Looking at the birds that crowded around the box, she said, “So now you come! Now when I’ve done all the work!”
One of the birds pecked at her shoe.
I’ve nothing more left. Thank you for your help in finding it, but it’s all gone now.” She shooed them with her hands. “Go on. All gone.”
They squawked loudly, and she raised her voice over theirs, “The lady that came with me. She might have something for you.”
I suppose there are worse things than being found when you wish to hide, but I can’t think of many.
I shivered for a moment, enough to give myself away. They all looked my direction. I suppose there are worse things than being discovered when you wish to hide, but I can’t think of many. I crawled out from my place under the bush and took a few steps.
“The box,” I said, rather crossly. “What’s in it that you come so far from town, at night, with these, these . . .” I interrupted myself long enough to scratch my ankle furiously.
“Birds,” she finished calmly. “It’s a treasure I’ve been hunting for – oh, so many years I’ve lost count now. My husband buried it after a fight we had – years ago. He died not long after, but had left a note in his will telling me of some little birds he’d trained to show me where the treasure was. He always did love gamesmanship.”
“You’ve been hunting a treasure.”
“The birds led you to the treasure?”
“They led me to this little spot. I had to figure out for myself where exactly it was.”
She paused. “It took awhile,” she concluded.
I pointed to the chest. “I don’t suppose there’s anything there for me.”
“Not in this lifetime,” she said without malice, to my dismay.
“What do you think I can give those shrieking things?”
“I always gave them little pieces of meat. And berries. They seem to like berries.”
What kind of mundane, insane conversation was I having with a stranger in the middle of the night? I began to walk. Then I ran. I must get to some place normal; a place that carried familiar scenes and scents; a place where people and birds said and did what they were supposed to say and do. I left town that same night.
to be continued . . .