I was observing an abundance of holes dug by voles in the absence of the tawny owl and more random skittering of mice. What day it was I could not say for sure. Simultaneously, or nearly so, I was examining the small skeleton of a reptile that I had found when I stepped out to retrieve the morning newspaper, although it was already late afternoon, which is evidence of how disoriented I may tend to become. I could tell it was a hot day, though, one of those days that proves as a simple matter of fact that days are getting hotter. The winsome western columbine was drooping and dozens of dry leaves were falling from the ravishing bougainvillea. I don’t know if it was the dust and heat or a more serious ailment. Again, I could be mistaken but it also looked as if the blue jays were more pissed off than usual.
Then I heard from the tallest redwood tree in the gully, “Hoot…hooty…hoot.. toot.”
Blindly, and dumbly, I said, “Hey.”
The tawny owl said, “Back at you First Person Singular.”
At the peak of my powers of articulation, I repeated, “Hey.”
The tawny owl said, “Same as it’s ever been.”
I said, “You’re just teasing me, right?”
He said, “I’ma laughing my ass off.”
The tallest redwood tree in the gully was 107 years old, growing right out of the stump left by its 443 year old daddy, who was slaughtered to re-build San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906. The grandpa of the tawny owl had built a comfy perch in that tree when it was only twenty feet off the ground, back in the Roaring Twenties.
The tawny owl said, “I was just at the top of Mt. Loma Prieta listening to the Raelettes tell Ray Charles to heed the facts that are the facts, Jack, or else he better hit the road, Jack. That about says it all if you ax me. One of the greatest sociological tracts of your twentieth century.”
I said, “I hear you.”
“I’m not talking about me you know, First Person Singular.”
I said, “Give me a little credit, why don’t ya? I know who I am and when you’re talking about me.”
But even as I said it, I continued to think that after all the turbulence I’d encountered, and all of the psychically grueling hard work I’d put in, it’s got to be better than just the same as it ever was.
The tawny owl replied, “Don’t got to be. Could be. Or never was. Those are the facts, Jack.”
I forgot that the tawny owl could read my mind like that and hit his target with such precision. At least he wasn’t dropping any shit bombs.
I said,”Never was?”
“Same as it always is.”
I had to admit I was thrilled to have him back. Glibly, with a hint of a twisted grin that is often mistaken for a smirk, I said, “Whatever.”
He said, “Now you’re talking like the dirt digging First Person Singular I know.”
I said, “Wait until I show you the figure eights I’ve been working on.”
“I’ma still be laughing my ass off.”
“That’s okay. What if someday I’m able to laugh right along with you?”
“Won’t be no more or less funny.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
“Then tell me again why it is your kind have such fat and useless funny asses?”
“I’m not going to let it bother me anymore when you refer to me as one of my kind. I’m above that now.”
“So why don’t more of these fat asses get moving?”
“Are you really asking me?”
Was the tawny owl really asking me? I was honored to be asked a question like that even if I had no idea. Statistically, I don’t believe my ass is that fat. I briefly thought, what should I say, before I said it.
I said, “One major issue is a worldwide pandemic of obesity.”
The tawny owl, perched at the apex of the food chain, before starting to laugh his ass off, said, “What the fuck?”
The tawny owl preferred to dwell at high points, the highest tree, the highest mountain, the highest altitude, the highest level of consciousness. He was conversant with entities in numerous adjacent galaxies that human astronomers are just beginning to dimly see.
Even if I knew I could never get that high, I was trying my best to follow, although I did not pretend that my best was ever going to be enough. The tawny owl had no tolerance for lame brained posturing or poses from asses, fat or skinny.
And while I know there are many among us who constantly ask in fear and loathing what is the point to get so high, and what is it anyway that constitutes such a faraway apex, to me it seemed instead like a perfectly good time and opportunity to return to hard, unyielding ground and get down to brass knockers. Find a void and fill it. There was a war in defense of beautiful birds to be won out there.
I said, “I’ve been keeping my eye on the murderous white cat and the pinkish yuppie dweebs who enable him next door.”
“What did you see?”
“That’s hard to say, exactly.”
“I can see that.”
“I saw the techno-yuppie dweeb mow his artificial lawn twice in the same week. I watched him check the wires on the diabolical nets he’s rigged to trap beautiful birds. The thinly stylish wife stayed inside. I think she’s majorly adverse to sunshine. I kept careful count of all the dense garbage in the cans they consumed. I admit I lost track of some of the countless offspring. I think there are five or six of them that look alike. But most of what they do is behind closed doors.”
“Mighty suspicious, that.”
“So what’s the big plan?”
I also was starting to think big, and unnaturally high, and where it would take me. Out there, that’s where. An altitude above all the dirt I’ve dug. No more suffering birds. No more rampaging assassins. No more blind human enablers. Far out there.
The tawny owl said, “Still the same as it ever was.”
How could that be? That was too much to take. This time it was me who said, “What the fuck?”
“I’ma still be laughing my ass off.”
“But, I was kind of hoping we could get started.”
“I never not been started.”
“Don’t I need a lot of help to get there if I’m lagging behind?”
“Ain’t never been no race. Next thing you gonna tell me is you’re looking forward to the finish.”
“I like it better when you don’t ask, you tell.”
“Ain’t no end out there either.”
“Sometimes I can’t help but forget.”
“If you want help, look at who you are, where you at.”
“That’s no help.”
“Same as it never was.”
“Last time it was ever.”
“As it is, and will be.”