THE OLD MAN AND THE CROW
by T.A. Saunders
There was once an old man named Terrance who lived alone in his old house. His wife, Melissa had passed away some years ago and all he had was their house and her pictures to remember her by. He refused to go someplace smaller or move closer to his children who lived far away, because this was their home and he wouldn’t never leave it, because that would be like leaving her in his mind.
While he had his garden of vegetables to tend in the morning and old friend Sam to drink beer and talk about old times with in the evening, Terrance was lonely. It wasn’t the same without his wife and after all these years, he still couldn’t move on. So, while Terrance smiled for Sam and tended his vegetable garden while whistling some song he heard in France a long time ago, there was an insurmountable sadness in his heart. It was taking so long for Death to finally pay him a visit, so he could see Melissa again. It’s all he really wanted.
One day, while tending his garden like he always did, he spied a cat stalking an injured crow. Normally Terrance didn’t move concern himself with such things, but between being entirely unfavorable towards cats and never being a fan of picking on those who can’t defend themselves, he decided to intervene. Taking the hose he had been watering his tomatoes with, he sprayed the cat and sent her scurrying under his shed.
“Thank you! Thank you!” said the crow.
“No problem. Can you fly? That cat will be back. She’s always around here.” Terrance replied.
“I can manage, but I owe you a favor.” the crow offered.
“No need. Just be along now if you can manage.” He returned with a skeptical appraisal.
“I can tell you when Death’s coming!” The crow responded.
That statement got the old man’s attention. Old wives’ tales of crows often told of their familiarity with Death and while Terrance wasn’t much of a believer in such things, he had to give it some credence considering he just had a conversation with a crow. Shutting off the water to the hose, Terrance turned his attention back to this talking crow.
“Alright,” Terrance said at last. “When’s Death coming?”
“Tonight!” The crow replied in excited response. “Be ready! I will be there!”
The crow flew off then, leaving Terrance with something of a quandary. While he certainly couldn’t deny that the thought of finally reuniting with Melissa in the Afterlife was exciting, he wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to leave yet. He had his vegetable garden that he looked after and then there was Sam, who would have nobody else to talk to. Even if he did miss Melissa with all his heart, there were some things left to live for. Could he cheat Death? Could he alter his own fate so he might live a little longer? Leaning on a hoe he was about to use, Terrance thought this matter over with great consideration. He could spend his last day on Earth trying to cheat Death for a few more months of life, or he could accept things and make preparations.
It also occurred to Terrance that he could be going crazy.
So, after thinking on it long and hard, Terrance decided to make sure his affairs were in order. He made sure his will was up to date and made sure anything that was important for his children to find wasn’t tucked away. It even gave him cause to find his dress uniform from the Korean War, along with the medals he’d won. He and Melissa got married right after he came home and had their firstborn nine months after that. If he was going to die tonight, Terrance wanted to die in this uniform. He wore it when he came from from the war, he’d want to wear it coming home to Melissa now.
The afternoon quickly became evening and Terrance was almost late getting to Sam’s home, which was right across the street. He had spent so much time making his uniform ready, he had lost track of time! There was something to be certainly said about being late to one’s own funeral, but at least he was ready and his mind was at peace with the matter.
Sam had been sitting there on the porch with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon all ready opened, when Terrance approached. The perplexed expression on his face certainly easy enough to read as Terrance came up the stairs.
“Preparing to ship out, Terry?” Sam asked with a gruff chuckle.
“In a manner of speaking.” Terrance replied with good spirit.
“Oh?” Sam scratched his head as he inquired, unsure if he wanted the reply.
“I am. I’ll be dying to night, so I wanted to look good for Melissa.” Terrance supplied.
With the very straight face Terrance had manage to say those words, Sam couldn’t help but to choke on the beer he was drinking, for the laughter that wanted to come through. Terrance knew he sounded crazy, some part of him felt as though he’d finally gone insane himself, but as he began to explain himself, he noticed Sam really was choking.
“Sam? Sam! No Sam!” He howled while attempting to turn his friend around to attempt the Heimlich Maneuver. It was too late however, Sam hung limp in Terrance’s arms. For the next few minutes all he could do is sob for the loss of his best friend, at least until he heard the laughter. It was a droning little cackle that Terrance realized was the crow. The vile black bird was perched on the railing of the porch, even as Death’s shadow fell over Sam to take his spirit to the Afterlife.
“Why! Why did you lie to me?” Terrance cried aloud.
“I didn’t.” The crow replied. “I said Death was coming. I never said it was coming for you!”
“You horrible bird! I saved you!” The old man snarled.
“You did and I granted you what you wished!” The crow answered while taking to the sky. “You should be careful what you ask for!”
Alone Terrance sobbed, knowing truly the crow was right.