It was a crisp morning shortly before Easter when Esther gave birth to her son. With her usual fortitude and loyalty she had somehow managed to wait until her cleaning shift was over and she was out of the holiday villa and partway down the dusty track back to the village before she needed to stop. Grasping a thick gnarled olive tree that had spent its life leaning evermore into the ditch of the scrubland beyond, the boy Ambrus had slipped gently from his mother and into the wicker basket that she had desperately managed to position herself over. Looking down on her labours she was distraught to see her child had no face and frantically reaching down to feel him, to hold him, a soft sheen of skin had slipped away in her fingers and fallen on the dusty ground. His tiny blue eyes were revealed, screwed shut against the early morning sunlight. Then a gasp and a cry through trembling white lips and all was well. A cart passed by shortly after and she was bumped and jostled back to her people, nestling her most precious possession inside her clothes.
Above her in the tree the crow had watched it all, sitting on four blue and brown speckled eggs her dark head tucked deep into her silver body, she was still through the whole ordeal. Her mate hadn’t returned for the fifth day now and she was close to leaving the chicks unhatched. She had taken to eating the dried seaweed that partly lined her nest, but that was now gone. When the man had led the horse and cart away she didn’t wait for her chance to pass. She dropped through the branches and landed next to the food. Her black feet pinned the skin to the floor as her beak ripped and tore into it. The very first morsel gave her renewed strength and she quickly ate half of what was there before she was satiated. Grabbing the gritty remnants in her talons three strong wing beats got her back to the nest and she shuffled back into position and waited.
It was enough, just, to keep her going until the four chicks appeared into the world, battling and battering their shells, tiny beaks surfacing. Once in the world it was still hard work for her but if there was food to be found she found it, they all loved a cricket. Her ever increasing trips to the nest and back were tiring but raised a perfect and healthy brood. The largest fledgling stayed with her for nearly two years, sharing her food and learning her ways. The other three all left on the same day, and she never heard their calls again.
And what of little Ambrus? By the time he was eleven, and his father dead, he was working on old man Simones’ fishing boat. By the time he was thirteen he was taking the boat out by himself while Simones, over his coffee and backgammon, watched for his return every day ever wary of the sea. When Ambrus was fifteen Simones was buried and the boat became his own. For good luck he repainted it and renamed it Esther.
Ambrus still works that boat, alone, and his good fortune as a fisherman is talked about island wide. He always returns with a catch, of one sort or another, and is rarely been blown off course. His boat so often seen emerging from the fret guided back to land by three circling hooded crows.
To read more by Paul Hodgson please visit @ph31 or http://paulhodgsonhome.blogspot.co.uk