Friday, May 10, 2013

The Swarm

The Swarm

The Sheriff mushed his face with his hands asking us for the second time, “Why did you need so many crows?”

“It’s special effects,” Damon answered. He was the director so he should’ve gotten the heat but Mikey was in charge of effects and I was assisting everybody.

When we gathered all the birds we were hoping it’d look cool, just like in the movies. We hadn’t intended them to break out of their cages, take flight, and come together in such a swarm that the flock blocked out the sun.

“Special effects? For what!” the Sheriff asked. His hands moved from his face to scratching his head making his hair shift a bit to the side before he adjusted it.

Damon, Mikey, and I stared all over his office. I couldn’t take my eyes off the small cell behind the Sheriff’s desk that could hold all three of us easily.

“We’re making a movie,” Mikey said.
“We got ‘em cheap,” I chimed in. Realizing when the Sheriff’s gaze slid my way that I wasn’t supposed to answer and I wasn’t supposed to give that as an answer.

A crow crashed into the window, startling all of us. It left a crack in the glass and a ruby smudge where it hit.
“Good Lord!” The Sheriff got up to inspect the damage. “You realize that the town has no light anymore? You do comprehend the situation we’re in right about now? Don’t you?” He looked back out the window and squinted even though we all knew what he said was true.

The lights on the streets were on and the flapping of wings and sound of cawing was in stereo. The only filter we had was being inside. I could imagine what this meant for the laundry outside. I shifted in my seat, my butt already throbbing from the punishment I was expecting from my mom and the fresh load she placed on the clothesline with hundreds of birds in the air.

“We didn’t mean it!” Damon cried. His eyes got watery and his lip trembled. He wasn’t just the director but the lead actor always watching how best to play a scene and get the people believing him.

“We were just trying to make The Birds.” Throwing a thumb Damon’s way Mikey said he was aiming to be the next Hitchcock.

“Hitch who?” The Sheriff said not taking his eyes off the spectacle outside.

Damon broke character to roll his eyes at the Sheriff’s ignorance.

“He was only one of the best directors ever.

The Sheriff started up on the scratching again and shook his head. “But a few hundred crows? Why? Why so many?”

We all shrugged in unison. Why not so many? If we were gonna make a killer scene. It’d have to make an impression. But we sat still and kept quiet. Knowing when not to respond. Nothing we could say helped our case.

Damon was the most adamant about changing things up. Every time we saw a movie he’d lean in close and put his chin over the seat in front of him whether people were there or not. We’d rush outside and reenact scenes to perfection, unless they were romantic. We were introduced to the world on screen and when we left the darkened theatre and came outside all we saw were one story buildings. The same ice cream shop with the same flavors. The same bar & grill with the stuffed mountain lion. The same people tipping hats and giving us a smile and a wink. Nothing ever happened, so this was our chance to make something happen.

“I gotta call your parents and maybe even the forest reserve. Who the hell knows this many damn...Looks like they’re attacking Old Man Winters.”

“Wish I still had my camera,” Damon said under his breath.

“What in the world!” The Sheriff reached for his holster but we didn’t know how a small shooter would do in that many crows. When we looked out front of the station a bunch of the birds had gotten organized and were bullying a terrier. Not just any terrier but the Sheriff’s. A fuzzy white dog with a yap that rang all over the place. But these crows were decided animals and they were going after his collar, chewing at the rope that tied him to a hydrant. They almost lifted the dog up.

“Peaches!” The Sheriff screamed and pushed past us, practically throwing us into whatever was nearby as he launched outside to rescue his dog. He swatted away at whatever came his way and marched on, a hero in his own right since nothing really happened in our town of 2,000 people.

He was in a tug of war with those birds and at one point a crow swooped down and plucked the rug right off of his head leaving it to shine under the street light above him, more a spotlight than anything considering the circumstances.

Beyond the show of the Sheriff, a few ladies running clutching purses and pearls, kids jumping up and down excited at first but then crying like the babies they were when they were poked. Men staying in cars and some ushering families inside. People peeking out from under curtains and shadows and others just shaking their heads while rocking on their porches. It was all a good scene, better than what we had thought of. More real, less scary.

The crows swirled around each other, making what looked like a wind tunnel in the sky. It was a good effect, not the one we’d been planning.

Damon held his thumb and index finger out on either hand and put them together to make a box shape. He looked through his fingers out the window and smiled. “Get the camera,” he said to us. “Before we get punished we should go outside and make a documentary.”

Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Jamie Zarza


  1. Ah ha ha, I love the last line, Jenn!

  2. I really like this. I love how you took a humerous approach instead of a horrific one, which this easily could have been. Great choice!