Weirdness on the edge of town

Two trees and an old mattress on a sandy wasteland with mountains in the background.

Weirdness on the edge of town.

Where no one asks any questions
Or looks too long in your face
In the darkness on the edge of town.

– Bruce Springsteen

Do you believe in ghosts? Or crows? Do you at least believe in crows?

Three of them. Possibly four. Crows, or possibly ravens. But I’d rather they be crows, so let’s call them that, because then they can be a murder of crows. Poe’s raven was alone, “Nevermore.” So crows it is. Their squawking, but in sentences, trying to tell me a story I couldn’t understand, gave me shivers.

I was alone on a bike, in a place too sandy for a quick escape, riding the hard packed bits, walking the sand, when I came upon the crows, beyond the pile of old mattresses and sofas and undifferentiated junk of a place lived in rough and cleared out fast. Because of my old arthritic feet, I try not to do too much walk-a-bike on the sand, but the crows urged me on. I didn’t trust them, but I went.

I was riding Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, Route 66, up Nine Mile Hill, past the edge of strip malls and subdivisions and safety, where the weirdness begins. Out dirt roads here are ragged houses with the kind of ratty “No Trespassing” signs you take seriously.

During the pandemic, this bit of the sandhills was home to a cluster of old RVs and camper vans, and I rode out there a lot in those dark months but never had the nerve to turn in. I’ll ride almost anywhere. “I’m so sorry,” I say, my excuse at the ready, gesturing at the computer on my handlebars, “the GPS said this was a road.” But I never had the nerve to turn in here. The place had a “For Rent” sign tacked on a makeshift gate back then, a light pole that looked like it might actually have electricity, and a mobile home that looked sorta permanent.

That’s all gone, all but the trees, which are a weird sight on the sandhills. How could there be trees here? Do you believe in ghosts? Or crows? Do you at least believe in crows?

When the crows had lured me in close, I saw a makeshift shelter hunkered low, so you couldn’t see it from the highway, tarpaper and scrap wood. And another. And another, at least three before I turned and beat it.

That’s when I noticed them, on the way out. Fresh tire tracks, since last week’s rain.


One Comment

  1. Ah, but a set of ravens is called an “Unkindness,” so that can fit your needs. My personal favorite is a group of vultures, which is called a “Committee.”

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