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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flash Fiction: The Scarecrow

The crows had been thick this year, the worst case her father had ever seen. They had been wrecking havoc with the crops, picking into her fathers corn fields particularly. Her family had been farmers on this land since long before the oldest person Molly had ever known, but times had been hard over the years and her family had sold a lot of the vast acreage they had once owned. Now they were down to just the corn fields and her father couldn't afford to lose any more corn.

Molly had watched from the window in her room in the old white farmhouse as her father built the scarecrow. He had used some of Tommy's old clothes and Molly didn't think that it felt right, but her mother had told her to shush. She had watched as her dad stuffed old straw down into the faded jeans and flannel shirt of her brother. Her dad had asked her is she wanted to decorate the face of the burlap sack he was using as the head but Molly had just shook her head no, running back to her room. Her father had dawn a crude face on the sack, thick black eyes and a ripped black slit for the mouth. He'd even put one of Tommy's old work hats on it, the floppy black bill drooping in the front, shading the scarecrow's eyes. She remembered jumping in fear as her father drove in the first nail, mounting the stuffed man onto a wooden cross.

At first it wasn't so bad. She didn't look out the window if she could help it. She tried to ignore the scarecrow. She didn't tell her mom or her dad, but something about the scarecrow felt...wrong. It frightened her. At night it was worse. The moon would cast shadows that fell through her window. The black silhouette of the scarecrow would lie on top of her as she tried to bury herself deeper under the covers. The ghost of her stuffed brother lying in bed with her. Sometimes she could feel the chills even in her sleep.

The worst part of the scarecrow though wasn't even the scarecrow. It was the bird. The lone black raven that perched on the stuff man's shoulders. While his smaller brethren had been scared away, the lonely raven remained behind. She first saw the bird as it pecked away at the blackened eyes of the burlap sack, like the bird already knew that the stuffed man posed no threat. She stood in her window, feeling a shiver run down her back as the crow stopped and looked at her. She felt the bird peering at her, her palms slick with sweat, her breath caught in her throat. The raven's wings stretched wide and it cawed, a brittle shriek that burned Molly's ears. She slammed the window shut and buried herself under her blankets, not coming out until her mother called her for dinner.

She tried for days to scare the bid away, from yelling and screaming to daring to throw rocks and stones at the bird. Nothing worked though. The bird would flutter away, only to return to his perch whenever she turned back towards the house. She tried to tell her father about the bird, but it was never there when she told him. It was always gone, unless she was alone. When she was alone, the bird was always there, waiting, staring at her.

The fourth day after the scarecrow went up, the storm came. The rain and wind lashed at the house, the sounds of thunder echoing through the halls, the crackles of lightning bursting through the sky. Molly watched through her window, the rain pelting the glass, almost obscuring her vision completely. But she could still see the raven, perched on the scarecrow's shoulder. Despite the window being shut and the howls of the storm, if Molly closed her eyes she could hear the beat of the crow's wings in the rain and the cries of the bird's protests. She sat at the window until late in the night, watching as the lit candle wore itself down to a nub. Yet all through the storm, the bird never left the scarecrow.

The power had come back on by the time the sun cracked through Molly's window. Leaves and stalks of corn lay strewn about the yard but the bedraggled scarecrow was still nailed to the cross. Molly went downstairs, her father was already in the field, but her mother was asleep on the big chair in the living room. Molly slipped into her boots and gently snuck out of the front door. She walked around the yard, picking her way among the wet grasses and blown debris, walking until she could see the stuffed man.

His hat had blown away in the storm, and one of his arms hung limply at his side. He was wet and torn, like a sad doll forgotten far to long. Molly looked for the raven, absent from his perch. She climbed over the wooden slat fence and edged through the stalks until she was in the small clearing. Broken shafts of corn lay around the cross, and Molly lowered herself to her knees. She brushed them away, finally unearthing the raven beneath the broken stalks. It cawed weakly, gently nipping at her fingers. One of his wings were bent at an odd angle and his inky black feathers were slick with blood. The raven tried to beat his wings and lift himself up, but fell back to the ground, broken and bloody. The raven turned one eye to Molly, staring again like it had so often before, and Molly knew what she had to do.

All of her fear melted away as she gently lifted the bird from the muddy earth. She stretched, letting the broken bird hop onto the scarecrow's shoulders. The raven nestled in, gently cawing at Molly, his black eyes never leaving her. Molly backed away from the straw man, a small smile creeping across her face. She hopped back over the fence and ran to find her father, out in the fields.

The storm had destroyed most of the surrounding farms crops, ruining the harvests for many of their neighbors. To her dad's amazement though, their crops went mostly untouched. Her father managed to sell their harvest for a record amount, safeguarding the farm for the next few years. Every day after the storm though Molly looked for the raven, but she never saw it again. Every morning and every night she looked at the battered old scarecrow in her brother's clothes hoping to see the bird again, knowing that she didn't have anything to fear. But the bird stayed away, leaving only the now comforting shadow of her straw brother to tuck her in at night.

End of Line.

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