Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 55
strawberry moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Lost for Words, by Andrea Damic

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Swetha Amit

Crow at My Window

Mama says I have incurred the curse for our family because when a black crow perched on my bedroom windowsill and cawed loudly, I threw my pencil at it. She bites her lip with a vexed expression on her red-hot face. She is overreacting. It was just an annoying crow that bothered me while finishing my fourth-grade math homework. I will shoo any bird that disturbs my concentration by screaming in its hoarse voice. But how will Mama understand?

Mama says I need to see a doctor because I didn't cry on the day when my grandpa slipped over a stone and hit his head against the pavement precisely a year ago. Not even when I saw Grandpa lying on the hospital bed, surrounded by wires and a beeping monitor by his side. Not even when the doctor in a ghostly white coat shook his head and mumbled a feeble sorry. As though it was his fault that Grandpa and I argued about my younger brother getting more attention from the family. As though it was his fault when Grandpa walked out of the door in a huff, accidentally leaving behind his gold-rimmed glasses. It was not the doctor's fault that Grandpa did not look back when I hollered, begging him to stop.

Mama says I am still holding to that guilt. But I cannot discard it like my dead grandpa would carelessly place his chocolate brown shawl on his rocking chair. His gold-rimmed glasses are on my reading table, still carrying the scent of sandalwood powder he'd use after his shower. The Ludo board is still open from the last game we played. Grandpa won and treated me to fresh mangoes and cream. The stack of comics Grandpa would read to me was scattered on the bookshelves.

Mama says Grandpa's spirit was visiting us through that crow to bless me and give me a chance to show how much he loved me. I am about to tell Mama that she needs to see a doctor when her eyes carry a strange illuminating glow, like the sun's rays emanating from them. She is looking through the window. I see that crow has returned. It is tapping on my windowsill, tipping its head to one side, as my grandpa often did when he comforted me whenever I got low grades.

Mama says she has prepared Grandpa's favorite food: white rice with ghee, lentils, boiled cabbage, and chocolate barfi. I watch her place all that food on a water-sprinkled banana leaf. The crow gobbles it up hungrily. When I look at Mama, I see a satiated expression on her face. She folds her hands and mutters a prayer. I see the crow tilt its head again, gaze at me for a long time, caw loudly, and fly away.

Mama says Grandpa has blessed me. The truth is I want to believe her. A part of me longs to atone for my impudent behavior. Another part of me is relieved that our family wasn't cursed. Today, a year after his death, I feel my eyelids grow heavy as the repressed salt-induced tears trickle down my cheeks, realizing that Grandpa isn't there to wipe them away with his wrinkly brown sandalwood-scented hands.

Swetha is an Indian author based in California and an MFA graduate from the University of San Francisco. She has published works across genres in 60-plus journals, including Atticus Review Had, Door is a Jar. (swethaamit.com). She has received three Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations. Her chapbook, Cotton Candy from the Sky, published by Bottlecap Press, is available to order here.