The Crow and the Ribbon
By Elizabeth Motes
The crow found the pink ribbon hanging on the branch of a tree, blowing against the wind. She might have missed it, but most of the leaves had already fallen, leaving the branch bare with only a few remaining reds and oranges scattered about. The ribbon stretched out in the wind, and only the sharp angle of the branch kept it from flying away.
The crow rested on a branch opposite the ribbon, tilting her head at the sight. She was familiar with that ribbon. It belonged to the girl who lived far away from this tree. The girl wore it every day. And when she didn’t, her father came rushing out with the ribbon in his big hands. Or sometimes, the girl would stop, put a hand to her head, then hurry back inside for it herself. Nowadays, only her father remembered to bring it out when she lost it.
So it was curious that it now hung so far away from her home.
Though it wasn’t actually so curious to the crow. She understood seasons. With the quick and chilling arrival of autumn, the winds had picked up, and it was only natural that the ribbon completely flew off the girl’s head. Even her quick fingers would struggle for it when the wind took hold of it.
The crow didn’t understand the value of trinkets, but she did know that the girl and her father needed the ribbon. Maybe it protected her from the cold, or maybe it served some other purpose, but she did need it.
With a quick squawk, the crow hopped onto the branch and gripped the ribbon in her mouth. She might get curious glances for carrying such a trinket—or worried looks from humans that wondered if she intended to eat it. She would ignore it all.
She took off, and the wind was cold beneath her black wings. A few remaining red and orange leaves stuck to the sharp branches below her, but even they would be gone soon. It was going to be a difficult winter.
After a long flight, the crow found a small patch of grass and landed on it, keeping the ribbon in her mouth as she searched for food. She hopped around, nestled her face into the grass, and finally discovered a bit of dirt that was hiding a worm. She took it in her mouth and ate without dropping the ribbon.
Behind her, she heard the flapping of wings before she felt the rush of air that hit as another bird landed near her. As she turned to face it, the other bird cocked its head at her, its small eyes peering at her curiously.
The crow stayed put, poking her head around for more food.
The other bird moved closer, so she hopped away, trying to maintain her own space. Then the bird let out a harsh noise and rushed toward her, its eyes glued to her face. The crow flapped its wings and moved back. She realized he was drawn to the ribbon, blowing against her face and sticking out with its bright color.
She made a noise at the bird as it moved closer, though it was difficult with the ribbon still in her mouth. The other bird bobbed its head toward her, briefly snapping at the ribbon.
With a dramatic spread of her wings, the crow took off flying again, making a final noise of threat as she flew. She would have to find food elsewhere. Hopefully, the bird would be distracted by the potential of food, keeping his attention until she was gone. After a few seconds, she didn’t hear anything following her but the wind, so she relaxed a bit.
She was lucky the bird had lost interest. Last night, the animal that took her babies hadn’t lost interest.
The growing cold made her shudder. The winter was never kind, but this season felt harsher than it ever had, even when she thought it could have never been worse than the last year. The image of a nest filled with baby birds all huddled together, bracing from the wind, appeared in her mind. She flew down to a branch to stop for a moment.
It was getting darker, and the setting sun was taking any remaining warmth with it. She wanted to find some place warm for the night and rest.
But the little girl needed her ribbon. It was small, but if it somehow protected her from the cold, then she would need it as soon as possible.
The crow leapt off the branch and continued to the house.
The sun soon sank behind the sky, but the moon gave her just enough light to find her way. It wasn’t good for her to be alone now. But she continued.
Somehow, the house eventually came into view, its red roof giving away its location. She found a nearby tree and landed on it, leaning forward and squinting to find the girl in the dark. When she found her, she let out a happy squawk, then hopped off the branch to give away the ribbon.
The crow returned to the tree, finding a thick branch to settle in for the night, taking care to make sure the ribbon didn’t fly away again.
The girl’s father came outside the next morning, right after the sunrise. The crow perched up, keeping her eyes on him. Though she’d given the ribbon to the girl, she couldn’t secure it the way he could. Now she watched to make sure he tied it the right way.
The old man stretched his arms, then wandered over to the field. He stopped when he saw the pink ribbon flying against the girl’s stiff neck as she stood straight in the middle of the field. Her arms were stretched out beside her, and at some point throughout the years, she had lost some of her features. Her long, glossy brown hair turned to sharp straw, and her blue eyes turned to black. But to the crow, the differences weren’t significant.
She watched in satisfaction as he made his way to the girl. He reached up and took the ribbon from her neck—hanging loosely by the crow’s poor maneuvering—and held it in his hands. The crow cocked her head. Surely he was going to tie it around her head again to keep her warm.
Just as she wondered if he was going to return inside with the ribbon, he reached his arms up again and tied the ribbon around the girl’s head.
The crow watched to make sure he secured it tightly, and then flew away again.