“Tell me about your friend, Charlie,” Alfredo said. “I would like to know another Patua’.”
“Charlotte disappeared one day when she was seventeen,” Charlie began his story. “I hadn’t seen her in a few months. Rika and I had our first clutch that year, and I was in Keeper training, and just couldn’t get away. But the magpies all said that men in white coats drove up in a big van and took her away. She was crying, they said, when the white coats put her in a tiny shirt with really long sleeves that they wound all around her.
“She kept screaming. All the way down the road, they could hear her screaming. The white coats took her to Rosencranz. That’s what the magpies told me.
“I winged it over to Rosencranz, but couldn’t get in, of course; what hospital would let a crow in, even during visiting hours? So I visited every windowsill, looking for her. I peeked and sometimes downright stared into every window, more than once. For two years, I came and pecked on her window nearly every day.”
“I admire your devotion, Charlie,” Jayzu said. “I cannot imagine.
“Then one day,” the crow continued, “there she was! Just on the other side of the glass, sitting in a wheelchair with her hands folded neatly in her lap. But she did not see me.
“I pecked on the window, but she did not hear me. I called out her name. ‘Charlotte! Yo! Charlotte! It’s me! Charlie!’ But she didn’t look up. She just stared at her lap, and I wondered if she had gone deaf.
“I kept yelling and dancing and pecking, anything to get her attention. She didn’t hear me, didn’t see me.
“I didn’t give up, though. Day after day, I showed up on the windowsill at the same time, trying to get her attention. But day after day, she didn’t look up. Until she did! She finally noticed me through the glass! I nearly fell off the windowsill.
“‘Charlie!’ she said, with the big smile I remembered from long ago. Of course I couldn’t hear her; the window was closed. Then she ran across the room and pasted both hands on the glass, as if to embrace me. I flapped my wings and cried out, ‘Charlotte! Charlotte!’ Great Orb, that was a wonderful day!
“Then a white coat came up to Charlotte and took her hands off the window, giving each one a little slap and then escorted her back to her wheelchair.
“‘Charlotte!’ I yelled as he wheeled her out of the room. I pecked on the glass. I shouted as loud as I could. Another white coat came to the window, opened it, and yelled ‘Darn crows!’ as she tried to smack me with a towel.
“She missed. ‘Darn humans!’ I yelled back at her.
“Though I waited at the window, Charlotte didn’t come back that day. Or the next. I hung around, waiting and hoping for some sign of her. Days went by. I visited all the other windowsills again and again. Just as I was about to give up, there she was!
“I pecked at the glass, and when she looked up, I flapped my wings at her. But she didn’t get up, didn’t smile at me, or say my name. I thought maybe she hadn’t really seen me. But when no one was looking, she smiled at me. She wouldn’t come to the window, though. Probably she was afraid they would slap her hands again. She never took her eyes off me until someone came and took her out of the room.
“That was eight years ago. I see her often, but through a closed window. I can’t talk to her or hear her voice. But at least I can see her.”
Charlie ended his story; crow and human sat without speaking for several minutes. The pulsating song of crickets emanated from hidden places in the grass. Several loons wandered along the bank below, pecking for tidbits between the rocks and grass. A few gulls orbited a fishing vessel on the river.
“I do not know what to say, Charlie, my friend,” Jayzu said at last. “I am sad for your friend, being locked away like that. Surely her family visits?”
“Charlotte is alone, Jayzu,” Charlie said. “No one visits. No one can understand her. But I am telling you, Jayzu, she is as sane as you or I.”
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