Unlike mere humans who mull and ponder a lot over the topic but have a much harder time living up to the facts of the matter, the tawny owl, while no devil or saint, was a pretty monogamous bird. He and his lovely wife, Thee Mrs., sat up and cootchie-cooed some nights as tight on their perch as the buns and muffins of an air brushed cover girl. They had offspring living successfully up and down the Pacific Coast from Santa Barbara to Coos Bay as a testament to a history of a whole lot of loving.
They were preparing for a short visit to the range of a second son who lived along the Klamath River in Northern California when I stepped outside of my door. The fair feathered boy, who had been an early head banger, was hooked on fresh salmon and could hardly go a day without a fat one down the hatch. He rarely strayed far from home. He had sharp claws that flashed like molybdenum in the foaming rapids of the river where the flopping coho were fair game, and a beak that could cut through chewy sinew and bone.
The lovely wife of the tawny owl, Thee Mrs., who would never admit that the boy was her favorite, was getting in the mood, or a rowdy variation thereof, by hammering out a studly version of a tune from George Clinton that resounded like the entire P-Funk Nation was pumping.
Boosting the bass volume to a deaf range
Crackin’ a bottle of champagne
It’s gonna take Martial Law
curfew ain’t gonna get it
I began sweeping up shards of glass from the bottle of brown beer that had jumped explosively out of my hand and shattered on the asphalt of my driveway like a galactic projectile as the funk took over and thrashed my formerly free will. I didn’t mind, though. Sacrifices must be sometimes made to maintain the funk. And bottles of brown beer were stacked symmetrically from floor to ceiling according to brewing date in one cupboard of my home, as well as one closet, and one rarely used bedroom. Plus, there was more where that came from.
Prior to that, the day had been only fair to middling in my quest to serve the cause of high flying birds in the ongoing struggle against murderous cats and their human enablers, and I was considering what additional leaps into space I might take. I knew my rotations were weak and juxtapositions faulty, often to the point of humiliation and shame. The tawny owl had demonstrated several exercises for me to practice in the area of my groin while he was gone.
Then, in mid sweeping motion, I paused as I clearly heard the voice of the tawny owl slicing through the rhythmic din, proclaiming, “Uh oh.”
When I looked up, the tawny owl and the lovely Thee Mrs. were gone. There was no mistake about what was happening. A gleaming new automobile that appeared to be the size of an intercontinental ballistic missile had stopped a few feet short of crushing me under its mammoth payload. Toxic smoke spewed from chrome pipes. The car was bloody red all over its steely outside. It was creamy all over its lush inside. Like the tawny owl, my initial reaction was to proclaim, “Uh oh.”
The window on the side of the driver opened a sliver and a torrent of verbal invective began to proliferate like weapons of mass destruction in the very immediate vicinity. Mere words did not do the clamor proper justice. It slithered through the crack like an ancient asp, forever and always. Fortunately, in this case at least, I possessed the power to repel all megalomaniacal demons. I chanted devoutly, if silently, all to myself, “Na, na… na, na, na, na… hey, hey, hey… good-bye.” The noise ultimately dissipated like excess baggage going forlornly around on a deserted airport carousel.
Then, from the back seat, a pair of tween twins who were nothing alike emerged, one from each side. One had silver braces, the other clear. Their combined age was approximately twenty four. One door was shut and the other slammed.
The young girl who apparently still believed I was fit for the human race, and not a complete disgrace to all existence, looked briefly up from her electronic device and like a puffy alien eclair said sweetly, “Hi, daddy.”
Before I could respond in an appropriate manner, the yang to her yin, an aspiring lion cub of the species, also looked briefly up from his electronic device and said with all the scorn he could muster, which was considerable, “You don’t know nothing.” Each word he spoke sounded distinctively like an air raid siren. My ears clogged with disgusting mucus in defense. It was a joke between us. I smiled in my own crooked way, with a twist.
As the flaming missile reversed its red course and disappeared past the trees without running me over, I said, in general, “Sup.”
My daughter dropped her soft suitcase and said, “I have a scuba diving class at 3 PM.”
“What time is it now?”
“I think it’s 3 PM.”
I turned my head and asked the mindless savage, “What about you?”
He said, “I have mixed martial arts.”
“Like duh. Right now. What do you think?”
I did not admit that I was trying very hard not to think, that I was trying very hard to go with the flow and observe this human activity from an acute if distant point of view. I hoped fervently that would constitute a great achievement. Not even the Judge from the Municipal Court with the lipstick smear on the tip of her fangs who sucked so deep and so wide, nor any of her uniformed henchmen, could schedule visiting hours inside the boundaries of my locked cranial capacity.
I said, “Why don’t we go the beach and watch the sooty shearwaters round up a jillion sardines and gobble them up for dinner?”
I figured that if these attack birds had been scary enough to efficiently motivate Alfred Hitchcock shitless, they might serve just as well as mindless entertainment for several addled generations removed. Or something like that.
Then I distinctly heard, “Okay.”
“I think that’s the first good idea I can remember you ever had.”
And I thought for the first time that I can ever remember the kid might be right.