Translation Copyright: Ross Naheedy 2019
Story by Samad Behrangi
Olduz and the Crows
For Kazem – Children’s Friend – and Roohangiz – To guide her in raising good kids for us all.
With the hope that their lives, when grown up, will be better than ours.
*** A Few Words from Olduz
Children, hello! My name is Olduz. It means “star in the sky”. This year I turned 10. The story you’re about to read is a story of mine from when I was younger. Mr. Behrang was our village’s teacher and lived in our house. One day I told him my life story. Mr. Behrang liked it and said, “If you give me permission, I would like to write a story about you and the crows.” I accepted, with a few conditions. First that my story would be written just for kids. Grownups are so distracted that they won’t understand my story and won’t enjoy it. Second, that my story be written for kids who are poor, or at least kids who aren’t spoiled brats. So, the following kids don’t get to read my story:
1. Kids who arrive at school with a servant
2. Kids who arrive at school in expensive cars
Mr. Behran had said that in big cities, kids behaved like that and were self-centered.
Also, to let you know, I lived with my step mom until I was 7. This story is from those times. My own mom lived in another village. My dad had divorced her and sent her back to her dad, and then my dad had married my step mom. He worked in an office. We lived in a town back then. It was a small town, with just one main street. After a few years I went back to my mom’s village.
Anyway, Mr. Behrang has promised me that after this story, he’ll write a story about my talking doll. I hope that you learn something from this story I’m about to tell.
*** The Discovery of Mama Crow
Olduz was sitting in her home. She was alone, looking out through the window. Her step mom had gone to the baths and locked the door. She had told Olduz to sit and not move, otherwise she would beat Olduz when she came back. So Olduz was sitting in a room in their house. She was looking, thinking. Her expression looked all grownup. She sat motionless, scared of her step mom, and thought about her big doll which she had recently lost and was so depressed because of that. She counted her fingers a few times, then slowly crawled near the window. Suddenly she noticed a black crow sitting by the pool, drinking water. That seemed to cheer her up. The crow raised its head and saw Olduz. It almost flew away when it realized that Olduz wasn’t going to harm her. It opened its beak a little. Olduz though the crow was laughing, so she became happy and said, “Mr. Crow, the water in the pool is dirty. If you drink it you’ll get sick.”
The crow laughed, then hopped its way over to Olduz and said, “No dear, it doesn’t make a difference for us crows. I have drank dirtier water than this and nothing has happened to me. Also, don’t call me Mr. Crow. I am a woman and have four kids. Call me Mama Crow.”
Olduz couldn’t make out what part of the crow was woman. The crow seemed so kind that Olduz wanted to grab her to hug and kiss her. It was true that the crow wasn’t beautiful. You could even say that the crow was ugly. But she had a kind heart. If she came a little more forward Olduz would grab her and kiss her.
Mama Crow came forward a little and asked, “What is your name?”
Olduz said her name.
“What are you doing inside?”
“Nothing. My step mom has left and gone to the baths. She told me not to move.”
“Geewiz! You think like growups! Why don’t you play a little?”
Olduz remembered her big doll and sighed. Then she opened the window a little so that the crow could hear her better. “Mama Crow, I don’t have anything to play with. I had a big doll that got lost. It was a talking doll.”
Mama Crow wiped a tear with the tip of her wing and hopped up on the window ledge. Olduz was scared at first and moved away, then she became unbelievably happy and came forward. Mama Crow asked, “Don’t you have a fried to play with?”
“Yes, Yashar. But I see him very little. Very little. He goes to school.”
“Then let’s play with each other.”
Olduz grabbed Mama Crow and hugged her, then she kissed Mama Crow’s head and next her face. Her feathers were rough. Mama Crow pulled her feet in so as not to dirty Olduz’ dress. Olduz kissed her beak. It smelled like soap.
“Mama Crow, do you like soap?”
“I love soap!”
“My step mom won’t like it, otherwise I would bring one for you to eat.”
“Hide it! She won’t find out.”
“But won’t you tell her?”
“Me? I never tell on anyone.”
“Well, my step mom always says that what ever I do, the crow will tell her.”
Mama Crow started to laugh. “She’s lying! I swear on my black head. I never tell on anyone. I pretend to be thirsty, fly to a pool, steal soap and fish, and then fly away.
“Mama Crow, why stealing? It’s wrong!”
“Don’t be naive. Why is it wrong? It is wrong for me not to steal and watch my kids die from hunger. That’s what’s wrong. It is wrong if I cannot fill my stomach. It is wrong for soap to be abundant everywhere, yet for me to die because I don’t have any. I have lived long enough to know the difference. You should also know that words alone will not stop thieves. There will always be thievery.”
Olduz wanted to go and grab a bar of soap to bring for Mama Crow. Her step mom used to keep foods in a locked cabinet, but she didn’t hide soap bars. Olduz left Mama Crow by the window and went to the closet. She grabbed a bar of soap and headed back.
When she arrived at the window, Olduz saw that Mama Crow had flown away and that her step mom was coming towards the window. Her step mom’s face was beet red. Olduz was in a bad situation. Her step mom stuck her head inside through the window and yelled, “Olduz, what are you doing all over the house? Didn’t I tell you not to move?”
Olduz didn’t say anything. Her step mom unlocked the door. Olduz hid the soap quickly under her shirt and ran towards a corner. Her step mom came inside and asked, “What were you looking for?”
“Mom, please don’t hit me. I was looking for my big doll.”
Her step mom hated the doll. She took Olduz’ ear in her hand, twisted it, and said, “I told you a hundred times to not think about that stupid doll anymore. Do you understand?”
After that her step mom left for the kitchen to fix herself a cup of tea. Olduz pretended that she had to go pee and went into the yard, heading to the outhouse. She looked in every direction and then up, only to find that Mama Crow was sitting at the edge of the roof with worried eyes. Olduz hid the soap under some bushes and winked at Mama Crow. She wanted Mama Crow to come and take her soap. Mama Crow flew down slowly and hid under the bushes. Olduz asked, “Mama Crow, can you bring one of your kids for me to play with?”
Mama Crow said in a hush voice, “Wait for me after lunch. If my husband doesn’t have a problem with it, I’ll bring one.” Then she took her soap and flew away.
Olduz stared at the sky. When the crow was gone out of site, Olduz started jumping around happily. It seemed as though she had found her talking doll. All of a sudden her step mom stuck her head out of the window and yelled, “Girl! Why are you dancing? Come inside, you’ll get heat stroke. I don’t have neither the time nor the patience to take care of you if you get sick.”
It was time to eat lunch. Olduz went and sat in the house. A few minutes later her dad came home from the office. He seemed angry and upset and didn’t even greet Olduz. Without washing his hands, he sat at the sofreh (Sofreh: People in Iran usually eat their food picnic style while sitting in front of a linen cloth thrown on the ground. The linen cloth is called sofreh.) and started eating. It seemed like he had had another argument with his boss at work.
Olduz was about to faint from the smell of french fries and watching her dad eat. She kept swallowing her saliva, but she wasn’t allowed to pickup anything up to eat. Her step mom had always said “Kids can never take any food by themselves. Adults always have to put food on the kids’ plates for the kids to eat.”
*** Let’s Learn About “Mr. Crow”
It was September. Dad and Step Mom always took a nap after they ate lunch. Olduz had to sleep, too, otherwise her dad would yell at her. He always said, “A kid should eat her lunch and nap.” Olduz never understood why she had to nap. She told herself, Today I will not sleep. If I sleep Mama Crow will come and won’t find me and will take her child back.
She laid along the wall in a room and pretended to be asleep. When Dad and Step Mom were asleep she slowly crawled out of the room, went to the yard, and sat under the berry tree. It was only three times that she had counted her fingers when Mama Crow arrived. First she sat on the roof ledge and looked at Olduz. Olduz motioned that it was okay for her to fly down. Mama Crow flew down and sat by Olduz. She had brought a cute, little crow with her. Mama Crow said, “I was afraid you would be sleeping.”
“I nap everyday, but today I waited for Dad and Step Mom to fall asleep and I didn’t.”
“Excellent! You’ve done well. You have lots of time to sleep. If you sleep during the day, what are you going to do during the night?”
“Why don’t you tell that to my step mom? Have you brought the little crow for me? How cute!”
Mama Crow gave her child to Olduz. The crow was adorable. Suddenly Olduz sighed. Mama Crow asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I just remembered my doll. I wish she was here. The three of us could play.”
“Don’t be sad over it. One of my grand children’s daughter has laid eggs. They will hatch in a couple of days and I’ll bring one of them for you, that’ll make you three.”
“But don’t you have any other kids?”
“Yes, I have three more.”
“Then you should bring one.”
“But then I’ll be lonely. And Dada Crow doesn’t allow that either. This one that I have brought for you doesn’t know how to talk, walk, or fly,” said Mama Crow. “He’ll be talking in a week and will fly in two weeks. You have to be careful so that he knows how to fly at the end of two weeks, otherwise he’ll never be able to fly. Remember that.”
Olduz asked, “He? Is it a boy?”
“How can you tell that he’s a boy? All the crows look the same.”
“You may think so. If you pay a little attention you’ll understand the difference between boy and girl crows. You can tell by looking at them.
“What if he can’t fly? What then?”
“That’s obvious. He’ll die. Do you know what to feed him?”
“No. I don’t,” Olduz replied.
“A little soap everyday. A little meat and other stuff. If you can, a small fish. You have a lot of fish in the pool. He’ll eat worms and cheese, too.”
“Will your step mom allow you to keep him?”
“No way! She cannot stand animals. I’ll have to hide him.”
The little crow was moving around in Olduz’ lap. He was opening his beak and grabbing Olduz’ hands. His little eyes were sparkling and he had tiny legs, just like Olduz’ pinky. His feathers were soft, not rough like Mama Crow. He was cuter than Mama Crow.
“So where are you going to hide him?”
Olduz hadn’t thought of that. She started thinking. Where could she hide the crow? She couldn’t think of a place, so she said, “How about the bushes?”
“We can’t do that. Your step mom will see him. Plus he’ll get wet when anyone’s watering the plants and will catch pneumonia.”
“Then where can we hide him?”
Mama Crow looked around a bit. “Under the stairs.” The stairs led to the roof. In little towns these kinds of stairs were aplenty. There was a birdcage under the stairs. It had hay laid down on the bottom. They put the little crow in the cage and closed the cage door so that cats could not get the crow. That way Step Mom wouldn’t find out about the crow either. There was a little hole in the cage, through which the little crow could breath.
“Mama Crow, what is his name?”
“You can call him ‘Mr. Crow’.”
They chitchatted a little before Mama Crow left. Olduz went into the house, laid down and closed her eyes. When Step Mom woke up she saw that Olduz was still sleeping. But Olduz wasn’t asleep. She wasn’t sleepy. All she could think of was ‘Mr. Crow’. In her head, she was laughing at her step mom.
*** The Delicious Spiders
A few days passed. Olduz was very happy. Dad and Step Mom were puzzled. One night Step Mom told Dad, “I don’t know what’s wrong with Olduz. She’s laughing and dancing all the time, as if she’s lost her mind. I have to figure out what’s making her all happy.” Olduz heard these words and decided to be more cautious.
She visited Mr. Crow two or three times a day. Every once in a while, when everyone was gone, she would take Mr. Crow out of the his cage and play with him. Olduz taught him how to talk. Sometimes Mama Crow came, too, and brought things for her son. A piece of meat, soap and things like that. One time she brought two spiders. She had caught the spiders in her beak. They were flailing their arms, but couldn’t escape. And they had long legs, too! Olduz was scared of them, but Mama Crow said, “Don’t be afraid, my dear. Look to see how my son eats them.”
Mr. Crow ate them with a large appetite, then swiped his beak several times across the ground and said, “Mama, bring some more of these. They were delicious.”
Mama Crow promised him to bring more.
“We have many of these in our kitchen,” said Olduz. “I’ll bring you some.” Mr. Crow thanked her.
After that day Olduz looked in all corners of the house to hunt for spiders. She’d take them and put them in her pocket, and then close the button so they couldn’t escape. She’d later give them to Mr. Crow. Of course these didn’t count as food, just treats and such. Mama Crow had said if a living thing didn’t eat it would surely die. Nothing can keep it alive, except food.
One day at lunch Step Mom saw a few spiders with broken limbs walking over the sofreh. Olduz realized they had escaped from her pocket and her heart sank. First she wanted to collect them and put them back in her pocket, but then thought it’d be better if she didn’t do anything. Step Mom grabbed them by the legs and threw them outside, and a bad situation was quickly resolved.
After lunch Olduz visited Mr. Crow to give him the rest of the spiders in her pocket. She even caught a couple of the spiders Step Mom had throw out and gave them to Mr. Crow. She tried taking one between her fingers and feeding Mr. Crow, just like Mama Crow had done, how she used her beak to feed her children.
Mr. Crow wanted to eat the spider, but suddenly grossed out and pulled away. “No, thank you, Olduz.”
“Why, my little crow?”
“Look at your nails. Do you see how they are?”
Olduz looked at her nails. “What’s wrong with them?”
“Long, dirty, black! Please forgive me Miss Olduz, but I can’t eat food from – Do you know what I mean?”
“Understood. I thank you very much for pointing that out to me. After this, even I won’t be able to eat with dirty nails.”
*** Screams Over the Fish and the Death Sentence of Mama Crow
There were a few gold fish in the small pool in the yard. It was the sixth or the seventh days when Olduz caught one in a bowl and gave it to Mr. Crow. That was the first fish Mr. Crow had ever had. He had heard from his mom that the hunt for fish and eating it afterwards was very satisfying, but he hadn’t seen how. His mom wasn’t like Olduz’s step mom; Mama Crow knew a lot of things. She knew what was good for him and what wasn’t. If Mr. Crow wanted something bad she wouldn’t yell at him. She would say, “Look child, I won’t bring you this or that because it is not good for you. If you eat such thing you won’t be able to caw well, because you’ll lose your voice, because …”
She explained everything.
But Step Mom wasn’t like that. She’d always say, angrily, things like: “Olduz, don’t do that”, “Don’t eat that”, “Don’t go there”, “Don’t do it this way”, “Don’t do it that way”, “Sit straight”, “Don’t talk loudly” or “Why are you whispering”. She never said why you shouldn’t talk loudly, or why you should take naps in the afternoon. Olduz used to think that all moms were like her step mom. Then she got to know Mama Crow and her thoughts changed.
The next day Step Mom realized that one of the fish was missing. She started screaming at the top of her lungs. At noon, during lunch ,she told her husband. “This is all the work of the Mama Crow, the one who comes and sits on the edge of the pool and steals the bar of soap. She’s very sassy, too. If I get a hold of her, I’ll hang her. I’ll execute her.”
Then she swore at Mama Crow. Olduz didn’t say a thing. If she had said anything her step mom would suspect that she had something going on with Mama Crow, specially because the previous day she almost got caught by her step mom by the pool.
Her dad said, “These crows are dirty animals to begin with. They’re thieves. I haven’t seen an honest crow my whole life. We should be careful, otherwise there won’t be even one fish left in the pool.”
“Definitely, we should be careful. Now that the crow has got her teeth on the fish and knows that it tastes good, she’ll be coming back for more.”
Olduz kept a straight face through all of this, but inside she was laughing. Because crows don’t have teeth. Mama Crow told Olduz herself.
*** Mama Crow Knows Much and Is Not Afraid of Dying
Mama Crow came by at noon. Everyone was asleep. Olduz sat with her under the mulberry tree and told her everything.
Mama Crow said, “Don’t even worry about these. If your step mom tries to catch me I’ll take out her eyes.”
Then they took Mr. Crow out of his cage. Mr. Crow was talking very fluently by now. May be not as well as Olduz or his mom, but pretty good for a crow his age. He jumped around the bushes and the flowers a little, flapped his wings a little, and then came and sat by Mama Crow. She had taught him how to catch the lice from his wings and kill them.
Mama Crow had a scar under her left wing. She showed the wound to Olduz and Mr. Crow and said “I got this about fifty or sixty years ago while I was stealing a bar of soap. The soap baker threw the hammer at me and gave me this wound. It took five years for it to heal completely; I ate some of the herbs from the desert and it finally healed.”
Olduz was amazed at Mama Crow’s education and knowledge and wished to be more like her. Olduz didn’t remember her own mom, except she heard once by accident that her mom was living in a far away village. Step Mom and Dad were having a fight and Step Mom had said, “Take your daughter and leave her with her own mom. I don’t want to be her maid anymore. One of these days I’m going to have my own kid.”
And pregnant she became. Her belly had started to show that she was indeed pregnant.
Olduz’s uncle had also mentioned her mom a couple of times. He used to come from the village he lived in to Olduz’ town every once in a while to visit. Olduz just knew that her mom lived in a village and that her mom loved her very much. She didn’t know anything else about her mom.
That day Mama Crow kissed Olduz, kissed Mr. Crow, and flew to the roof to get ready to leave for the City of Crows. Olduz sent her hello to Mama Crow’s other children and Daddy Crow, but then remembered that she should send something for Mama Crow’s other children. She searched her pockets and found a pacifier in one of them. Step Mom had bought it for Olduz. She went to the roof and gave it to Mama Crow. Mama Crow took off to sit on a tree branch. She turned toward Olduz and then took off with a caw, heading the other way until Olduz couldn’t see her anymore.
*** A Short Visit With Yashar
Olduz was standing on the roof, looking at the lands far away, when she suddenly remembered that she had come to the roof without telling her step mom. She took a look at the street and the roofs on other houses. The view from the roof was very nice. She looked at their neighbor’s house on the left side. That was Yashar’s house. All of a sudden Yashar came out of his house very quietly and sat in front of his dog house, which was empty most of the time. Yashar was two years older than Olduz. He was a very smart and kind boy. Olduz tried hard to catch Yashar’s attention, but couldn’t. She was afraid to speak loudly to catch his attention and had almost given up when Yashar raised his head and saw her. First he seemed confused, but then came over to the wall with a smile and said “Olduz, what are you doing up there?”
“I was just sad, thought I’d come up here and look around a bit.”
“Where’s your step mom?”
Olduz had forgotten about everything else after she had come up. As soon as she heard Yashar ask about her step mom, she remembered that she had left Mr. Crow in the middle of the yard. If Step Mom woke up and found Mr. Crow, she thought, Oh my God! That would be so bad. She quickly ran downstairs and put Mr. Crow in his cage. As soon as she closed the cage door she heard her step mom. “Olduz! Where the hell are you? Why aren’t you answering?”
Olduz’ stomach cramped up into a knot. First she couldn’t say anything, but after she collected herself, she said “I’m here Mom.”
Step Mom didn’t say anything else. Poof! That was close!
*** Execution of Mama Crow
The next morning, Olduz was suddenly awaken by loud caws of a crow. She listened and could tell it was Mama Crow, and she was asking for help. She was screaming as if someone was killing her. Olduz ran into the yard and saw that her step mom had hung Mama Crow from the mulberry tree. Mama Crow was screaming in agony while Step Mom was swearing at her and beating her with a stick. Step Mom’s face had several wounds on it and blood was dripping from her face. Mama Crow was flapping her wings and screaming. She was hung by her feet.
Olduz didn’t even realize when she ran towards her Step Mom, grabbed her and sank her teeth into Step Mom’s leg. Step Mom screamed and pushed Olduz away and then slapped her very hard on her face. Olduz fell to the ground and hit her head on a stone. She lost consciousness and didn’t feel anything else.
*** Olduz’ Bad Dreams
It wasn’t until noon when Olduz came about. A few of the neighbors were there. Step Mom had one of her eyes and her forehead covered by a white band. She was sitting by Olduz and feeding her a spoonful of medicine. Olduz couldn’t focus her eyes well, but she slowly recognized the people in the room one by one. She saw Yashar, too, who was sitting by his mom and was staring at Olduz.
When Step Mom saw that Olduz had opened her eyes, she said, “Thank God! She’s opened her eyes. She won’t die. Olduz! Say something!”
Olduz couldn’t speak. She turned her head towards her Step Mom. All of a sudden she heard, from every direction, the screams of Mama Crow. Olduz lunged her hand at Step Mom like a crazy person and screamed, but her head hurt so much that her hand just dropped and her voice cut. Then she started crying. “Where … is … Mama … Crow? Where? Where? Mama Crow… Where? Where’s the little crow? Mommy! Mommy!”
Yashar ran towards her before everyone else. Everyone in the room was trying to calm Olduz by speaking gently to her, but she just continued to cry. Step Mom was being kind. She spoke softly and said, “Olduz, don’t cry. Eat your medicine and you’ll feel better soon.”
Finally Olduz was exhausted from crying and fell asleep. She dreamed of Mama Crow, how she was hanging from the tree, dying, saying “Olduz, I’m gone. Don’t forget everything I have told you. Don’t be afraid.” Olduz ran towards the tree in her dream, but her step mom jumped out from behind the tree, ready to kick Olduz. Olduz screamed and woke up from her dream. All throughout afternoon she kept sleeping and waking up screaming. One time she opened her eyes and saw the doctor above her head, examining her. Then she heard the doctor tell her dad, “The wound is not important. It’ll heal fast. But the kid is scared. She’s jumpy. She’s afraid of something. I’ll give her some medicine to calm her down so she can sleep.”
“I’m hungry,” Olduz uttered.
Step Mom brought her milk. Olduz drank the milk, the doctor gave her a shot, took his sack and left.
Olduz stared at the ceiling and didn’t say anything. She wanted to hear Step Mom and Dad’s conversation, but didn’t hear much. She fell asleep soon after.
*** Mr. Crow’s Grieves and How Mama Crow Was Caught
The next morning Olduz remembered Mr. Crow. Her hand was shaking and she spilled her tea on the covers. Step Mom rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything. Dad was up as well, wearing his pants and getting ready to go to the office. Olduz wanted to get up and check on Mr. Crow, but she thought twice about doing so. She didn’t have any idea what had happened to Mr. Crow, or how Mama Crow had been caught by Step Mom that early in the morning. Step Mom had removed the bandage from her eye and head. The wounds were obviously made by Mama Crow’s beak.
After Dad left, Step Mom said, “I’m going to Yashar’s house to talk to his mom and I’ll be back soon. It’s been a long time since I went to the baths. I can’t take you with me this time, so I’ll ask Yashar’s mom if she can go to the baths with me.”
Step Mom had become very friendly all of a sudden. She had never spoken to Olduz like this. Olduz didn’t like it. All of a sudden she remembered and asked, “Mommy, now that you’re going to the baths, can you ask Yashar to come over? I’m dying of boredom.”
Step Mom frowned and said, “Yashar is going to school today.”
Olduz didn’t say anything. When Step Mom left, she got up and went to check on Mr. Crow. Poor Mr. Crow was sitting on the hay and crying. As soon as he saw Olduz he said, “Ahhh! You’re here!”
“Please forgive me that I didn’t come earlier.”
“Please bring me something to eat. I’m very hungry and very thirsty. Then we’ll talk.”
Olduz went and got him some food and water. Mr. Crow ate a couple of bites and said “I thought you followed my mom.”
“Where did your mom go?”
“Nowhere. Your step mom hit her so much that she died. They then threw her in the garbage or somewhere else.”
Olduz swallowed her tears. “What an ending. By now the dogs have torn her into pieces and have eaten her.”
“Not likely. Our meat is very bitter. Dogs don’t even dare smell our dead bodies. Our bodies sit on the ground until they decompose. My mom is probably in some garbage somewhere, decomposing.”
Olduz couldn’t hold her tears any longer and started to cry. Mr. Crow was crying, too. Finally Olduz said, “Step Mom will be here any moment and will see us. I’ll leave and after she leaves for the baths I’ll come back.”
Then she closed the cage and went back under the covers. Step mom came, took her bath pack and left. Then Olduz came back to get Mr. Crow. The sun was already up, so she took Mr. Crow out of his cage to catch some rays.
Mr. Crow flapped his wings a couple of times, wiped his beak on the ground, and said, “You know, Olduz, freedom is a really good thing.”
“Did you figure out why Mama Crow had come so early in the morning?”
Mr. Crows nodded.
“Can you tell me?”
“To be honest, she had come to take me and teach me how to fly. At dawn she came near me and said ‘Today is the day to fly. I’ll be taking your brothers and sisters, and you should come, too. I’ll bring you back later.’ I asked my mom, ‘What about Olduz? Won’t you let her know?’ and she said ‘I’ll tell her.’ Then she closed my cage and went to tell you. A little passed and you didn’t come. I was sitting in my cage when I heard some commotion. All of a sudden my mom started screaming. My heart dropped. My mom was saying ‘Why are you beating me? Don’t we have a right to live, too? Why can’t we be friends with whomever we want?’ I looked through the hole in the cage and saw that your step mom had caught my mom under a sift. It was clear that your step mom wasn’t listening to my mom.”
Olduz was impatient. “What next?”
“Then she tied my mom with a rope and hung her from the mulberry tree. My mom jumped and scratched your step mom with her beak. That’s when your step mom lost it and started hitting my mom with a stick.”
“Did Mama Crow say anything else?”
“Yes, she did,” Mr. Crow continued. “She said ‘You stupid step mom! You think crows like to steal things? If I had enough food to fill my children’s bellies, why would I do such a stupid thing as stealing? You fill your own bellies and think everyone else is living a life like yours.’”
Mr. Crow became quiet. Olduz swallowed her tears, too, and asked, “And then?”
“Then you came out, with just a shirt. And you know the rest.”
The two became silent for a moment. Olduz asked “So she’s gone. What do we do now?”
“I have to learn to fly.”
“True. I’ve been thinking only about myself this whole time.”
“I wish my dad, brothers, sisters, and grandma knew where we were.”
“Yes. They would be helping us.”
“Do you remember when my mom said that if I didn’t learn to fly in a few days I would die?”
“Do you know how many days I have left?”
Olduz did the math with her fingers. “We don’t have more than six days.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“Do you want me to give you to Yashar? He can take you outside the town and teach you how to fly.”
“He’s our neighbor to the left,” Olduz said.
“I don’t have a problem if he’s a kind boy.”
“He’s very kind, and very responsible. But how am I going to tell him?”
“Go to the roof and tell him that he needs to take me.”
“We can’t now. He’s at school.”
Mr. Crow asked “School? How many more days do we have in the summer before school starts?”
Olduz said “You’re right! Step Mom had tricked me. The schools are closed. I’ll go to the roof. Wait here for me.”
She was on the second step when she heard footsteps outside the door. She quickly put Mr. Crow in his cage, closed the cage’s door, went inside, laid under the blanket and stared at the yard.
*** The House Becomes Empty
A dog barked, then the door opened. Dad came in, followed by Uncle, Dad’s little brother. A black dog squeezed in through the door behind them. Uncle was holding the dog’s leash.
Dad said, “From now on no crow will set foot on this property.
Uncle said, “I’ll have to come and take him for Winter.
“That’s okay. We won’t need a dog during Winter.”
“Where’s Olduz? Has she gone somewhere with her mom?”
“No, she is sick and sleeping.”
They tied the leash to the mulberry tree and came inside. Olduz liked her uncle ,mostly because he was born in the same village as her mom.
Uncle asked her how she was, but didn’t give any news of her mom. Dad didn’t like it when anyone spoke of Olduz’ mom.
Uncle turned to Dad and said, “Won’t you go to the office?”
“No, I took a day off. Besides, it’s too late.”
that the subject turned to crows and dogs again. Dad kept bad
mouthing crows. “Crows are dirty, timid thieves. The come to
steal, but as soon as they see someone picking up a stone or
something they scram away.”
Step Mom came home at one o’clock. The dog grumbled at first, but became quiet after Uncle yelled at him through the window.
Step Mom always kept her hair covered around Uncle. Uncle, too, dropped his head while near Step Mom and never looked at her face. Olduz was sitting silently, staring at her nucle. All of a sudden she asked “Uncle, can’t you take your dog with you?”
Dad was shocked. Uncle turned to Olduz and asked, “Why?”
Olduz was tongue-tied and didn’t know what to say. Finally she said “I … I’m afraid of it.”
Dad said, “Oh, come on now. Don’t be stupid.”
Uncle said, “Don’t be afraid dear. He’s a good dog. I’ll tell him not to bite you.”
Dad said, “Leave her alone. She’s can’t understand logic. She bites worst than any dog will and takes the thieving crows’ side for no reason. It’s not clear what good these dirty animals have done for her.”
Olduz didn’t say anything else. She pulled the cover over her head and went to sleep. When she woke up she saw that her uncle was gone and that the dog was barking in the yard, driving the crows away.
After that day the house was like a ghost town. The crows couldn’t set foot in the yard. Even Olduz was afraid when she went into the yard. Once she was taking a piece of lamb to give to Mr. Crow when the dog grabbed it from her hand and ate it, leaving Olduz screaming and running back inside.
*** The Days of Distress and Worry, Hunger and Fear
Olduz got out of bed. The wounds on Step Mom’s face healed fast, but Olduz’ took a long time. Step Mom’s treatment of Olduz had gotten bad again. She yelled at Olduz more now. Olduz’ bite on her leg had left a mark.
Mr. Crow was in pretty bad shape. He was hungry all the time and no matter how hard Olduz tried to bring him water and food, she couldn’t. The black dog was guarding the yard pretty heavily. He barked at any strange noise. Olduz and Mr. Crow’s only hope was Yashar. If Yashar was willing to help them, then things would get better. But Olduz didn’t know how to get Yashar’s help. Olduz didn’t even go to the roof, fearing the dog. She couldn’t, even if she got over her fear. The dog wouldn’t let her. The dog would bark, and even bite her. He always hung around the yard, sniffing everything.
Yashar’s mom came over to Olduz’ house every once in a while. But it wasn’t possible to tell her anything. How could Olduz be sure Yashar’s mom wasn’t Step Mom’s right hand man and would tell Step Mom everything? You can’t trust anybody nowadays. Plus Step Mom never left Olduz alone with anyone else.
The days passed, five in distress and worry, with just one day left. Olduz knew that Mr. Crow had to be taught how to fly that very day, otherwise he’d die. But how would she teach him to fly? She didn’t know.
Finally she got a chance to see Yashar. That final day Step Mom wanted to go to a wedding. Olduz said, “Mom, I’m afraid of the dog. I can’t stay home alone.”
Step Mom frowned, but took her over to Yashar’s so his mom could take care of Olduz. Olduz was happy from the bottom of her heart. She didn’t see Yashar and asked his mom where he was, when she replied, “He’s gone to school, my dear. The schools opened yesterday.” Olduz sat and waited for Yashar.
*** The Plan to Free Mr. Crow
It was noon. Yashar came running home. He turned red as soon as he saw Olduz and said hi. Olduz said hi back. Yashar had an infant sister and his mom was breastfeeding his sister. Olduz and Yashar went outside into the yard.
Olduz asked in a quiet and sad voice, “Yashar, do you know what has happened?
“Mr. Crow is dying.”
“Which Mr. Crow?”
“My Mr. Crow!”
“But you don’t have a crow.”
“Sure, I do. Now what should we do?”
Yashar asked, excitedly, “Where did you get him from?”
“I’ll tell you later. Now what should we do?”
“Is he dying from hunger?”
“Is he wounded?”
“Then why is he dying?”
“He can’t fly. If he can’t fly he’ll surely die.”
“Give him to me and I’ll teach him.”
“I’ve hid him under the stairs.”
“Does your step mom know?”
“If she knew she’d kill him!”
“We’ll have to devise a plan.”
“First we have to take care of the dog. Don’t you hear him barking?”
“I do. The dog won’t let us take Mr. Crow out. Give me a couple of days and I’ll think of something.”
“We don’t have time. I have to take him out today, otherwise he’ll die. Mama Crow told me herself.”
Yashar had become excited and his mind was thinking about solutions. He asked, mid-thought, “But who is Mama Crow?”
“She’s his mom. I’ll tell you everything later. Now we have to do something to help Mr. Crow.”
“I won’t go back to school this afternoon. We’ll slip and take out Mr. Crow.”
They ate bread, cheese and vegetables for lunch. After lunch Yashar’s dad went to work and his mom slept beside his infant sister. Yashar had told her that Olduz and he weren’t going to sleep since he had homework to do.
Yashar used to lie about having homework every once in a while so that his mom would leave him alone.
*** Murder in Order to Free Mr. Crow From His Prison
Yashar and Olduz went outside and to the roof a little later. After checking everything out from above, they saw that Dad had undone the dog’s leash and the dog was now sleeping by Mr. Crow’s cage.
Yashar said, “I’ll go downstairs and grab Mr. Crow.”
“Don’t you see the dog’s sleeping over there?” Olduz asked.
“You’re right. Poor Mr. Crow! He’s probably all scared.”
“I don’t think so. He is a brave crow.”
“What do we do?”
“Let’s think and find a solution.”
“Ok. I’ll devise a plan,” said Yashar.
Step Mom had set her pickle jars in the corner on the roof and put rocks around them to keep them from falling over. Yashar saw the rocks and suddenly said, “We have to kill the dog.”
Olduz was startled and asked, “Kill him?”
“Yes. If we kill him we’ll be rid of him forever.”
“But I’m afraid.”
“I’ll kill him.”
“But isn’t it wrong and a sin?” Olduz exclaimed.
“Sin? I don’t know. I don’t know if it would be considered a sin, but we don’t have any other way. We’re not doing harm to a person.”
“But the dog belongs to my uncle.”
“I know, but why has your uncle brought his dog over to scare you and force us to keep Mr. Crow in his cage? Why?”
Olduz didn’t have an answer. Yashar tiptoed to the rocks, picked a large one, and came back. He asked Olduz if anyone was in the house. Olduz said, “Mom has gone to a wedding. I don’t know about Dad. I feel very sad for the dog.”
“You think I like to kill dogs? There’s no other way.”
He then stepped over above the dog, held the rock high, and let it go. The rock fell on top of the dog. The dog let out a howl and started to flail his legs. All of a sudden they heard Dad’s voice. They pulled themselves back. Dad came out and saw the dog dying.
Yashar whispered to Olduz, “Let’s run. Your dad will see the rock and come to the roof.”
“What about Mr. Crow?” asked Olduz.
“I’ll be back later to get him.”
They both tiptoed back into the house and sat down after splattering Yashar’s book in front of them, in a way that if anyone saw them it’d look like they’d been studying. But their hearts were thumping. Their faces were flush, too. They heard Dad’s footsteps on the roof. Then there was silence. Yashar went to the roof, alone. Olduz’ dad had put on his clothes and was standing over the dog’s carcass. He then left the house. Yashar remembered when he was throwing stones one day and broke one of the windows in Olduz’ house by acceident. Just like now, Olduz’ dad had gone out to get the police and caused a lot of commotion. Yashar rushed downstairs to get Mr. Crow. “I’m Yashar. We killed the dog to free you.”
Mr. Crow was panting. “Thank you. But the time has passed.”
“My mom had put today noon as my deadline. It’s passed that, and I’ve been without food for so long that I don’t have the strength to fly.”
Yashar was sad. He was almost to the point of crying. He asked, “But won’t you let me teach you to fly?”
“As I said, the time has passed. Tell Olduz to take a few of my feathers and keep them. Somehow or another other crows will come after me and contact you.”
Mr. Crow said these words, then closed his beak and his body became cold and lifeless. Yashar cried. All of a sudden he thought of something and his eyes sparkled. He smiled, and laid Mr. Crow’s carcass on the stair, took the rock and put it in the middle of the kitchen, took the dog’s carcass and put it by the mulberry tree, took a bucket of water and washed the blood away, and then put the bucket upside down in the middle of family room. He then took Mr. Crow and left.
Olduz was very saddened by Mr. Crow’s death and started to cry, but it was something she couldn’t do anything about. Yashar comforted her. “If you want things not to get worst you’ll have to keep quiet. They’ll be afraid beyond their wits. I learned a few things from my teacher today and I want to scare your mom and dad so much so that they will be even scared of their own shadows.”
He then told Olduz everything Mr. Crow had told him and everything he had done. Olduz felt a little better. She took a few of Mr. Crow’s feathers and put them in her pocket. Yashar hid Mr. Crow’s carcass so that they could bury it later.
Yashar’s mom was still hugging her baby and sleeping.
*** Smart Kids Trick Foolish Parents
The kids sat, waiting. All of a sudden the commotion started. Olduz’ dad started screaming. There were other voices as well. Yashar’s mom woke up and ran into the yard to see what the noise was about. She soon came back, put her burka on and went to the roof. Olduz’ dad sounded demented. He was hitting himself upside his head. “Oh my God! Oh my God! We’re done for! Ghosts have come to our house! Someone Help!”
A policeman and several other men surrounded him and were trying to calm him down. He pointed to the dog’s carcass by the mulberry and yelled “See! Who dropped the body over here? Who took the rock? Who washed the blood? Ghosts have come here. First they killed the dog, then … then … Oh My!!!”
Olduz and Yashar were listening on the stairs. Yashar’s mom didn’t let them go to the roof. They were winking at each other and laughing at the foolishness of Olduz’ dad and everyone else. They were amazed at how easily they had puzzled the adults.
The men helped Olduz’s dad inside, but all of a sudden they all were frightened and yelled, “God help us! Ghosts have come here.”
Olduz’ Dad ran back outside, screaming like a mad man, running back and forth. The upside down bucket had frightened everyone. An old man told everyone to search the house, send someone to bring an exorcist, and another to bring a holy man. Dad was yelling “Help Me! Help Me! My house is ruined.”
One person went after the exorcist. Another went after the holy man. An old woman ran into her house to get a prayer to drive out the ghosts. The prayer was written in nice calligraphy and was put in an old frame. Two men took the frame and while reading the prayer searched the house. All of a sudden they reached the kitchen and saw the bloody rock. Scared, they brought the rock out to the yard. Dad screamed as soon as he saw the rock, “My! My! What was the rock doing there? Who took it there? Ghosts are here. They’re here to frighten us. But what have I done to deserve this?”
Olduz and Yashar were still listening and laughing, but ran inside so that the men on the roof wouldn’t see them. Yashar said “Wait until your step mom comes; she’ll go nuts. The happy wedding night will be ruined for her.”
They then laughed again. Yashar covered Olduz’ mouth to muffle her laugh.
It wasn’t clear who had given the news to Step Mom, because she hurried back to the house. As soon as she saw her husband she passed out in the middle of the yard. Women pulled her into the neighbor’s house on the right. An old woman said, “First the exorcist and the holy man must come to expel the ghosts before a pregnant woman can go in the house.”
To make a long story short, the exorcist and the holy man arrived within the hour. The exorcist put an upside-down tub in front of himself, said a few weird sentences, and asked for a mirror, made some strange noises out of himself and the tub, said some more strange sentences, and then loudly said, “Ghosts! I swear you to the king of ghosts, leave this Muslim man’s house and don’t bother him.”
He then put his ear to a bell and stared into the mirror. After a while he told Olduz’ dad “They don’t seem to be listening. Give me 50 tomans (Iranian currency) and I’ll make them leave.
Olduz’ dad bickered over the price a bit and brought him down to 30 tomans. The exorcist took the money, put his hand under the tub, brought it back out, and said, “Ghosts! Leave this Muslim man’s house and don’t bother him! I swear you to the king of ghosts.”
A little later, he got up and said, happily, “Luckily they have left. But they’ll be back unless you make me happy.”
Dad took a relief breath and gave the exorcist another 30 tomans and sent him on his way. Then it was the holy man’s turn. He wrote prayers in weird cursive in black and orange inks on pieces of papers and hid the papers throughout the house. He took 20 tomans and left.
They brought Step Mom in.
Nobody knew when the policeman had left.
When night had fallen, Yashar’s mom took Olduz back to the house. Dad and Step Mom were so bothered and frightened by the events of the day that they had totally forgotten about Olduz.
*** Snow, Cold, Unemployment and Anticipation
Fall came and with it brought snow and cold, then Winter came and snow and cold became intolerable. Olduz’ uncle came after his dog, but left madly and empty handed. He even got into an argument with Dad because of the dog.
Step Mom was still afraid. The kitchen walls were covered with prayers. Step Mom was also afraid to go outside alone at nights. She always took Olduz with herself. Olduz wasn’t afraid at all. She’d even go out by herself and laugh at Step Mom. She had hidden Mr. Crow’s feathers in the radio box. She didn’t see Yashar much, either. Yashar had buried Mr. Crow’s carcass in a safe and secure place. He just concentrated on going to school and studying.
Every once in a while Yashar would get into an argument with his mom over his having lost his pencil. Yashar lost his pencils often and his mom would get mad, telling him “You are very careless. Your dad works hard to make money to buy these pencils.”
Step Mom’s belly had grown a lot. The neighborhood women were predicting her to go into labor in a couple of weeks. “Maybe sooner,” Step Mom would answer. One woman said, “Hopefully it’ll live this time.” Step Mom answered, “God willing. I’ll donate to the poor and pray for it to stay alive.”
Yashar’s dad was usually jobless and wasn’t doing his construction manual labor any longer. It always snowed so much that you’d get up in the morning and the windows would be half covered by snow. The cold was so bitter that it’d freeze mockingbirds on branches and they’d fall like autumn leaves.
One morning Dad saw two crows sitting on the wall. He picked up something to attack them with, but they both fell to the ground. When he touched them it was clear that they had frozen to death. Olduz became very sad. Yashar heard about it a few days later from his mom. He thought I wonder if they’d come for Mr. Crow. Poor animals.
Yashar’s mom would come over every morning to help Step Mom. She would wash the dishes and clean the house. Then she’d leave around noon to go to her own house and do the same thing over there. She liked Olduz very much. Olduz thought she was a nice woman, too. Once in a while Step Mom would leave to go somewhere and Olduz would get a chance to talk to Yashar’s Mom, maybe ask about Yashar and send him a hello. Other neighbors visited a lot, too, but Olduz liked Yashar’s mom more than the rest of the neighbors. Even though she liked Yashar’s Mom, Olduz still didn’t tell her anything about the crows. Olduz was still waiting for the crows and was pretty sure one day they’d come.
Dad went to the office everyday like clockwork. One night he told Step Mom “I want a child. If your child lives this time, then I’ll send Olduz elsewhere to take her off your hands, but if your baby dies again, I can’t distance myself from Olduz.”
Step Mom was hoping that her baby would be born alive and live. She had prayed a lot for this. Olduz, on the other hand was jealous of this unborn child and was hoping that it’d be stillborn.
*** Praying Does Not Stop Death – Reminiscing Mama Crow
Step Mom finally bore her child.
The child was alive. They treated the poor, sent prayer out, even wore charms and talisman and sacrificed a lamb, and all for what? So that the child would stay alive. But on the weekend the baby was on his death bed. The doctor examined him and said, “He didn’t grow enough in his mother’s womb, and is now having a hard time. There’s nothing I can do.”
The baby died the next day.
Step Mom became sick from weakness and sadness. Day and night she’d say, “The ghosts suffocated my baby. They haven’t left us yet. Or someone was jealous and their evil eye influenced us and killed my baby.”
Yashar’s mom would stay all day long. Every so often Yashar would bring her lunch, and would then talk to Olduz for a couple of minutes. There was no news of the crows, except the occasional lone crow flying overhead, or a crow’s caw that could be heard in the distance. The poplar trees were naked an empty. Olduz remembered Mama Crow and how she used to sit on thin branches, caw, shake herself and then fly away.
*** The Hard Winter Passes
It was a hard winter. Very hard. Soon snow had accumulated in the middle of the yard, enough to reach the walls. Kerosene and coal became unobtainable. You couldn’t even find them at three times their price. Yashar’s dad was still jobless and his mom would go to other houses for work and clothes washing. Sometimes she’d bring news she’d heard, like “Last night a poor family froze to death.” One day she came and told Step Mom, “Last night my baby froze and died under the korsi.” (Korsi: A table covered with blanket to the bottom with a heat source under it, usually embers.)
Yashar became depressed. His sister’s death was driving him crazy. When Olduz saw him, he cried. “I was near death, too. Our korsi is often cold. We don’t have coal.”
Olduz wiped his tears. “Don’t cry, Yashar, or you’ll make me cry, too.”
Yashar stopped his tears. “This morning my dad was telling my mom that in this damned town, nobody knows why others don’t have coal.”
“Does your dad work now?”
“No. He sits at home every day and thinks about things. Sometimes he goes to shovel snow for money.”
“Why doesn’t he go find work?”
“He said there are no jobs.”
“Why aren’t there any jobs?”
Yashar didn’t say anything.
*** The Smell of Spring
The snowfalls were light now. Spring made an appearance and water started flowing, greens started growing and then came flowers. Winter had affected a lot of people. Many of them had lived on the edge of life during winter.
Yashar’s mom put away the korsi and opened the windows. Yashar’s dad and about twenty other men went to Tehran to look for jobs. He ended up working at the brick factory. Only Yashar and his mom were left in their house. Just like previous years.
Step Mom had become better recently, but she still hated seeing Olduz. Olduz was at Yashar’s house most of the time now. Step Mom didn’t stop Olduz. Dad was kind to Olduz, but Olduz hated him, too. Dad said, “I’ll send you to school this year.”
*** Who Knows the Language of the Crows?
Summar was almost here. Yashar was busy studying for finals. One day he said to Olduz, “I saw two crows around the school yesterday.”
Olduz jumped up. “And?”
“I went to class for a math test. When I came out, they were gone.”
Olduz slowly sat back down. “Don’t worry. If they were our crows, they’d be back,” said Yashar.
“Did you talk to them?”
“Didn’t get a chance. Plus, I don’t know the language of the crows.”
“Sure, you do.”
“How do you know?”
“Because you’re kind. Because your mind is clean. Because you don’t want everything for yourself. Because you’re not like Step Mom.”
“Where did you learn these from?”
“All good kids know the language of the crows. Mama Crow told me herself. I’m not making this up.”
Then Yashar remembered that he had already spoken to Mr. Crow. He became happy, so happy that he took Olduz’ hand between his hands and squeezed them. “I don’t remember how I could talk to Mr. Crow that day last year. This explains things.”
*** The Crows’ Return
A few days passed. Summar was getting closer and the weather was getting warmer. The adults were starting to take naps in the afternoons again. They’d eat lunch and then nap, forcing kids to do the same.
One day, after Yashar had finished his final exam, he was walking back home. The mosque was just outside the school. There was a berry tree in front of the mosque. As Yashar was passing under the tree, he heard his name. It was noon. Yashar turned around, but didn’t see anyone. The street was empty. He turned back and started to walk as he heard it again. “Yashar!”
Yashar turned again, this time, to see two crows on a tree branch, smiling at him. His heart started thumping. He asked, “Crows, were do you know me from?”
One of the crows, with her thin voice, asked, “Mr. Yashar, aren’t you Olduz’ friend?”
“Sure. I am.”
The other crow, with his thick voice, said, “It’s true that our mom hadn’t seen you herself, but Olduz had described you to her. We’ve been looking through schools for a while to find you. We didn’t want to see Olduz before we saw you. Our Grand Mom told us not to. How is Olduz?”
“She’s afraid that you’d forgotten her.”
“You have to excuse us that we haven’t introduced ourselves. I’m the brother of the Mr. Crow who was with you and died. This is my sister. You can call her Miss. Crow.”
Miss Crow said, “Of course we had an older brother, too, who froze this last winter. Our dad also died because he missed Mama Crow too much.”
Yashar said, “I hope you are doing well.”
The crows thanked him.
Yashar thought and said, “It’s better that we don’t talk here. Let’s go to my house. Nobody’s there.”
The crows agreed. Yashar started walking and the crows followed him from up above.
It is impossible to imagine how Yashar was feeling. Once in a while he’d look at the sky, see the two crows, smile, and continue walking. They finally arrived at Yashar’s home. Yashar took the key from their neighbor and went in. His mom didn’t come home for lunch. The crows descended and sat on the stairs. Yashar asked, “Don’t you want to see Olduz?”
Just then he heard Olduz’s crying from over the wall. All three became quiet. Miss Crow said, “We can’t see Olduz right now. There’s no hurry.”
Mr. Crow said, “We’ll go to Crow City to pass the news and then we’ll come back to see you again. We’ll be back today. Send our regards to Olduz.”
When Yashar was alone again, he went to the roof. He waited for a while for Olduz, but she never came. His mom had made him a sandwich and put it in the cooler. He ate the sandwich and went back up to the roof again. It was warm. He took his shirt off and laid on his back. He wanted to take a good look at the sky. The sky was clear and blue. A few birds were flying in the distance. It was as though they were gliding, not flying.
*** The Plan for Escape, Escape for the Return
Dad, Step Mom and Olduz were sitting at the sofreh for lunch. Dad had sat Olduz besides himself. Olduz’ eyes were wet. Step Mom said, “She says she’s going to die of loneliness, that we have to let her go and play with Yashar.”
Suddenly Olduz responded, “Yes, I need a friend to play with. I’ll die of loneliness.”
After a little discussion, Dad arranged for Olduz to go over to Yashar’s every once in a while for a little at a time. Olduz became very happy. Dad and Step Mom went to take a nap after lunch. Olduz got up and left for the roof. She wanted to sit there and wait for the crows, but instead she saw Yashar sweetly sleeping under the warm sun. Olduz went over and sat beside him. She ran her fingers through his hair. Yashar opened his eyes and smiled. Olduz smiled, too. Yashar woke up, put on his shirt, and asked, “Olduz, do you know what I was dreaming of?”
“I dreamed we were holding hands, sitting on top of the clouds, going to Miss Crow’s wedding, and other crows were following us.”
Olduz blushed. “Who is Miss Crow?”
“Didn’t I tell you?”
“I saw the crows and spoke to them.”
“When I was coming back from school. They were Mr. Crow’s brother and sister. They’re supposed to come here soon.”
“So Miss Crow is our own Mr. Crow’s sister?”
“What news from Daddy Crow?”
“They said he died mourning Mama Crow.”
Just about then, two crows appeared from behind the trees. They flew and flew until they landed on the roof. One said, “Hello.” Olduz picked them one by one, kissed them, and put them over her skirt. After the casual greetings, Mr. Crow said, “Olduz. All the crows have decided that you should come and stay with us.”
Olduz asked, “You mean run away from home?”
“You’ll have to run away to come with us. If you stay here you’ll die of sadness. We know that Step Mom will harm you.”
“How can I run away? Dad and Step Mom won’t allow me. Uncle doesn’t come to our house, either, after his dog died.”
“If you would like, I can tell you how the crows can help you,” said Miss Crow.
Yashar hadn’t said anything yet, but suddenly said, “You mean she would never come back?”
Miss Crow continued, “That depends on her. What do you think, Yashar?”
“I agree with you. If she stays here she’ll wither away and won’t be able to do anything about it. But if she goes to City of Crows, I don’t know what will happen.”
Mr. Crow said, “We’ll come back tomorrow to talk again. Olduz, you should think things overnight, too.”
They left. Olduz asked, “Yashar, what do you think I should do? Should I go?”
“Yes, go. But do come back. Do you promise to come back?”
“Yashar, I promise you that I’ll come back.”
*** Grandma Crow Teaches the Way to Escape
The crows came back the next day at noon. They had brought an old crow with them. Miss Crow said, “She is our Grandmother.”
Grandma Crow hugged Yashar and Olduz, then sat facing them. “The crows are happy now that we’ve found you. My daughter said many good things about you.”
Olduz asked, “Mama Crow was your daughter?”
“Yes, she was a good crow.”
“She died because of me.”
“There aren’t only a couple of crows out there. They won’t be finished with the death of one or two. If one dies, two more will be born.”
Yashar said, “Olduz wants to come and live with you.”
“How great! We’ll have to get started,” Grandma Crow said.
Olduz asked, “Can I come back whenever I want?”
“Of course you’ll have to come back,” Grandma Crow answered. “The crows don’t like people who leave their home, family and friends and run away just so that they can live in peace without regard for others.”
“How will you take me?”
“The first thing we need is a strong net. You’ll have to make the net.”
“What good will a net do us?”
“The first purpose it’ll serve is that it’ll show the crows that you’re not lazy and that you’re willing to work for you happiness. The second purpose of the net is that you can sit on it and the crows will pick it up and take you to their city.”
Yashar interrupted, “Excuse me Grandma Crow, but where are we supposed to get thread and cotton from to make the net?”
Grandma Crow continued, “The crows are always eager to help nice, working people. We’ll bring the cotton, you two will weave it into thread and make the net.”
The large rocks were still on the roof. Grandma Crow looked at them and said, “We’ll bring the cotton and stuff it under the rocks.”
They talked a little more, and then the crows left.
“Yashar, I don’t know how to weave cotton into thread.”
“I know. I learned it from my dad.”
*** The crows Put Effort, The Kids Work Hard, And the Net Progresses
School had finished. Yashar’s Farsi had gotten better. He now could read his dad’s letters for his mom. He read books, too. His mom was still washing clothes for others, and his dad was still working in the brick factory in Tehran. A lot of crows were visiting them nowadays. Step Mom would look at the sky and get frightened of the crows. Olduz acted cluelessly, causing Step Mom to become upset and suspecting if Olduz didn’t have something going on with the crows, but Olduz’ behavior didn’t warrant any action.
The weaving process happened all in Yashar’s house. Yashar operated the spindle while standing to make strings, then Olduz would weave the strings together to make ropes. There was a small cage in the yard that was empty. They hid the ropes in there.
Grandma Crow visited them every so often to see how the work was progressing. Yashar showed her the ropes, and Grandma Crow laughed, adding, “Excellent kids, excellent! Don’t let anyone find out. Keep your eyes and ears open.”
Olduz and Yashar assured her, “Don’t worry, Grandma Crow. It’s true that we’re young, but we’re smart. We know as much that there are things we can’t let others know we’re doing. Some things we tell, some things we hide.” Grandma Crow rubbed her beak in dirt and said, “I like you kids. You’re different than your parents. Excellent! But you’re still kids and young, and there are things you need to learn and think better.”
Sometimes Miss Crow and her brother came, too. They talked about their city, poplar trees, clouds, wind, valleys, deserts and pools. Olduz and Yashar had gotten to know about 50 or 60 other crows, too. Miss Crow told them there are more than a million crows in the City of Crows. This made the kids excited and happy. One million crows lived in one place and didn’t fight each other. How amazing!
*** Olduz’ Tripmate
One day Yashar and Olduz were spinning yarn when Olduz lifted her head and noticed that Yashar had stopped spinning and was staring at her. “Why are you looking at me, Yashar? What’s wrong?”
“I was thinking.”
“Nothing. Just thinking.”
“You have to tell me.”
“Well, I was thinking that if you leave here, I’ll die of loneliness.”
Olduz smiled. “I was thinking the same thing. I thought what it would be like if we both went on this trip. Going alone won’t be much fun.”
“So you do want me to come with you.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I do. We have to tell Grandma Crow.”
“I’ll tell her myself.”
The next day Grandma Crow came. Yashar asked, “Grandma Crow, can I come with Olduz and be with you?”
“You can, but what about your mom? She’s been good to you. It wouldn’t be fair to her to run away from home.”
“I’ve thought about this. I’ll tell her the day before we leave.”
“If she is okay with that, then I’m okay with it and we’ll take you with.”
Yashar rushed over to Olduz to give her the good news.
*** Fish Thievery, Wool Thieves, Useless Prayers
Yashar passed his exams. The day he brought home his report card, he also wrote a letter to his dad.
Olduz and Yashar usually spent their time together. Her step mom picked on her less then. In reality, she liked it when Olduz wasn’t around. The step mom was always worried about the crows as well. There were too many of them and they hung around too often. Olduz’ dad was worried as well, specially when one day he noticed that the fish were gone from the pond. Miss Crow and her brother had eaten two, Grandma Crow had eaten one, and the rest whatever other crows could get theirs beaks on. Dad and step mom swore whenever they saw a crow and threw stones at it.
One day Olduz’ dad bought a crate of raisins so that they could ferment the grapes into vinegar. Step mom went to the roof to grab the fermenting jar, when she noticed the cotton stuffed under the rocks. She hurriedly grabbed the cottons and brought them downstairs.
“See! The ghosts haven’t left us yet! Who stuffed all this cotton underneath the rocks on the roof?”
Dad paused and then said, “We have to stop them.”
“I’ll go get the holy man tomorrow. Hopefully he can write some prayers to leave around the house to scare these ghosts away.”
The next day Olduz saw Yashar and told him everything her step mom and dad had said. Yashar laughed, “We have to go steal the rest of the cotton, otherwise we’ll fall behind the schedule.”
They ran to the roof and brought all the cotton down. Looking for a place to hide them, Yashar saw the dog house. “How about there?”
They hid the cotton in the dog house. Yashar noticed the amount of cotton they had amassed and said, “Looks like we have enough cotton. We need to let the crows know not to bring any more.”
Step mom went to holy man and bought some good prayers, but when she went to the roof to put a prayer under the rocks and noticed that all the cotton was gone, she was even more worried than before.
*** Yashar Asks for Permission from His Mom and The Story of the Smart Dog
From that day on, the kids started on the net. First they crafted yarn from the strings, then they used the yarn and tied knots to make the net.
Yashar’s mom had a clothesline she used to dry their laundry on. The line was made of wire and Yashar wanted to use some of it to strengthen the net they were making, but he didn’t want to take it without asking his mom first.
One night, at the dinner sofreh he asked, “Mom, will you allow me to go on a trip for a few days?”
His mom thought he was joking at first.
“Seriously, will you allow me to go for a few days? I promise I’ll be back soon.”
“First you have to tell me where we’re going to get the money for your trip from.”
“It doesn’t require money.”
“Okay. Who will you go with?”
“I can’t tell now, but I’ll tell you just before we leave.”
“Where are you going?”
“That, too, I’ll have to tell you when we’re leaving.”
“Well, then, I might allow it at the time you’re leaving, or I may not.”
She thought Yashar was joking and pretending to be an adult, with big plans and such. Whe Yashar was a little boy, she remembered, he used to talk like grown ups every once in a while. He’d sit on the mattress and say, “I want to go to the sky, bring me down a few of the small stars, and sew them on my coat as buttons.”
He was too little to know that each of those “little stars” was at least a million million times bigger than Yashar himself, maybe even bigger, and that they were a thousand times hotter than their korsi.
When Yashar was little, he found a black stray dog and dragged it home. It was lunch time and Yashar was coming back from school. His dad and mom saw him with the dirty animal.
“Yashar, what are you doing with this filthy animal?” his dad asked.
Yashar was taken a back, but composed himself, held his head up high, and said, “He understands language. It has taken me months to teach him words. Now he does whatever I tell him.”
His dad laughed. “If you’re right, tell him to go buy two loaves of bread and bring it home. Here’s the money for the bread,” he said as he reached into his pocket.
“First he has to eat, and then he’ll do it.”
Yashar’s mom tore a piece of bread to pieces and took it to the dog. The dog ate the bread and looked happy, shaking his tail at Yashar.
Yashar pretended to listen to the dog and then said, “I understand, friend.”
“What did he say, Yashar?” his dad asked.
“He says ‘Yashar, something is stuck between my teeth. Please open my mouth and take it out for me.”
Yashar’s mom and dad looked at each other, bewildered. Yashar slowly opened the dog’s mouth, put his hand in to clean the bread stuck between the dog’s teeth. Suddenly the dog scrambled and barked, which was followed by Yashar’s scream. Yashar’s dad threw out the dog and checked out Yashar’s hand. It was cut in a couple of places, and he looked to be in pain.
Remembering that story, Yashar’s mom looked at Yashar with love and wondered what he was up to now.
“On the day of the trip, will you allow me to go?”
She thought and said, reluctantly, “I will.”
“Okay. Can I also take your clothesline?”
“What for? What do you need the clothesline for?”
“I just need it for my trip.”
She wondered what he was up to, and didn’t know where this whole conversation was going. Finally, she said, “Sure. You can take the clothesline. I’ll get another one.”
They cleaned up dinner and laid out the mattresses in the yard to sleep. After they laid down, Yashar asked, “Mom?”
“Do you promise not to tell anyone everything I told you tonight?”
“Sure. I won’t,” she said as she smirked. “You know, if your dad was here, he’d be laughing right now?”
Yashar didn’t say anything. He looked up at the stars. He loved to look at the stars.
*** Trip Day
The net was coming along well. Yashar’s mom was so busy that she wouldn’t even come home for lunch, leaving a lot of alone time for Olduz and Yashar to work on the net. The crows had lessened their visits. Olduz’ step mom watched the skies like a hawk. Grandma Crow had said it was better if they visited less often, otherwise step mom might find out what Olduz and Yashar were up to and destroy their plans.
By the time the net was ready, it was already a month into summer. Grandma Crow came and inspected the net. “You’ve worked hard. Now it’s time to reap the fruit of your labor.”
“When do we go?” asked Olduz.
“If you’re ready, we can go tomorrow at noon.”
“The sooner, the better,” Yashar said.
Grandma Crow continued, “Then be ready tomorrow at noon. When you hear two crows caw three times, take the net to the roof.”
The kids were ecstatic. They continued to talk with Grandma Crow for a bit before she flew away and landed on the poplar tree a couple of houses away. She cawed a couple of times, shook her tail, and flew away.
*** Those not in the Know Think Olduz Has Gone Mad
That night, Olduz couldn’t contain herself at dinner. She kept giggling. Her step mom said, “She’s gone mad.”
“Daughter, why are you laughing?” her dad asked. “I don’t see anything funny.”
“I’m just happy,” said Olduz.
That made her step mom angry.
“Happy for what?” asked her dad.
“Nothing in particular. I’m just happy.”
“Leave her alone. She’s gone mad,” said her step mom.
*** A Good and Kind Mother
It was time to sleep. Yashar said, “Mom, can you be home tomorrow at noon?”
“Do you need something?” asked Yashar’s mom.
“Yes,” he responded. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. It’s about my trip.”
“Okay. I’ll be here tomorrow at noon.” She couldn’t figure out what Yashar was up to. In all honesty, she had even forgotten about the trip Yashar had mentioned, but remembered it then. She knew Yashar was a good boy and wouldn’t do anything to harm himself or her. She loved Yashar very much. The days when she was gone to her clothes washing job, she always though of Yashar all day. Sometimes she’s skip her meals to save money to buy Yashar clothes and school supplies. She was a kind mother. And Yashar tried to not make life more difficult for her.
*** The Day – Olduz in Prison
It was morning. In a few hours, Olduz and Yashar would be traveling. Time was passing very slowly. Yashar was at his own home, restless. He paced the walled garden back and forth and kept thinking of Olduz and his mom. He took out the net a few times and laid it out in the middle of the yard, sitting on it, imagining flying in the net, only to fold it back and put it away.
Just before noon, his mom arrived. She had bought grapes, cheese and bread. They sat to eat. Yashar was worried about Olduz. His mom was waiting for him to speak, but neither one said anything. Yashar thought What if Olduz can’t come? When then? Our plans will be ruined. If I could get my hands on her step mom, things I wouldn’t do to her. I’d pull her hair. Ugly woman. Why doesn’t she let Olduz come over? My God, I can hear the crows. What should I do? Olduz is not here yet. His heart was about to burst out through his chest.
He excused himself and went into the yard. He could hear Olduz’ step mom and dad from the other side of the wall. She was pouring water while he was washing his hands. It was clear he had just arrived home for lunch.
“You have no idea what this girl has done to me today,” said Olduz’ step mom. “I had to lock her up in the kitchen.”
Just then, two crows sat on a branch on the poplar tree. Yashar saw them and panicked. What about Olduz? He wondered if he could send his mom to ask if Olduz could come over to play. Is Olduz really a prisoner?
The crows flew down closer to Yashar and circled above his head, smiling at him before landing on the mulberry tree. All of a sudden, they gave the secret caw.
“Caw! Caw! Caw!” “Caw! Caw! Caw!”
Their caws sounded like a war horn, signaling the start of the attack. It had both elements of fear and excitement. Yashar lost himself in his thoughts about what was about to happen. But then, he gathered his thoughts, grabbed the net, and climbed the stairs to the roof.
Olduz’ dad and step mom had gone inside. The crows flew and landed by Yashar. Yashar laid out the net. Olduz hadn’t come yet. Yashar raised his head and looked in the distant horizon. A black mass was moving toward him.
“They’re coming. Why isn’t Olduz here?” asked one of the crows.
“I don’t know. I think her step mom has imprisoned her,” Yashar said.
The black mass was getting larger the closer it got. The distant caws could be heard now. Olduz had not yet come. Finally the black mass arrived. Thousands of crows started to descend upon the two houses. There were so many crows that Olduz’ white house looked black when Yashar looked at it. Their caws were ear-piercing to say the least. There was not a branch on the mulberry tree that wasn’t full of bird.
Yashar’s mom put a pan over her head and headed into yard. “Yashar! Yashar! Where are you? Be careful! They’ll gouge your eyes.”
Yashar heard his mom and went to the edge of the roof, looking down at her. “Mom! Don’t be scared. These are my friends. If you love me, please go next door and ask them to let Olduz out.”
His mom hesitated.
“Mom, please! Go! We have to travel in pairs.”
Yashar’s mom didn’t know what to do. She continued to look at Yashar.
Yashar begged. “Mom, please. These crows are our friends. Don’t be afraid of them.” He didn’t know what to do. He was about to burst into tears, when Grandma Crow flew and sat by him.
“You should go and sit in the net,” said Grandma Crow. “I’ll go after Olduz with a few other crows. We’ll find her.”
By now, the neighborhood was alarmed and everyone stormed out of their houses. Everyone was holding something over their head to protect themselves, peeking at the sky every once in a while in terror. Some people had stayed inside and were watching the whole affair from behind their windows. Old women were chanting, “The plague has come! Go pray!”
Suddenly Olduz’ dad came out in the yard with a pot on his head and a stick in his hand. His wife followed very closely.
Grandma Crow ordered, “Crows! Fly between their legs and around them. Surround them!”
A thousand crows descended on Olduz’ dad and step mom, banging their beaks on the pots and surrounding them.
Grandma Crow flew into the house with a couple of other crows. She could hear Olduz’s screams from the kitchen. The door was locked. Olduz was using a knife and stabbing the door in an effort to break it. She had made a small hole.
Unexpectedly, Yashar’s mom arrived in the hallway. The crows made room for her to approach the door. She used a rock she had brought with to break the lock on the door. Olduz ran out and hugged Yashar’s mom. “Mother, don’t worry about us. We’ll be back soon. Don’t tell my step mom that you let me out. She’ll be angry with you.”
By now, Yashar’s mother was crying. Olduz took a small pack from the birdcage and ran to the roof. The crows surrounded her. When she arrived by Yashar, she threw herself at him, hugging him in happiness. Yashar squeezed her to his chest and felt a couple of tears roll down his cheeks.
Grandma Crow thanked Yashar’s mom and flew to the roof. “Crows! Let’s move,” she ordered.
The crows started to scramble, picking up any part of the net they could lock their beaks or claws unto. Soon the net lifted. Yashar had tied the clothesline to the corners of the net as well, so after the net lifted, more crows grabbed on to those lines as well.
Yashar looked down and saw his mom. “Mom, we’re leaving. Say hi to dad. We’ll be back soon. Don’t worry,” he yelled.
The attacking crows left Olduz’s dad and step mom and joined the leaving crows. The couple stood in the yard, yelling and throwing stones and wood at the birds. The couple’s clothes were all ripped and they were bleeding from a few spots.
Finally, the crows cleared the town. Thousands of crows had surrounded the net, but the there were no crows above. Olduz looked at the clouds above and thought How beautiful.
The crows were in jubilation.
They were going to the city of crows.
They were going to a place that was better than Olduz’ house.
They were going to a place that didn’t have step moms.
*** Let’s Throw Out the Pacifiers! To Our Fallen Friends and Comrades!
Grandma Crow, Miss Crow and Mr. Crow flew and sat near the kids to talk a few words before joining their brothers and sister to work.
Olduz opened her pack. She took out a shirt and said to Yashar, “This was my dad’s. I brought it for you to wear when you grow up.”
Yashar thanked her.
Inside the pack, there was some bread and butter. Olduz took out a few crow feather from her pocket and gave them to Grandma Crow. “Grandma Crow, there are feathers of Mr. Crow. I had kept these feather so that I could give them to you. Yashar and I will never forget Mr. Crow and his mom. They died because of us.”
Grandma Crow took the feathers, flew in the air above the kids and all the other crows, and loudly said, “With your permission, I’d like to say a couple of words.”
The crows became silent.
Grandma Crow reached under her wing and took out a pacifier. “Comrades, my dear crows! Just now, Olduz gave me a few feather from Mr. Crow. We will save them, because they’re the only remains of a fallen mother and her son. These feathers will remind us that we need to strive to be just as good a crow as they were.”
“Hooray!” said Olduz and Yashar together. The crows cawed in unison.
Grandma Crow continued, “But we are going to throw away this pacifier, because Olduz’s step mom gave that to Olduz in the hope that she would be sucking on it at all times and not have the opportunity to talk and open her mind to others’ ideas.”
Olduz recognized her pacifier, the same one she had given Mama Crow.
Grandma Crow let go of the pacifier and watched it fall below her to the ground. The crows cawed.
“Olduz’ step mom killed Mama Crow,” Grandma Crow continued. “She martyred Mr. Crow, but Yashar and Olduz didn’t forget them. Long live the children who don’t forget their fallen comrades.”
The crows cawed in glory. Olduz and Yashar clapped their hands in happiness.
*** On the Mountaintops, The City of Crows, The Mountain Crows
They could see a tall mountain in the distance. Grandma Crow flew down and said, “The City of Crows is on top of those mountains. Don’t be surprised that crows live on top of the mountains. The crows live a diverse life.”