I Killed the Crow

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.

Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

31 thoughts on “I Killed the Crow

  1. Eecholalia (repeating phrases said by others) is quite common with autistics, especially when under stress. I do it as a means of processing what someone has said when in noisy or otherwise stressful situations. In real life this caused one young man to be sentenced to 50 years imprisonment after a car crash. It’s covered in detail on the NeuroClastic website Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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    • Echolalia is a Tourette symptom too. It’s something my daughter did for a while as a tween along with some hand tics. It all never manifested itself as TS but I think the genetic traits are there. Law enforcement criminalizing neurodiverse behavior is a really big problem. I once got in a heightened verbal altercation with some police because I wasn’t responding to their questions in the way they were accustomed to.

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    • I tried to present the two violent actions as abruptly as I could. The killing had a very surreal quality to it because I was half asleep and half drunk. The cremation seemed to be me going all the way in because I was too far along to quit. I’ll probably keep working on this one and try to use it again someday. Thanks for reading and offering feedback.

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  2. Eww … glad you gave a trigger warning. I can see why you did what you did, and at least the poor thing wasn’t left to suffer his injuries for an unnecessarily long time. One of the drawbacks of having a cat is that they’re natural-born hunters. I love birds, but not en masse, as a flock of birds too near me freaks me out. Similarly, so does a loose budgie flying about a room! Needless to say, I could never watch Alfred Hitchcock’s film, ‘The Birds’.

    My neighbour phoned me on my birthday morning this week to say that Peanut had killed a pigeon in her back garden. Given that several cats were in the area, I wasn’t sure Peanut was the guilty party. Nevertheless, I expressed my sympathy for my neighbour’s predicament in having to clear up the remains. I have to admit; if I find any injured birds or other wildlife in my garden, I’m fortunate to have a wildlife rescue organisation nearby who will come out and collect the wounded souls and, hopefully, nurse them back to health; then, they release them when they’ve fully recovered.

    As for bad memories, you know that I know what this is like (for totally different reasons), but I do empathise with you as these things have a habit of lurking in the back of our subconscious until a trigger sets the memory off again. I hope the memory of the crow fades very soon. I like the idea that the crow would have reincarnated several times between then and now, and I love your last sentence.

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    • I find close encounters with birds to be fairly creepy. I once needed to rescue a hummingbird that was stuck in a glassed in room with my hands. I really didn’t like that. Possibly the feeling all goes back to my experience with the crow. Sadly, crows are my favorite bird. They’re beautiful, but pretty evil looking too, I think this memory is encoded for the rest of my life.

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  3. Gosh that’s some guts I still don’t possess, to do that…do you think still being intoxicated helped goad you on? I’ve tried putting animals out of their misery but made it worse sometimes, I think perhaps bricks and gasoline is the trick. Thanks for sharing my blog! That’s cool. I had that post title and draft lying around since May and was glad to finally “let it go.” And you can do the same now with your crow spirit animal.

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        • Do you ever feel like you’ve blogged on every topic possible? I’m constantly trying to constrain myself from saying “I’ve written about that.” Today, My brothers and I were helping my father weed through a lifetime of accumulated photos. I found a hand typed and hand bound copy of my parents’ wedding program. My dad was going to throw it away, so I snagged it. When my father asked why, my brothers said “he’s going to blog about it.’.

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        • I feel you there man. It’s all good (though some of it isn’t !). Ha! Yeah I may go back and clean up my old posts at some point. I started doing that but just got overwhelmed, wanted to retag and reorganize and see what I could excavate but that whole process is confronting and exhausting. Kind of like what you describe here with your brothers and your dad.

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        • Sometimes that’s best. I just chucked a bunch of stuff with Lily leaving the house after a weekend home visit. Sometimes that’s therapeutic and best.

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  4. putting the crow, or any animal, out of its misery seems like the right thing to do. and while it’s never easy to be the one that makes such a decision, it’s still the right thing to do. It reminds me of when we had to put our dogs “to sleep”. Very sad, but for the best.

    and slow and steady improvement is the way to go…

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  5. Oh my goodness.

    The closest I have ever come is taking care of a fly the dog thought she wanted but changed her mind. The fly still living once the dog walked away.

    That memory would definitely stay with you.

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