Affinity – Bird in a Gilded Cage – Excerpt
Talon took his usual seat on the couch. The television was on but the sound muted. When his uncle returned, he held an old, jacked-up photo album, the cover propped open by yellowed papers. He stopped in front of Talon.
“Uncle Nate. Listen.” Talon stood up and met his uncle’s blue gaze and braced himself to be made fun of, for his uncle to laugh his ass off. “I can communicate with crows.” Okay. There. He had said it. First time ever.
“What?” Talon dropped back onto the couch, sinking into the cushion as he cradled Scraggy close to his chest.
“Well, I didn’t exactly know you’ve been talking with them, but I’ve known you’ve got some kind of weird relationship with them. I’ve been waiting for you to spill it, kid. I’ve seen those black buzzards following you around like they was waiting for you to croak or something.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Talon felt…disappointed. As if everyone knew except him. Like he was a big joke or something.
“Don’t get all butt-hurt. I figured you’d tell me when you were ready.”
Uncle Nate plopped down next to Talon like nothing bizarre was happening. “Look at this.” He put the photo album on his knees, opened the worn cover and carefully put the papers and news clippings on the end table. Sticky paper held old black and white photographs in place as Uncle Nate flipped the pages.
“Do you know what our last name means?” he asked.
When Talon didn’t answer, Uncle Nate put the book on Talon’s legs, keeping far from the crow’s sharp beak and pointed to an old picture. He tapped his finger on the man standing there. Behind the man was a big, black bird perched on a fence.
“Our last name means crow or raven. It’s the genus for large black birds.”
Talon swallowed and took back all the crappy things he had just thought about his uncle.
“Your great-grandfather claimed he could talk to these birds. Everyone thought he was nuts. Our grandmother, your great-grandmother told us the family secret when we were in grade school. Your father and I. Of course, we were warned if we ever said anything the crows would come and peck our eyeballs right out of our heads.” He widened his eyes at Talon, took on a spooky voice and waggled both his hands next to his head. “Or you’d be driven crazy by the birds, oouuuuweee aaahhh.”
Scraggy cawed and struggled a little.
When Talon didn’t laugh or smile at his joke, he continued, “Your father and I used to imagine what it was like if we could control the birds,” he said in a soft voice.
“You don’t really control them.” Talon ran his finger across the picture of his great-grandfather. “It’s more like a connection with them.” He let his mind touch briefly with Scraggy, sending comforting thoughts. The bird quieted down.
“Right on. When did it start?”
“In middle-school.” Talon turned the page, looking for more pictures with a strange black bird.
“You won’t find anymore pictures of the bird. Believe me. We searched through this many-a-time. But you might be interested in this.” He handed Talon a small black leather-bound book. “Your great-grandfather’s journal. It sounded like a lot of rambling to me, but maybe you’d understand. With your ability and all.”