[This post was originally presented to a smaller audience on September 19th, 2016. A few days later squirrels hacked my blog and posted it to a wider audience. Squirrels understand that information, like bullshit, wants to be free.]
Most creatures, raptors included, have a righteous fight or flight reaction cooked into their DNA. Furthermore, raptors are inherently excellent at getting out of Dodge. So when Sammy’s skunkplosion rocked Edward’s mind he engaged in an involuntary flat out ballistic retreat.
There aren’t many creatures that move faster than a raptor and virtually nothing can harm one in high-speed flight so Edward felt comfortable just rocketing in a random direction. This plan, despite being statistically excellent, had a flaw. Edward had just gotten up the full head of steam for what he intended to be an epic linear flight of abject terror when he was taken out by the only thing that can take out a raptor; a windmill. In mid wingbeat Edward was slammed out of the sky and thrown towards Earth. He wound up addled but uninjured at the edge of the paved road. Edward was no stranger to roads, having eaten plenty of roadkill, so he knew he was safe so long as he didn’t hear any engines. This is why he was taken by surprise by the ghostlike silence of a Prius that blew by and corkscrewed him into the bushes at the edge of the road.
Cowed but not beaten, Edward took flight again on another random trajectory. Soon he realized he was heading back towards the site of Sammy’s demise. He braked hard, made an ungainly reach for a tree limb, missed, and pinwheeled into the dirt.
“Fuck it!” Edward pouted. “I’m staying right here!” Obviously the cascade of suck would end shortly and if he kept pinballing into things he wouldn’t last much longer. All he had to do was wait it out. It couldn’t get worse…
It began to rain.
Several hours later Mr. Curmudgeon was in the garage inadvertently breaking things while humming to himself. His phone alerted him to a text and he dropped a handful of delicate parts as he jabbed at the screen.
“There is a goddamn eagle in the driveway!” It was Mrs. curmudgeon.
Mr. Curmudgeon shrugged “okay”. He went back to tinkering with something sharp and jagged attached to a motor.
“A chivalrous man might come out in the rain to push this thing out of the way so that I can get down the driveway.” This text seemed to have a hidden meaning. Mr. Curmudgeon thought hard. Chivalry… medieval history… mead. Maybe he should drink some mead? Decades of training finally clicked in his brain. This wasn’t about history! Could it be a form of indirect communication? Yes! This was a hint! Like a very dim bulb lighting up slowly, Mr. Curmudgeon realized the full import of the text. He grabbed a rake, donned his rain jacket, and trudged out into the gloom.
Jauntily holding his rake over one shoulder, Mr. Curmudgeon stomped past the inert raptor and knocked on the window of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s car. She was busily composing a third text. This text would have obscenities and exclamation points. Fortunately for him, Mr. Curmudgeon had interrupted the process.
“Hang tight. I’ll just boot this bastard out of the way.” Mr. Curmudgeon boasted. Keeping in mind the whole “chivalrous” concept, he approached the bird with his rake extended lance-like. He was grinning. After all, it was just a dead bird (though it was sitting upright).
He touched the bird with his rake and was startled to see the birds eyes open! Edward swiveled and his eyes fixed, laser-like on Mr. Curmudgeon. Raptors eyes aren’t just vision; they’re God’s targeting array for a feathery missile system of death. For most creatures on earth, if a raptor stares at you like that, you are soon to be its dinner. Mr. Curmudgeon stepped back.
Back at the car he explained his predicament. “I can’t tangle with it, there’re a protected species. I can’t just wallop it with a rake.” He mumbled lamely. (Secretly Mr. Curmudgeon liked anything with a fighting spirit and hoped the bird would recover.) There was nothing for it. Mrs. Curmudgeon gingerly edged around the bird and drove on. Mr. Curmudgeon realized that he didn’t get a ride home and had to walk in the rain back to his workshop. This was definitely the raptor’s fault. He paused to take a grainy, low resolution, cell phone snapshot and wished he had his 35 mm camera. That was an elegant tool for a more civilized age.
The rain continued. It was heavy, cold, drenching rain. It matched Edward’s mood. He was hypothermic and sinking into a post skunkplosion catatonic state.
Around sunset Mr. Curmudgeon grabbed his trusty bird identification book, rake, and flashlight. Then he went back out the storm to check on the bird. He had visions of the bird stroking out and dying right there in his driveway. Then, at the least opportune moment, an entire busload of birdwatchers and EPA regulators would somehow “accidentally” arrive on the scene. His homestead would be turned into a raptor sanctuary and a Superfund site. In addition to liking them, Mr. Curmudgeon was paranoid about laws surrounding eagles. (That’s why he brought the book with him. If the creature really was a Bald Eagle he’d probably call someone and dump the issue on their officious regulatory lap.)
When he arrived at the scene of Edward’s silent vigil he poked the bird once more. Again Edward’s eyes opened. Again he targeted Mr. Curmudgeon.
It’s a true but undocumented fact that one-day God decided to build the most awesome creature ever. That was the day he made the raptor. It happened like this, God woke up and thought “I’m sick of fuzzy things. That last project with the koala right on the heels of the panda meeting. That was so damn boring.” Then God proceeded to produce a missile. He made it pointy; with a hooked beak and claws suitable for a Grizzly but scaled for flight. He gave it laser beam eyes. He’d created the raptor! It was so much fun that he immediately sketched out the DNA specs for cobras, badgers, manta rays, sharks, and wolverines. Then he celebrated with a Dr. Pepper and turned the dial to eleven with the orca. The only hint of this was that when the raptor stared at him, Mr. Curmudgeon inexplicably thought of cobras.
Unable, or unwilling, to shove the semi catatonic bird into the ditch, Mr. Curmudgeon hunkered down and peered at it. He opened up his bird book and started flipping pages. Knowledge is power. (Also he was so pissed off at Google after dropping the ball on the bear thing that he was actively resurrecting his neglected paper library.)
Edward glared at the human. “Go ahead and try it land ape!” Raged Edward. In fact, Edward had decided the skunksplosion was the end of time anyway so he might as go out brave and proud. Like the Eagle that he was. He glared at the human, “That’s right mammal. After what I have seen, there is no more fear left in me. Go ahead and try it!”
Mr. Curmudgeon was entirely unaware of Edward’s mental state. Having flipped back and forth several times through the pages he nodded to himself. “You are,” he looked at the bird “a rough legged hawk.” Characteristically, for Mr. Curmudgeon is the sort of person who speaks to trees and dogs and tractors, he held up the page to the bird (from a respectful distance of course).
Mr. Curmudgeon was pleased with himself for identifying the bird at hand.
Not. An. Eagle?!? Something in Edward snapped. He opened his beak to scream but only a weak croak came out. He snapped his eyes shut, went stiff as a board, and fell face first into the mud.
“That was unexpected.” Mused Mr. Curmudgeon. He stood up, gently nudged the creature into the weeds, and walked away.