I first noticed a VW Vanagon with a roughly rectangular hole cut out of its roof by a blow torch, to facilitate deeper breathing I suppose, and an ancient Jeep Wagoneer with hieroglyphics spray painted on its flanks, that were parked at the bottom of the hill on which I live, shortly before the cocktail hour on a sunny day, without context, presumably out of nowhere. It was a Monday. Unless it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday. The sheer curtains on the Vanagon which had yellowed were partially closed. The dirt on the Jeep looked as if it had been through the Boer Wars.
I thought little of it and continued nearly to the top of the hill. I did not stop to check for the mail. The mail could wait. The water from the rain that fell the previous night was making its way down the hill into the sewers leading to the sea.
I parked in front of my house, entered, ate, drank, smoked, listened to some Charlie Haden. He was standing behind his upright bass as usual. I think it was in Montreal. Then some Chucho Valdes. Chucho Valdes was playing solo piano at the Village Vanguard. Kenny Barron was playing piano with Charlie Haden. Unless it was the other way around.
Later, I slept fitfully.
It was either a Saturday or a Sunday, I am fairly positive, when the Vanagon was back again, along with what used to be known as a hippie chick featuring blonde dreadlocks, who was wearing an indigenous white blouse over what looked like billowing bloomers, probably acquired at the nearby University of California. She was attempting to stop my car by standing in the road with her legs spread apart while flashing me the peace sign with both upraised hands at the end of her arms. I was returning from Trader Joe’s with a bag containing sharp cheddar cheese, capellini, habanero sauce, garlic naan, and frozen mahi-mahi on the seat beside me.
There were also several bottles of the brown beer I prefer to drink that were rattling around and not in the bag. I intended to drink the first one at the earliest opportunity, astonishingly cold or not. I was thinking, if the hippie chick had just a little bit more of a five o’clock shadow she would have looked more like Richard Nixon.
It is a private road on which I live and it dead ends, basically, nowhere. So, by all the rights of a free citizen for which I have paid dearly, I should have kept going. I frequently enjoy being nowhere. But, I slowed down, before stopping.
I was moderately curious, not at all wary. What was she going to do, ask me to sign a petition that was meticulously drafted to save the flailing world from its many annoying inhabitants?
But no, when I rolled down the window, first thing she had to ask, after a brief pause, was, “What’s that smell?”
I should have known what was coming. I said, “You had to ask.”
She said, “Well, yeah, it like…stinks.”
I said, “I’m well aware. What else can I do for you?”
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“I don’t want to get into it. I repeat my question.”
She said, “Whatever.”
I said, “Yeah. Precisely.”
“Okay”, she said, “It’s up to you. But, what I am really wondering, you see, and why I am here and asking you, is do you know anything about this tawny owl that’s supposed to live around here who I’ve been hearing all about?”
I said, “Hearing what… and where?”
She said, “All over. About this spiritual trip he’s got happening.”
Uh-oh, I thought. But, I said, “Happening where?”
She said, “I don’t know. Why not wherever?”
I said, “I don’t like the sound of that.”
She said, “Why, what are you, some kind of backward, Neanderthal type? You don’t look that bad.”
I said, “But, I am that bad. Unless I’m worse. I don’t know anything, I can’t read signs, I never did, I carry shit that stinks in my car, and that’s all I can tell you.”
Reflexively, I pressed my foot down hard on the convenient pedal underneath it, and ruined my fair share of the Earth with increasing speed. The top of the hill on which I live is several hundred feet above the bottom. There are curves that need to be maneuvered. It never takes long to get there, though, even when my mind, knowing nothing, meanders.
When I arrived at my destination, naturally, I made another quick miscalculation. Clearly, it was not the first. But, before pausing adequately to consider the new dilemma now presented to me, I deliberately sought out the tawny owl. I didn’t know that was such a mistake. I should have, but I didn’t. The tawny owl was waiting for me. He did not look pleased. His claws looked sharp.
I said, “Sup.”
He dropped the regurgitated head of a former mouse precisely two baby steps in front of my torso. To this day, I’m happy it was no closer. I looked at the former head of the mouse while I continued to keep my own head down. I’m sure the tawny owl wanted me to look up into at least one of his big eyes but I resisted his gravitational pull. I focused on the fur of the dead mouse that was wet as a function of the regurgitation process. It was not the first dead mouse I had seen but it was no less gross than ever.
He said, “I hold you responsible.”
I said, “How was I supposed to know?”
He said, “You and you big fucking mouth.”
I said, “That can’t be it. No one ever listens to me.”
Do you believe it’s best to let bygones be bygones?
What happens when your bygones come back to bite you on the ass?
Coming Soon: Get It While You Can