What the Crow Knows

Fiction / Monica Kim

:: What the Crow Knows ::

We found the dead crow before my old­er sis­ter got into David Moon’s car but after the pow­er went out. 

We didn’t know why the pow­er went out, and if we did know, I don’t remem­ber now. It’s been ten years since that day. My sis­ter once claimed it was because of all the elec­tron­ics run­ning at the same time, com­pet­ing with the heat—the air­con, the Game­Cube, the desk­top com­put­er where she was mes­sag­ing David Moon on AIM—though she didn’t tell me this last fact until now. Andrew, at the time, said it was because of the apart­ment com­plex­es we all lived in, since every­one else’s pow­er went out too. And Hen­ry, of course, said he didn’t care what caused the pow­er out­age, he just want­ed to find some­thing to damn do. His voice cracked at the word damn, and he looked around the room as if his par­ents were there to gasp and pray over the words of an eleven-year-old boy. All I know is that we were play­ing Mario Kart on Andrew’s Game­Cube, with Andrew in third, Hen­ry in sixth, and me in eleventh, and just as I’d got­ten an item box with a black bul­let to rush past every­one else, the game cut and the tele­vi­sion turned black. 

We groaned. Hen­ry threw his con­troller onto the ground, even though it wasn’t his. Andrew got up and start­ed shak­ing the small square tele­vi­sion, then kicked the Game­Cube, which he could do, since it was his and he was the only one of us who owned one. I stretched my arms above my head, feel­ing the sweat already start to bead on the back of my neck. 

It was some­time in ear­ly June, a day that felt unusu­al­ly like the mid­dle of July, and we com­plained about the air­con that was now sud­den­ly shut off. Andrew scrounged around the liv­ing room and found the del­i­cate paper fans his mom brought from Korea and kept tucked away in a wood­en box under­neath the fad­ed tan couch. We slumped onto the floor, fan­ning our­selves with the pink and red and white fans lined with hangul and han­ja cal­lig­ra­phy. 

What do we do now,” Hen­ry whined, flick­ing the controller’s but­tons uselessly. 

Caleb,” Andrew said, turn­ing to me, fan­ning him­self so furi­ous­ly I thought his wrist might fall off. “Ask your noona what to do.” 

It was an unar­tic­u­lat­ed fact that Andrew was our ring­leader. It wasn’t just that Andrew’s fam­i­ly had more mon­ey than mine and Henry’s, that he was an only child, that he seemed to have friends out­side the two of us, where­as Hen­ry was pret­ty much indif­fer­ent to most peo­ple he met and I was too tongue-tied to ever start a con­ver­sa­tion with any­one. It was also that Andrew had a face most peo­ple, chil­dren and adults alike, but espe­cial­ly me, couldn’t say no to: uneven bangs that some­how endeared him to every­one despite every oth­er Kore­an Amer­i­can boy hav­ing the same hair­cut, the small dim­ple on his left cheek that widened when he smiled. 

Okay,” I said, get­ting up and walk­ing to Andrew’s par­ents’ room, where the shared desk­top com­put­er was. My old­er sis­ter, Jen­nie, was sit­ting at the desk, elbows on the wood-worn table. In front of her was the black screen of the dead com­put­er and her sketch­book with a new draw­ing I couldn’t see. 

All of our par­ents worked and fig­ured hav­ing Jen­nie babysit the three of us was much more ide­al than enrolling us in the only after-school pro­gram that catered to Kore­an Amer­i­cans in this tiny town. So, Jen­nie often sat at this com­put­er, sketch­book near­by, prob­a­bly wish­ing she was with her friends doing what­ev­er four­teen-year-old girls did. But instead, she was stuck look­ing after her younger broth­er and his two idiot friends. Some­times she bribed us with some of her babysit­ting mon­ey and left us by our­selves, mak­ing us swear that if we didn’t tell our par­ents she was going off to watch the high school soc­cer game because David Moon was play­ing, she’d let us have fif­teen bucks to order Bon­Chon Chick­en or buy Poké­mon cards or what­ev­er else nerds like us did these days. Andrew would mere­ly raise an eye­brow, ask­ing why we shouldn’t just take her mon­ey and tell our par­ents any­ways, while Hen­ry would widen his stance and cross his arms, and I’d look at my sis­ter with her hair curled and black eye­lin­er smudged around her eyes and won­der what hap­pened to the girl who used to play Game­Cube with us. 

Because you’ll get the Game­Cube tak­en away if you tell, she’d say to us, most­ly to Andrew, and then leave, tuck­ing how­ev­er many bills she had into my palm. 

Noona?” I asked, and she turned around, still hold­ing her pen­cil. “The power’s out. What do we do?” 

She looked out the win­dow; we both star­tled as a bird flew past, a black blur against the clear pane. 

I don’t know, go out­side or some­thing.” She waved a hand dis­mis­sive­ly, and made to turn back around, when I stepped forward. 

But what would we do out­side? It’s too hot to play Man­hunt or pre­tend to be Naru­to char­ac­ters or any­thing.”  

My old­er sis­ter rolled her eyes. “Well, duh. I don’t know, find a card game or board game or whatever.” 

She began to turn again, when I tugged on her pony­tail.  

Caleb‑a,” she hissed, using the Kore­an pro­nun­ci­a­tion of my name, which meant that she was real­ly, real­ly annoyed with me. 

Noona,” I said, cross­ing my arms, try­ing to copy Andrew. “If you hang out with us, I promise I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the week.” 

She closed her eyes, rest­ing her fin­ger­tips on her tem­ple. She looked like our mom in that moment, when Jen­nie and I would fight over who should set the table for din­ner. Why can’t Caleb do it for once, omma? Jen­nie would ask. Why does it always have to be the girl? 

Jen­nie opened her eyes, glanc­ing at the win­dow, and I won­dered if she was wait­ing for some­thing. Maybe anoth­er bird to fly by. 

Fine,” she final­ly said, tak­ing one last look at the dead com­put­er before stand­ing up. She ripped a page she was work­ing on from her sketch­book, then shoved it into her shorts pock­et. “But this is gonna take twen­ty min­utes, tops.” 


We brought our fans with us out­side, swap­ping hot air for hot air. 

Aren’t you afraid some­one will see us with these?” Hen­ry asked, as Jen­nie closed and locked the door behind us. “They look kin­da girly.” 

Andrew con­tin­ued to fan him­self. “Do you wan­na be super hot with­out one?” 

Hen­ry grum­bled some­thing but didn’t say any­thing more. Andrew’s word was Andrew’s word.  

Jen­nie shield­ed her eyes with a hand. “Alright, where to?” She didn’t look at any­one when she asked this, but we all knew she was talk­ing to Andrew. 

He shrugged. “We can just walk around.” 

Jen­nie sighed but led the way, walk­ing a few paces ahead of us, as if she couldn’t wait to be rid of us—which was prob­a­bly, most def­i­nite­ly true.  

There isn’t much of the walk I remem­ber, because we’d walked around the neigh­bor­hood prob­a­bly hun­dreds of times, scop­ing out the best places to hide for Man­hunt, the best patch of grass to kick a soc­cer ball back and forth, the best stretch of asphalt for races. I don’t know if the images stored in my head from this day’s walk are a col­lec­tion of images patched togeth­er into a mis­matched kalei­do­scope, or if their source is tru­ly from this odd ear­ly June day. But Jen­nie tells me these are the images she remem­bers, or at least the ones she draws, when she finds her­self obses­sive­ly replay­ing the day’s events, unable to cut her­self from the loop: the three of us, Andrew, Hen­ry, and I, kick­ing tiny dis­lodged chunks of asphalt against the backs of her bare legs—the open doors of neigh­bors’ apartment-houses—a glimpse of fur­ni­ture, the tat­tered flo­ral ottoman with a rip on the seam, per­haps from a cat, per­haps from some­thing else—up a set of neu­tral gray con­crete stairs, no rail­ing, to more looka­like apartment-houses—the same fad­ed yel­low, fad­ed tan, fad­ed blue—cutting across someone’s grass—running when we heard a dog bark—down a dif­fer­ent set of neu­tral gray con­crete stairs, return­ing a dif­fer­ent, back­ward way to Andrew’s place—coming across the dead crow splayed at the foot of the black dumpster. 

Every­one remem­bers find­ing the crow in a dif­fer­ent place. Jen­nie says it was at the foot of the black dump­ster. Hen­ry told me, ear­li­er today––before I talked to Jennie––that it was on Andrew’s doorstep. What Andrew remem­bers, I don’t know, because I haven’t talked to him in years. I don’t know if this is a blip in his mem­o­ry, if he thinks about this day as much as Jen­nie does and I now do, or if he doesn’t remem­ber it at all, if it’s like the day nev­er exist­ed for him. 

But this I know for sure: we all remem­ber who touched the crow. 

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a dead ani­mal. Road­kill was com­mon on these sub­ur­ban roads. But there was some­thing about this crow—its bent wing, its blood­less­ness, the open eye—that unnerved me. 

I don’t like this,” Hen­ry mut­tered, even as Andrew bent down. 

Hey,” Jen­nie said sharply, and Andrew’s head snapped in her direc­tion. “It might have the plague.” 

I thought that was a long time ago,” he replied. 

It was,” she agreed, arms now around her­self, as if she was cold. “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t cursed or any­thing.” She looked at me, and I knew what she was thinking. 

The crow had to be a bad omen. Kore­ans are, if not any­thing else, very super­sti­tious peo­ple, and Jen­nie and I were no excep­tion. We made sure all the doors were closed at night. We nev­er turned the fan on while we were sleep­ing, not even in the sum­mer months. When we had a bad dream, we made sure to wait at least twen­ty-four hours before telling all the details to our mom, and if we had a good dream, we made sure to tell her right away. We made sure our beds in the room we shared weren’t fac­ing the door. Even to this day, when I catch myself whistling at night, I’ll stop, afraid of see­ing the death­ly spir­it my mom said would sure­ly come, whom I always imag­ined as a kind of ghost girl ver­sion of Jen­nie, long black hair hang­ing in front of her face like a curtain. 

Well, we can’t just leave it here,” Andrew said, nudg­ing the crow with his sneaker. 

Sure we can,” Jen­nie said. “It’s real­ly easy. Here, watch this.” She start­ed walk­ing away, hands in pock­ets. “Easy!” she called back to us.  

Maybe we can put it in a shoe­box,” I sug­gest­ed, not want­i­ng to aban­don it, but also not want­i­ng to do any­thing sub­stan­tial about it, not want­i­ng to take sides between the two of them. 

Andrew point­ed in my direc­tion. Some­thing like pride welled in me. “Yes! Good one, Caleb. Your donsaeng’s smarter than you, Jennie.” 

Show some respect for your elders, Andrew.” 

He stuck his tongue out at her. 

We can use my shoe­box,” Hen­ry piped up, say­ing it in a rush, like he didn’t want to be left out. “I have it in my backpack.” 

Isn’t that for our class shoe­box project?” I asked. 

He shrugged. “I haven’t start­ed it yet, so it’s emp­ty. And I can always find anoth­er one at home.” Hen­ry only owned one pair of shoes, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to do that, but let it go. 

Okay, let’s do this.” Andrew fist-bumped the both of us. 

When Hen­ry returned with the emp­ty shoe­box, he bent down and placed it next to the crow. The four of us stared at it, its black feath­ers not quite blend­ing in with the black asphalt. 

So,” Jen­nie crossed her arms. “Before one of you idiots even thinks about touch­ing this, you can’t use just your hands. God knows what kinds of things are on it.” 

Andrew rolled his eyes. “Duh. We’re not dumb.” 

Jen­nie blew the wisps of hair out of her eyes. “Are you gonna do it, then?” 

Andrew shift­ed his weight from foot to foot, fid­get­ing with the hem of his t‑shirt. I real­ized, then, that Andrew was feel­ing some­thing I thought he didn’t have: fear. 

The next thing I knew, I took off my t‑shirt, feel­ing the sun against my bony, sticky, eleven-year-old back, wrapped my hands around the fab­ric, and picked up the crow. 

Caleb!” Jen­nie yelped, tak­ing a step back as I held it by the tips of my fin­gers. I thought it would smell––don’t dead ani­mals usu­al­ly? espe­cial­ly in the heat?––but the crow emanat­ed nothing. 

Both Andrew and Hen­ry gaped at me. I didn’t look at either of them as I placed the crow, gen­tly, into Henry’s emp­ty shoe­box. When I did look up, at Andrew—hoping to see, I don’t know, admi­ra­tion, maybe—he was look­ing else­where. In fact, Hen­ry and Jen­nie, too, were look­ing in the same direc­tion. At the same person. 

It was David Moon, senior star of the high school soc­cer team, Ivy League bound, beloved of all ajum­mas at church. His car idled as he got out, walk­ing, for some rea­son, toward us. 

What you guys got there?” David pushed his sun­glass­es to the top of his head. “And why’s your lit­tle broth­er got no shirt on, Jennie?” 

David?” Jennie’s voice squeaked. She coughed, clear­ing her throat. “Er—well—” 

He looked at her, up and down, eyes lin­ger­ing. We could all see her blush­ing. Then he turned to the three of us. “Is that a dead crow?” 

Andrew found it,” Hen­ry said imme­di­ate­ly, and Andrew glared at him. 

Cool,” David said, and Hen­ry looked like he wished he hadn’t giv­en Andrew cred­it. “Why’s it in a shoebox?” 

I lift­ed a fin­ger, as if to say it was me, but the words nev­er came out. David noticed the move­ment, and he smirked—though not at me, at Jen­nie.  

Cool. Like your sis­ter.”  

Hen­ry and Andrew both looked at me, as if to say, Jen­nie? Cool? But no one dis­agreed with David. 

Jen­nie shrugged in response. “Not that cool.” 

What are you guys gonna do with it then?” David asked. 

Hen­ry shrugged. “Should we throw it out?” 

No,” Andrew and I both said. Jen­nie opened her mouth as if to agree with Hen­ry, but closed it. 

Fine, fine, fine.” Hen­ry pushed the box into David’s hands. “Do you have any ideas?” 

He looked away, at Jen­nie, away again. “Yeah, I’ve got one, actu­al­ly. I’ll take care of it for you guys.” 

Andrew frowned, as if he couldn’t believe that David Moon, of all peo­ple, would be will­ing to take a dead crow from three eleven-year-old boys. “You sure?” 

Oh yeah,” he ruf­fled Andrew’s head, which might’ve made him mad had it been any­one else, but it was David Moon. “Your crow’s in trust­ed hands.” 

But what are you gonna do with it?” I asked. 

He clapped my shoul­der. “Don’t wor­ry, lit­tle Park. We’ll leave it up to God, right?” He fist-bumped all of us before head­ing to his car. 

At the driver’s side door, sun­glass­es back on his face, David turned back to us. “Hey, big Park, wan­na help me with this?” 

Jen­nie looked at me, at Hen­ry and Andrew, back at David. “Me?” 

Yeah, you, Jennie.” 

But I—” she cleared her throat. “I have to babysit them. You know how our par­ents are …” she trailed off as David turned his gaze on us. 

You guys are gonna be in what, sixth grade soon?” he said. “Aren’t you old enough to look after yourselves?” 

Both Andrew and Hen­ry puffed up their chests; yes, they were, indeed, actu­al­ly old enough to look after themselves—there were plen­ty of times when Jen­nie left us alone, after all. She was unwrap­ping and wrap­ping that draw­ing from ear­li­er. I couldn’t see the whole thing, but there was a cor­ner of a face, a boy’s face, I thought. 

Jen­nie didn’t have any babysit­ting mon­ey on her yet to bribe us with let­ting her go. But Andrew didn’t care that we weren’t get­ting any mon­ey from Jen­nie, at least not this time. He nod­ded at David. “Yeah, duh, we are.” 

Alright, then it’s set­tled.” He opened the door. “Jen, you coming?” 

No one ever called Jen­nie Jen. I frowned, but when she looked back at me, head tilt­ed to the side—is this okay?—I waved at her. She fist­ed the paper back into her pock­et and got into the pas­sen­ger side of David Moon’s car. 

Ear­li­er today, Hen­ry and I met at our local Paris Baguette for our once-a-year check-in. When we meet, it’s usu­al­ly to catch up on the details of our lives any stranger could find on our Face­book pro­files. It’s also to exchange any new infor­ma­tion we have on our old friend Andrew, who’d slow­ly dropped out of our lives in the way friends do, after he moved away before we all start­ed high school. Henry’s friends with him on Face­book, where­as I occa­sion­al­ly check his pro­file now and again, most­ly to see if he has a new girl­friend or not. Usu­al­ly, we leave after thir­ty min­utes of chat­ting over mediocre cof­fee and red bean filled breads. 

But this after­noon, after we asked each oth­er how we were, if I still had a boyfriend (no), if Hen­ry was still lead­ing youth groups at our old church (yes), if I would ever go back to church (no), if Hen­ry knew whether Andrew was still dat­ing a white girl and whether his par­ents dis­ap­proved (yes), I was expect­ing us to shake hands and walk our sep­a­rate ways, when Hen­ry ordered a sec­ond cup of cof­fee. It was unheard of. 

Caleb,” he said, after return­ing to our table. “Did you hear about David Moon?”  

I blinked. I hadn’t thought about David Moon since that day we found the dead crow. “No.” 

Well, you won’t believe this.” Hen­ry leaned for­ward, so I did, too. He looked around, eyes flit­ting from face to face—probably try­ing to make sure he didn’t rec­og­nize any­one, and that no one rec­og­nized him. “There’s alle­ga­tions against him. You know, sex­u­al assault allegations.” 

I blinked again, lean­ing back. “What?” 

Yeah. Sun­min Jeon, you know, the one who played piano for the church orchestra?” 

I shook my head. I hadn’t been to church since junior year of high school, and even back then, I only ever talked to Hen­ry. If Andrew had still been there, maybe I’d have talked to him too. 

Okay, well, she came back for the Class of 2010 Reunion, she was in the same grade as David, they were both in the church orches­tra. But appar­ent­ly she react­ed pret­ty bad­ly when she saw him, ’cause it’d been years—” Hen­ry was now ges­tur­ing with his hands, “—and then peo­ple noticed and asked what was wrong, and she told them. It hap­pened the first or sec­ond year in col­lege, when they were back home for the sum­mer and help­ing out with the orchestra.” 

It felt like there was some­thing stuck in my chest. “Shit,” I mur­mured. All I could think about was that image of Jen­nie get­ting into his car, play­ing on loop over and over again. 

Yeah. But that’s not even the whole thing.” Hen­ry leaned in even more. I start­ed to feel sick over the prospect of anoth­er woman—could it have been Jennie?—and it didn’t help that Hen­ry seemed to enjoy telling me about these women as if it were just anoth­er piece of the lat­est Kore­an church gossip. 

The oth­er day,” Hen­ry con­tin­ued. “After mass, I heard one of the ajum­mas talk to anoth­er ajum­ma about what a shame it was that David had hurt anoth­er girl. She was a lit­tle younger than Sun­min, maybe clos­er to your noona’s age?—” my leg start­ed shak­ing under the table at the men­tion of my old­er sis­ter “—and told some peo­ple a week or so after the reunion. Can you believe it?” 

I could. Hen­ry didn’t give me time to respond, though, before he leaned back in his chair, sigh­ing. “David Moon. It’s too bad—I always thought he was one of the good guys.” 

And what about the women? I want­ed to ask him. Do you feel bad for them too? How are they doing now? But he prob­a­bly didn’t have the answers, and even if he did, I wasn’t sure he’d tell me in a way that would stop my leg from shaking. 

Instead, I asked, “Do you remem­ber that day we found the dead crow?”  


Hours after I met with Hen­ry, I get ahold of Jennie. 

Caleb,” she answers on the fourth ring. “What’s up? I thought we weren’t gonna talk until lat­er?” Jen­nie lives in Cal­i­for­nia, work­ing on graph­ic design for some media com­pa­ny, while I’m still in New Jer­sey fin­ish­ing up col­lege, and we call each oth­er exact­ly on the fif­teenth of each month. 

Hi, noona,” I reply, wish­ing we still used old ana­log phones so I could fid­get with the cord. Instead, I keep tap­ping my fin­gers on my knee. “There’s some­thing I need to ask you about.” 

What is it?” There’s some sort of back­ground noise on her end—is she stuck in L.A. traf­fic? Eat­ing at the food court in Koreatown? 

I take a breath, curl­ing my fin­gers into a fist. “I talked to Hen­ry the oth­er day. He—he told me some­thing about David Moon.” 

Silence on the oth­er end. 

He, uh … at church … there are two women …” I stam­mer. Clear my throat. I start over. “I keep think­ing about that day we found the dead crow. Do you remember?” 

I remem­ber,” Jennie’s voice, though I can bare­ly hear it. 

Did … did some­thing—” I cough. “Did something—” 

I can’t fin­ish my ques­tion, but Jennie’s silence gives me the answer.  

While Jen­nie was sit­ting shot­gun in David Moon’s car, going who knows where, Andrew, Hen­ry, and I returned to Andrew’s. The pow­er was still out, so we found our­selves lying on the hard­wood floors again, splayed out as far as we could, hop­ing they could cool us down. 

What do we do now?” Hen­ry asked. 

My eyes were on the ceil­ing, but I could almost feel Andrew’s shrug from across the room. “Wait until the pow­er comes back.” 

But that could be hours.” 

You got any bet­ter ideas?” 

Instead of lis­ten­ing to them argue—or until their argu­ment could reach me, and I’d have to be the one respon­si­ble for com­ing up with some­thing fun to do—I got up and walked to Andrew’s par­ents’ room, where Jen­nie had been sit­ting in front of the desk­top com­put­er, sketch­ing something. 

I sat down in the chair, imag­in­ing her here. Scrolling through Myspace or Face­book and talk­ing to her friends, prob­a­bly com­plain­ing about us. What were she and David Moon doing togeth­er now? What was hap­pen­ing to the crow? 

Next to the key­board was Jennie’s sketch­book. It was closed, and my fin­gers hov­ered over the cov­er, hes­i­tant. DON’T TOUCH ANY OF MY STUFF Jen­nie would often say to me. I could imag­ine her rip­ping the sketch­book from my hands as soon as I touched it; but Jen­nie wasn’t here right now, to watch as I opened the sketch­book, flip­ping from one draw­ing to the next. 

There were a bunch of por­traits of her friends at school, in the cafe­te­ria, in class. One or two of David. One of Andrew, Hen­ry, and I with the Game­Cube. One of our par­ents. None of her­self. In the mid­dle of the sketch­pad was a torn-off page, hasti­ly ripped on the side. 

I touched the edges, care­ful not to give myself a paper­cut. Was this the draw­ing Jen­nie had in her pocket? 

I heard foot­steps in the hall­way and quick­ly closed the sketch­book, turn­ing around to find Andrew in the doorway. 

Your omma’s here,” he said, sim­ply, then walked away. 

When I got home that night and went to my bed­room, the one I shared with Jennie—hoping to give back her sketch­book with­out her dis­cov­er­ing that I’d looked through it—I found her lying on her bed, her back fac­ing me. 

Noona?” I asked, qui­et­ly.  

She didn’t say any­thing; I tried again, then a sec­ond, and then a third time. After the third time, I fig­ured she was asleep, and that’s when I noticed the draw­ings on the wall on her side of the room. 

They were all crows. Doo­dles, sketch­es, scrib­bles. Tiny ones, big ones, medi­um-sized. Vary­ing shades of black and gray. If I looked away, I swore I thought I saw their wings flap out of the cor­ner of my eye. It couldn’t have been a breeze, because the win­dow was closed. But when I looked at them head-on, they were still. 

Where do I even start?” Jen­nie asks, exhal­ing. I don’t hear any back­ground nois­es on her end of the phone anymore—she must’ve found some­where qui­et to talk. 

What do you remem­ber?” I whis­per, my voice so qui­et I’m afraid she hasn’t heard me—but Jen­nie starts talking. 

The pow­er went out that day. Do you remem­ber that?” I nod, though she can’t see me. “I was mes­sag­ing David on AIM, ask­ing him for help with geom­e­try home­work, ’cause he was one of the tutors my teacher put on a list, and I thought he was cute and liked watch­ing him play soc­cer, so I thought, I don’t know, why the hell not?” 

She says every­thing in a rush. My leg keeps shak­ing up and down, wait­ing for the moment her sto­ry turns. 

I told him I was babysit­ting you and Andrew and Hen­ry, then he asked for Andrew’s address, I gave it to him, the pow­er went out. I didn’t actu­al­ly expect him to show up. I real­ly didn’t. David Moon, a senior, and me, a fresh­man? God, every­one was in love with him.” 

You had a crush on him,” I say, a state­ment more than a question. 

Jen­nie exhales again, a bit shak­i­ly this time. “I did. I thought he was––I don’t know. But then, who would’ve believed me, right? He asked me to come with him, when he took that dead crow for us. And I said yes. I said yes, think­ing we’d just work on geom­e­try after. And, you know—part of me—” she paus­es, takes a breath, starts again. “Part of me, I know, was hop­ing for some­thing. A kiss, maybe. Some­thing small. But not that. Not what happened.” 

My hand is curled into a fist, fin­ger­nails dig­ging into skin. If only I had—what? Asked Jen­nie not to get into the car with David? Fol­lowed them, impos­si­bly? Asked why she was spend­ing longer times in the bath­room after that day? 

Caleb? Are you still there?” Jen­nie asks. 

I close my eyes. “Still here. Sor­ry. Just—a lot to process. There’s so much I didn’t know, or didn’t remem­ber, but think­ing back on every­thing now, it—it—some of it—” 

Is start­ing to make sense?” she fin­ish­es. “You were eleven, Caleb. I was your annoy­ing noona. You were my insuf­fer­able don­saeng.” 

I’m still your insuf­fer­able don­saeng.” 

She laughs, but it comes out gar­bled. “Then I guess I’m still your annoy­ing noona.” A pause. Sec­onds of silence pass. “You know—I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly real­ly told any­one what hap­pened next. I think a lot of peo­ple thought I was a prude ’cause I didn’t have my first boyfriend until after col­lege, but … well––” Anoth­er breath. I wish I was there, in Los Ange­les, to put my hand on her shoul­der, or give her a tis­sue, any­thing. But there’s a part of me that’s glad I’m not, so I don’t have to see her face crum­ple when she starts talk­ing again. 

He took me to the church park­ing lot,” she says. I can see it in my mind so clear­ly, years lat­er: the main lot, with its clean white lines. And sev­er­al hun­dred feet away, in a spot over­run with grass: the place of my first kiss. I’d snuck off at night to meet up with anoth­er clos­et­ed guy from a dif­fer­ent high school. We thought we were being hilar­i­ous­ly iron­ic, trans­gres­sive. But this was a dif­fer­ent place for Jennie. 

None of the ajum­mas or ajusshis knew about that spot, you know. So he knew there was no way any­one would see us.” She takes anoth­er breath. “So—yeah. That’s it. I don’t—I don’t want to get into the details.” 

I don’t need to know them,” I say, hop­ing it’s enough. 

There’s a sound on the oth­er end, like she’s blow­ing her nose. “I thought we were gonna bury the crow in the trees behind the park­ing lot. But he start­ed kiss­ing me—which, you know, I thought I want­ed, but then—it didn’t stop there. Even though I want­ed it to. To stop, I mean.” 

What do you say to your old­er sis­ter who’s just told you a ter­ri­ble secret? What do you do when she’s reliv­ing the trau­ma, when that day for you meant find­ing a dead crow and try­ing to impress your friend you had a crush on and for her meant some­thing com­plete­ly, utter­ly different? 

God,” she laughs, or cries, I can’t tell which. “It’s just so—I’ve spent so long replay­ing this day in my head. And now I’m final­ly telling someone.” 

You don’t have to keep going,” I say, gently. 

No, I—” she stops. “God, Caleb. What if I’d told some­one ear­li­er? You think the same thing wouldn’t have hap­pened to those girls?” 

I’m about to answer, when she con­tin­ues in a rush of words. 

There’s one part of me that says, You couldn’t have known. No one would’ve believed you any­ways. And then there’s the side that says, What if they did? What if one of them did? And then the oth­er side says, Look how they’re react­ing to them now. All the ajusshis and ajum­mas can talk about is David this, David that, how he was so suc­cess­ful and now it’s all col­laps­ing. They would’ve done the same to you ten years ago. They wouldn’t have cared about you. They would’ve told you to keep qui­et because no one can know that some­thing ter­ri­ble like this hap­pened to us, us upstand­ing church-going God-lov­ing Kore­ans. But then, what if one of the girls had heard about you, and decid­ed to stay away? What if it made all that dif­fer­ence? And then I come back with—but it shouldn’t have rest­ed on them, on us. It should’ve been on David.” 

There are half-moon cir­cles imprint­ed on my palm from where I’ve been dig­ging my nails into the skin. “You can’t blame it on yourself.” 

I know I can’t.” She laughs. “I know. I fuck­ing know. But I spi­ral some­times, Caleb, I spi­ral. But you know what some of the weird­est, creepi­est shit out of all of this was?” 


I don’t know what he ever did with the crow, but when I got home, I couldn’t stop draw­ing them.” 

I blink, remem­ber­ing the crows on the wall. “But you hate birds.” 

I do. But when I picked up my pen­cil, it was like my hand took over me. I think I went through an entire note­book. And then at school the next day, when David Moon opened his lock­er, a bunch of post-it notes flood­ed out.” 

My mouth hangs open. “Did you—”  

No, I didn’t even go near his lock­er that day. But I sure as hell hope he got a ton of paper cuts.” 

Wit­ness­es, I think. But I don’t say this out loud to Jen­nie. She might’ve been silenced, but they were try­ing to say something. 

When I got home,” Jen­nie con­tin­ues, dis­rupt­ing my thoughts, “all my draw­ings of the crows from last night were gone. All that was left was the tape on the walls.” 

Chills run down my arm. “Sounds like one of omma’s super­sti­tions.” 

Jen­nie laughs. “I know.” 

When we get off the phone, I lie down in my bed, star­ing up at the ceil­ing. Through the closed door, I hear one of my house­mates come in, rum­mag­ing through the pots and pans in the kitchen. For him, it’s a nor­mal day: class­es, work, stu­dent org stuff. For me, I can’t stop think­ing. Can’t stop the images swirling behind my closed eyes, dead crows and silence and Andrew and Hen­ry and David and Jen­nie and that hot June day that used to mean some­thing dif­fer­ent for me but now—now moves beyond that dead crow I picked up with my t‑shirt, sun beat­ing down on my bare skin and won­der­ing what would hap­pen next. 




From the writer

:: Account ::

What the Crow Knows” began as an inquiry into a memory. 

When I was in third grade, my friends and I found a dead bird on the side of the road. Unsure of what to do, my friends’ old­er sib­lings took charge—I remem­ber there being a shoe­box, a strange man who approached the sib­lings, and I remem­ber myself, my cousin, and my friend going back to his house and dis­tract­ing our­selves by watch­ing TV. I remem­ber being vague­ly wor­ried about the old­er sib­lings, but in the end they returned just fine, the dead bird hav­ing been tak­en care of.  

Part of this inquiry is a “what if”—what if this stranger wasn’t a stranger but an acquain­tance of a mot­ley crew of kids? What if the old­er siblings—just one old­er sib­ling in the sto­ry, Jennie—doesn’t turn out fine? What if the younger kids, who might not be ful­ly aware of the under­ly­ing pow­er dynam­ics between those old­er than them, remem­ber this day dif­fer­ent­ly than them? 

Part of this inquiry is also rumi­nat­ing on what hap­pens when we real­ize more sin­is­ter things had hap­pened retroac­tive­ly, and when our mem­o­ries of a cer­tain day or event don’t match up with the mem­o­ries of some­one else. It is also about, of course, con­fronting sex­u­al assault and trau­ma, and the lin­ger­ing con­se­quences of trau­ma of that assault and abuse––on the sur­vivor, on the survivor’s fam­i­ly, on the survivor’s com­mu­ni­ty; and what that means for a spe­cif­ic cul­tur­al com­mu­ni­ty. Part of that con­fronta­tion asks––what if there is no wit­ness? What if the only wit­ness is a dead crow?


Mon­i­ca Kim is a queer writer and orga­niz­er. Born in Korea, she now lives in Brook­lyn, New York. She won the inau­gur­al Jane Keny­on Chap­book Prize Award for her series of mul­ti­verse poems and her writ­ing has been pub­lished in the lickety~split, Pol­lux Jour­nal, Pine Hills Review, and oth­ers. You can find her on Twit­ter at @kimmonjoo.