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  • Susan Gallagher

Dancing on the Inside

Two beers a night. That’s what I have. Sometimes fewer, but never more than two beers a night. A drink now and then isn’t a bad thing, so sayeth my doctor.

And so it is I find myself in the company of Jack and Tom, friendly proprietors of Carbon Beer and Beverage, about once every two weeks. As one carries a case of Michelob Ultra to the check-out for me, the other will ring it up and make conversation: how are things at work; did I see the eagle that was spotted along the river in White Haven?; did I read the article in the newspaper about hawks?; etc.

Last Monday I had a question for them. Have you seen that raven lately? You know, the one that hangs out a couple of blocks away by the hillclimb?

I had to ask because I’d spotted the bird near their store about a week before, on the morning of Weatherly’s trash pick-up. He was plucking little morsels out of garbage bags on the curb, then flying up to cache his treasures in the rain gutters of houses along the way. I could hear the clack-clack of his beak as he tried to conceal a big chunk of something white from a flock of blue jays. The smaller birds were dogging his every move like Tuskegee Airmen.

While I wondered if the homeowners knew their eaves were serving as repositories for stolen goods, the raven swooped down over an unsuspecting mail carrier (Whoa! What the…?), and disappeared into the woods behind the Laund-ro-matic. I waited, hoping that another raven might appear. Maybe he's found a girlfriend, I thought.

I know, I know – I’m anthropomorphizing. Normally I don’t assign human feelings to wildlife, but emotion just seems to seep in around the edges of my brain when it comes to this bird. Maybe it’s the intelligence for which ravens are known, or maybe it’s because I’d been the one to find his previous mate dead on the roadside.

Whatever the reason, I’m convinced the raven is sad, and I want him to be happy. I know he’s alone, and I wish him a companion. But none appeared that morning to join him in his curbside garbage raids. He was still flying solo, still the Lonely Raven.

So when I asked Jack and Tom about him at the beer store, I wasn’t quite prepared for what they had to say.

Jack: The raven? Yeah, yeah - just this morning I was in the back room and I heard such a racket out front.

Tom: Oh, it was loud. I thought somebody hit my pick-up.

Me: And it was the raven?

Jack: Yeah… but, no... There was two of them! Big, BIG black birds. Ripped apart the garbage bag I had in the back of the truck. Tore it all to shreds.

Me: Two? Two big black birds? Are you sure?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, two of them! I had to wave my arms and yell to get them to leave. And then you know what they did? They flew up on the roof and they laughed at me. Laughed!

Tom: Oh, you should have heard it. They really let him have it.

It was obvious Jack had taken serious offense at this. He stared as if waiting for me to acknowledge the birds’ behavior as a genuine affront to his character--or maybe his beer store. So I put on a somber face and shook my head in quiet commiseration, trying to hide the fact that I was dancing on the inside.

That night I came home and raised a glass of Michelob Ultra in celebration. To you my raven friend! It looks like maybe you’re not so lonely after all.

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