I have a bad habit of leaving my window open in the middle of the night. I suppose it comes from living in a hot room in the Florida suburbs for the first twenty years of my life. But now I’m an adult and I live in a bad area. I really should be more careful.
Luckily, I haven’t had a break-in by an actual person, but I did wake up one morning to find a crow had found access to my room. He was pecking at my desk, trying to pick up the leftovers from a s'mores Pop-Tart I’d left out overnight. I don’t eat the edges, they taste too dry.
I wasn’t really scared of the crow, since it didn’t seem agitated or diseased. I figured if I just ignored him, he’d run out of scraps and just leave on his own accord. I was right to an extent.
The crow left, but unexpectedly he would return several hours later. I thought perhaps he wanted more food, but to my surprise, he instead dropped a small gift on my windowsill before quickly departing. Upon closer inspection, it was a gold wedding band with the word “Irreplaceable” engraved along the side in an Olde English cursive. My first thought was that this bird was paying me for the meal and, as a struggling twenty-something, I immediately began to imagine how I could profit from this. If I kept pawning the rings the crow brought me, I could start a second income with just the parts of my breakfast without any frosting.
It seemed genius.
From then on, as long as I left out my Pop-Tart scraps, the crow would return every day, bringing with him some small shiny ring. Gold and silver. Thick and thin. Some plain, some engraved. None were ever truly worth anything, however. I was patiently waiting for the day one came with a diamond on its head, but that day would never come.
Once I switched his treats from Pop-Tarts to store-bought bird seed, I immediately noticed a change in my rewards. In exchange for the seeds, I was given trucker caps, the cheap kind with the netting in the back. They were, once again, nothing valuable, but I definitely picked-up on the fact that it seemed different foods were traded with different currencies. So I collected a few of the caps, just enough to hand out to my friends, and moved on to some other edible to see its effect.
Crackers got me bumper stickers. Berries got me spools of string. Shredded chicken got me McDonald’s toys. I kept switching it up hoping that, eventually, I’d land on something valuable. But then, handing over a french fry bought me a seashell, and after that I decided to take things in a completely different direction.
You see, I shouldn’t have gotten a seashell. I live in Peoria, Illinois. There’s no beach from which this crow could be traveling to. Not with how fast I was receiving them. I realized then that something strange was going on. And it wasn’t some get-rich-quick scheme. It was a paranormal phenomenon. Something worth recording.
Over the next two months, I started a meticulous experiment. Every three days exactly I would switch up the food and then write down the rewards. The results of my study are listed below.
DATES FOOD REWARD
6/12 - 6/14 Geckos from the yard. Thimbles
6/15 - 6/17 Apple sauce. Teeth bones [note: larger than human]
6/18 - 6/20 Rice Old pennies
6/21 - 6/23 Worms Brightly colored shoe strings
6/24 - 6/26 Spoonfuls of hot sauce Arrow heads
6/27 - 6/29 Plain water Cigarettes [note: unused]
6/30 - 7/02 Mushrooms Skittles [note: one by one]
7/03 - 7/05 Peanuts [note: in shell] Plastic jewels and sequins
7/06 - 7/08 Hot strip steak Sewing needles
7/09 - 7/11 Tomatoes Live hermit crabs
7/12 - 7/14 Crickets Razor blades
7/15 - 7/17 Pizza Pages
The last entry on this list was unintentional. The pizza was actually for me, I’d left out a dish of plain salt for the crow. It seems however the crow prefers Italian food to a mountain of spice. I’d left the box of pizza on my desk as I used the bathroom, and in just those short five minutes, the crow kicked over the bowl of salt, flew through my window, grabbed one of the razor blades he’d gifted me, and sawed through the top of the pizza box. When I came back from the bathroom, the crow had gone through at least three slices all by himself. Upon seeing me, he looked panicked then quickly flew off.
I was mad at first, and I had absolutely no intention of feeding the crow another slice. However, that changed the following morning, when I received my present. It wasn’t nearly as dazzling as some of his earlier gifts. It was just a page of lined notebook paper rolled up in his claw. When the crow dropped it, I quickly unraveled it and read its contents. It fascinated me.
There were ten paragraphs, all written in blue pen. The language was English and the font was print, not cursive. There were several little typos scribbled out and replaced. And there was a title at the top, but it had no author. This was clearly the first page of a much larger story. And to get the next page all I had to do is continue to feed the bird the same type of pizza. It took a total of eighteen days before I reached the conclusion.
I present the story in its entirety, “Bedfellows”, in the following chapter.