So that’s how my daughter and I became fugitives.
We bolted left then right then left out of the suburban neighborhood. We got caught behind a truck trying to make a left hand turn, all the while eyeing the rear view mirror while Poe sat swaddled in Mazie’s lap.
Within minutes we were on the Interstate heading west toward California. Ten miles down the road we pulled onto a side road and released Poe into the dog carrier which we positioned again on Mazie’s lap. We got back on the highway and once we were safely past Bearizona in Williams (where I was afraid the rehabilitator might be), we pulled off once again and positioned Poe behind us, giving him a full frontal view of the road ahead.
We all felt elated – Mazie couldn’t believe we stole a raven, I was pumped that Poe had a fighting chance, and as for Poe, I think he was just glad to be free of jackhammers.
Mazie and I talked contingencies. Keep your eye out for highway patrol, I told her. Once we crossed the border into California we’d be a measure more safe. If we were pulled over for any reason, she would drape the sweatshirt over the carrier. If anybody asked, it was a pet animal that was easily agitated. If anyone caught sight of him and had questions, we were rehabilitators taking him to a sanctuary in California. We decided we would keep him covered when we passed through the border inspection station.
Early evening, we pulled into an In n Out and ordered Poe a cheeseburger with fries. He didn’t take to the deep fried potatoes or the bun, but he relished the cheese and beef. He paced inside the carrier, he gurgled, he peered out at the advancing road.
It was time, I decided, for Mazie to hear the talk on Huck and the Higher Law. It’s not good to steal, I told her. And it’s not good to lie. But consider Huck. He was an orphan and outcast. He habitually stole. He was profane. And given a choice between truth and the lie, he always told the lie. And what’s a lie, but a fantastical story? But as he and Jim float down river deeper and deeper into the dark soul of the country, they are increasingly surrounded by the larger lies told by all the adults around them, and the largest lie of all, that Nigger Jim was chattel, a slave unworthy of even being considered human. And as Huck’s lies and the lies of the world compound around him, the deeper truth emerges, that he and Jim, outcasts though they may be, are friends and brothers.
It’s something to think about as we fumble through our own untruths, ever into the ascending darkness.
And with that, the interstate ribbon unfolds before us. Lots of ravens drift in and out of sight, sentinels each and every one. They roost on telephone wires, pick at carrion in the road, mouths agape, cool themselves on the side of the highway. Under their watchful eyes, the three of us – my daughter and I and a fugitive raven – descend off the Plateau, past the Colorado and into the Mojave.