By Laura McHale Holland
Seventeen-year-old Georgie had a drinking problem. He’d had so many beers at so many parties in the last several years that he was notorious throughout the county for it. But he begged his parents to let him drive their refurbished 1944 John Deere in the Fourth of July parade. His folks agreed on the condition that he not to drink a drop of beer. They were pleased with the plan because it meant they could drive their 1959 Chevy Impala in the parade, which would automatically enter it into the classic car competition.
After all the red-white-and blue bedecked floats, children on horseback, shining vehicles, clowns, bubble machines and the odd chicken or two had moseyed down Main Street, and the smell of barbeque chicken permeated the noontime air, Georgie bid farewell to his folks and headed home. They stayed behind to visit friends they rarely saw because their ranch was up on the mountain far from town, and the road to their property was one lane, winding and treacherous.
Georgie was feeling fine; he’d kept his word, hadn’t had one drop of alcohol in any form—yet. But seventeen-year-old Georgie had a mean streak, and it didn’t take much to set him off. And on that Fourth of July, Georgie pulled up to his favorite rock formation right at the split in the road where the last leg of his journey home began. The rocks provided a panoramic view of the town, the valley that contained it and the river that led to the ocean shore in the distance.
When Georgie turned off the tractor and hopped down, he saw two crows perched right in his favorite spot. From his satchel, he pulled a canteen of Gatorade, a ham and cheese sandwich and wasp spray. Then he crept up the rock and blasted the crows with the spray. They flew into the branches of a nearby oak. He took over his favorite spot and began his picnic. Meanwhile, the crows grew inch by inch in the branches behind him as he chewed and enjoyed the view.
When Georgie returned to his tractor the oak’s branches were almost touching the ground because of the now coyote-size crow’s weight, but Georgie didn’t notice. He started up the tractor turned off the highway and began chugging up the hill toward home. The crows pursued, growing larger with each flap of their wings and casting a shadow over him. He assumed a cloud was passing overhead.
When the crows grew as large as the tractor they descended. He was daydreaming about the Heineken he planned to chug down before his parents came home. One crow snatched him; the other grabbed the tractor. Up, up, up they flew until they hovered over the highest point of the ridge. Then they let go. The tractor broke apart as it tumbled down the side of the mountain into a gorge. He fell into a pine, which kept him from plunging to his death.
When he awoke in the hospital, his parents were at his bedside. He’d only broken a couple of ribs and a leg. They were furious about the tractor but pleased to inform him that their Impala had won the classic car competition. They didn’t believe his story about the crows. The John Deere is rusting in the gorge. And his folks say Georgie will never, ever drive their Impala .