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Saturday Afternoon by Glen Miller

We gathered outback playing our usual game of tequila horseshoes when a strong gust of wind came crashing out of the still dust. A couple of chairs toppled but not the table that held the tequila bottle and the shot glasses. We had learned the hard way to weight this down. A lime rolled off the table in slow motion. We were all in slow motion. Even Maximus, my large German Shepherd looked up, the smell of future events in the air. We toasted the rogue gust with another shot.

That’s when somebody had the idea to launch the kite that Ketut had brought us from Bali on his last visit. Why the hell not…kite, wind, tequila, limes, it all seemed like a good idea.

We found the kite in the coat closet and celebrated with another round of tequila shots.

Turns out that Ketut had not brought us the kind of kite we all flew when we were kids. He had brought us a fighter kite! Along with the kite was a shiny metal reel loaded with some kind of sparkling string. The string on most Asian fighter kites is a thin hemp line coated with a mixture of rice glue and finely crushed glass. The idea of a fighter kite is to down other person’s kite by cutting their line. The last kite flying is considered the winner. At real fighter kite competitions in Bali they will attach metal knives to their lines to hook and cut the other persons kite line. Airport security had confiscated the metal knives from Ketut on his way to New Mexico.

Three sixty-something year old intoxicated adult children who had been totally content tossing horseshoes at a protruding metal pole in a square sandbox decided to switch their afternoon sport to kite flying with a giant fighter kite attached to a fancy spool of glass coated hemp line. Maximus was wondering what we were up to and waited for the fun to begin.

The kite was glorious…a colorful design of a giant Phoenix, the mythical creature found in Greek and Egyptian mythology and later adopted as a symbol in early Christianity. It is said that each time a Phoenix arises from the ashes, a new age on earth will begin.

The kite went up without incident. The blood trail on the ground was mostly from Jim’s knees after he tripped over Maximus while running to get the kite off the ground. The rest of the blood was from my hands as the glass coated kite string ripped lines along my palm. To this day if anybody asks about my scars I tell them it was from a game of horseshoes that got out of control.

We congratulated ourselves at getting this beautiful mythical creature high in the sky with another round of tequila shots when something charged across the sky like a jet powered bat barrelling towards the kite.

As quickly as it entered our line of vision the winged cannonball crashed into the kite at quantum speed. Time froze, feathers flew, NASA satellites were picking up a disturbance in the atmosphere. A black beast fell free from the mangled Phoenix only to strike it again ferociously. This time the great winged kite entangled the attacker. The reel of string was yanked from my hands and flew skyward. At first the kite and its adversary shot upward like a hot air balloon in overdrive but then they began to head downward like a failed parachute. The reel hit the ground first and slid along the ground tumbling at the speed of a roadrunner until it caught in the branches of a huge Cholla cactus. The kite string tightened instantly and the snarled heap froze in mid air just long enough to recognize the helpless black beauty. Then together they began a horrific earthbound tailspin.

A raven the size of a small turkey had shot out of the clouds to attack this paper intruder, this bird on a string, this mythical member of the flying order. The raven, having just realized its mistake, was now sounding the alarm. It had gotten itself tangled in the broken wood spokes of the kite and the glass coated line and the entire mess was plummeting towards the ground and heading full tilt boogie towards the horseshoe pit.

Ravens make short, repeated, shrill calls when they are chasing predators or trespassers. Scientists can now say, without doubt, these are the same sounds a raven makes when it is wrapped up in ball of paper, wood, and glass string and falling from the sky.

The entangled raven and kite hit the ground with a curious muffled crunch missing the tequila bottle by 6 feet. We all ran towards the point of impact. Maximus decided this was the entire point of this strange new game and he took off to investigate. The kite took the brunt of the fall, the bird followed. Maximus got there first, and began to bark.

The bird was tied to the kite like a suspect to a chair in a good detective novel. Its wings looked broken but it was still breathing. There was a trickle of blood coming from the raven’s beak.

We took turns untying the raven wrapped in the glass coated string. Maximus licked the blood from our fingers, he had discovered a new dog treat. Thirty minutes later we had freed the raven from the proverbial ‘crow’s nest’.  He was unable to take flight. Thus begins the story of our pet Raven, aptly named Edgar Allan. We usually just call him Poe.

Glen Miller lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he markets products through his company Milk and Honey inc. He and his equestrian wife Andrea built a beautiful ranch outside of town 20 plus years ago that is home to many dogs, cats, horses and other wonderful creatures, both real and imaginary.