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(Phoenix) Down

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Common ravens were black, glossy, and glorious.  They were enormous.  They could squash a puny little robin with one foot.

Snow was the largest amongst the NORA crew.  They’d chosen him as their gang leader because of his size, obviously.  He could easily provide for them.  Who needed mates, when they had each other?

Bros before hoes wasn’t that unusual for birds.  Mating for life was too much pressure.  Ravens were sensible.  They didn’t rush into family building.  It was hard enough feeding bottomless-pit-Gadot, how was he expected to feed a brood?  Majority of his diet depended on fries scavenged from the local burger joint’s garbage.  Little ones couldn’t live off that.  Everyone knew as much.  At least he thought they did.

 

The silkiest of females flitted back and forth from his favorite dumpster to a juniper bush.  Itty bitty caws emanated from the hedge.  A young male and female, by the sound of it, were displeased with the rotting meat they’d been given.

“Hey,” Snow called out.

The hen cocked her head and blinked.  “Go to hell,” she responded before slipping between the needles.

“Sorry, could you repeat that?”  Intrigued, Snow hopped across the asphalt.

 

Once inside the juniper, he found the most pathetic of nests.  Half of the sticks were bits of trash.  The only stability came from its sitting directly on the floor.  If the hen had built it in a tree, even the breeze from a passing car could have knocked it down.

“I said, ‘go away,’” she mumbled through the hamburger bun she set down.

“Lightning’s always like that,” said one of the chicks.  She’d popped up to investigate Snow.  “You’re quite unusual aren’t you.”  Shamelessly, she pecked at his leg, urging him to lift it.  “Did something spill on you?”    She rubbed her head against his chest, testing for ink.  “Oh my, you’re really warm.”  Happily, she bobbed her tail.  Then, she backed up until she’d tucked herself beneath his wing.  “Would you like to join us for breakfast?”

“Pardon?”  Snow asked, startled by the little one cuddled at his side.

“Not happening,” Lightning answered for him.  She was busy shredding the bun for the down-covered chick in front of her.  The young cock seemed terrified of everything around him.  He was only capable of purr-like coos.  “I have enough to deal with.”

Snow waddled toward the nest, tiny hen still attached to him.  “Where’s your mate?  You can’t expect to provide and tend to these guys at the same time.”  Against his better judgement, he jumped into the nest and squished against the male.  For a second, he thought the little one might bite him, but instead he nuzzled into his stomach.

“Who said I had a mate or that these were mine?”  Lightning took the opportunity to peck Snow between the eyes.

The jab smarted, but there was less strength than there should have been.  She was exhausted.  Each of the birds in her unkindness was malnourished.  It was a miracle that the chicks had survived as long as they had.  Winter had mostly passed, but they hadn’t reached the last frost.

“If they aren’t yours, then,” he said, turning to the young hen, “who might you be?”

“I’m Serah.  Lightning is my big sister.  It’s been just me and her since I can remember.” She extended her neck to look at the other chick.  “That’s Hope.  We found him after a storm.  His tree had been knocked down.”  Both chicks trembled, acknowledging the unspoken truth about his parents.

“I’ve got things handled.  Leave.”  Lightning, tried to wedge herself between Serah and Snow.  All four birds did not fit in the nest.  The structure strained before the twigs exploded in every direction.

“Guess that settles it.”  Snow puffed his chest, and rubbed his head against each youngster.  “You’re all coming back with me.  The more the merrier.  Lebreau’s been begging for more ladies to join us.”

“We don’t even know you.”

“How rude of us to introduce ourselves but not ask for your name,” Serah said, peering up at him.

“I’m Snow.  But you’re free to call me your new hero.”

“That makes more sense,” Hope finally said with his teeny-weeny cheeps.  “You’re the same color as the skies when it snows.  I originally thought you’d been in an anting accident.”

Lightning cackled at the comment, but followed as the beautiful, grey bird led them home.