Can we get Lark or Mongrel to fly up to the canyon, to find out what’s going on? 

The marmot looked doubtful. I don’t think they’d do it. Lark is frightened to death of hawks, and she saw the one take Jarrod today. She won’t fly at all for a few days now, if she keeps to her habits. And Mongrel, well, you know Mongrel has split loyalties. What we tell him in confidence soon the whole world knows.

Get Aloysius. 

You expect him to go to the canyon? 

No, Father Marmot said. But I expect he knows much more than he lets on. Badgers may be wary of others, but they speak often to their own kind. Last I heard, there was a family of badgers living in the canyon. They may have spread some news.

The other marmot left on her errand.

Aloysius did indeed have news. 

Like to pull his feathers out they did, he said when Father Marmot consented to visit him in his own solitary hole. 

He was a bit disgruntled because, what with all the digging the marmots had done, they’d tunneled into his lair and, after profuse apologies and much shifting of dirt, left a bit of mess for him to clean up. Take years for that wall to heal properly, he muttered each time he passed the spot. 

They? Father Marmot asked.

Why the beavers – beavers still in yonder canyon, some of them cousins and descendants of those Jarrod got kilt. Crows took him up there for a confessional, you see, trying to make that Holstein pheasant feel a bit better about himself. Only it didn’t work, because the beavers were right bitter. They’d heard the stories. The oldest one, why, he’d seen the blood and heard the screams. And there’s a lot that don’t forgive in a hurry.

You’re slipping into the vernacular, you know.

Aloysius scowled. Just because they say I should means I can’t? That’s half-human thinking, that is. What they want me to do, well, I won’t do it – unless I wanted to do it anyway. That’s the law. 

I’m sorry, I beg your pardon, Father Marmot said. Please, continue with your tale. 

I don’t know how yonder Jarrod flew home, with all those missing feathers. See, that’s why the crows flew so close to him. He could barely fly. Apparently, a hawk got to him first, then the beavers. Would’ve been better off with the hawk; that would have been quick. Now he’ll continue in that slow death he’s known since the day the traps came out. Only he’s got more dirt in his wounds now, with that visit. Oh, the crows thought they’d be crafty, thought they’d find forgiveness for the bird up there. Not so. Not so at all, Aloysius cackled. 

Father Marmot made to leave. But thought, for a moment, to linger, to continue patching things up with the irascible badger.

Your cousins in the canyon, they do well? 

That they do not, Father Marmot, Aloysius said. Not dwelt there for more’n five years now. Don’t know where they went. Don’t care.

Then how do you have this news of the beavers – 

Aloysius smiled, looked at Father Marmot out of the corners of his eyes. 

Ah, that be my secret to keep, no question. That patch job your boys did, well, it’s all falling down on me. They used powder, not clay. They’ve got to come fix it again.

Yes, yes, I’ll send them. No, better ones, Father Marmot said, frowning. If I could know how you got your news –

Oh, suspicious, suspicious digger you are, Aloysius said. I have my ways. I have my ways. I listen to the creek, I listen to the birds, damnfool though they are. And I saw Jarrod wobble in on those stripped wings, with that bare breast. He looked nothing like the crows! Bare to the flesh. 

Bare to the flesh, he said again. Jarrod has fallen into a deep well, from which he will never arise.

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