Knowledge of Things Forgotten
Some things are learned, and some things are forgotten, and some things are known without being learned. The crow watching sunlight glint from the brass buttons of Charlie’s jacket knew many things.
Charlie’s jacket was jean, and it was new, and he was proud of it. At school, he had told the other children to look at it, as if they didn’t already see it. He had wanted them to share his excitement.
Ahead of him on the sidewalk, two older boys from school, Gunner and Greg, were standing near a white fence with a paper ‘Wet Paint’ sign taped to it. They pretended not to notice Charlie as he neared.
When he passed between them and the fence, Greg rammed into Charlie with his shoulder, knocking him into the fence. Charlie felt the wet paint sticking to his jacket as he bounced off. He lost his balance and fell to the sidewalk.
He scrambled to his feet, checked his sleeve, and found paint. By a strange coincidence, the shape was like a bird in flight.
The shape looked like a hieroglyph from ancient Egypt, and it was an ancient symbol, but it was older than any Egyptian hieroglyph. It was so old that no human still remembered its meaning, or its power. Some things still knew, though. The crow began to caw.
“What did you do that for?” Charlie asked, furious.
Greg didn’t have an answer.
Gunner smirked and said, “Looks like you got some paint on your nice new jacket.”
Greg followed his lead. “Yeah, uh, that’s too bad.”
Charlie balled his fists, furious. “You did that on purpose.”
“Duh,” Greg said. He and Gunner exchanged a smirk.
“You’re a jerk,” Charlie said.
Several robins landed on the power lines above them.
“What did you call me?” Greg asked.
“Apologize,” Greg said, moving toward him. “Apologize, and maybe I won’t do it again.”
“Apologize! For what?”
“For calling me a jerk.”
“No way,” Charlie said.
More birds landed on the power lines, arriving singly and in small groups. A vulture landed on top of a telephone pole.
“You asked for it,” Greg said. He grabbed Charlie. Charlie hit him with a big, looping punch that landed awkwardly against the side of his head and did nothing but make him madder. Charlie tried to pull away, his feet sliding over the sidewalk. Greg let go, and he fell.
Charlie tried to push himself up, but a kick to his ribs threw him onto his side and brought bile to his throat. He looked up and saw Gunner and Greg looming over him.
“Tough guy, huh?” Gunner asked.
Over one hundred birds were now on the power lines, and a flock of starlings maneuvered in the sky above.
“Help!” Charlie screamed. He looked desperately to the windows of nearby houses, but no adults were there to save him. He tilted his head back and screamed as loudly as he could, hoping that someone, anyone, would hear him. “Help me!”
The birds descended on Gunner and Greg.
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Daniel Wilmoth is a writer and economist living in urban Maryland. He enjoys finding the wild places hidden amid asphalt and concrete. Read more about him at www.danielwilmoth.com.