HEY CROW! • by Rumjhum Biswas

Do you know anybody who likes crows?

Of course not! I knew you’d say no! How can anyone ever like a crow!

Those birds are just too ugly and way too clever for their own good. Just look at them. They look like miniature chimney sweeps in ragged clothes. They look like they’ve never washed ever in their lives. And, they stink too!

See that one there by the tea stall? Did you see him? That beady-eyed tatterdemalion! Bending down like he’ll pick the dust off your shoes and even thank you for it. Don’t be fooled. Watch how alert he is. Crows don’t trust anyone. Crows are always on the run. Smelly, messy, thieving creatures! The little savages will take food right out of your hand if you let them.

I can’t think of anyone who’d want a crow for a pet. Can you? I can’t imagine a crow in a cage. With its own water bowl and food tray. Imagine whistling to it? Babbling sweet nothings? Or even scratching its feathers? Ack! Can you think of anyone who would want to teach a crow to sing? Those birds are clever no doubt, but you can never tame them. You can never own them. Not that anybody would want to own a crow. Especially one who is like you!

Yeah, you. Hey you crow! Stop trying to look innocent. You don’t fool me one bit. I know you’re up to no good. So you had better tell me, what you have been doing! What’s cooking underneath that unruly crop of hair? You scamp. You urchin! Filthy fellow! When did you last take a bath? I bet you’ve got lice and worms, and scabies too! Hey! Where are you running off to now? My goodness! Just look at you run. You look busier than an army of ants in a sugar bowl. Now stop that! Stop darting in between those speeding cars and buses. Do you want to get killed? Not that anyone would care! Don’t you know this is the rush hour? Don’t you know what other boys of your age are doing right now? Look there.

There, at those boys over there at the bus stop. See how neat they are in their school uniforms. How scrubbed and shiny they look, waiting to go to school. And, look at you! Shame on you! Scrambling off in the opposite direction. I don’t see any satchel on your scruffy back. No uniform on your scrawny frame. No shoes. But goodness! How fast you can run on those cracked little feet! How quickly your eyes dart about. One eye looks out for a kind soul who’ll part with a coin, out of pity for you. While the other watches out for blows and rough words. You’re a smart one, all right. But not smart enough, not yet. Oh no. I can see that. You still have some crow learning to do.

If you had wings, I bet, you would fly around snatching up food scraps. You’d scrimmage in dustbins. But you do that sometimes, don’t you? When you’re out of work, and you get thrashed by the bigger ones in the process. Right now, you are lucky you’ve got a job, working as errand boy for food and lodging and the odd rupee tossed into your hands. So, who is your master? Who is the keeper of your cage? Is it that stout mustachioed fellow at the tea stall? Is that why you’re carrying those clay cups in one hand and a steaming kettle in the other? And, where do you sleep at night? Under the tea cart? Even when it rains? Aah crow! It’s a wonder you haven’t caught your death of cold so far. But you will. There’s no escape. Those lungs soak up a lot more rain than you can imagine.

Oh, your eyes are so cocksure and so wary of the world. Just like your winged brother, your natural twin, sitting tight, beady eyed on his perch. Cunning bird that he is, he’ll dive down for the crumbs and fly off before the wheels can crush him. It’s not easy to catch a crow, is it? And, you’re learning fast too. Soon you’ll be able to dive your grubby hands into unwary pockets. Soon you’ll learn to unscrew window grilles. It’s just a matter of time. You’ll be despised even more then. But, you won’t care anymore. Your nimble feet will help you run. Run fast every time. You’re practicing that right now by running across these streets; in and out of the wheels. You’re not an expert yet, but you’re getting there. You still have to watch out, though. You’re not fast enough yet. You better watch out, now. Hey! Watch out! Hey Crow!

Rumjhum Biswas is a headless chicken when she doesn’t write. She stores her stuff, not necessarily on time or in order here: www.rumjhumbiswas.com. She blogs here: http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com/.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Mel

    And I like crows.

  • I get the impression you don’t like crows 😉 Great voice, Rumjhum.

  • Thanks so much!

  • Juan

    Very well-told story, love the voice used. Got me hooked from the beginning and had me never let me go.

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  • Celeste

    A BIG FIVE from me. I loved the voice which shone through in this piece. Pacey, humourous and beautifully told. Very unusual – a very strong narrative. Great stuff, Rumjhum… also, I enjoy your blog which I dip into from time to time.

  • Thanks all of you!

  • Celeste, you made my day! 🙂

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Wonderful, Rumjhum, wonderful. Pace, construction, voice, atmosphere. This story will stay with me for a long, long time. What more can I say? Wonderful.

    Thank you.

    (5, of course)

    🙂 scar

  • Wow! Thanks Oscar! 🙂

  • Lovely piece, Rumjhum! I do like crows. I feed them outside my window, and they come and caw to me if there’s nothing for them. Enjoyed your voice and the bold narrative. I could see the urchin tea-boy running, scrubby, just as you describe him.

  • Loved it. Don’t know why but that doesn’t matter! 5 from me.

  • Bob

    Very nicely done. Wonderful transition from the bird to the boy in the beginning, then you tied it all back together at the end. The last paragraph takes the piece out of “vignette” territory, and makes it a Story. Very nice.

  • Jen

    I’m not really sure I “got” this one, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a personal reaction and has nothing to do with the very talented writer.

  • Hope

    Hey, all my dear friends. I’m Hope, a hard-working English learner in China. In order to improve my reading comprehension ability rapidly, I read many English articles online, including the “Every day fiction” here. But I like the most to read those “Chicken Soup for Souls” type of inspirational stories. Now it’s a little bit hard for me to find more newest stories. So I need help from anyone of you. If you know the related articles or websites, please E-mail me. Thank you very much. My E-mail address: liuke1973@163.com. Thank you again.

  • Everything up to the end was great…however, the last paragraph…well it just seems like teh easy way out

    Good story overall though

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    This is probably about Jim Crow and I think the writer not only likes crows though he speaks facetiously regarding them, but identifies with them. Most U.S. people now identify with them too.

  • So refreshing to see this first-person “voice” used successfully to address the reader. And perhaps the piece is more delicious still having seen “Slumdog Millionaire.” Thanks.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    It seems the RGB-bot either can’t read gender, or is prepared to insult an excellent writer. Rumjum’s bio has four clear references to her femininity. Whilst I (and I’m sure other fair-minded people, too) am prepared to tolerate your inane ramblings, I will not ignore your thinly-veiled racial slurs. You owe Rumjum an apology ‘Roberta’.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Clearly, I meant RSG. Anger plays tricks on the fingers, doesn’t it?

  • Bob

    RSG, I’m pretty sure this piece has absolutely nothing to do with Jim Crow, as it’s set in India.

  • Excellent, Rhumjhum. I thought at first you didn’t mean crows, and then that you did. Then it all made sense to me as I read on. I love the pace and the language. I saw you sitting in the shade watching the young “crow”.

  • I felt so sad for the boy! Also, interesting use of the second person point of view. You don’t see that a lot.

  • Paul Freeman

    Excellent piece, Rumjhum!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Careless readers must remember to distinguish the writer from the protaganist even if the story is written in the first person.

    Readers who are not careless will see at once that my comments are very “racially” accepting and sympathetically positive

  • Rumjhum,
    I liked that! Great voice and flow–and a unique subject! Too much for some, apparently…
    It had a homespun tale sort of feel to it.
    I’ve only seen a crow as roadkill once–I think most are far too smart to get hit by a car or truck.


  • Bob

    People who cannot discern which continent the story is set in would do well to refrain from criticizing others, RSG.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Some people think there is a contest being waged by the comment section and hope to knock a contender out of it. The section is for people who care about writing and have some thoughts to share with others about it. If you have no respect for any of the comments, just skip over them to the commentors you think worthy of your attention.

  • Thanks all you guys for the encouraging words and support. Oscar, appreciate it, truly.

    I didn’t get the racism thing initially because I didn’t know about Jim Crow before I looked it up on google.

    I am an Indian citizen, and while I dream of an equal and civilised world, my concerns are mostly about India and things Indian.

    This piece is most definitely set in India, as Bob rightly wrote. And it addresses one of my major concerns – child labour. I am glad to see this story in print. Thank you EDF.

    I saw a parallel between the intelligent but ugly crow and the intelligent but scruffy urchin. I felt they shared something because both were so unloved. That’s how the story started. Except that in the child’s case he was being exploited, which is worse.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Thanks for your kind comments, Rumjhum, and your explanation. It is doubly rewarding (having occasionally got my interpretations embarrassingly and very publicly wrong here on EDF) to find my ‘take’ on your story was correct. One of the aspects that I enjoyed so much, but which I did not get to rationalise until after my first post, is the gentle but perfectly targeted irony you have written-in. I too felt the Slumdog Millionaire connection, although only from excerpts I’ve seen. Keep writing, friend. You have an original voice and a rare talent.

    😉 scar

  • Sharon

    I really enjoyed the story’s fast clip and the characterization of the CrowBoy. I used to live in Brazil and saw children just like this–your story placed me back there with all the feelings of outrage and helplessness at their plight. Wonderful!

  • Edward Caputo

    I really liked this piece. I especially liked the use of 2nd person. It was almost hammering in it’s presentation and I almost felt weary by the end (not sure if I’d want to read a novel in this voice at this pace), but I think that feeling just adds to the tone and effect of the piece. Great stuff.

  • I think you created a wonderful narrator. It is a voice that I personally could follow through the novel.

    Without describing the scenery, you’re piece is still filled with images of India. The language, the ideas, it’s beautiful. (I’m not Indian myself, but I have grown up in the midst of various Indian cultures in South Africa and Canada).

  • This is not really second-person POV, is it. The ‘you’ is addressed to the urchin. What say, Rumjhum?

  • Writing is a solitary occupation, and words of encouragement like these really keep the writer’s fire burning. Thanks all.

  • Hasmita, from what I know, the second person POV is when the protagonist or main character is addressed by the narrator/writer in the second person pronoun – you. In this story, there are two “yous”. Upto the penultimate line of the fifth paragraph, narrator is addressing the reader, so that is not the classic second person POV used in literary stories, rather it is used in non-fiction how-to books. But from the last line of the fifth paragraph onwards “Especially one who is like you!” the story takes on second person POV, because narrator is talking directly to the urchin and the reader is listening in. Interestingly the second person POV is popular in the regional language short fiction here in India. I personally find this POV very interesting, but an editor of a large publishing house once told me that in a novel it becomes tedious – :-(! Thanks for bringing this up. 🙂

  • Gerard Demayne

    Liked that, though you almost lost me at the start when you talked about everyone hating crows. Crows rock!

    Extra star for the use of “tatterdemalion”.

  • Thanks for the bit on second-person POV, Rumjhum. I too noted the change from addressing the reader to addressing the urchin, which is what confused me, but it works, so that’s what’s important! I too loved the tatterdemalion!

  • Congrats, girl. I love the energy of the narrator, as much as the poignant atmosphere of the piece. I like the slow reveal too, it’s not obvious at the start where the story is going. 5/5.

  • A great piece of literature. Not at all what I expected at the beginning but I love where you took it. It’s great to see a story like this with such an important theme as child labor. Keep the tales coming our way.

  • Yes Gerard, I agree, crows rock. But the story required that I as the narrator say that everyone hates crows! 🙂

  • Hasmita and gerard too, I love “tatterdemalion” as well; now am looking for anotehr story to slip it in! heh.

  • Thanks a whole bunch Woman Rule Writer and Travis! I am so glad this story worked with most of you here. 🙂

    Yes Travis, I’ll keep writing. Thank you. 🙂