Four and Twenty Blackbirds

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” slurred a voice, pointing at the ground, “hold up.”

At the mouth of the alley, there sat a small bird – well, small for a raven – favoring one leg as it hopped around experimentally, occasionally fluffing its wings. It cocked its head, staring at the newcomers, and bounced towards them, cawing pitifully.

“It’s hurt,” muttered one of the figures, “bro, it’s hurt, we got to do something.”

“Okay,” said the one who hadn’t spoken, “let me try to catch it.”

“Halt, citizen!” called a loud voice. Thunder crashed and lightning lit the alley. A six foot tall blackbird stood, hands on hips, facing the three friends.

Then another six foot blackbird turned off the speakers, stashing them back in a duffel bag, along with the storm lantern, and walked up next to the first.

“God, I love saying that,” said Maggie the Magpie.

“What,” said one of the stoners.

Maggie the Magpie held out a hand, shaking each of theirs in turn. “Hey, we heard there was a hurt bird over here. We’re from Parliament Bird Sanctuary.”

“We were going to help it,” said a different one, “right little buddy?”

“Yeah,” said the third, “we were going to name him Leaf Erikson.”

“Uh,” said Maggie the Magpie, “huh, well, that’s alright, we’ll take over from here.”

“Don’t touch hurt wildlife,” muttered Corey the Crow.

“’Cause then their moms won’t take them back?” asked one of the stoners.

Corey the Crow glared. “Because you might hurt them more. Leave it to the experts. Which is us.”

“Alex,” Maggie the Magpie admonished.

“Oh, right,” Corey the Crow said, “I mean, begone, evildoers!”

One of the three made a hurt face. “We’re not evil.”

“It’s fine,” Maggie the Magpie said, patting two of them on their arms as she tried to lead the group away from the bird, “we’ll take it from here, that’s all.”

“No, man, we got to,” said one of them, “we have to make sure he’s okay.”

“I’m sure the bird will be fine,” Maggie the Magpie said, “it doesn’t look very badly hurt, alright? And we’re bird experts.”

“Oh, dude, bird experts,” said the other one, trailing behind.

Maggie the Magpie fielded three enthusiastic if confusing hi-fives, and turned back to the hurt blackbird that her colleague was gently cradling. She touched it softly on the unhurt leg, looking at trailing data about its health, relieved to discover that all the damage was things they could easily accommodate back at the aviary.

“Pretty bird,” the raven said, looking quite pleased with itself.