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Note: This story is from Desert Companion's new e-mail newsletter, Fifth Street, a weekly dose of stories, interviews, riffs, and errant whimsy. Subscribe now to get Fifth Street in your inbox every Thursday.

TWO INTERESTING and possibly unrelated things occurred recently: Using the very postal system it’s trying to dismantle, the GOP sent a voter registration form to my house in the name of my father, who (a) has never lived at this address, (b) left the state for good 28 years ago, and (c) left the planet for good 11 years ago; also, a vulture was seen in the neighborhood. I say possibly unrelated, but come on, this is 2020. You tell me.

It’s hard to blame the state party for its far-reaching recruitment effort, given Nevada’s blue lean in a seismic election year. As any old-school Chicago Democrat can tell you, things like address and a pulse are minor concerns when you need every vote you can get. Possibly it was a clerical error, but I put nothing past 2020.

I wish I could report that, as I stood in my dining room holding the day’s mail, I didn’t even remotely consider perpetrating a little good-natured election fraud. You know, fill it out, send it in, haha! A prank, really. Register my dad, reveal the hoax, share a backslapping laugh with those GOP funsters. Logistically speaking, I didn’t think it would be difficult. I’m pretty sure I could get Dad’s Social Security number and an accurate signature from the box of his papers in my garage. Naturally, I’d be careful to get every detail right — I wouldn’t want the state party to think I’m not taking its concerns about ballot abuse seriously.

Indeed, it might be fun to push the joke all the way to November 3, maybe have Dad "cast his vote" for the Green Party candidate he’d hate, whoever that is. Because my father was the sort of Republican invariably described as “rock-ribbed” — one who would vote posthumously if election law and quantum physics allowed it — a Green vote in his name would be my capstone victory in our long history of political bickering, which I miss more than I can tell you.

I’m not sure if the vulture showed up in a purely ironic capacity, or if, since we live near the open desert and a guy with a tiny dog, it was just a large ugly bird looking for food. I didn’t see it myself, it was on a fence one street over, so I was dubious at first — I didn’t read a single fainthearted post on Nextdoor.com urging us to safeguard our pets and misspelling carrion. But my son took a picture of it. Vulture, all right.

I made the usual associations: death, decay, the picking-clean of bones. “It’s probably here about the postal service,” I told my son. Or just as a symbolic signal-boost for this year’s grim energies, in case we weren’t getting the message.

But maybe I was wrong about that. According to trustedpsychicmediums.com — which certainly sounds like a credible source — “People are quick to think about death, decay, and destruction when they come across the vulture.” But there’s more to the story: “Vulture symbolism also speaks about purification and the restoration of harmony in your life. ...” The word rebirth is used. Good omens, all! And, just in time to audition as the spirit animal of the pandemic, “the vulture urges you to take control of your life and to be strong amidst the challenges.” Thanks, large, ugly bird!

And, hey, look at today’s Pony Express delivery: The state party sent my dad a follow-up. “Being politically active is linked with greater well-being and life satisfaction,” the flier says, upbeat as a vulture. I remember again our heated arguments — “the war aside,” went an opening ploy typical of Dad, “what’s so bad about George Bush?” — and I also remember the relish with which I’d head for his house every time there was a political dispute I knew we’d be on opposite sides of. Neither of us ever gave any ground, either. Which is why messing with Dad’s ballot, during this of all apocalyptic elections, would at last give me the final, ultimate word. After all, “the vulture can soar above its limitations,” I’m told, “and so can you!”

But no, no. No. Of course it would be utterly, irredeemably wrong to do that, and as far as anyone reading this knows, I did not.

Howie Hawkins, by the way; the Green Party candidate is Howie Hawkins.


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