“Your head’s bleeding.”
“What did you do?”
“What do you mean, nothing? How did you get that cut on your head? Did you fall?”
“What happened then?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“You have to talk about it. Tell me, or I can’t help you.”
The old man looks at the social worker.
“It was my wife. She hit me with the frying pan.”
“She wanted bacon and eggs and I wouldn’t cook them. So she hit me.”
“What! And what did you do?”
“Nothing. I couldn’t hit her back.
“I should hope not. Where is she now?”
“What on earth …. why is she in hospital”
“I wouldn’t hit her. So she stuck her hand in the door jamb and closed the door on her fingers. There was blood everywhere. I called the ambulance and they came and took her in.”
“You didn’t go with her? To get your head seen to?”
“I knew you were coming. I couldn’t leave the house empty. It was funny though …”
“The crow. He must have heard her scream. He came and perched on that windowsill, right there, and just sat, and looked through the window as she lay on the floor. Then, when the ambulance came, he flapped his wings and flew away.”
He moves in closer then he tries to head butt me. I sense it coming, but I’m not quick enough to avoid the blow. It glances off the side of my head and I feel skin break, blood flow.
I step back.
He moves in again and this time throws a punch, a roundhouse swing with his right hand. I catch his wrist, pull him off balance, turn my body, spin on my heel, drag him across my outstretched leg: Tai Otoshi. He doesn’t know how to break fall, and I throw him down heavily, rather than lowering him. Then, I drop with him and, as his head rebounds off the floor, I slam my elbow into his nose and mouth.
He is now bleeding worse than me.
I leave him lying there.
As I walk away, two crows fly into a nearby tree and, heads cocked to one side, stare at him as he lies there.
My open-toed sandal catches on one of the nails that the ice forces up through the wood and I hit my head heavily on the back porch even before I realize I am falling.
I put my hand to my head and my fingers come back sticky and wet.
I lie there, stunned, groaning.
A crow flies in, perches in the nearest tree, and sits there, watching me. He caws. Two other crows join him. And then two more. A family of five. I watch them watching me.
Everything hurts. I try to roll over, but cannot.
The first crow flies towards the porch and lands on the balustrade where he sits, head cocked to one side, staring at me.
I slide slowly across the wood. The splinters are sharp. The nails stick up and catch in my clothes.
The crow on the balustrade caws and a second one flaps in and lands feet first, claws outstretched, to join him.
This spurs me into renewed action. I slither awkward across the boards, roll over on to my tummy by the picnic table, and force myself to do a push up. Then I grasp the seat of the picnic table and haul my aching body to the Hail Mary praying position.
I shriek, once, as my body returns to the almost vertical.
The crows flap their wings and fly away.
My father once told me how, during police training, a man burst into the classroom, grabbed the lecturer by the lapels of his coat, and tried to head butt him. The lecturer struggled with his assailant. Curses and blasphemies rose high as the two men rocked back and forth locked in combat.
“Stay there. Don’t move,” the lecturer screamed at the class. “I’ll handle this.”
The young recruits froze in their seats.
The intruder left as quickly as he came, cursing, and leaving the lecturer seething. The lecturer took a deep breath, regained his composure, and turned to the class.
“Write down what you have just seen,” he said. “I’ll need you all as witnesses. Use your own words. Don’t talk to anyone.”
There were thirty young recruits in the room and twenty-four different versions of the event.