"Pull over," Nenny said.
She was already struggling with the buckle of her car seat while keeping an eye on the smoke outside. It wasn't much more than a tendril, sometimes disappearing in the wind. I pulled the car over at a wide spot on the shoulder and we looked down into the canyon whose lip we'd been following on the way home.
Nenny wrinkled her nose. "Maybe somebody's having a barbecue."
"No, I don't think so, honey. There's not really a good place. It's just a lot of trees down there. There aren't even any houses in this part of the canyon. Just a lot of birds."
"Really big birds," Nenny said as the faint cry of one of them wafted up on the breeze. "Mommy, do people go down there?"
"No. Maybe hikers, but this place belongs to somebody. People aren't supposed to be down there."
The smoke was coming from a little further south of us now. It must be the wind, I thought, peering into the canyon.
"But I can hear them, Mommy."
"No, honey. It's just birds. See? There's no road down there. You can't get down there unless you walk for miles and miles."
Nenny squinted as she peered into the sky at the lone crow who circled before swooping down into the valley, its cry warping with distance into something high and ugly.
"Maybe it's a forest fire," she said, moving closer to the edge to peer over. I grabbed the back of her sweatshirt, planting my feet in case she bolted for the edge. I didn't think she would, but I couldn't stop my mind from filming that movie anyway.
"Maybe," I said. I surveyed the area for a building, but there wasn't anything. If this woods burned, nobody would know. Well, we would know.
"Look!" Nenny said, pointing to four crows cacking and chasing each other down into the canyon. Their cries joined the ugly cry somewhere down near the smoke. Maybe they just wanted to see the fire.
The smoke was even further south now, almost around a bend a few hundred yards away. I listened, but got only the whoosh of the occasional car and the sounds of birds across the canyon. And that sound from inside the canyon.
"Get back in the car, Nenny," I said, cutting her objection by pulling her sweatshirt.
"NO!" she yelled.
"NO!" her echo came, clear and perfect, from across the canyon. The smoke was getting thicker and the birds' screams were louder until a gust of wind shook the leaves of the trees, taking away the smoke and the noise and I realized it had been perfectly still before.
I didn't wait for her to buckle her seatbelt before getting back on the road.
X-posted to dailychronicles