Every morning the Black Widows would attend 6:30 Mass a the local impromptu church, i.e. a hastily converted living room in a neighbor’s house. The actual church, built by the “Vets” (returning veterans from the Second World War), was still another decade away.
Telephones were scarce so communication was conducted the old fashioned way. In the summer, you stood in front of someone’s house and called her name through the screen door. In the winter, the ladies had to resort to walking up the two or three steps and pounding on the door, a rosary wrapped around their wrinkled knuckles.
Lena, our neighbor and my grandmother Margharite’s best friend, would just open the window, stick her head out and yell across the backyard, her shrill voice seeming to rustle the leaves on the grapevines that formed an arbor between our two houses. God forbid they should be late for Mass.
“Margharite!” “Margharite! Va Subito!” (Go Quick!)
It was my daily 6:25 a.m. wake up call. And it was way too early for a ten year old who was not a morning person!
From my bedroom window I could see that grape arbor and the old black crow who lived there. Corvo. He watched the comings and goings of the neighborhood with unblinking interest. Corvo would turn its head left and then right as if watching a tennis match as it trained a knowing white eye on every passerby. If that bird could talk!
Occasionally it would puff out its chest and caw. Caw! Caw! A perfectly ordinary bird…a perfectly ordinarily call. Or so I thought.
The time it took Lena leave the window to gather her missal and rosary, pin her black lace headscarf to her white head, sip the last of the espresso, and slip out the backdoor was approximately five minutes. It was five minutes of blessed silence before she met my grandmother and their coversation began in earnest as they walked out of the driveway and all the way up the street. Or so I thought.
Corvo, concerned that my slow moving grandmother would also be late for Mass, added his own voice.
“Margharite!” “Margharite! Va Subito!”
It turns out that bird could talk after all.