Farmer Glump had endured the magpie’s thievery for a season. Whilst building its nest, the magpie had stolen his wife’s jewelry, husks of corn – which he did not mind – and the ears themselves – he had a right to mind that – small gardening implements, the leather strop his son used to shepherd the sheep and whip the wolves, and once, Glump in mid-swing, the magpie had landed on the metal tooth of his hoe and given a good, solid tug. Farmer Glump waved the magpie off and the bird went, croaking, but not without beating its wings against his heave ho in outright competition.
Farmer Glump drew the line when he found his wife sitting in the magpie’s nest. He climbed up the ladder to the loft. The afternoon sun in the barn’s dusty portal half-blinded him, so that when he peered up at her she was covered in greeny & crimson spots & sparks. She smiled in her demure fashion and smoothed her skirts over the rafter. The magpie, standing on the rafter, cocked its head at Glump, its dumb eyes without the human talent for curiosity.
Farmer Glump stuck his fists to his hips and glared at the two of them. The nest was a convoluted affair, hay and mud, besprent with mother of pearl and deadwood, sapphires from some place – not his farm -, leather and rotting orange rinds. The bird had accrued its random panoply under his roof and his dispensation. No more.
He kept a broom in the corner of the loft. He grabbed it, swung back, and smashed the nest. Snapped twigs clattered against the barn wall and the damp soil clumped in the broom’s thistles. He pounded the nest till its bottom gave way. The dusty WACK, WACK. On the ground, the dry rain. The magpie croaked at him, its wings open as if in human indignation. When it flew near his head he swung the broom and the bird dived away. He returned to beating the nest until his wife slid through the crumbling abutment and dropped to her feet beside him.
After most of the nest had come to pieces, he rapped the broom handle against the rafter to dislodge the remaining flocculence. Then he gave the broom to his wife to sweep the rest out the loft doors. She pouted at him. He clamped her hands over the handle and pushed her to the task, swatting her behind as she crossed him, now tight-lipped.
The magpie cawed at him as he descended the ladder. He spat. On the barn floor, he wiped his hands with his handkerchief and took the second slop bucket from his son. Together they went to the pigs and set about the rest of the day’s chores.