For the past week, Mia has been followed by big black birds.
"They're crows," she said when I mentioned it.
"No they're not," I said. "They're too big."
And she glared at me, probably because she knew I was right. It all started with the one on the steps. We had gotten up and gotten ready for school-- Mom wasn't there because she works early in weekdays-- and so I was the one to cut Mia's waffles for her and help her put on a ponytail. We were locking up the house and we saw the bird on the bottom step of the front steps, watching us.
I thought at first that it would fly off once we got close, but instead it kept on sitting there, watching us.
"Is that yours?" I said.
She bent down with her hand out to the bird. "Nope."
The bird hopped a few paces to the side, angling away from us but never leaving the steps. Then, or hopped back and let Mia pet its head.
"You sure?" I said. I'd never seen a bird so big.
"I'm sure," she said. It's nice, though."
"Stop petting it," I said. "You'll get germs."
"Birds don't have germs!" she said. She stood up though, and wiped her hand on her pants.
"Do to," I said, taking her hand and heading towards the school. "They have bugs on them, too."
And we both walked off and forgot about the bird.
* * * * *
The day after, the bird was back, and this time it had two friends. These new birds were even bigger than the first one. When Mia bent down to touch them, they bowed their heads and let her while the first one watched.
"They like me!" she said. The birds hopped onto her arm and shoulders. "Look, I think one of them is eating my hair. Is he eating my hair? I feel it eating my hair."
"Relax," I said. "Its preening you. Why do you think they're like this?" I said. "if it's not you, then why are they so friendly? Are you wearing new shampoo?"
"Nope!" She stood up and the birds flew off her, landing in the first tree in our yard. This time when I walked her to school, the three birds followed us the entire way there, landing in trees and on fences as we passed.
* * * * *
The next day there were about thirty birds. I say about, because it's hard to count birds when they're moving and all look the same. Mia rolled on the grass, laughing while they chased her and pecked at her clothes. I had to practically drag her to school. The birds followed us, every last one of them. The fences and telephone wires and trees were crowded with them.
By the time Friday hit, I was dreading the walk to school; I didn't like being followed by a giant shadow of birds. I was right; the walk to school had been bad, but it was nothing like when we got home.
"Look!" Mia said, pointing ahead to our yard. I looked and stared. At first, I thought the leaves on the two trees out front had all turned black, but then I saw that they were moving. The trees were full of black birds.
"Uh," I said. There was over a hundred. Maybe over two hundred. Maybe more.
"They brought more friends!" she said.
"Come on," I said, taking her hand. Let's go back inside."
"But I like them! They're cute."
"You have homework," I said. "Don't even lie; I saw it on the table earlier."
"I'll do it later."
"I'll tell Mom."
"Aww man..." Regretfully, she turned away from the birds and went inside. I followed her in, and made sure to lock the door after. The birds watched us go.
* * * * *
The birds were impossible to get rid of. They followed us to school every morning for a week and hovered outside Mia's classroom window when she was inside. When we met at the corner of the playground after school so I could walk her home, she was surrounded by crows that were either pecking the ground around her feet or trying to land on her. Since there were so many crows, that means she had a circle of crows around her ten feet wide. They followed us when we walked home, and when we went inside the house, they all perched on the roof or sat on the ground around the house.
"These birds are ridiculous!" Mom said when she pulled in at night time.
"Yeah," I said.
"They're cute!" Mia said.
"They're terrible," Mom said, hanging her jacket on the kitchen chair. "I left for work this morning and there was poop everywhere."
Mia giggled. She was still little enough to think poop was funny.
"You're laughing now," Mom said, "But tomorrow is Saturday. You're both helping me clean it all up."
That wiped the smile right off Mia's face. Mom stuck to her word, and the next day, all three of us spent the whole day scrubbing poop off the driveway and off the roof and trying to rake it off the grass. The birds, who were apparently smart enough to know when they were in trouble, hung out on the neighbor's houses around us instead of in our yard like usual, and they watched us work.
"My car!" Mom yelled. "They went on my car?"
And she shouted a whole lot of words that she told us later we weren't allowed to say. At the end of there day, we were tired, stinky, and dirty.
"I don't like the birds anymore," Mia said that night, after we'd all taken baths and showers and changed clothes.
"Tell them," I said. "Maybe they'll go away if you tell them."
She seemed uncertain, but said, "Okay. I'll try."
* * * * *
The next morning, early early, before Mom had woken up, Mia and I crept downstairs and into the yard to see the birds.
As soon as they saw Mia, they all flew to the grass to meet her.
"No," Mia said, smacking one away that tried to fly to her. "Bad birds! Go away." She crossed her arms. "You poop too much and you're too loud. Go away."
The crows didn't move except in a general "group of birds standing" way, with some blinking, feather fluffing, preening, and face-scratching.
"Go away!" she said. She stamped her foot.
Instead of leaving, the crows just looked at her, their heads swiveling side to side so they could see her at better angles.
"Go!" She moved towards the flock, waving her arms. The birds didn't even try to get out of her way, and she had to stop short of stepping on them.
"I don't get it," she said. "Why won't they leave?"
I opened my mouth to say that maybe they were stupid, but the crow said, "No leave."
We both stared.
"Did you make them talk?" I said to Mia, sounding accusing even to myself.
"No! I swear!"
"No leave," the crow said again.
"Why not?" I said.
"Love sparkly," the crow said.
"Sparkly?" said Mia.
The crow flew up and landed on Mia's head. "This sparkly."
"Get off me!" She waved him off, and the crow flew around and landed on the grass.
"We love sparkly!"
"Sparkly!" Some of the other crows called. "Sparkly! Shiny! Pretty!" They all flew up like a black cloud and dived for Mia, who screamed and tried to cover her head. I grabbed her arm and ran us both into the house. I slammed the door behind us and I ran through the rooms, closing the windows, while Mia hid in the laundry room.
"Why are they doing this?" she said when it was safe.
"You look sparkly to them," I said. She glared at me, but didn't say anything.
From then on, whenever we tried to go outside, the crows would try to swarm Mia, shouting "sparkly sparkly!" When mom finally woke up and asked us to get ready for church, Mia had to fake sick, and we left without her.
* * * * *
Mia had to fake sick for the next two days. I tried to fake sick too, but I'm not as good as faking as she is. After school, I got a broom and tried chasing the crows away; unlike Mia, I wasn't afraid of hitting them. It didn't work; they dive-bombed me and pecked my head, and when I started wearing a bucket as a helmet, they went for my arms. I asked mom, is we could get an exterminator, but she said that was too expensive.
"Maybe we ought to try a scarecrow," she said.
"What's that?" I said.
"A man made of straw that scares birds." Then she got distracted by a bird out the window who was pooping on her car and went to chase it away.
That night, I got out the thick photo paper from the special printer mom uses, and some Popsicle sticks. I got some glue and some straws from McDonalds we had collected the last few times we'd gone to eat there, and I took it all to the kitchen table to work.
"What are you doing?" Mia said when she saw me.
"Making a scarecrow," I said. "Mom says they scare birds.
Oh." She watched me for a minute.
"Can I help?"
So she pulled up a seat and started making her own scarecrow.
The next day, we both went outside, ready for school, our backpacks on and scarecrows in hand. When we opened the door, the birds didn't move. Then we stuck the scarecrows into the ground in the planter by the porch.
There was a huge screaming CAW and the birds vanished in an explosion of black feathers, and a wind so strong it nearly blew us both over.
We waited a second in case they came back. Nothing; it was totally quiet.
Then we laughed and I walked Mia to school.