I swung a wide left out of the school parking lot. I downshifted as the colors up ahead slid from yellow to red. The boy grinding through the gears of his Mustang Turbo GT (circa mid-'80s) in the lane next to mine cut his horsepower by half.
But he wasn't looking at the approaching light. He had his eyes on the sky.
I put on my brakes and gazed up toward the clouds. I don't usually mimic the behavior of teenaged miscreants, but then my vision fixed at about mid-point between the road and the clouds high above us.
We both, I'm sure, held our breaths as a bald eagle rode the cold January currents only he could feel to snag a hapless brown squirrel, which had been minding his own business in the median in front of Our Humble High School.
The impatient crowd behind us, forced to slow as we watched one of the most graceful of Passion Plays, didn't honk, didn't gesture. Those drivers, too, ceased their urge to scurry home as they watched Mother Nature do her work.
As the eagle reached under the squirrel with his talons, I knew that what I saw at that moment was both the majesty and the horror inherent in our national symbol.
I rubbed one eye with a balled-up fist, not wishing to witness the persecution of the tiny mammal but at the same time transfixed by the action unfurling before me. No Spielberg could have choreographed such drama, such pitiful hopelessness, as the squirrel put up but a half-hearted struggle, dangling high above the road.
And then, in one majestic swoop, they were gone.
The boy in the Mustang raised his right fist in a salute, to both me and the huge bird of prey. For a flashing millisecond, he forgot about cool and surrendered to his inner child, awed by a performance that, I'm sure, we'll both be talking about well into our post-sedentary years.
He turned his head. He smiled. And then he accelerated, reaching 60 before I'd had a chance to catch my breath.
Editor's Note: While the events described above are entirely true, I don't have photographic evidence to share with y'all. And yes, this drama was played out on a 4-lane thoroughfare in front of a suburban DC high school. The photo above was snapped on the Fox River in NE Wisconsin by my youngest, Ella Numera Dos.