A few days after Obidiah the raven used his mystical proclivities to help Isadora the human move on from her unhappy marriage, and having impressed a gal raven named Madge with some succulent chicken morsels given to him by Isadora, Obidiah and Madge went to check out some territory Obidiah hoped would convince Madge to become his mate for life.
Madge was four, a year younger than Obidiah, and one of the most attractive unmarried gal ravens on that stretch of the northern California coast. She had been on the verge of committing to Halunga, the biggest raven for many miles around, when Isadora’s chicken morsels swayed her to give Obidiah a chance to make his marital case.
The sun was shining brightly on that cold October morning as Obidiah and Madge flew north from the end of Cummings Lane where Obidiah’s parents Doris and Tarkanda lived high in a giant redwood and Obidiah nested on a branch far below them. For this outing with Madge, Obidiah brought a picnic of an apple and the hindquarters of a car-struck squirrel to further enhance his credibility as a breadwinner. He also brought along a gold ring originally meant to reside on a human finger. He found the ring on the beach and wanted to have the beautiful bauble handy should Madge say Yes.
Having left the last road and house far behind, Obidiah and Madge alighted on a lower branch in a huge gnarly old redwood and Madge said, “It’s nice here, Obidiah, but we are so far from the nearest road or garbage can or house or familiar raven. In fact, we’re so far north we’re almost to…” She lowered her voice. “Jack Peters Creek and those psycho Jack Peters Creek ravens.”
“Wait until you see the place I found to make a nest,” said Obidiah, gazing at Madge and imagining the fun they would have procreating. “Fifty feet higher in this very tree.”
“I don’t know, Obidiah,” said Madge, trembling with trepidation. “We’re practically on another planet. Hard enough being a raven, let alone a wilderness pioneer raven.”
“Come see where we can build the most comfortable nest in the world,” said Obidiah, gently coaxing her. “Then we’ll dine on squirrel and if you’re still not convinced, I’ll fly with you back to Cummings Lane.”
So up they went, hopping from branch to branch until they came to a large hollow in the trunk of the old redwood, with spectacular views of the forest to the south and east, and a glimpse of the ocean to the west.
They devoured the squirrel, pecked at the juicy apple, and then Madge shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, Obidiah, but I can’t do this. Much as I like you and your delicious vittles, and much as I like this nesting spot, we’re too far from the creature comforts I’ve come to depend on. Halunga has promised me a pine tree penthouse on downtown Cummings Lane and nobody messes with him when he shows up at a road kill or a garbage spill, so…”
“I hear you,” said Obidiah, nodding. “Halunga will be a fine husband for you. I’ll fly you home now.”
“No need,” said Madge, eager to wing her way to Halunga and be done once and for all with courtship. “I’ll see you around the hood.”
And with that, she flew away.
Watching Madge grow small in the distance, Obidiah felt sad, but also relieved.
“She wasn’t really my type,” he sighed. “Not in a comprehensive way.”
“You can say that again,” said the spirit of the gnarly old giant redwood. “That gal operates entirely from a fear-based notion of reality, which is not your way at all.”
“Oh hey,” said Obidiah, happy to have his feelings confirmed by such a wise elder. “Nice to meet you. I’m Obidiah.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” said the tree. “I’m Tree. So when are you moving in? I’d love to have a mystic living in my trunk.”
“Well, first I have to win a mate,” said Obidiah, nodding to affirm this. “And if she likes this location, then we…”
“Says who?” asked Tree.
“That’s raven law,” said Obidiah, surprised Tree didn’t know that. “First the gal, then the roost, and then we build the nest together.”
“Seems counter-intuitive,” said Tree. “I mean… suit yourself, but if you love it here and you make this your home, you’ll attract gals who love this place, too.”
“Except no gal raven may love it here,” said Obidiah, anxiously. “And I certainly don’t want to isolate myself out of the running for a mate.”
“Maybe no gal ravens where you come from would want to live here,” said Tree. “But I know several Jack Peters Creek raven gals who would dig this pad and dig you, too. Totally.”
“What a concept,” said Obidiah, never having imagined marrying an outsider. “The mind boggles.”
“You can see into the future, right?” asked Tree.
“Not my own,” said Obidiah, shaking his head. “Only the futures of others.”
“Ah,” said Tree. “Of course.”
“How would I even go about meeting a Jack Peters Creek raven gal?” asked Obidiah, bewildered. “Wouldn’t I get attacked if I ventured into their territory?”
“Possibly,” said Tree. “But where you are now is nobody’s territory. Cummings Lane ravens venture here sometimes, as you did, and Jack Peters Creek ravens sometimes make scavenging trips to this neck of the woods. But no ravens live here. Not yet. And remember, you’re all the same species. Same sub-species, too. You have a few different customs and you speak different dialects of the same language. Cummings Lane ravens are symbiotic with humans, whereas Jack Peters Creek ravens rarely even see people. But I’m here to tell you, Obidiah, in the grand sweep of evolution, your differences are less than miniscule.”
“I appreciate your input,” said Obidiah, preparing for takeoff. “I shall ponder what you’ve told me.”
When he got back to familiar territory, Obidiah swung by his older brother Polyganda’s nest and found Polyganda’s wife Jan and her fledglings Sue and Romanulo eating mussels Jan brought home from the tide pools.
“Uncle Obidiah!” croaked Sue. “Did you bring us some food?”
“Don’t be rude, Sue,” said Jan, scolding her daughter. “Hi Obidiah. Your brother went to check out a fresh road kill. He should be back any minute. I’d offer you something to eat, but with these two growing so fast, well, you know.”
“Here comes Papa now,” said Romanulo, flapping his wings and accidentally whacking his sister in the face. “With gooey things in his talons. Whoopee!”
A moment later, Polyganda dropped the liver and heart of a small deer into the nest, and while Jan and the kids fed on the organs, Polyganda and Obidiah retired to a higher branch in the tree.
“Long time no see, my brother,” said Polyganda, who’d had his fill of deer meat before bringing home the innards. “What news? Other than Madge choosing Halunga over you. Or so the gossips say.”
“No news,” said Obidiah, who appreciated his brother’s penchant for cutting to the chase. “Just a question or two.”
“You asking me questions?” said Polyganda, chuckling. “You’re the mystic, not me.”
“These are not questions of a mystical nature,” said Obidiah, smiling at his brother. “At least not overtly.”
“I see,” said Polyganda, knowing of Obidiah’s tendency to converse at length. “Would it be okay if we scavenge while we talk? I’d like to snag a bit more of that yearling deer before the vultures find the carcass. It’s a very fresh kill.”
“Fine with me,” said Obidiah, who was feeling a bit peckish. “Let’s go.”
So they flew swiftly to the east and ere long came to a dead deer lying by the roadside. Five ravens were feeding on the carcass, while drifting in the sky above them were two vultures awaiting the arrival of a few more vultures to help them drive away the ravens.
Polyganda grabbed a foot-long chunk of deer intestine, Obidiah ate a few bites of kidney, and they headed back to Polyganda’s nest.
“So,” said Obidiah, flying along beside his brother, “what would you think if I staked out my territory before I found a mate, and… what if I married a raven from outside our community?”
Polyganda alighted on the first convenient branch and set down the intestine. “If you weren’t a mystic, Obidiah, I’d say you were crazy. But you are a mystic and you’re a big help to the folks and your sibs and the community, so if you do things a little differently than the rest of us, I have no problem with that.”
“Good to know,” said Obidiah, cheered by his brother’s response. “And lastly, have you ever in your wanderings ventured into Jack Peters Creek territory?”
“Once,” said Polyganda, nodding solemnly. “Only once. And I’m lucky to be alive to tell the tale.”
“What happened?” asked Obidiah, gazing raptly at his brother.
“Read my mind,” said Polyganda, picking up the intestine and resuming the homeward journey.
Flying close together, Obidiah accessed his brother’s memory archives and saw Polyganda four years ago at the age of three following a gorgeous Jack Peters Creek raven gal through the forest and alighting with her on a rocky beach beside burbling Jack Peters Creek. Obidiah could see how greatly Polyganda loved the gal raven and how greatly the gal raven loved Polyganda. And as the gal raven and Polyganda began to nuzzle and chortle in the way of lovers, a gang of seven Jack Peters Creek ravens came swarming down upon them and Polyganda barely escaped with his life.
“You never told me,” said Obidiah as they came in sight of Polyganda’s nest. “Thank the spirits you survived.”
Polyganda delivered the intestine to Jan and the kids, and then he and Obidiah retired once more to a higher branch.
“Yes,” said Polyganda, quietly. “Thank the spirits I survived. But just between you and me, I left my heart on that rocky Jack Peters Creek beach. And I tell you, my brother, rarely a night goes by that I don’t dream of the life I might have had with Esmeralda.”