“The collective noun for humans is a crowd,” the boy says. He sits on a mall bench next to you.
“Really?” you ask.
The boy looks at you, annoyed, as if you interrupted him. “I don’t like crowds, but I’m here to get better at that,” he says before turning back to the crowd. It’s midday in a busy mall and the boy is observing with glazed eyes.
Startling you, because you thought the conversation was over, the boy speaks again. “A thief is a thief, but several thieves are a gang. We are never an army of people, despite always being at war. Ants are an army, but I have never seen them go to war. I saw a train of them attack a marshmallow once, but ants are not a train; Jackdaws’ are, despite never sitting in a row.” The boy says it like a chant; to himself, to the crowd, or to you: but you’re just smiling, happy for the distraction, so you don’t answer.
The boy continues: “A confusion is the collective noun for Chiffchaffs, but I think I’m more confused than they are. Ravens are neither an unkindness nor a conspiracy, not in the way crowds feels unkind and conspiring against me.”
You notice the boy has started clenching and unclenching his fists. He does it to the rhythm of his chant.
You’re still smiling, happy for the distraction.
“I have never heard Sparrows quarrel like my parents and actual Crows aren’t—” The boy stops mid-sentence. His face darkens as he looks down on his clenched fists.
Regaining his rhythm, he starts his chant again, the fluorescent light of the mall gone from his face. “Godwits never pray, at least not as often as me: three times before bed—one time before 5:30 PM, Monday to Friday, and I have never seen a Woodcock fall down the stairs.”
“Remi Skytterstad is from Norway where he studies educational science. He lives with his daughter who attends kindergarten and is currently published in the latest issue of Barren Magazine and Tint Journal.”