It is a whirlwind in here



Birds At War – One Crow Sorrow

 I don’t know how it started – I heard it, but didn’t see it.

There was a harsh thud against the window. If you are used to it (I have heard it enough) you know that a bird has struck the glass. Generally  hard enough to stun or kill. Break their necks. When he was a child, my father saw a bird hit a window so hard that it smashed the glass and ended inside the room. It was dead.

So I got out of my chair and pulled the blinds open and took a look. By the sidewalk was a blackbird, dead enough looking for me to assume it was dead. As it proved to be. But, also on the scene were  five or six blackbirds, calling and fluttering and diving and raising right hell .I thought it an unusual commotion even for the death of one of their own,
And then I looked up into the fir tree on the corner of the property. A third of the way from the ground was a crow. A very cautious crow. A crow twisting its head every which way it could.

Now, I did not see what made the blackbird crash into the window. It is reasonable to assume the crow was somehow the cause. Blackbirds chase crows, and dive bomb them, and worry them, and harry them, and do so with the help of other blackbirds. Crows like to raid their nests and eat their eggs or their young. A crow is a big bird compared to a blackbird. Strength in numbers.

So, I suspect the dead blackbird made an in flight miscalculation while chasing the crow. It got too close. Then, as it tried to get out of range, it crashed into the window. I was quick to look out the window, and the crow was already in the tree. It may have lunged at the blackbird, or spread its wings. or aimed its beak. The blackbird moved too quickly in its attempt to get out of the way.

But the crow was not out of the woods yet. It wasn’t going to take to the sky and attempt an escape. A half dozen blackbirds could inflict injury on the crow. It was going to stay put.

I had the unusual experience of being nearly level with the crow. I watched it. I watched its head. I watched its eyes. Birds have active, cautious, suspicious eyes. Their eyes are large in relation to their heads. Their eyes are jammed into their eye sockets, so they are generally  unmovable. Consequently, when they want to move their eyes, they have to move their head.

So, this crow was moving its head a lot.

Five or six blackbirds kept hovering and diving. Even two blue jays joined in the ruckus, screeching in the background at all the commotion.

This went on about five minutes, then the other birds departed. A couple of minutes later, the crow lifted from the branch. It had murder in its eyes.

When Your Neighbours Are Murderers


Recently, for an out-of-town guest, I was asked to recount these tales from some years ago. So why not share the wealth.

As fodder for a writer, I have had the good luck to have two murderers as neighbours. Well . . . almost. One committed his murder a month before he was to move in, the other committed his murder years after he moved out. But, still – it’s the spirit of the intent.

Murderer Two lived in the apartment directly across the hall from me many a long year ago, and committed his murder last year. With a knife. The other murderer used a knife, also. Small world.

While living across the hall from me, Murderer Two was often a cause of disruption. He was prone to parties with unruly and uncontrollable guests. I arrived home one afternoon to an event of screaming proportions occurring across the hall. I was within minutes of phoning the police when someone else did so. Police cars and vans appeared on the street and in the driveway. Ten to a dozen officers entered the raucous apartment. People in various states of inebriation and addiction were taken away. Murderer Two was found hiding in his closet. He did not return.

Last year Murderer Two was charged with the murder of his room mate. No party, though they were both drunk. He claimed self-defence, though the victim was stabbed twelve times. It was established stab number nine was the death blow. He was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Murderer One was a month away from moving into the apartment across the hall from me. He was going to replace one of the occupants moving out. One evening however, he visited the apartment past mid-night. He arrived in a taxi. He had a dispute with the taxi driver (over what, was never clear, but probably lack of payment). From the back seat he slit the driver’s throat and fled the scene. A couple of hours later other drivers of the taxi company were searching for him. His cab was spotted at two in the morning. The engine was still running.

I awoke at six to the sound of a huge engine on the city street. I looked out my front window and saw a police mobile investigation vehicle, engine running. Police cars and vans and an ambulance and a fire department vehicle were all present. Out my back window – in the driveway, was a taxi, police officers, and a body under a tarpaulin. The man had been killed four or five metres from me. I had heard nothing. The investigation took hours at the scene. The body remained. Mid-afternoon it was removed. The taxi was towed away. The fire truck was used to hose away the blood.

I had seen the murderer a few times before, visiting his friends next door. He was arrested in a restaurant kitchen where he worked as a cook. He reportedly had been drunk, had problems with a girl friend. But the exact reasons he was there that night, or why he murdered, were not revealed. He also was found guilty and sent to penitentiary.

II no longer live in that apartment house – but not by choice. It caught fire and was eventually torn down.



Kafka Sees His History In The Mirror [from: Kafka In The Castle]


04 March 1917

I dreamed I was a prophet. The prophet Amshel, which is my Jewish name. And, I could talk to God. And I was looking at myself in the mirror.

And I was looking back at me. I mean, Franz was in the mirror, looking back at me – the me of Amshel – who was looking in the mirror. Except, I was as much me looking out, as I was me looking in.

The wall behind the prophet was painted red, while the one behind Franz was of brown wood. They both could raise their fists at each other, and sometimes did. In unison, of course. That was the law.

“Certainly, you may speak to God,” said Franz. “What is there in that? Everyone speaks to God – in sentences, in actions, with their lives. No one is more talked-to in the Universe than God. But what a prophet needs, is to have God speak back.”

And then God spoke, from somewhere behind the mirror, but He did not speak to Amshel. He spoke to Franz.

“You are on the wrong side,” said God.

“Speak to me,” said Amshel.

“Wrong side of what?” asked Franz.

“Of the mirror,” answered God.

“Don’t speak to him,” shouted Amshel. “He is from the world of vipers.”

And Amshel raised his fist, but Franz had to hold up his fist in turn.

“I am not the prophet you seek,” said Franz, and pointed his finger at the mirror. “There is your prophet.”

And Amshel was also pointing toward the glass. “Not him – you don’t want him.” He then turned his hand toward himself. “I’m the one you want.”

But Franz was just as vehement, as his thumb arched toward his own chest. “Not me.” For emphasis, he placed his hand over his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And his words echoed those of Amshel, who also had his hand upon his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And the two faces stared at one another, their fingers clutching at the garments they wore.

But God was silent.



Angry Street Fight In The City



Dusk had already fallen as I stepped from a bus. I was intent about making a close connection to another bus. Haste, in this case, not making waste.

It was an articulated bus – some refer to them as accordion buses – segmented in the middle with three exit doors. They actually do bend in the middle and hold more passengers. I left the bus by the front door and was walking quickly along its length. I was just passing the middle door when, from the last door, two young men (I don’t think they were teenagers) tumbled and shuffled out of the third door onto the sidewalk. They were a few steps in front of me.

One of them was yelling and shoving and swinging at the other.

“Do you want me?”

“Were you looking at me?”

“What is it with you?”

These were the type of questions from the aggressor. He was dressed decently and had a cap. The other fellow (they looked the same age) had a bag over his shoulder and headphones on his head. He was more decently dressed and wore glasses. I took him as a university student. As could have been the other chap.

It appeared something had happened on the bus, though there certainly had been no altercation there. The aggressor was shoving the other one across the sidewalk to the grass verge. His headphones were knocked off and he had trouble holding to his briefcase. The aggressor seemed to just repeat variants of what he was saying. Angry questions.

I was in a hurry. I also did not want to get in the middle of a fight. The police tell us to steer clear and to contact authorities. City fistfights can quickly turn to weapons. I was aware of all this but … I was thinking, well, if that were an elderly person being hit, or a child, or a female, I would have felt obligated to do something. Intervene verbally, at least. Make some commotion to perhaps diffuse the situation. If it was a person being struck who was beyond self-defence, I would have intervened with the supposition that someone else would come to assist. Such thoughts jumbled through my head.

The fellow with the briefcase was on the grass verge, and down he went. He lost his grip on the briefcase. I don’t know if he was struck with such force to make this happen, or if he slipped on the grass, or if he slipped attempting to get out of the way. The aggressor was standing over him and yelling, but he did not (as they say around here) ‘take his boots to him”. The fellow on the ground said: “Corbin, I don’t want to fight with you.”

All this, of course, took place in less than twenty seconds. I had slowed my stride and I was watching, but I had not stopped. That they knew each other (as they say around here) “changed the water on the beans”. In retrospect, I realise I had noticed an element of ritual”about this event. The aggressor had not gone for a blow to the face, and did not take undue advantage now. However, he was still furious.

“You earned it.” He was sputtering. “You deserve it.”

The fellow on the grass scrambled after his briefcase and his headphones. As he got to his feet the other fellow shoved him again. He skittered, but retained his footing and dashed out into the street. The aggressor started to give pursui, but some traffic slowed him just a bit. The other fellow ran along the sidewalk on the other side, then started to walk more normally. The aggressor did not cross the road.

I did get my bus.


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