Featured Column
Week of 2.2.2004
The Omen
          The sun hadn’t risen above the tops of the tall condominium buildings yet, so the morning was cool. It would be hot later, possibly ninety degrees by noon.
          I was taking my morning walk around the shopping center before the stores opened their doors. I like that time of day. It was fresh and the craziness with cars, cellular phones, kids bawling and everyone competing for the closest parking spot hadn’t started yet. The long rows of shopping carts at the supermarket were at attention, orderly and neat. One inserted into another.
          I could smell the meats cooking at the little Mexican restaurant. Radio Shack, Trader Joe’s, the Verizon sales room, and the Submarina sandwich shop were readying to open their doors and start their days.
          A mild wind blew around the napkins and discarded paper cups from the fast- food emporiums. Even bits of bread from the discarded buns served at the nearby McDonald’s formed little eddies that swirled in the vacant parking slots. The amount of cigarette butts that gather below the curbing and around any solid barricade always astound me. Not long ago these bits of effluvium were nestled between some puffing creature’s lips, depositing their deadly contents in their some ever- clogging lungs.
          Now and then a black crow would swoop down and attack a bread crumb and with the snack in its mouth veer upwards and head for its perch atop the parking lot light standard. Below the tall light standard were the remains of months of crow droppings. It looked like someone had spilled a gallons of white paint mixed with Raisenettes.
          There above me sat the crows. Twenty, thirty of them and it appeared to me that they were peering down at me. In fact, I saw a group of five of them in a huddle - their black heads were bobbing up and down and then turning towards me.
           Then, one of the larger crows from the group of five flapped its wings (he looked muscular, like a male crow) and headed straight for me. He came from directly in front of me, flapping, flapping, getting closer and closer. And then, only a couple of feet from my face it rose and flew over my head and returned to its perch on the light pole amidst the group of five crows. Once again the heads of the five crows bobbed and appeared to be animated as they faced each other and then turned towards me. I had quietly stood where the dive bombing crow had zoomed by me. I looked up at the crow congregation and now all of the two dozen or so sets of crow eyes were peering at me.
          To say I felt uncomfortable would be an understatement. After all, these crows were big. Most had wing spans of almost two feet.. Their beaks were large and pointed. The sheen on their black feathers more closely resembled a supernatural covering than plain bird feathers. These crows were intimidating. When crows are endangered or nervous they make those horrible, screeching, caw-caw sounds, but these crows were sitting on the horizontal extension of the light pole and muttering something. . It appeared to me that they were actually discussing something, because every few seconds they would interrupt their muttering and their heads would turn towards me.
          I decided to continue my walk. I had a vision of dozens of enraged black crows all taking flight at once, targeting my eyeballs with their grimy, oversize beaks. I had gone about fifty feet when I heard the terrible caw-caw getting close to me. It was a single, black crow, the largest one I had ever seen. It circled above me once, twice, three times. I could hear its wings flapping. I could feel the downdraft caused by its powerful wings. Then it headed straight for me and I noticed something clamped in its beak. It was heading for my eyes.
          I could see the yellow in its eyes as it continued its path, directly towards my head. The paper in its beak was a soiled white shade. Closer and closer it came and then a couple of feet from me it pulled up and released a small bit of paper from its beak.
          I had put my hands up to protect my eyes and face from imminent attack when I again felt the downdraft from the creature’s wings I dared to look up and I saw it flying nonchalantly toward the light pole where it returned to its former perch.
In front of me, fluttering in the light breeze, floating down, was the bit of paper from the crow’s beak. It fell at my feet.
          I turned and made sure that I was safe from another encounter and then reached down to pick up the paper the crow had dropped.
          It was about half of what remained from a church flyer that was put on car windshields in the parking lot the day before, urging shoppers to attend their church service on Sunday.
          All that I could read on the remnant of the flyer was the headline, which read, “Prepare, the end of the world is coming!”
          Shocked, I looked up at the row of black crows on the light standard and I noticed they were all looking at me – and they appeared to be very solemn and determined.
The crows are growing smarter
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger