Friends Who Hurt Friends

You are a magpie on the back of a goat, pecking lice and fleas from your ride. Just one magpie. You are not more than one, maybe a pair, but never a trio, nor a flock. Nor are you on the back of a rhino.

You are not a flock. Nor a rhinoceros. But a goat. No, I am the goat, you are still the magpie.

You will always be the magpie. In the morning, hunting for beetles and worms in the meadowfoam. In the afternoon, hunting for ants along fir branches.

In the evening, oh especially in the summer evening when the shadows of hills start to grow long in the valley, and you swoop down from the forest while it is still warm, to feast on the fleas and ticks of my back.

It feels good to rid myself of these pests, even when you dig your nails into my skin and scratch and draw blood, and I move my shoulders to let you know that you are hurting me. My heart may ache with unrest, but it still feels good.

Maybe not right away. Maybe later, when I am in my shed and the cool night air soothes, and I think of your black and white plumage and your crow-like caw, and how you are lonely, too, even though your magpie life mate rests next to you, and how you turn your head and the sheen of the moon silvers its feathers.

It’s okay, magpie, I will still be in my paddock when you are ready. My dogs will let you near me.

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