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Today's Story by Meriwether O’Connor

There was no antibiotic in the fridge next to the milk.

Eating Crow

The man tipped his water over when the commotion started. It drenched the dandelions and melted their wishes far down into the dark green of the alfalfa and plantain. A coyote was stalking the chickens. It had given up, though, the day was too hot, and settled on a black bird sitting high up, but not enough, in a tree.

One moment the bird’s almost prehistoric black talons were gripping the branch and the next moment it gave not even a caw. The music had stuck somewhere in its throat. What the man heard was an almost sound, the kind of sound something makes when it’s too desperate to even breathe.

He did not know it was a wild bird. He sent the dog, his dog, over to chase the animal away. In a moment, there was a snap and the cow dog, the good cow dog, was hobbled. Then the coyote, or what passed for a coyote from far away, was gone down the trail. Mid sprint, he dropped the black bird. Perhaps out of penance, but more probably out of the instinctive knowledge that keeping his prey might instigate more of a chase than leaving it behind.

So, one hungry beast ran off, one poor dead one lay on the ground and a hobbled one sniffed it then ran up on the wooden porch. The man took off his hat, cussed his water glass and went to see after the hobbled one.

Inside, the dog went to its favorite chair, really everyone’s favorite chair, and sat down. It was the only plump chair in the room and high enough off the ground to avoid drafts in the winter and see out the window in the summer.

The man dug in the cabinet for medicine, both kinds. One for the wound and another to draw up in a syringe, the ones he’d bought for a quarter and kept in plastic for in case.

There was no antibiotic in the fridge next to the milk, nor had it gotten moved by mistake down into the vegetable crisper. There was none.

The vet was closed and even if open, far too expensive for the man in the brown hat to afford. His teeth spoke that for him even if his words did not.

He dug in his pocket for the ten dollars the antibiotics would cost and set off for the feed store. He reached there before closing and by the time he returned home, the vial had returned to room temperature which was best for giving shots, not cold and straight from their medicine fridge.

The dog would not know this was a good thing. Does anyone ever believe their own pain is a good thing? After settling the dog with pats in the chair, he swooshed some of the powder into the wound. Then he withdrew liquid into the syringe, put a hand on the dog’s collar so he did not get bit himself by the frightened old beast, and pushed the gray needle into the dog’s fur.

He also injected, in some ways, the gas money he would have used going to the store for food and the few dollars for bread and bologna he would have likely spent. He thought about this on the way home from the feedstore and pondered it over a beer after he once again settled the dog with a pat.

On the third pat, he picked up his cap once more, set the brim, and walked out the door and down the path to where the coyote had dropped the black bird. It was still warm and he picked it up by the feet the way he might have a chicken and let it dangle as he walked.

Inside he cut off the talons as a sort of talisman, against what or for what he was not sure. But surely the shiny blackness of it would bring something good. He looked at the dog and spoke with his hands, the way his mother, also deaf had taught him.

He began to fix it the way he would a chicken, reaching in to gather the small heart in his hands, somewhat surprised that a liver still looks like a liver no matter who it first belonged to. He found the gizzard, too, though was it still called that? Sometimes things changed names over the years or in different animals. To himself, he named it a gizzard.

He cut the meat up with scissors, the same he might use for paper. It was much easier on his hands than a knife. To chop with a knife, he needed to also pound the blade with a hammer. His hands would no longer do that type of strong work for him.

They were strong enough to keep his promise to the dog, though, to cook up a dinner of the culprit’s bird since he could not afford a trip to the next city over for a vet. The old boy would not know where his dinner came from, but it would soothe the man in a way that keeping ten dollars in his pocket til tomorrow for proper food would not.

The skillet was hot before he put in the oil and then the oil just about smoked before he added the bird. He had sliced off the part with the coyote bite in case as there was some sort of poison or germ or something in the fang mark that could harm him or the dog. He had considered rabies, he knew about that. But consoled himself with the idea that an animal mad with rabies would not be wise enough to snag a bird nearly out of the sky as the coyote had.

Whether it was true, or not, time would tell. But in the meantime, there was television, some supper for the table, and maybe a crossword. He walked over to set his favorite pencil and a sharpener by the plump chair. Then he hovered over the dog to pick it up. He would let the dog eat in place tonight. But, not tomorrow.

Then he could sit with the man in the truck as they sat in the yard, listened to the A.M. radio, and maybe even shot pellets at cans. Under the seat, as always, there would be margarine tub of dog food and a beer, warm, but just right for the day.

Frying Crow

Most fresh meat is tastier after it’s been let to set a few days in the fridge. Fresh meat is tougher than supermarket meat because it hasn’t aged yet. That’s the main difference. To eat the same day, slice into small pieces about the size of fried okra. Cooking too large a piece will make it tough to chew. Toss in a paper bag with seasoned flour or cornmeal. Drop into a very hot skillet with oil. Will cook in just a few moments. Good eaten with black coffee, as hot as you can stand it, and a salad of young dandelion greens on the side. If you are fancy, fry up some of the dandelion flowers at the same time as the bird.


Meriwether O’Connor is a farmer, short story writer and columnist.

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