Jun 23, 2022 • 6M

Podcast: The Stranger and the Crow

An excerpt of the upcoming novel, Hiram Falls

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Appears in this episode

Geoffrey Gevalt
This is Hiram Falls -- A Serial Novel presented in audio form.
Episode details


The man can anticipate his headaches now, feel when they are coming, gain time to prepare. He is near learning how to control them as he grows stronger, as he strays further from the cave. He does not know how far he walks or how long the walks last. He has little sense of distance. Even less of time.

The crow is following him today. He likes this crow. It is unlike the others. It has one white feather on his tail. He talks softly, almost in a whisper. The others are always shouting.

The man discovered this crow a long time ago, before he learned that a crow is not a good bird to follow. A crow has a short attention span and is easily distracted. It is often irritable. It also prone to whimsy. It will happily trick you with zigs and zags, distracting your notice until you finally realize you have made a giant circle and are right back where you started. And that’s what this crow did once. A long time ago. He did so not out of meanness but because he was bored. All morning he had been heckled by a covey of starlings and he’d wanted to return the favor, to show the man what that felt like. When they got returned to the cave after one long circuitous meandering, after the crow had calmed down from his chortling, he was overcome with remorse and told the man he was sorry. That he wouldn’t do it again. And ever since he has tried to be nice.

And so the crow is following the man today. Along the way he whispers to the man what he sees, what he knows. He tells the man this mountain’s name is Riga, but before the white men it had no name. He tells him the creek that comes down from Riga is more powerful than the others and is greedy, too, and takes all the water it is handed from the springs and rivulets and streams from all the mountains and, together it tumbles down the mountain with such force it is a wonder it is called a creek at all. He tells the man there is a town at the bottom of this tumbling creek. It is called Hiram Falls but that is a recent name.

The crow is silent for a while, consumed by a curiosity that has nagged his mind for some time. Why do you live in a cave instead of in town with the others? the crow thinks.

Others? thinks the man.

Oh yes. There are many of you. They live in houses that protect them from rain and snow and wind. That is where all the other crows like to go. They hang onto the branches of trees or perch on barns and rooftops. They are constantly looking for things the humans leave behind, always dazzled by the shiny even if they can’t eat it. I don’t personally like what they find. I prefer squirrel or rabbit or voles or frogs. Or corn. If the truth be known. And I can’t ever find enough chestnuts. And flies. And worms.

The crow continues for a while listing all that he eats. The man finds it fascinating; he is learning so much about the names of things, but the man just wonders when the crow will come up for air.

Why do you talk so much?

It’s just the way we are.

Why do you not like to be with other crows?

I don’t know. I like being alone. I like my own company. Not theirs. They bicker and chatter and clatter and don’t get along. They are always arguing. And telling me that I must feel lonely. All by myself. Me, the crow with the white feather. But I’m not lonely. And it pisses me off that they think I am.

The man and the crow come to the place where the streams from Lincoln Hill and Bickford Mountain converge on Riga Creek. On this day there is water everywhere, far over the normal banks and it is muddy and thick. Where the water pitches over a rock ledge it becomes thunderous there is an opening and the man sees the town. He cannot stop looking. And the crow cannot stop talking. The man listens now as the crow describes the buildings and what goes on in them. Outside them. He tells the man about the mills and the new motorized carriages that scare the horses. The man is in wonder.

The crow suddenly gets restless. He flies down onto the man’s shoulder and whispers that he has just spotted a treat, a dead rabbit in the road unseen by the others.

I must be off.