Gunning the engine did nothing more than spin the tires and burn through the snow and ice to carve deeper troughs of freezing brown mud. After flooring the accelerator for several minutes, yelling, banging furiously and then hurling an empty Tanqueray bottle out the window, he and Lucy had come to the rear of the RV to stare at it, an A class model sinking like a Titanic in the snow. From where the crows sat atop a dead sycamore tree on the crest of the hill, there were two big spattered trails of brown paint fanning out onto the freshly fallen snow.
Lucy pulled a single Virginia Slim from her handbag and after clicking her lighter several times, lit its end. Shook her head and gave Johnny a biting look of complete and total irritation. Apart from a dilapidated barn at the edge of a thicket several hundred yards away, there was not a single sign of human life. Winter clouds obstructed the sun, but now as it was setting its filtered light turned a thick band on the horizon an ethereal yellow.
Johnny hadn’t considered the factors of farmland jaunting when he selected his RV of choice. Instead it had been a rather spontaneous heist, one encouraged by the dead of winter, a time he figured best suited for distracted salesmen. He had chosen Fleetwood’s flagship model, the ‘American Heritage.’ A grandiose machine the size of a bus, that sat in the lot like an aristocratic grandfather. With its carmine paint scheme and swirling beige and silver detailing, he had thought it would appeal to Lucy’s tastes. For Johnny, the gleaming RV was nothing less than a work of well-intentioned Americana, designed for golden aged senior citizens to fall in love all over again. As it took its first right turn off the lot and out onto the road, Johnny was not thinking about police, or concerned by the video cameras that had surely caught him on tape. He was not having second thoughts about stealing a six hundred thousand dollar getaway vehicle. Instead he was quietly pretending that his hair was a silvery grey and that his possession was legitimate. He imagined that he would arrive home for Lucy and their two Corgis and then head west for Monument Valley. He imagined that when they left, they had every intention of returning.
Johnny was still searching the horizon, when he stopped to look at Lucy, he watched as she crossed her arms and drew on her cigarette, staring into the yellow band on the horizon. His eyes looked into the past: he saw them driving in the country, him leaning across the seat to kiss and smell her neck. Back when they’d haven given anything for a drive in the country.
Johnny Lucy look at her watch and then to the sky, still refusing to talk to him.
He saw back to her in a field, their car parked behind it. They lay under an oak tree, in a field full of tall-stemmed daisies, her whispering in his ear, him closing his eyes to her voice.
Johnny was startled from his pensive state by Lucy’s stern talking and peering at the bruises on his forehead, gesturing to the marks on his forehead and the bridge of his nose. So he attempted brush it off as if it were nothing, ignoring her and chose to fall back into his thoughts.
Earlier that morning when had been walking to the gas station for a newspaper, milk and packaged donuts when a polished emerald Cadillac had come to sudden stop across the street. In the sky Johnny was watching two crows hounding a seagull and had thus failed to notice the car. It then resumed motion, stealthily following from a distance. Johnny saw the seagull drop whatever it had been carrying in its mouth and watched it fall. Suddenly the car’s doors were kicked open – out from which poured large brutish bodies who rushed like high school football players out of the locker room and onto the field. Johnny was broadsided, barring any opportunity for a transaction of blow.
When it was over Johnny had lay wheezing on the concrete and looking up at them, the huddle of their faces panting and looking back down on him. One shadowy figure had simply given him a look that purported to suggest that Johnny knew exactly why this had happened. So Johnny reached back into the rear pocket of his pants and slowly raised up to them a tattered brown leather wallet. And as this wallet climbed towards the eyes of this huddled circle, Johnny had seen in his head: a hundred thousand butterflies fluttering in the sky, touching down on Milkweed, perched on little branches and then descending onto terracotta roof tiles and mailboxes with Spanish family names – all across the state of Michoacán, Mexico. Johnny opened the wallet, exposing empty dividers.
At the crest of the hill the crows on the dead sycamore tree scattered – scared by something - twenty or thirty of them, and rose into the sky like a black cloud. Leaning against the RV Lucy lit another cigarette, looked at her watch and then released a lung full of churning smoke. She had pulled a black scarf over her head and tied it under her chin, looking like a photo of Jackie Onassis that she kept on her nightstand. With her hair swept off her face, Johnny saw traces of wrinkles along her forehead and at the edges of her eyes. He could in this moment, actually see into her seventies – he could see the grey hair tucked behind her ears.
Flicking her cigarette onto the ground and pulling her jacket collar up around her neck, she shot Johnny one final look before brushing past him and returning to the RV. Johnny was left outside alone with the winter breeze, so he looked from the muddy trenches, to the brand new tires, to the plumes of spattered mud cast far out into the field and then to the horizon.
Out of the sky swooped a large black crow, presumably from the old sycamore tree. It came down like a vulture with its wings outstretched and landed like a gargoyle on the edge of the RV, perching six feet over Johnny. It turned its head completely sideways and with its right eye as shiny as a black marble, it looked straight into Johnny’s eyes. It was not only the darkest shade of black Johnny had ever seen in a crow, but arguably the single blackest thing he had ever laid his eyes upon. Its obsidian color left not a single detail visible in its plumage and so too were its feet and beak deeply black. It was neither glossy nor matte; but simply the color of midnight. Its one and only discernable feature was the steady gleam in its little black eye: the reflection marking the fierce yellow band being crushed on the horizon.
Johnny nodded at the crow, but the crow just stared. So Johnny nodded again a little more aggressively, this time with his entire body – yet the crow remained fixed. Irritated, Johnny suddenly launched into a yell, however, just as quickly he was silenced by the event of a second crow landing on the RV, directly next to the first. This second crow shared the ominous qualities of the first, equal in size and bottomless in its darkness. It came down flapping out of the sky looking like a hole in the universe and perched next to the first one. With a fixed rigidity, it too turned its head like the first – except in the opposite direction - and stared directly at Johnny with its only perceivable feature, a little black glowing eye.
Where one crow had intrigued Johnny, two were entrancing. As he looked far within the empty shape of the Janus, and into their eyes his mind became flickeringly invaded with images of that daisy field under the oak tree. At a distance he could see Lucy hidden amongst some flowers, he could see her face, half hidden. He could make out the breeze blowing in the ribbon of hair draped across her face. She was calling him with her hand, asking him with a longing expression to come nearer. Her mouth was moving but he couldn’t hear the words. Looking into the crows Johnny tried to see her, but she stayed obstructed by the daisy blossoms.
Johnny reached his hand out to the Janus and out to Lucy in the daisy field. But she was more distant, more covered, more caught by the throngs of flowers. So Johnny pleaded with his hands and his eyes, and called to the Janus and to Lucy. But just as he did this, the sun passed below the horizon and as it did, Johnny saw the light die in the eyes of the Janus. Its luminescence flickered and then was gone completely. Johnny was left looking into empty black marbles and that which had seemed dark before was nothing compared to the abysmal depths of what lay before him now.
He screamed into the conglomeration, trying to call her back but as he did the first crow scattered and climbed away flapping into the sky. He cried again to the second, but the crow was now preening itself intently, uninterested in Johnny’s humanly concerns.