← Issue 10
The Crow Teacher
by Angelica Esquivel
The crow teacher makes her nest in my belly, her dark feathers wet with acid and memory, sleek and acrid. I am her only student and therefore her favorite and least favorite. I am the class clown, teacher’s pet, the first in class and the last.
The crow teacher is showing me how to shed my fingers and toes and grow back new ones. Each day when I get home from school, we practice in my bedroom. My parents are at work, so I don’t worry about them walking in on us. “Can I shed a whole leg?” I ask the crow teacher.
“If we practice enough, you should be able to shed any body part you like and grow it back,” her voice rings clear from inside me.
“Including vital organs?”
By dinnertime, my laundry basket is full of pinkies and thumbs. It would be funny to scare my parents with the basket whenever they get home from work—the crow teacher never told me I couldn’t—but I’m usually asleep by the time they arrive.
I have an idea, “Can you teach me a spell that will give me enough energy to stay awake all night?”
The crow pecks at the lining of my gut, displeased. “Absolutely not. You need your rest. Anyway, when you are asleep, the real work starts.”
“I could always drink coffee if I want to,” I say, “And if I’m going to be resting then how will I be working?”
“It’s the work of rest, child,” the crow teacher says, “Tonight, we begin.”
The crow teacher moved into my belly during a summer heatwave when I was five. One day, my mother chopped open a watermelon and cut it into huge slices. When I bit into the fruit, red juice dripped all over my face and clothes. My mother warned me not to eat the watermelon seeds or else a watermelon plant would start growing in my belly, but I ate them anyway.
In less than a day, I could press on my stomach and feel a strange, globular bump inside me. I thought it was a watermelon, but there must have been a mix-up because it wasn’t a watermelon, it was a crow’s egg, and it hatched inside me. Thus, the crow teacher was born. She didn’t speak to me those first few weeks, but I knew she was there because whenever I ate, I could feel my chewed-up food sliding around the rough twigs that comprised her nest. I don’t know where she got the twigs from—perhaps they also grew from watermelon seeds. I thought about telling my parents, but since my mother told me not to eat the seeds, I knew I would only end up getting in trouble.
The crow teacher finally talked to me once the heat wave passed, once I’d grown accustomed to feeling her inside my body.
“I’m like the prize inside a cereal box. I’m like winning the lottery. Somehow, either by luck or chance or karma or divine intervention, you ended up with me inside your stomach,” the crow teacher told me, “I can’t say why, but I’m supposed to teach you magic.”
Now I am thirteen and preparing to do what the crow teacher calls “the work of rest,” which sounds kind of boring, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Before bed, I walk through the house, double checking that all the doors are locked, before returning to my room and settling in.
As I sleep, I stand on the empty road in front of my house. It looks just as it does when I’m awake, except that the willow tree is missing from our front yard. I wonder where it went.
I can’t tell whether it’s night or day—somehow, it looks like both, the sky a deep and bloody orange. I jump when the crow teacher suddenly lands on my shoulder. “You’re not in my stomach anymore?” I ask, rubbing my belly.
“I’m still there, but I won’t be for much longer,” the crow teacher looks at me with her dark seed bead eyes. I realize that this is my first time seeing her. I had imagined her as entirely black, but she has a few white and grey tail feathers. Her beak is smaller than it felt when it was pecking at my insides.
“Are you leaving me?” I ask the crow teacher.
“We are both leaving you. You and me, we’re going on an adventure. Your present self will not be able to come. But first, we must go through this dream.”
“The dream will explain its purpose to us. We cannot know beforehand.” The crow teacher flies overhead as I walk down the street. Her wingspan is nearly as wide as the sidewalk. I look up and it occurs to me that the sky is a delicate glass orb, easily shattered, but it is so beautiful, who would want to break it?
Angelica Esquivel is a Xicana writer and artist from Fostoria, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Chestnut Review, Great Lakes Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She is currently a student at Bowling Green State University.
Image: Title: Case (Inrō) with Design of Crows in Flight. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929