The Eagle
by R. Baker

I guess I was fourteen when it happened, so three years ago. That summer, I was hanging out with a group of guys that you could rightly call miscreants. We had driven out to the farms on the edge of town, in this one punk kid's truck. He was really into that old DC stuff, like Minor Threat and he was trying to get me into it too, but back then I only liked poppier bands, like Op Ivy and some rap. Anyway, we had got high while walking in the woods with this older guy who had to be like thirty. No, he was twenty-eight, I remember asking and he said that. I was feeling a little paranoid from the pot and because I didn't know him at all and only knew the other guy, the punk, through a friend. I was wondering what this twenty-eight year old would want to hang out with a young girl for. Later I felt kinda bad for those thoughts, as he turned out to be really nice, not at all a pervert. He had some good stories and didn't make a deal out of wandering off when me and the punk kid would kiss. He acted like it was cute and seemed the littlest bit sad about it, like it reminded him of times when he'd had a girl.

The older guy, he wanted us to see this abandoned barn and grain silo that had the roof missing. It took us forever to get there because we stopped to eat blackberries and climb up on a hay bale. You ever see one of those? They're these enormous cylinders that have to be at least seven feet tall. I got this awful rash on my arms from scaling one that day, figuring if I got up on top I could maybe see the silo, but it was just trees and more hay bales every which way. We eventually found the place after wandering around lost through some fields, but the kind of lost you can appreciate on a summer day.

We smoked a joint inside the silo and it was so quiet and cool, it was almost like being in a church. You know the ones with the big stained glass windows, lit up but shady at the same time? And everything is so still? That's what it was like in this silo. You could tilt your head back and see the sun burning above you but it seemed far off, like you were looking at it from inside the wrong end of a telescope. At the bottom of the silo, where we were, it was almost chilly. I wanted to spend the rest of the day in the silo, standing with these two dudes, out of the heat, each peacefully thinking our own thoughts.

But the older guy wanted to explore the barn, which was a bit of a ways off, beyond a sharp bend in the path. The thing looked like it was falling down, which made me like it. If it had been some new barn, I wouldn't have cared about going in, but the roof was half collapsed and you could see all this intriguing farm equipment stacked up by the doorway just inside. Like, who knows what weird shit was still in there. I've always liked rooting through other people's stuff. My mom calls it a bad habit and I'm always dragging random things home that I find on the street. Like dented watering cans and paintings and broken toys. Nothing that I have a purpose for, just stuff that makes me feel a particular way. I can't really explain it but sometimes I see something lying out by the trash that grabs me. Like, there's certain things you can just tell have a history, and it seems a shame to bury them in a landfill.

Anyway, we went inside and there's nothing terribly exciting, though I did see a crumpled leopard print thong and that was gross. Not the panties so much as thinking about how they got there, in this filthy barn out in the middle of the woods, with all this rusted metal poking up everywhere. Not my idea of romance, that's for sure. The older guy pointed out a ladder and I realized there was a second floor, but it only went halfway across the building. More like a platform, really. So, we decided to check it out and I, of course, had to be the first one so I hauled myself up the ladder without thinking. It was dark up there and my eyes were adjusting when I heard this great wooshing sound followed by a distinctly menacing rustling. I wasn't even finished climbing up the ladder yet and the only thing I can see is this graffiti on the wall, real big in white letters: KRS-1. You know, like the emcee? So I'm wondering who the hell would be in bumfuck Maryland spray-painting that in a barn, and yeah, I was thinking I'd like to meet that person when all out of nowhere this big ass brown creature comes charging at me. Took me a few to realize it was a bald eagle and it was pissed.

It wasn't flying, but it was flapping its wings, which, from tip to tip, looked as long as I was tall then, so five feet, give or take. I started yelling for the guys to get off the ladder, but being high they're slow going. So I'm ashamed to say, I kicked the punk guy in the top of the head, trying to get my foot on the rung below. The eagle was still charging at me looking hella evil as I managed to clear a way down. I was thinking I had got away, but my head was just barely sticking up above the platform and the eagle, I swear to god, pecked me right in the face, dead center of my forhead.

I piped up with the screaming and that's when the rung broke and I slipped a bit, falling on the punk guy who was still cursing from when I kicked him in the head. I couldn't see anything cause there's blood in my eyes but I jumped up anyway and tried to run out of the barn as I could hear the eagle up there flapping its wings, like it was planning to swoop down and finish the job. And in the state I was in, probably more freaked than I've been before or since, I thought that bird was for sure a demon. While I was trying to escape, I slammed into something sharp and later I realized I cut my leg up pretty bad and had to get a tetanus shot that night when I was in the E.R. At the time though, I wasn't thinking about hospitals, just about getting away and what the hell was I doing hanging out with these dudes getting attacked by a fucking eagle. I mean, who even knew they were so mean? The way they look in like, post office commercials, you'd think they'd be all noble and calm. Not this one, though.

I felt someone grab my arm and pull me out of there and we're running down the path and the two dudes kept shouting 'what the fuck was that?' over and over. Then the punk guy, he had a real distinctive laugh, so I could tell it was him who was giggling. But not all 'ha ha ha,' he sounded scared shitless. I still couldn't see and finally I dug in my heels and made them stop running so I could wipe the blood off my face, ruining one of my favorite t-shirts.

It took us about an hour to get back to the truck, and I had mostly stopped bleeding by then, but it was still trickling and the cut was burning from my sweat. You know how head wounds are, even the littlest nick is a gusher, and that bird had really got me as you can see. On the ride back to town I was getting all worked up, wondering what diseases I might have got, but trying to play it cool, like I got assaulted by eagles every day. Needless to say, the whole incident killed my buzz, and of course my mom didn't believe a word of my story and I don't think the doctor did either. My mom tried to ground me but I argued that you can't punish a person because something unbelievable happened to them, so in the end I just stayed in that one night since I was tired anyway.
Posted by: R. Baker

Prose (April 8th, 2007)