The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of Hubba Hubba. Whistling a giddy tune fit for the tone deaf, he left the path through a gap in the hedge to cut across a freshly ploughed field. Chirp and Squeak followed ’round the outside in the tops of trees grown up in the hedge. The boy scampered through new oats, a meadow and a fresh cow pile, pausing to rinse his feet in a gurgling creek before dashing triumphantly across an orchard to a fiery haired woman and two boys, hoeing in a broad vegetable garden.
She stood up, brushing the dirt from her skirts and hands.
“Look Mom! I got him with my sling! I knocked ‘im clean out of the air! I’m gettin’ good, aye?”
“I’ll say Frankin,” she said, peering into his bag. “I’ve been watching you get better day by day. This is game to remember, all right, particularly when you may go the rest of your life and not get another on the wing like that.”
“So all you think is I just got lucky, isn’t hit?”
“Ha!” he crowed with a leap. “I’m really somethin’ with my sling, and you know it.”
“I’ve just hung the tea-kettle over the fire,” she said, ruffling up his hair. “You could wash up for a nice cup o’ tea before you dress your bird, if you don’t dally.”
Frankin raced to the back door, hung Hubba Hubba on the latch and wheeled ’round to go to the well in time to find his little brothers following. “Hey Poopkink!” he snarled. “If you and Poopdink have to sneak along behind me, don’t you dare touch the game bag.”
“Help!” cawed Hubba Hubba, coming to in total blackness. “I’m dead again! I can’t see!” He hysterically thrashed and flogged his wings against the insides of the cramped box they had him in, pausing to go light in the head, gasping for want of air.
Someone heard his cries and threw open the box. “Kawk!” he cried as four chubby hands crowded in after him. “Have some respect! Can’t you idiots tell I’m wounded here?”
“Hey! I object! This is abuse! Here I am, smashed in the head…”
“Hit does talk!” they cried in wide-eyed chorus.
“You got it!” shouted Hubba Hubba. “And do you ones listen? Here I am smashed in the head, some drooling gnoff strangles me ’till I black out, maybe die, and here you ones whack me in the head again… Is this the stinkin’ Pit, or what? Well?”
Suddenly they lunged at the box. Hubba Hubba exploded into frantic flight about the room, landing on a quilting frame drawn up by twine to the overhead beams. “All right,” he rattled. “At least I can see this is some rotten old kitchen, somewhere, and not the Pit. And whatever you two are, I am not some kind of ‘it!’ I’m one right proud crow and I’m traveling with a young man who ought to here directly to cut off your stinkin’ heads for doing this to me…!”
“Hey you little gwrteithiau!” yelled Frankin as he threw open the door. “What’d I tell you about my game bag? And why weren’t you out helping us drive in the six sheep which just now got out in the garden? Which one of you left the gate open anyway…?”
“It’s loose!” cried Kink.
“Close the door!” cried Dink.
“I am not an ‘it,'” rattled Hubba Hubba.
“Taran!” shouted Frankin as he slammed the door and began glancing about. “So you not only let the sheep out, you got into my bag and turned the crow loose! If he gets clean away, you’ll not only be cachu, I’ll find something really disgusting and make you each eat its cachu!”
“He’s right over your head,” said Dink.
Frankin wheeled ’round and looked up. “Mom!” he bellowed, “Come in here and see what they did now!” He lunged and missed Hubba Hubba, whacking the quilting frame madly about on the ends of its short twines.
“You bloated idiot!” cawed Hubba Hubba, springing into flight about the room. He spied a board nailed across the timbers and landed on that with his back to the ceiling. “You stinking armpit maggot…”
“So you’re some kind of magic crow, aye?” he said, taking out his sling. “Well it doesn’t matter, bird-o. You’ll never get out of this room, ’cause when I knock you down, I’m goin’ ‘o jerk your ugly head out o’ your shoulders!”
“No!” cried Kink and Dink together.
“Frankin!” cried their mom as she stepped in the door to go apoplectically wide eyed. “My stars! That’s fifteen gallons of cottage cheese, all over!”
“They did it!” wailed Frankin. “They got into my bag when I told them not to and turned loose the crow. I’ve got to kill it quick…”
“No!” cried Dink. “Hit’s magic…!”
“And they’ve gotten windy as kites in the process, too, I see. Well you two, what have I told you about making up things…?”
“But it’s true!” wailed Kink. “Frankin knows it, too!”
“I think you two need to take this stack of bowls and scoop up as much clean cheese as you can get off the floor for your next several meals. Then, you need to mop up every bit of what’s left.”
“But we aren’t making it up!” wailed Dink, as his mom thrust a stack of bowls into his arms and steered him toward the slumping mound of cheese and crock chards.
“Now, freak bird, hit’s your turn,” said Frankin, fitting a stone into his sling.
“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba. “Lady, lady! Please listen to your little fellows!”
“That’s not the least bit amusing, Frankin,” she said, wheeling ’round to glare at him.
“But I didn’t…”
“No, no, no, no!” cawed Hubba Hubba. “I did! I’m not some game animal to be beaned and chucked in the kettle. Hey! I’ve got brains here.”
“Mercy!” she gasped. “You do talk!”
“Right. So where’s the minstrel puppeteer?”
“Come on, Mom! Somebody taught him to talk…”
“Absolutely!” rattled Hubba Hubba. “Just like they did you, only I didn’t need to be taught how to think, and you’ve yet to manage.”
“Don’t touch the bird,” she said, snatching away his sling. “Do not harm him, understand?”
“But he’ll get away!”
“We’re going to be real good to him ’till we figure him out,” she said. “Now go fetch me a good sized box to put him in, and make sure there are a right smart amount of air holes in it.”
“Air holes?” cried Hubba Hubba. “What kind of ‘real good’ to me is that? No wonder you haven’t taught maggot boy here how to think, yet! And I don’t care what he brings back, you’re going to have to come up here and get me!”
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps