As if eternally entangled in a reel of the Hitchcock film, my fretful life creeps forward from one restless encounter to the next. Here I attempt to exorcize the dark forces that haunt my twisted life. Twisted by the spirits incarnate in Crows.

Episode Two: The Dog, the Kitten . . . and the Crow

It was an incredibly beautiful dawn; the heat from the previous day had dissipated entirely during the night and the clouds in the eastern sky looked like cotton candy piled high with some sort of golden yellow wrapping paper holding it up underneath. I was taking my morning constitutional around the neighborhood, much as I always do, and as I turned the corner to walk past one of the city parks I heard a plaintive cry.

“What’s this?” I asked myself. “Sounds like trouble’s afoot!”

“Meoowww” was the mournful sound that confirmed my suspicions.

“That’s a cat,” I whispered to myself, “and it sounds like it needs help!”

I turned off the sidewalk and onto the grass of the park. After making my way through a cluster of trees, I found myself in a clearing with just one giant maple. In front of the tree a dog and a crow were staring up at a group of branches about ten feet off the ground. The dog was a mutt of some kind; probably a third or a quarter lab, but about the rest I’m really not sure. It was sitting on its back haunches, excitedly thumping its tail on the ground. Beside the dog a crow quickly hopped from one position to another, and back again, obviously very animated as well. Given my past experience, I naturally wanted to blame the crow, but of course dogs and cats are more traditional adversaries. And if the crow was after the kitten, why didn’t he just fly up to the branch to attack the kitten? Usually it’s the other way around; cats naturally chase birds, and many’s the morning I’ve found a little robin or a finch laid on my front steps as a kind of sacrificial vicitim for more Friskies, but it must be rare indeed for a kitten to take on a crow. In any case, I realized that there probably wasn’t a second to lose. This kitten, a tabby, wanted and needed safety.

“Woof, woof!,” went the dog.

“Caw, cawww!” went the crow.

I then noticed that there was a long piece of yellow, nylon rope hanging from one of the branches. This rope was tied to a red leash that was draped across the one branch and then led to the kitten that was perched on another branch at the same level, perhaps three feet away from the trunk of the tree. The manner of attachment was odd: made out of the same red, leatherish material as the leash was a kind of harness, and metal studs about the size of thumbtacks dotted both harness and leash. Who puts a cat on a leash, let alone such a little kitten? This seemed very strange, but I realized it was a waste of time pondering such insignificant details. I thought that if I grabbed the yellow nylon rope hanging about six feet off the ground, I could gently pull the kitten in its harness from the second branch so that it would then freely swing from the first branch. I made a quick estimation of the length of the rope and the distance between the branches, and concluded that the kitten would be left swinging roughly three feet above my head. Then I could let go of the rope attached to the leash and let the tabby drop into my awaiting arms. It seemed like a good plan. It had the advantage of using some neurotic cat owner’s idea of kitty restraint as help. More importantly, I could act on it immediately.

I made my first step forward and the dog stood up from his sitting position. He seemed amenable to my plan; recognizing that authority and able assistance had arrived, he thumped his tail one last time and moved out of the way. Not so the crow. After changing his jumping pattern from side to side to backward and forward, he then spread his shiny black wings in a threatening show of force while shrieking at me through its horrible open beak. I backed up in a hurry, knowing now that it wasn’t just the life of a kitten that hung in the balance.

Or rather, the kitten wasn’t hanging in the balance, which meant that I had to come up with plan B. I ran like hell from the clearing, and not just because of that horrible shriek; through the cluster of trees and back on the sidewalk I hustled back to my house in a matter of minutes. Taking Jonathan Webb’s advice from last week, I grabbed a welder’s mask from the garage, my uncle’s leather jacket, and an old pair of shoulder guards from my high school football days. And a ladder. And a baseball bat for the crow, since I don’t have any firearms in my house. I really do like cats. Especially kittens.

Running down the street in a welder’s mask and shoulder pads while carrying an 18 foot aluminum extension ladder isn’t easy, and I’m afraid I woke up some of the neighbors in my eagerness to help. The end of the ladder clanged on the sidewalk behind me as I ran, but I made my way through the park to the clearing in very short order. The dog was still looking up at the tree, but the monstrous crow had by then taken to flying up and perching on the first branch opposite the kitten. I saw the kitten trembling in terror. I was certainly terrified for her, so I took the baseball bat and began slamming it against the side of the tree, hoping to scare the demon bird away. I knew I was safe in my welder’s mask, and maybe it would also frighten the crow.

Not so. As I watched, horrified, the crow began taking shorter and shorter jumps and quck flights towards the kitten; obviously it was toying with the poor creature before it sank its steely talons through that silly harness and into the soft, feline flesh of a kitten that could hardly be more than two months old. I tried to turn away, but the welder’s mask wouldn’t allow me to move my head from side to side. Sickened and now strangely mesmerized, I was unable to close my eyes to the evil before me. I peered through dark, rectangular window as the crow made its final approach. Fanning its wings in a frenzy carefully orchestrated with its outstretched feet, it perched on the back of the tiny animal. I was prepared for the treading motion to begin, but to my complete and utter astonishment, the big, black bird picked the tabby up off the branch, and continuing to fan it’s wings wildly, very carefully hovered between the two branches. The kitten slumped in the grip of the bird’s talons, obviously in a state of shock. So it must have been surprised to find itself gently lowered to the ground beneath, and having been so carefully laid there by a being from which one can ordinarily expect nothing but harm, the little tiger jumped to its feet and ran off through the trees behind me, red leash and yellow nylon dragging along like a boat and a rope leaving its waterskier behind.

“Woof, woof!” said the dog, hot on the trail.

“Caw, caw, cawww!” said the crow, and spreading its mighty wings again, the black beast flew off into the last vestiges of a sunrise that had just turned milky orange.

Whether for good or for ill is just not for us to know.


  1. If you want to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.

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