Aug 23

The Man with Seven Sons

Crow story, part five.

After Fred and I rescue the fawn from the swamp, we take the dogs back to the lake for a second bath, and it’s nearly eight o’clock by the time I get home.

I put Joker and Gracie in the backyard then strip naked in the laundry room. I load my soiled, stinky clothes into the washing machine and head for the shower in my birthday suit.

My wife is reading in bed with the television on mute when I walk in the bedroom. She looks me up and down. I put my phone and the baggie with its Jeremy charm on the dresser. She smiles and starts to say something, but then curls her nose, points to the bathroom and says, ‘How bad are the dogs?’

‘I got most of it off them in the lake, but neither one is getting in this bed until Friday!’

‘What happened?’

I tell her how all four dogs bolted for the woods and how Taco chased out the first fawn. ‘It was like watching a mouse chase a lion!’

But when I get to the part about our dogs and the second-fawn, her frown folds and she interrupts me with, ‘And they killed it – That’s two days in a row they’ve killed something! Damn it!’ I start to explain but she raises her voice and declares, ‘You’re turning them into killers!’

‘I’m turning them into killers!’ … She’s not giving me a chance. They didn’t kill the fawn; Sadie led Fred to it. Damn thing was stuck in the swamp. It even tried to bite me as we pulled it out, but she’s not letting me get a word in edgewise…

‘What if the next time it’s the neighbor’s cat – The last thing we need is a lawsuit from them!’

That does it.

Our four-foot, chain-link fence is enough to keep Gracie and Joker in our yard but not enough to keep out their fat, old, senile cat. We’ve had words with our neighbor – the dog’s cowbells are a direct result of her first such threat.

I growl back, ‘If he gets in our yard again – as far as the law is concerned – he’s fair game!’

Instantly, I realize that was the wrong thing to say when I see her face turn red. But here I stand naked and slimed, accused and innocent on all counts! Telling her about the rescue now is pointless; the argument has moved on from there.

I say, ‘Sorry to disappoint you, dear, but your hypothesizing – once again – is wrong! They didn’t kill it!’ I close the bathroom door and turn on the vent fan to drown out any response, and say to myself, And I’m not the one turning them into killers! I still haven’t told her about my first encounter with Jeremy back in April, when he got our dogs to kill a squirrel in our back yard – after first telling me to Leave It for his murder to feast on.

Under the shower, I realize my wife is right; you can’t let dogs kill – anything. As amazing as this bird seems, I can’t let it rule the roost. Not my roost, anyway. Not with an angry hen in the house.

When I get out of the shower, I can hear my ringtone. I open the door to see my wife is no longer in bed, but the little woman who lives inside my phone tells me Fred is calling. I let it go to voicemail and towel off. I notice the charm is on top of the baggie now. My wife must have taken it out.

Dressed in grubs, I find a note downstairs. Taking mom to late mass then shopping… home about 3:00… grill tonight? You need beer?

My wife rarely apologizes for anything directly and I detect a reconciliatory tone in her note. I’m still pissed at her jumping to conclusions. And then, to use a hypothetical to reinforce an assumption before I can even… Well…

Both Gracie and Joker still need proper baths and scrubbing them clean gives me plenty of time to decide what to tell my wife, or just drop it as she appears ready to do.

It’s an hour before I call Fred back.

I put my phone, iPad, and the Jeremy charm on the table and sit under the umbrella on the back deck.

‘Crow Stalker,’ Fred says when I get him on the line. ‘Cousin Tom says he died long ago. His show name was Crow Stalker. Real name was Herman Blackclaw.’

Red continues. ‘He was Ojibwe, from around Fond du Lac. Did sideshows with crows. Called em down from a wire, one at a time. They had names. He’d feed em out of his hand then get em to walk into a dark wigwam an wait until he’d call em out. One at a time.’

I don’t say anything, and he continues, ‘He had seven sons, an one of em, number Seven – he didn’t name his kids just numbered em – number Seven claims to be a Crow Catcher too. He wrote a book about masterin crows.’

‘A book, huh?’ I’m trying to recall the last time Fred jawed this much about anything. ‘What else did your cousin tell you?’

‘Tom just said he died, an that Seven Blackclaw had a website. All the rest’s from the website.’

He tells me the web address, then says, ‘Except you spell the last part s-U-n, not s-O-n.’

‘Thanks!’

The umbrella I’m under was once green but is now sun-bleached and thread-worn. As I punch up the Seven Suns website on my iPad, the sun peeks through a thin mesh area and a beam of light sparkles off the charm inside the baggie. I smile, thinking, maybe I’m on to something.

The website doesn’t come up. Not exactly. I get the home page in the background with an overriding message that says, ALERT! THIS WEBSITE CERTIFICATE IS NOT VALID! CONTENT CANNOT BE DEEMED SAFE. There are two option buttons; Proceed anyway, and Get me out of here!

I’ve never seen a message like this before. My WiFi automatically sniffs out the strongest signal, but from my back deck, that could be mine or any of three others I can see in my connection app. I use a third option and just kill the page. My office computer has a landline and I head inside mumbling the web address, leaving everything outside including my phone.

The Seven Suns website is massive. Everything Fred told me I can find on the home page, but there is much more. History, maps, and the native dress for all eleven Minnesota tribes. Seven Suns’ online bookstore features Crow Stalker, the Master of Crows. Written by Sons Four and Seven Blackclaw, the blurb promises insight to the life of crows and their true meaning. I order the book and pay additional for rush delivery.

Then I mouse around the website from section to section, printing what I want to read later until I’m finally exhausted from quick reading. I grab a cold beer and head back to the deck, but stop short of opening the door. I can see my neighbor’s cat tucked in the shadow of the umbrella, staring at the birdfeeder. Gracie and Joker are upstairs. I slide open the deck door in a loud rush and the cat leaps off the table. The familiar sound of the door also wakes up my dogs, but the cat wiggles its fat ass over the fence before my girls can get downstairs. ‘And stay out of here!’ I shout at it.

My iPad is under the umbrella where I left it, only now there is a plop of dirty-blueish bird shit on its touchscreen! It’s all caked and crusted. Pissed, I say under my breath, ‘How the hell did that happen?’ I take it to the kitchen sink to sponge off.

As I’m cleaning the iPad, a thought comes to me: This is Mr. Jeremy’s doing. He’s not pleased with me and Fred interfering with his deadly plans. I theorize, Crows are not strong enough to open a deer’s hide, even a fawn’s. They need the buzzard’s longer talons and stronger beaks for that. When my dogs won’t do.

Once clean, I swipe across the screen, only to see a low battery warning. I charge my iPad and go back out to get my phone. That’s when I notice the charm next to it.

It is sitting on top of the baggie.

How the hell? It was inside. I look at the Ziploc bag for scratch or bite marks. None. I say to myself, cat was on the table, but… the bird. This is crazy.

I take the charm to my desk and tuck it into a dark corner for safekeeping, and double-check to be sure the baggie is sealed.

I knock back the rest of my beer and go to the kitchen for another, and try to think of something else.

There are two missed calls and three text messages on my phone. All from my wife. I read her text messages. The first says, Steaks or burgers? Beer or not? The second says, I’m not mad at YOU, and the third, sent about an hour after that, says, two texts and two CALLS… sorry to be such a bother!

I don’t need to listen to the calls now.

Early evening, while preparing steaks on the back deck, and after my wife has had a couple of glasses of wine, she asks me, ‘Well? What did happen at the park this morning?’

But before I can say anything, her phone rings. She sees who’s calling and crosses her fingers, and says, ‘It’s Susan!’ Susan is our daughter-in-law, and I know what crossed fingers means in this case; Let’s hope she’s pregnant. I relay my love to Susan and Martin, then add, ‘Stakes will be ready in fifteen minutes.’ She takes her phone inside to talk.

Martin, our oldest, moved to Colorado after his company offered him the Northwest Region to manage. Only twenty-six and he’s already the Regional Logistics Manager for Canagra Feed and Seed. His star started to rise when he met Susan in their final year of college. They were married last summer, right before they moved away.

After the call, my wife finds me and says, ‘Well, not yet. Or, if so, she’s not saying.’

My wife answers questions not yet asked. Two can play this game. I say, ‘They both need to pay off their college loans first, dear.’

‘I suppose.’ Then she tells me, ‘Martin has a meeting in Chicago on the Monday before July Fourth, so he and Susan are coming in Thursday night and staying the weekend.’

‘Great! I can’t wait to see the old boy.’ I say behind a wide smile. I’ve only seen my son twice since their wedding and move.

‘Well?’ she says, as she pours herself another glass of wine. ‘What happened with the dogs this morning?’

I jump right to the chase and tell her how the second fawn got stuck in the swamp. ‘The dogs didn’t kill the fawn, dear. They led Fred and me to it and we saved it. That is what I was going to say but you wouldn’t let me. That’s why I got so mad. I’m sorry.’ All of which is true.

She’s mellow, and just gives me that all’s-forgiven look of hers.

But that’s not enough. I want a full-blown apology this time. I’ve had a few hours to think what to say, and a few beers to think about how to embellish it a little.

I leave out the part about the weed and the how the dogs swamped the fawn in the first place, but tell her how much Fred laughed at my Honey Buns boxers she bought me for Valentine’s Day. That uncorks a smile. Then I add, ‘I even got a boo-boo,’ and pat my ass. ‘I slipped on the boat launch carrying Joker into the lake and she was fighting with me all the way. But I had to be sure the dogs didn’t stink before letting them in the van. In case you needed the bigger car for church today.’ I snort. ‘But it was all worth it when we saw the little fawn reunite with its mommy.’

She’s wearing her long face now. I knew that would get her. Only, that last part’s not true; with the dogs leashed, the fawn bolted as soon as it was freed. Momma deer was nowhere in sight. But between my beers and her wines I make it sound heroic. I choke up for added effect, ‘Just the sight of that baby deer running up to its mommy! And, and its… its mommy licking it clean!’ Snort. ‘That’s what I wanted to say.’

She’s almost in tears and says, ‘I’m sorry’ – twice! – and promises to let me finish my own sentences from now on. I smile and tell her again that I’m sorry, too, and ask her if she’d like more wine.

Over dinner, she even apologizes to Gracie and Joker and gives each a thick chunk of steak right from her plate. Later that night, Honey Buns gets an apology, too.

***

 

I don’t use my iPad again until I get home from the park the next morning. I wanted to talk to Fred, but he wasn’t there. I wanted to see if there was any bird shit on his truck, too.

What comes up first on my iPad is usually whatever I was doing last. Not this time. The page that I’m staring at is one of the Seven Suns website’s interior pages that I visited yesterday – But that was on my office computer! My heart starts to race and my palms get sweaty as I now distinctly remember the warning that came up and blocked this website. How the hell did it get to an interior page? I catch my breath. And that warning! I suddenly recall not getting that same warning on my office computer. And the charm! I didn’t do that, either.

I look at the corner of my desk. The charm is right where I left it, only – again – it is sitting on top of the baggie! I fall into my chair and try to slow my heart and understand… What the hell is going on?

I look closer at my iPad. It’s one of the stories I printed yesterday to read today; Legend of Sun Breast. It’s about a crow that possesses a young Brave’s spirit. A spirit that cannot be bound.

 

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