The buzzer rang and the robins came down in patches, straggling, muttering, hopping across the grass to the side. Before the last robins were off the grass, the buzzer went again, and the pigeons rose up all together like one being.
“Jeez,” said the crow.
The other crow said, “Makes you sick, doesn’t it? Too perfect.”
“No, I mean I hate having to wait so long,” said the crow.
“Oh yeah,” said the other crow. “The skies have gotten so crowded lately.”
“Need to build some more,” said the crow.
“When’s that going to happen,” said the other crow.
A shadow crossed the crows, and they looked around to see a hawk land nearby.
“Hey there,” said the hawk. “Been waiting here long?
The crow looked at the other crow, the other crow looked back.
“Don’t say anything to it,” said the other crow. “It should be in the hawk section, anyway.”
The crow said under its breath, “There’s no law about where we wait. And besides, I want to be able to trust hawks more.”
The hawk was looking around at the hundreds of birds crowding the edges of the big grass. It shrugged its shoulders back in a stretch.
The crow said, “About twenty minutes.”
“Twenty?” said the hawk. “Shit. Are you guys up next?”
“Sparrows,” said the crow. “Sparrows are next.”
“You hear when hawks get to go?”
The crow said, “I didn’t hear anything about hawks yet.”
The hawk looked away, nodded. “‘kay. Thanks.”
The crow almost said “You’re welcome,” but the other crow stood on its foot.
“That’s enough.” said the other crow. “Keep it cool.”
The pigeons swooped in a wave, landed like a billowed sheet, took off swaying.
“I got to admit,” said the crow, “I like watching them do that.”
“Huh,” said the other crow. “But you know it’s only because they’re not particularly bright.”
“I don’t know if I believe that,” said the crow. “I mean, have you ever tried to fly in formation? It takes a lot of skill. I couldn’t do it.”
“Nah,” said the other crow, “it’s just instincts. They’re born knowing it.”
The carpet of pigeons curled around, flipped to the right, flared out across the sky, and settled along the telephone wire like marks on a ruler. The only gap in the pigeons was where they avoided a pair of sneakers knotted at the laces and hanging from the wire.
“See?” said the other crow. “Primitive. Those shoes weren’t there yesterday. The pigeon group-mind hasn’t figured out how to behave around them yet.”
The crow said, “It still looks beautiful to me, when they fly.”
The other crow said, “Huh. Give me individual problem solving skills any day.”
When the crow looked over, the hawk was a little closer.
“Hey, uh,” said the hawk. Its head moved around like it was looking for somebody. “Do they have a set schedule here? You know, like the same every day?”
The other crow whispered to the crow, “Let’s get out of here.”
The crow said, “Wait a minute,” to the other crow, and turned back to the hawk. “They haven’t worked that out yet,” said the crow. “They’ve been promising one for weeks.”
“Isn’t that just typical?” said the hawk. The hawk looked into the distance and shook its head. The crow always liked the way hawks look into the distance, but it would never say that to the other crow.
The crow said to the hawk, “Yeah, that’s bureaucracy for you.”
The hawk said, “Uh huh. I just flew in from the plains on the other side of the mountains. It’s not so crowded over there.” The hawk tipped its head up to indicate the birds lined up all around the field. “This is a trip.”
The buzzer rang and the pigeons rolled in an arc and landed on the grass in a sudden gray puddle. Another buzzer, and the sparrows took off, twittering and chipping like bats.
The crow never got to talk with hawks. Always warned not to as a kid, then as an adult, well, they lived a different lifestyle. And then there was the safety issue. But they’re birds, they have that in common. The crow has always wanted to ask, What does it feel like, to soar so high?
The crow said to the hawk, “So, what brought you here?”
The other crow sighed and hunched its wings.
The hawk said, “Oh, you know, the usual. Looking for better hunting.”
“Ah,” said the crow, and nodded. The other crow muttered, “For Christ’s sake, shut up.”
“So,” said the hawk, “You two live around here?”
The other crow stomped on the crow’s foot. The crow didn’t like the way the hawk was pretending to look into the distance.
The crow said, “Ah, look, I’m not about to tell a complete stranger, let alone a hawk, where I live, okay?”
The hawk shrugged, and moved its head around like it was looking for somebody.
“Hey,” it said, “New in town. Just trying to be friendly.”
The other crow leaned forward, faced the hawk for the first time and said, “See over there, where that three legged dog is sniffing around? Yeah, above that and to the right about ten yards. There’s the hawk section.”
The hawk’s wings lifted out and it rose diagonally into the air like it was being pulled on a string. The flick of hawk wing on the crow’s head was light, but enough to say, ‘Bureaucracy or no bureaucracy, I could get your babies.’