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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

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murder_of_crows_That title, comments Screen Three. Shouldn’t it be, “Plotting the Murder of Crows”?

“No. ‘A murder of crows’ is the equivalent expression of, say, ‘a pod of whales.'”

Whales are bigger, says Two.

“It’s the labeling of creatures in groups, like … like ‘a pack of wolves.'”

Shouldn’t that be “such as a pack of wolves”? corrects Three.

How ’bout “a scathe of zombies”? adds Four.

You wouldn’t be plotting “a murder of crows,” insists Three. You might be contemplating such a group, but –

“Unless I truly thought about murdering them,” I respond, which makes six screens shudder, which makes me laugh, which makes them shudder harder. While they do so, I shall tell my story.

‘Tis a pretty day, the sun beams of Spring already caressing the edge of my bed. But I, having put in 16 arduous hours of construction work the day before, am in no mood to arise this early.

You cannot sleep through a raucous rooster’s crows, assures One.

“Actually, I can. But the problem isn’t the rooster … it’s the crows.”

You just said you could sleep through those! points out perplexed Six.

“The rooster’s crows, yes. Not crows themselves, so many and so noisy!”

I crack a weary eye, which protests and slaps eyelids shut. But lids do not close before I briefly see winged black bodies roosting everywhere in the tree beside my farmhouse. Their irritating sound is magnified by their closeness –

Crow using phone

Proof a Crow can handle long-distance

If those crows were farther away, wonders Three, would they be making long-distance caws?

– and even my repeated leaps from bed to window do not scare them off. What with field mice being so plentiful here – more than once I have simultaneously caught two different rodents in the same single trap – crows won’t leave this feast any time soon.

This scene repeats itself for nearly two weeks. After yet another night of sleep involuntarily surrendered, I borrow a friend’s BB gun. My shots are true but the powerful raptors flick the pellets aside and dine undaunted.

Back inside once more, I build a fire to knock down the chill. A terrible rattling emanates from the huge pipe exiting my wood stove. I flip the dampers, open the door and jump back as something aflame flits from the firebox, cries a moment, then expires.

Aughhhh! cries out tender Two. A baby crow! You cooked his goose!

All six screens observe a moment of silence for the tiny bird, then pour forth ideas for disposal. Six bellows, Put him in the nesting tree, Black!

Following his curious suggestion, I climb through my bedroom window, grab a thick branch, haul myself out onto the tree and consider the wee charred body in my hands.

Stuff him in the crotch of this tree, directs Six, and five other screens applaud, certain this garish addition will repel the many crows.

I do so, climb back into my bedroom and walk downstairs, the ghastly image of that lonely little body tugging at my heart. Time and again I return to sit on the bed’s edge and await the crows’ return.

Sun finally extinguishes its golden beams; huge crows wing their way back to the tree mere feet from me. The first raptor lands, lays down its just-caught mouse and –

Backs right into the barbecued baby, narrates One. Crazed crows crash into one another as all attempt escape but none successfully do so.

These brain-boggled birds, comments Five, never will return, unlike the swallows of Capistrano.

Who is Capistrano? asks Two. What did he swallow?

I laugh. “A murder of crows.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.52.03 PMPostscript: St. Patrick’s Day (when America insults the REAL Irish with our terrible Gaelic accents and lousy leprechaun legends) rolled past last week without even a tip of our hat. But that is only because I didn’t want more trouble on top of what happened to me years ago ….

Walking to work in the heart of Chicago, I wonder why boats dance along the city’s same-named river, sailors emptying big barrels of dye into the waters and turning them shamrock green.

As I stare at the sight, a passing man violently curses me. “Dinna ye know the city is Irish?” he roars, angrily pushing me. Not five minutes later, a second chap blocks my steps and offers to reposition my nose.

Explains Screen Three, The holiday is all about the wearing o’ the green, Black. That green symbolizes the Catholic persuasion, which believes it has long suffered under Protestant oppression.


The Protestants are represented by orange. And you, Blackie my boy, unwisely chose this hallowed day to parade through the heavily Irish-populated Windy City wearing only orange.

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