This morning, I ended up driving to work instead of bicycling. I was only a half dozen blocks from home when a saw a crow pecking and tearing at something on the road ahead of me, something that responded by twitching and trying to roll away. As I drew near, I saw that it was a gray squirrel. Somebody must have tapped it just hard enough to break its spine above its pelvis, because its hind legs were dragging uselessly behind its body. Sadly, squirrels are rear-wheel drive creatures. This one could still drag itself around slowly with its forepaws, but it was in no condition to climb a tree or find food, much less avoid becoming crowfood in the next ten minutes. Speaking of the crow: though it hopped away to a safe distance when I got out of the car, it continued squawking at me in obvious annoyance, telling me to go find my own goddamn squirrel.
To my surprise, instead of pulling itself away from me and heading for the bushes, the squirrel – tongue hanging out, panting, and obviously terrified – clawed its way over the asphalt until it was almost against my foot, and then from there, dragged itself under the front bumper of my car, effectively letting me stand between it and the crow. And there it sat, breathing heavily, claws extended, bleeding subtly out one drop at a time.
I assured the squirrel that everything was going to be okay and not to worry. He nodded to me, and put on a brave face.In my car, I backed up five feet, put the transmission in drive, and crushed the poor creature to death in an instant. It made a double thump under my left tires but thankfully it didn’t crunch. I don’t think I could have endured a crunching sound. That unpleasant task behind me, I rolled onwards towards the office.
To my surprise, the crow flapped after me and landed on my side-view mirror, holding on tightly with its thin talons. Flabbergasted, I pulled to a stop again. The crow settled its ruffled feathers, set its head on one side and stared at me fixedly. “Thank you,” it croaked. “I didn’t need your help, but that was very kind of you.”
“I didn’t do it for you!” I cried angrily. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of you pecking him to death.”
The crow preened. “See, that’s ironic. I was just pecking him to death to save him the misery of a slow, languishing death. I guess that puts the two of us on the same team.”
I shooed the little bastard away in a startled flash of black fathers and gunned my engine indignantly. In my rear view mirror, I saw the crow settle over the freshly opened corpse, and sighed: the self-assurance of scavengers is intolerable, and not to be encouraged.