The gypsy was old and tired now. After sundown she would plonk her dentures in a bowl of water, take off her spectacles and then sit stark naked staring out the window facing the moon. She would then roll herself a stick of ganja and smoke until she saw two moons. Under two moons the old biddy would open up her legs and wrap them around her willow-wood cello and pluck away. Her waterbasket lungs would breathe in and out through the f-holes in perfect fifths. She would pluck and pull and hum and weep. Her grey toes would curl and tap to her night songs of longing.
The crows would come in through the open window. Ten. Twenty. Forty black crows. They would mutter in bird-tongue; their greasy black feathers would fall all around the stoned gypsy. The black birds would sit in her hair, on the windowsill, on the floor, on her willow-wood cello. They pecked at her fraying feet and listened to her play.
‘You devil birds. You lost your colours in the Dreamtime, ain’t that what the blackfellas say? You tried to steal the fire, didn’t you? Didn’t you?’ The old gypsy would spit and growl. She tried to smack the devil birds. She could never catch them. So she continued to play, wearily. Somewhere along the way the gypsy had lost her colours too.
She couldn’t remember where she came from, or how she ended up in rural small-town Queensland, or how she came to have long white stringy hairs coming out of her ears, nose and arse.
They talked about her a lot around town. They said the old biddy was mad. Some said that she was cursed to play music to the crows because she had angered the spirits by seducing a married man. Some said her lover was a lusty and violent thief who had been turned into a crow and she played every night to please him. The townspeople kept their children away from her hut. She was never fond of children anyway.
Under two moons the weary gypsy fell asleep – her mouthful of naked gums wide open, her worn body stuck to the grooves of the old cello. A lone crow was softly pecking at the f-hole hollows, awaiting an encore.