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  • The crows were insufferable that year. Corn, peas, beans, squash: The beady-eyed bandits strutted and swaggered up and down the rows and clipped them as soon as they poked out of the ground. They set sentinels in the trees and came through after I transplanted seedlings. Yanked everything; lettuce, tomato, peppers. Hauled them out roots and all, just to see if there was anything that might interest them.

    I tried a scarecrow, hung tin pie plates to rattle and clang, criss-crossed string every which way, fluttered coloured ribbons, laid brush over the rows. It didn’t matter. They got past, or around, or through whatever I put in their way.

    Lyford had a big garden down the hill.

    He leaned on the ramp railing and watched me unload trays of seedlings from the boat.

    I thought you had all kinds of plants up there already Benjy, he said.

    I set the tray down with the others in the cart. Looked like another load of false hopes to haul up the hill to me.

    Crows, I muttered.

    They don’t bother me none, he said.

    We turned to look at his garden. A scrap of black twisted at the end of a length of twine tied to pole in the center of the garden. The pale May sun glinted off the feathers.

    I just shoot one, he said. They don’t bother me none.

    I had a gun. The Fall before, Bal had been fierce to go deer hunting. I bought a single shot 12 gauge for $35 from the Western Auto dealer over in Bar Harbor. It had a lever above the grip that you turned to one side or the other to open it and put in a shell. I had fired all of one shot.

    I got a lot of brush to cover them, I told Lyford.

    He nodded.

    I spent the afternoon replanting.

    I heard them at dawn. Riotous. Mocking. Wild. A murder of crows.

    I dug out the almost full box of shells.

    Jammed three in my pocket.

    Fetched the shotgun from the shed.

    Jacked one into the chamber.

    Slipped through the trees to the garden.

    The crows rose up squalling as I came out in the open.

    No time to raise the shotgun to my shoulder. I fired. Straight from the hip.

    The crows made off into the woods.

    The noise was deafening.

    My hand ached.

    I looked down.

    The lever, the one that opened the barrel, it was buried up between my thumb and first finger. Recoil. Newton's Law number whatever. All I knew was I was bleeding like a stuck pig.

    I wrapped it in a towel and set off down the hill to get the boat and run over to the harbor.

    Old Morris at the wharf watched me fumble one-handed to tie up and gave me ride to the Medical Center in Southwest Harbour.

    The paramedic chatted as he stitched me up.

    So, he said. How did you manage this?
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