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Two Crows

Derek Lamson
On Cooperation (September 2022)
Inward Light

I’d stopped in the back parking lot to adjust a bike clip and noticed two crows noticing the guy in the apron coming out the back door to dump the garbage. “Lookit that,” the one crow says to his mate, “Opposable thumbs! That is so cool.” His partner picked up a cigarette butt, looked at it, dropped it. “Dude,” she said, “I’ve got opposable thumbs; you’ve got opposable thumbs; what’s the frickin’ big deal?” The other crow looked at her. “Yeh, I got opposable thumbs . . . on my feet!” A half a hamburger slid off the pile, and they both eyed it coolly. Another piece fell.  The first crow went on, “I’ll tell ya what I saw them do this morning that really knocked me out, right there in that intersection.” They continued their conversation while strolling over to the hamburger.

“OK . . . So . . . It’s really busy, right?” he said. “It’s morning commute, people in and out of here getting coffee, gassing up and stuff.” He nudged the hamburger with a foot. “The intersection jammed up six or eight cars deep in every lane, and then one guy’s car quits on him – right there in the middle of the damn intersection!” The other crow put a foot firmly on the half-burger and pecked out a corner, a little gray crumb of meat. She held it a moment in her beak, then dropped it back down on the asphalt. “Meh,” she said. “So, what happened to the guy?”

“Well . . . Hey, did you want those fries?” “No, no, no, no,” she said, “C’mon, what happened?” “OK,” he says, “I mean, it was very cool . . . People just stopped and got out and started pushing this guy’s Corolla through the intersection. And, now get this – even when it was obvious to everyone that they had plenty of help, and they were going to get it done, there were still people stepping out of their rigs to trot over and put their hands on the trunk of this guy’s little car and give an extra push to get him through. They just wanted to be part of it . . . Dude, there were cars stacked up in every lane, and I tell ya, they all just ignored . . . what? . . . two cycles of lights? All those drivers parked there in the street, just waiting while the other guys pushed this dude through the intersection. Nobody even honked. And here’s the thing, I swear – the ones doing the pushing were total strangers to each other, but when they were done, they were all smilin’ and laughin’ and shaking hands.”

The second crow tossed the crumb of hamburger into her throat, swallowed, looked at her partner. “I been watching ‘em, too,” she said. “It ain’t the opposable thumb trick that makes ‘em so special; and really, it ain’t because they’re so damn smart, either. Nah . . . It’s the way they do things together . . . cooperate, like. When they put all those little opposable thumbs together and all those smarts together . . . That’s when they’re . . . hmmm . . . What? . . . Dangerous? Impressive as heck?”

Her partner looked down at the burger pieces and planted a foot firmly on one large chunk, then stood up a little straighter and surveyed the parking lot, the gas pumps, the dumpster, the bundle of rags in the corner by the chain link fence, the heavy traffic roaring on one side of the freeway and idling on the other. He said, “Yeah, yer right. Just look what they can do.”

“Yo, crows,” I called. They looked at me. “What should we do different?” But they just cawed derisively and flew up onto the chain link fence.

Derek Lamson has a summer job at a convenience store. He is a guitar player and writer, with a side-hustle as a substitute teacher, and he’s a member of Eugene Friends Church (SCYMF).

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