The Course of the Feather

There was still that milky smell of cowshed in her feathers. Even years after she had emigrated to the capital. Norma L. was a crow from the hinterland. She was born in a cowshed. Here, in the Big City, she always appeared a little clumsy. Perhaps it was the way she had of opening the door of the cool scene cafés with the red satin fauteuils: a little too shy, as if she was afraid of the stares. Or, for example, the way Norma, the airy crow, would stand in the Underground, talking on her mobile phone: a little too loudly.

I met Norma in front of the KaDeWe department store, Tauentzienstrasse, in August. There she was just gobbling up the remains of a Chicken MacNuggets menu. As Mother Crow had always told her: never leave even the smallest crumb of a meal uneaten. Norma repeated these Holy Mother Words in a dialect that must be understood somewhere in the geographic centre of Germany. For crow people here in Berlin her croaking sounds would have been rare (foreign?) if not altogether strange. And they would have found Norma’s back feather somehow strange too. Her blue back feather. Her hated blue back feather. This glimmering thing that had once been Norma’s reason to emigrate to Berlin, to leave Small Town. For as long as Norma could remember, the feather had been sticking in her back, dazzling in colours from sky-blue to turquoise, just depending on the way the light fell.

You would not believe it. Could not believe it. How often Norma had asked herself that one infinite question: Why didn’t she have a black back feather like all the other crow kids in the neighbourhood? Living with a blue feather on one’s back was like having written in big letters on one’s forehead: Don’t touch me, I’m dangerously eccentric. Already at the flying school, the feathered tragedy had begun to take its course. The other crow girls cleaned their smart black back feathers and started giggling when Norma L. winged over to where they were sitting comfortably. But on the very high city wall, there was no place for blue-feathered crow girls. Unlucky Norma L. had to sit apart on a lamppost and ward off the crow boys trying to chase and pick at her. Norma had never really appreciated this game too much, so one day she left Little Town to go out into the Great Wide World (GWW).

In the Great Wide World, Norma was not the only blue feather. However, the rest of the green, red or even pink(!)-feathered crows in Berlin hadn’t actually had their coloured feathers since they were born, oh no. One might rather suggest that the coloured feathers had been part of the Zeitgeist during the wild seventies of the last century. And what about the course of the blue back feather? Imagine.

In fact, the thing was glimmering in dark blue like a Tuareg sun when Norma stood in front of me. Pollution, fleas and human fast food had given a rather deplorable look to the rest of her appearance. (The millennium had just begun.) Norma had two sons, Karlsson and Tillson. Tillson, the younger one, was Norma’s favourite. And this is probably the reason why I got to know Norma that morning in front of the KDW store, once the great old symbol of West Berlin’s consumer world. Tillson had become a big crow capitalist as his communist mother mentioned. Nevertheless, Norma was proud of him. For today, a very sunny summer morning, was a special day for her smallest: Ladies and gentleman, Tillson proudly presents the first Speaking-and-Phoning-Internet-Connected-Coca-Cola-machine of Berlin, GWW. I had arrived too early to join this event and ‚so there I sat, waiting on a park bench, watching a strange looking crow eating Chicken MacNuggets in the dirty grass.

I don’t know why but it is always the same with strangers and me. I attract them magically as though I look like somebody you simply have to tell your story. And Norma from the other side of the pavement had a story to tell. Her secret. After the birth of her sons, Norma had forgotten the smell of love. But then one day, a white crow-bird crossed her way: Norbert. Norma saw Norbert for the first time in the evening sun at the Oberbaum Bridge, sitting on the dark of the boat, watching the sun go down. How Norma would have liked to have seen the sea one time in her life. Along came Norbert to sit by her side, to whisper softly in her feathers: I’ll take you where the wind blows us. And so they blew away with the air. Norma’s feather glimmered in a wild light when they arrived at the cliffs.

Unfortunately, Norbert, a warrior-bird, had been forced to leave her soon after in order to participate in "a senseless war in the south", as she told me. Finito.
In front of the KaDeWe store, the inauguration of the first Speaking-and-Phoning-Internet-Connected-Coca-Cola-machine was over. At a kiosk, Norma bought a map of Afghanistan. She mentioned that she would have to follow her destiny because she felt Norbert was in trouble. Then she said “adios” to me, disappearing behind an orange traffic light.

Two years passed. Then as our country was once again planning to get involved in new wars in the southern hemisphere, I remembered blue-feathered Norma and wondered what might have happened to her blue feather. One rainy day in September, we met again. Hardenbergstraße: a black crow croaked at me. It was Norma. At first, I did not recognise her, because she no longer had her blue feather. We took a coffee and Norma explained: On her search for Norbert, she had flown over oceans and mountains, man borders and hot deserts. Finally, she had reached Norbert on a snowy hill, western Afghanistan, very far away from the Great Wide World. But she had come too late. Norbert was dying. It had happened in an accident: Norbert had just wanted to warn the little dark-skinned girl who was playing in the sand of the danger slumbering in what looked like a normal toy car. Too late, the explosion of the mine had torn the girl’s left arm to pieces and gravely injured Norbert. Norbert’s last words were words of love. Norma cried. She cried about this earth, about the horror and the evil. In her crying, evil had nothing to do with a vaguely defined axis. But rather with the ashy evil contained in that cruel anti-personnel mine hidden in a toy car. In all this crying, something strange happened. Something irrational, new. Suddenly, blue flesh grew out of Norma’s feathers. A biting pain overcame Norma and all went dark. When Norma woke up, her blue feather had gone. The Afghan girl was alive. In place of the girl’s arm, that the mine had destroyed, there now was an arm of blue flesh.

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