I am reading on my porch when the quiet is broken by the heavy flap of raven’s wings. He settles in the tall tree above the chicken coop. The nine hens and single rooster are silent as usual in the morning; they amble around, lazily pecking the ground. But then the raven starts. His CAW pierces the air, startling the chickens. He continues, blasting the backyard peace like a foghorn, repeating until you can almost see the jagged soundwaves in the air.
The disturbance is not missed by the chickens, nor tolerated.
They burst into a clucking chorus, thrashing clumsy wings. Their chaotic frenzy is in stark contrast to the metronome-consistent beat of the raven’s acutely pitched caw.
Suddenly he is silent. The chickens continue to sound the alarm, unfooled by their frustrating neighbour’s momentary reprieve.
Each cluck boils in their bellies then erupts out the throat, sending them backwards with the explosive auditory force.
Moments pass. The hens quiet; alert; expectant.
Then a new call comes from the tree: a perfectly mirrored cluck.
The chickens are silent. The clucking from above is much louder than their own, so accurately rendered but somehow off…it is more controlled, more mechanical than their own organic eruption of sound.
This will not do.
The chickens burst back into speech, fireworks of sound from across the coop echoing through the backyard.
But in every pause, the impostor clucks his recording from the tree.
I head to the enclosure, unable to concentrate on my book through all this ruckus. “What are you on about, raven?” I call to the hidden miscreant, buried in leaves.
He responds with a cluck. The chickens ripple discontent across the pen.
“What a commotion for a Monday morning” I mutter, walking back to the porch.
It continues a few minutes more, then, abruptly, complete silence.
I glance back at the coop.
A flutter of wings on the fence. Is he in the coop? Surely the chickens would be losing it. I wait. Not a sound.
I guess I’ll enjoy the newfound peace. I pick up my book.
Then another tree across the yard comes alive with alien clicking. It shifts to the sound of a tap dripping a single water droplet, over and over again, round and full and wet. Then a machine running. He runs through what appears to be all the words he knows. The whistling, discordant clicking he lands on unsettles me; it makes me feel like the little girl from the movie “Signs”, though she was more self assured.
Just as I start to feel like I’m losing my grip on reality, the raven drops out of the tree and thunders above my head, audibly slicing the air with his wings. I wonder – is he coming for me? – and watch him closely. But he simply falls from the air to join the disrupter above the chickens.
I expect another battle. But all is quiet.
What caused this absurd backyard vaudeville?
Did you want to steal eggs? If so, why not be silent?
Are you just a harbinger of chaos? Disturbing the peace simply to stir things up?
Local stories often depict raven as the trickster, shifting otherwise settled worlds by asking pesky questions, provoking all those around him, stealing the sun.
I look for the provocateur, cloaked in branches, furtively plotting his next upheaval.
You must be the one from the stories.