Trigger warning: All kinds of disturbing stuff in this one.
“I shot the clerk. I shot the clerk.”
In a pivotal scene in the sleeper classic My Cousin Vinny, Ralph Macchio of Karate Kid fame is wrongly arrested in the killing a convenience store attendant. When first accused, in utter disbelief, Billy Gambini, played by Macchio, says twice “I shot the clerk,” while trying to wrap his head around the murder accusation. His words are later quoted as a confession in court.
Yesterday, this random memory emerged when I saw the title of Bill Pearse’s latest post I killed the crow. Because Bill doesn’t dwell in the literal like I do, his story wasn’t really about killing a crow, except briefly in the game Fortnite. It was about the multiverse and the metaverse and an Ariana Grande verse. But since my mind only travels in straight lines, I reminisced about the weekend I killed the crow.
“I killed the crow. I killed the crow. Guilty, your honor.”
Early in the process of figuring out who I am, I shared a house with my two college friends, Mike and Andy. I previously blogged about each of them, but I’ve already included too many links in this post, so I’ll avoid the urge to drop in two more. Suffice it to say that Mike and Andy are dead—our early-adult excesses proved non-conducive to living long and healthy lives.
Because I scoured the rental ads and met with skeptical landlords (wait, you want me to rent my house to a bunch of twenty-two-year-old men?), I got the first choice of bedrooms. I chose a basement room with its own full bath. Mike and Andy shared a bath on the main floor. So not only did they share a bath with each other, but also anyone visiting our house. My bedroom suite felt like a quiet oasis away from the chaos of our living situation.
My story picks up at sunrise one Saturday morning deep into the summer. Caw, Caw. A crow crowed seemingly right next to my head. As I jerked out of my sleep, I realized this had been going on for a while. The crow sounds morphed into whatever I dream about after three hours of drunken sleep. Caw, Caw. Annoyed, I rolled over and tried to ignore it. Every five minutes or so, angry, insistent, the crow called out just beyond my window in the growing morning light.
I stomped up the stairs, clumped through the kitchen and pushed my way out the back door into the blinding sunrise. I found the crow on the ground about a foot from my bedroom window. It was a beautiful thing, with shiny black feathers, but wide, terrified golden eyes. Its beak parted to allow the rapid breathing of a dying animal. Someone’s cat, probably mine, must have attacked it.
The sun splashed on the crow and me. I could already feel the summer heat of the coming day. I expected ninety degrees before noon. This crow would suffer. I spotted a couple of bricks stacked in the window well. I grabbed the top one and hammered the crow’s head until it died. I washed my hands and climbed back into bed and slept hours more.
As my weekend wound down, two days of beer and watersports or live music or something else to distract me from my building anxiety over the coming workweek, I remembered the crow in the back yard. I didn’t want to deal with it, but I didn’t want my cat eating a rotting crow either. In the dusky light of Sunday evening, I grabbed a plastic garbage bag, and went to retrieve the crow. The brick still laid across the crow’s neck and head. When I moved the brick, the mangled head crawled with worms. Maggots? No idea. I don’t have experience with such things. I jumped back like I stumbled upon a rattlesnake.
From the shed at the back of our yard, I grabbed the lawn mower gas can and liberally doused the crow. And then, for good measure, I doused it again. I dropped a match on the carcass and burned all evidence of my crime. Unlike Billy Gambini and Bill Pearse, I actually killed the crow. I’ve run the scenario in my head countless times to see what I might have done differently. And while I can think of a dozen ways I might have more gracefully or humanely killed the crow, none would be more effective.
Thirty-seven years is a long time to hold onto this memory. The crow has undoubtedly reincarnated several times as it makes its way closer to enlightenment. Me? Since that weekend, I’ve been reborn many times over, improving marginally with each incarnation.
Previously Published on jefftcann.com