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The Day With Crow

The car boiled over in the heat of the mountain pass. Jimi rushed out to remove the radiator cap and Mike swished a clear bottle of mineral water and followed. Steam shot past Jimi's hand and soaked the rag he held and the cap fell and clinked twice against the pavement. The sky had baked itself into clarity and the noon cast no shadows. When the engine finished whining, the car looked deflated, immovable. Some buzzards called and swirled over the red plains far below; cows flecked the broad space and clustered near the panes of the river. There were few trees anywhere. Mike poured water into the radiator and over the engine and the car sizzled like dowsed coals. The sky was so blue that the yellow haze of distant cities seamed pronounced. Mike took a gulp from the bottle and offered it to Jimi, but he refused with an open palm and pointed to the engine.

"We're going to need all that water to get to the top, Mike," Jimi said, and then he let his weight fall to earth and balanced on his haunches. A crow landed near the yellow divider and tilted its head and studied them for food; it skipped around, pecked at the asphalt, and then continued to cock its head toward the two.

Mike blocked the glare from his eyes and strained to look at the fields below. "You know, Jim, I can almost see the Ranger's lodge from here." The crow pranced further up the pass until its legs mingled with the black top's mirage; the heat waves made the crow appear to sway. "You know, Jim?" Jimi crouched and broke apart clumps of dirt in his hands, the dust didn't settle but swept out in puffs into the valley; he beaned a clod at the crow, but it landed short, puffed into dust and left a rusty mark on the blacktop. The crow called and took easy flight until it rested close enough to the car to fascinate itself with its reflection in the bumper.

Jimi sighed, rose, and then wiped his palms against his jeans. Hand prints showed clearly on each thigh. Mike closed the hood and both men hopped into the car, slamming doors and startling the bird. It glided briefly out over the ravine and settled in a dry shrub. The crow cawed and ruffled its plumage, its eyes indistinguishable at the distance.

The engine coughed and took and the grinding note of first gear pulled Mike and Jimi away. As the car took off up the mountain, the crow landed next to the bottle of water that sat on the road and looked at the valley through its refraction.

©29.1.1993 Chris Abraham