I look at the clock, then stare out the window. It’s only 8 a.m. and the sun is already threatening a skin sweltering temperature. I better get moving if I want to go bike riding before the weather becomes unbearable. Off goes my nightie, on goes my work-out clothes. In three minutes flat, I’m walking out the door and heading towards my bike, which today is inconveniently stationed behind our filthy and immovable trashcan. Note to self: remind dad to kindly not borrow my bike, EVER. I grab the handlebars and begin to pull, lift and jerk the bike out of its position and onto the road but am rudely interrupted by a disturbing noise. Crwaaa! Crwaaa! The crows. Instinctively, my arms fly up, covering my head and face. I abandon the bike and take off running. They say running is better for you than bike-riding anyways, right?
The crows are a subspecies of birds known to terrorize and victimize human beings. They are huge creatures, covered with slick black feathers, tearing claws and incisive hook-like beaks. In the last decade that my family has resided in our current home, we were free of these frightening creatures. Our land was mostly flat, barren and dry leaving no place for these birds to perch, but since we’ve cultivated it, by planting full-sized mango trees and adding a grandeur stone fountain, we’ve created an Eden for crows. They now come in flocks, covering our front lawn like a hideous black carpet, circling our fountain as they socially drink it dry, pecking at our green mangos until they fall off the tree, and excrementing on our cars, especially after we just finish washing them.
At first we thought it was a temporal situation. “Maybe they’re just seasonal pests”, we thought, something akin to cicadas. “They’ll be gone with the snow birds or sooner than that.” But when the mangos ceased bearing fruit, the crows were still there. When the yellow buses began touring the neighborhood, the crows were still there. It was a few days before Halloween and the crows were still there, keeping us out of our yard and away from any mischievous fun to be had. There were no volunteers from within our house to hang cobwebs or plant jack-o-lanterns. Better a plain house than to be pecked to death. “But please, Auntie! Why can’t I go trick or treating?” my niece inquired. Mia was staying with us that week; her parents were away on a business trip.
“I’ve told you. Because we can’t give out any candy ourselves. Going to collect candy from the neighbors when we aren’t giving anything isn’t right,” I replied.
Never taking no for an answer, my niece pressed on, “Well, why don’t we just give candy out too, like all the other people?”
I took her hand and lead her to the front room window. “Just look out there,” I instructed her. Crows were already lined on the window sill. At the sight of us, they began cawing and pecking at the glass. “The crows, Mia, the crows! Look at them! These birds patrol our house like lions. Do you think they will have mercy on little children coming to collect candy? No! They will swoop at them like they do to you and me, maybe they’ll even carry a kid off. Look, we’ll go to the store tomorrow and I’ll buy you a whole bag of candy.”
Mia rolled her eyes at me and marched into the kitchen where my mother was making caramelized apples. Her complaints wafted through the air for a few minutes more until my mother handed her a treat. Meanwhile I sat on the sofa in the front room, pondering the situation. There has to be a way to get rid of these infernal creatures, I thought to myself. In a burst of unregulated motivation I leapt from my seat and dashed towards my computer. I let my fingers hit the right keys to spell out the words crow control into the Google search box. Instantly, thousands of search results flooded my screen. One website in particular caught my eye. Crowbegone.com advertised a plethora of strategies in the effective eradication of crows. Loud noise, stone throwing and shiny objects purportedly were the best defenses against the creatures. A diagram on how to build a crow trap was also displayed. It seemed all seemed so simple. I began drafting a plan.
Within a few hours all the groundwork for Operation Crow Control (OCC) was laid. In shifts members of the family would go out and execute one of the strategies for scaring away crows. Mia was put in charge of making noise. Pots and pans were distributed to her. Dad was head of the stone throwing department, along with my brother, Mike. Mom was to create and place a human-like dummy decked in tinfoil in the middle of the yard. My job was to build the largest crow trap ever seen on this side of the Caloosahatchee. After catching the crows, the plan was to drive them over to outskirts of town and set them loose, but not after driving around in enough circles to disorient them. Basically, OCC was a fool proof plan that upon delivery would render us free from the creatures and allow us to once again enjoy our existence in our little piece of the world.
Mia went first. She bravely stomped out onto the front porch armed with her pots and pans and began her war cry. At the top of her lungs she shouted, “GO AWAY CROWS! GO AWAY! I WANT TO GO TRICK OR TREATING! GO AWAY!” Intermittently she clanged the pots together at full force. At first the crows paid no mind to her clamor, but after a few minutes, they seemed to become annoyed and began moving restlessly. “It’s working!” Mia called to me. “Good girl! Keep it going!” I urged her on. Then, the crows began to caw. Their caw brought more crows to the front lawn. The newcomers began to caw as well, bringing forth more crows from out of the woodwork, who in turn played their dark piece in the orchestra. Soon enough, Mia’s voice and clanging could no longer compete with the caw of the terrible black things. When she came back inside the house, her voice was hoarse and the pots had dents on the bottom. With a tear stricken face, she looked up at me and whispered, “I tried, Auntie, I really did.”
Before I could offer any words of comfort to my distraught niece, Dad and Mike came in from the garage. Both were clad in camouflage military fatigues and carrying buckets filled with stones. “We’re gonna blow them suckers away, aren’t we Mikey?” my dad grunted.
“That was a rhetorical question son! Follow me!” at that last bark, Dad marched out into the yard with Mike, Mia, and me following behind. With careful aim, my father threw his first stone at a particularly large cluster of black. The birds, take by surprised fluttered into the air. “Heh, I got this. Come on Mike, join in,” he ordered. Mia and I retreated back into the house were we could watch safely. The birds, aware that they were under attack, began plunging downward on Dad and Mike. The men headed for cover: crawling under the minivan parked on the driveway. From their makeshift trench, the warfare continued. However, stone after stone aimed and flung at the birds did not desist their utter unrest. We knew the battle was over when the crows began grasping the fallen missiles with their claws and flying them over the minivan, releasing them to the chagrin of my father. With each metal bending thud, I could see his spirit crumble until he finally dug deep into his pockets for a white handkerchief and with trembling hands lifted it into the air. “C’mon, Mikey. It ain’t worth it. Not the van…” I gave each of my soldiers a pat on the back and some gauze for the welts on their heads as they came into the house.
While Mia played nurse to Dad and Mike, I went to check on how Mom was doing with the dummy. “I’m just putting the finishing touches on it. Hold this arm for me while I wrap some tin foil around it,” she said to me. “Ah, there we have it.” Together we propped up the shiny scare crow and admired the work my mother had done. The dummy was a little larger than an average man, thickly stuffed with newspaper. My mother had given him cloth skin and tin-foil cloths. Two thickly drawn eyebrows meeting a crooked nose above a menacing, toothy smile made his face. It gave me shivers down my spine, just looking at him. I told her, “Momma, you sure have outdone yourself. If this doesn’t scare away the crows, I don’t know what will.”
“Well, let’s not count chicks before they hatch. Help me get this dummy into the front yard.” My mother, so modest.
I took hold of his legs while she carried him by his underarms and together we got him to the front yard. Dad, was already there with a stake driven into the ground. We set the dummy up and went back in the house. “Let’s just leave him there this evening and see what happens,” my father wisely stated. Nothing could prepare us for what we found the next morning.
Mike was the first to discover the remains, as he’s always up before dawn on most days. I could hear his voice through my sleep. “They killed it! They killed it!” he shouted. Mia began to cry, “Not Mr. Whiskers? They killed the cat!”
“No, Mia, not the cat. Come look at this.”
By now I was definitely up. If those damn crows did anything to my cat, why I swear it was going to be World War III. All five of us went out onto the front porch and stared at the yard. With the morning sun, it resembled something sort of magical. Rays of sunlight bounced off pieces of tin foil strewn across the lawn. The crows had shredded my mother’s dummy to pieces. Mike gave me a smirk commenting, “I guess plan OCC isn’t working too well, huh?” A solid punch on his arm was my reply.
I was ready by noon. My crow trap, constructed out of chicken wire to be about the size of a coffee table stood in the center of the garage, begging to be placed outside so that it could complete its purpose. The trap had slots on the top for the birds to get to the bait, but being only so big, disallowed the birds to fly out. Carefully, I dragged out the cage into the yard and lifted it slightly to get under and place the bait, a collective mess of broken eggs, wilted lettuce, molded cheese and bread. I should have used a broom stick to push the plate to the center, but instead I found myself squirming under the trap, trying to position the bait in the perfect local. While I assumed this position, a huge, no, a gargantuan crow, king of these beasts, surely, landed on top of the trap. His weight, unusually heavy for a crow, was such that he succeeded in pinning me down. I was trapped by a crow in a crow trap I made to trap crows! Deciding not to panic, I stayed motionless beneath. He’ll fly off soon I optimistically said to myself. But no. Craw! Craw! Craw! The King Crow was calling to his cronies. It was a matter of seconds before my body disappeared behind a fluttering wave of black wings. I began to scream. The birds pecked at my skin, clawed at my body, and tore at my psyche. This is it. I am going to die. Those were my last thoughts before I lost all consciousness.
When I woke up, I was lying on a gurney in the emergency room. Two blue eyes looked down at my face and assured me I was going to be alright, they were just checking me for any infections or diseases possibly contracted from the birds.
I finish my mile of running and return to my house. Through the throng of black, I can just make out the For-Sale sign flapping in the wind. The moving van is already parked on the driveway and my mom, dad and brother are working together to fill it up with our belongings.