Carrion Bird on the Side of the Highway

The carrion bird flicked his head to the left, then to the right, and then straight ahead where the carcass was lying on the really hard ground. He hopped forward quickly, flicked his head right, then left again. One of the big of the big fast things heading his way, so he hopped back to where he started. As it passed, he yelled out “Seriously, what’s the deal? Can’t you see I’m trying to eat,” which just came out as a long “squaaaaaaaaaaaawk.” The carrion bird knew the big fast things didn’t understand this kind of talk because they never responded and never complied. It was all very frustrating.

There’s got to be a better way than this, he considered; but, if there was one, he didn’t know it. The big fast things were both a source of joy and frustration, for they made the carcasses upon which the carrion bird feasted but also, most infuriatingly, tried their best to keep the carrion bird from enjoying the bounty. There was nothing more frustrating than soaring upon the winds, looking down and spotting a fresh kill just ripe for the taking. He might land, pick at a piece of flesh or two and just get to really enjoying himself when one of those big fast things would come along and make him move. Heaven forbid the damn things slow down for a minute so a guy could enjoy his food.

Not long ago, one of his buddies had refused to move. They were picking over the body of a freshly killed basset hound when one of the big fast things started approaching, speeding their way without any apparent intention of diverting its path or slowing down for, like, two seconds or – gasp – maybe even stopping. No, it just kept on barreling their way, so the carrion bird hopped out of the way like he had been conditioned to do.

But his buddy just stood there.

“Squaaaaaaaaawck,” the carrion bird called out, which his buddy understood to mean, “Hey, idiot, get the hell out of the way. Big fast thing’s coming.”

But his buddy just looked up at the big fast thing, which was getting very near at this point, flicked his head toward his friend and said, “Squack…squaaawk squawk squawk,” which meant, “No, friend. Not this time. This time I make a stand. These things feel they can play God? Can give us food and then tauntingly take it away on a whim? No, I say not. I’m tired of this, friend; tired of playing this game. Today I make a stand.”

And a stand he did make, right until the big fast thing was upon him. It didn’t devour his buddy, like the carrion bird always suspected one of the big fast things would if given proper opportunity. Instead, it kind of tossed is buddy into the air, let him roll across its back and then drop to the ground without even slowing for a second. It just kept going.

“Squaaaaaawk,” the carrion bird said in mourning, watching his buddy’s body as it twitched its final few times and then stilled permanently. There was a moment of intense sadness for the carrion bird, which had enjoyed many flights with this friend. The two had feasted on myriad fine carcasses over the years – the most delicate of deer flesh, the tenderest of sun-dried snakes, the bloodiest of squashed cat. But now, those days were over. His friend had joined the ranks of those meals, just another bloody spot of the long stretch of hard ground.

Might as well make the best of it, he thought, then flicked his head to the left, then to the right, and then at the carcass. He hopped forward quickly, flicked his head to the right, then left again, saw one of the big fast things coming, and hopped back to where he started.

Damn it, he thought before yelling uselessly in frustration as the thing passed.


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