Trust and Other Balancing Acts


Roped together, precariously, and using dainty umbrellas as their only means of balancing on the tightrope that supported them, they made an unlikely team.  Lithe and unhealthily slender, looking like a tourist from the spirit world, a red-headed girl led the way.  The black party dress she wore was her “disguise,” she said, and it fluttered wildly in the wind that whipped across the roofs.  Close behind her traipsed a crow.

“This is not a promising scenario for a jewellery heist, not at all,” complained the crow, with a forlorn little caw that was hardly heard above the wailing wind.  Still, he resolutely followed after his determined mistress, placing his talons carefully around the tightrope they ascended.  He worried about her motives, but his loyalty was unquestionable.  Then, staring down at the speck of a street far below them, the crow worried about his mistress’ fragile bones and how quickly they’d snap into tiny bony trinkets if a stronger gust of wind carried her off.  Very foolish, the crow pondered, in silence: never evolving wings like that.  What on earth was your gene pool thinking of all this time?

His mistress, of course, failed to notice his concern.  Set, as she was, on forging ahead along that slender bit of rope that twanged a little at each step, her attention remained fixed on the promised prize, on the riches that lay in wait.  And so, she only heard the crow’s complaint, and chastised him.  “What have I told you about this aura of negativity you carry around with you constantly?  It’ll drag you down in the end, it really will.  And I don’t want that, especially now, when we’re roped together like this.  Do try to brighten up a bit.”  She tried to flash a little smile over her shoulder, to bolster some good cheer in him.  But, nearly losing her footing on the swaying tightrope, her attention switched back to righting herself and she merely shot back what looked like a disgruntled sneer in the crow’s direction.

The crow frowned at his mistress’ accidental sneer.  “I’m a crow,” he sighed, “I don’t do ‘bright’; it would look foolish on me.  You ought to have formed an alliance with a budgerigar if you wanted bright.”

“But budgerigar’s aren’t very bright… I mean, they’re not very clever.  Crows, meanwhile, are outrageously clever.”  At this, the crow gave a little nod and ruffled his gloomy plumes.

“Tis an astute observation and yet it hardly constitutes a plan.”

“There is a plan,” his mistress nodded.  “Most definitely.”

“Care to share?” the crow deadpanned.

“Take jewels.  Flee.  I’ve always wanted to flee, you see.”

“I do see.  Although… the authorities might not want to let you flee too far, only into a cell of their choosing.”

“I’ve thought of that.”

“Oh good.”

“If the plan goes unaccountably wrong and I’m caught during tonight’s little spree then I’ll face a lie detector test.  And what happens then?  I can’t pretend I didn’t commit the robbery because, as you see, I did.  Or rather I will.  So, that’s not an option.”

“It might perhaps still be an option never to steal the jewels?  Have we considered that yet?”

“No, that’s not an option either.  I deserve those jewels.  Those jewels deserve me.  End of argument.”

“Very well, I’ve no wish to argue.  And I feel sure you’re deserving of many jewels.  I like you.  You’re my favourite mistress.  And my favourite jewel thief, too.”

“Why, thank you!”

“It’s my pleasure.  But…”

“But?”  The girl paused on the tightrope and turned around, with wobbling care, to confront any objections face-to-face.

“But that still doesn’t explain my role here, tightrope walking my way onto the ‘Most Wanted’ list, as an accessory before the fact.”

“Well, once they strap me into that lie detector of theirs, I’ll have no choice but to confess to my crimes.  But I won’t stop there.  No, I’ll go on to admit, in great detail, that my accomplice was you, a very bright, though not bright, little crow.  No doubt they’ll decide I’m not fit to stand trial after hearing that.  And it’s just so much easier to escape from some cosy asylum, in a pleasant countryside setting, than it is from any gaol.  Trust me, I know.”

The crow gazed into his mistress’ sparkling eyes and nodded his gloomy head.  Then, turning their faces into the howling wind once more, they inched further along the tightrope towards all sorts of treasures.

 * * *

This story was inspired by the picture by Matilda Emgård at the top of this post. If you enjoyed reading this, you can pick up a whole book of free stories at Smashwords here.


Share This