Yesterday, I awoke to a most familiar sound, yet I had not heard it for a very long time.
"Caw, Caw, Caw!"
Of course, I have heard it, many times before yesterday. But for some reason this time it was different, really familiar. This time it was a like a key, that fit a lock long locked. And like other such keys before, into the lock it went and unlocked the past, once again.
If you are like me, you have many memories of Iran, some that you have since unlocked and like a long lost treasure chest found again, you delight in it's contents. Some chests of treasures remain locked, some contain skeletons. Right? Me too.
Back to this sound. This sound is actually a very annoying and disruptive sound. It usually goes on and on and on, as if just to piss you off. Just you, no one else. It drives you crazy, like a drill into your brain. Well, maybe not that bad.
Now to the memory it unlocked.
As a child of 13, we used to roam the streets of Tehran during the long hot summers, no school, parents at work, total freedom. I am still amazed that I would leave my house in the morning, catch a cab to Jamshid, Bijan and Camran's (3 brothers) house in Evin, quite a bit away from my house on Mirdamad. But it wasn't hard to do. Let's see if I can remember, this might hurt a bit... I walk to the corner of Mirdamad and Pahlavi... and then catch a cab all the way to the Hilton which was on the corner of Parkway and Pahlavi, then hop off, and wait for another one to run all the way down Parkway, then hop off at Evin and walk to my friends' house. Simple! Amazing how a sound can unlock a long term memory like that.
The rest of the day would be spent with my friends and the kids in that neighborhood walking around the orchards of Evin, talking, picking up rocks or unripened fruit and throwing at anything, dogs, cats, birds... and if someone had a slingshot or better, an air rifle, we would take turns trying to hit cans, bottles, paper bull's eyes, anything we could prop up in the empty lots.
On one such day, we were walking through an orchard, picking unripened fruit and hitting each other with it. I don't know what it is about boys and throwing things at each other. All I know is that it is singularly the most fun thing I have ever done as a child. Maybe it's the hilarious way in which the other kid flinches spastically when you fake a throw at him, or maybe it's the explosion of laughter when you finally hit him, and in the nuts! Ah... Good Times... Good Times!
So there we were. Suddenly the sound I've been getting to, broke our game.
"Caw, Caw, Caw", as if a stern headmaster scolding us. There it was. A big shiny black and blue crow. Sitting at the very top of the tallest tree in the orchard.
Looking back, I am amazed at how symbolic this was. I mean this bird actually connected with us. Like a thinking sentient or transcendent being. It watched us, then Caw'd at us with purpose. There was no one and nothing else but us to "Caw at! It still blows me away!
But young boys have a way of interacting with the supernatural or spiritual as if it's totally normal. Even magic. I guess that's living pure raw life at it's fullest. Anything and everything plausible is normal.
We looked at each other. Grinned a grin that not just conveyed joy, but at once declared all out war. We quickly scattered and gathered the hardest, greenest plums, apples, and walnuts we could find and proceeded slowly towards the enemy.
"Caw, Caw, Caw", he continued. "You shouldn't be in my orchard!", "Go to your homes!", he seemed to say. Oblivious to the warning we continued on.
"Caw, Caw," he said, even more sternly now. His expression seemed to say, "Oh yeah? You want some of this? Well, come and get it then!" We now split up like a perfectly trained platoon. Two off to the the left, three over to the right, as we slowly closed the circle.
"Flap! Flap! Caw," he fluttered his wings. He was big. Closer, he looked even bigger. I could now see his eyes, black and shiny, each one darting every which way, watching us. We weren't fooling him one bit.
Jamshid yelled "Now!" A hail of fruit-fire, a storm unleashed, leapt like flames from our hands, one after the other other, arms throwing hard overhand, we heaved our payload towards the top branches.
At this point everything slowed down. It had to have because there is no way for what happened next to have happened any other way.
He flapped hard 2 times, and rose up about 3 feet into the air and hovered there, like an Apache helicopter. As each plum and apple flew by, he gracefully maneuvered and adjusted to miss the entire barrage. When it was over, he slowly dropped down to his perch, as if nothing had happened. I think he even glanced at his toe nails.
Stunned, we froze in place. "What the...?" How could we have missed like that? "Again!" Jamshid ordered. We retreated, I mean regrouped, to reload. 3 more times. With the same result each and every time. Dumbfounded, we gave up and moved on to easier prey.
Later in the afternoon on our way back, we saw him again. He was now in the middle of the main road cracking open one of the walnuts, by smacking it in his beak onto the hard asphalt. Mind you, while dodging the cars that drove by!
We shook our heads in disbelief and Camran hopelessly tossed his last apple at him, which he deftly sidestepped, and we carried on our way back to the house.
With our backs now turned, we heard him call out one again, with purpose,
"Caw, Caw Caw!", "AND STAY OUT!!!"