The witches from one elite coven on the Westside of Santa Cruz arrived separately in sporty sedans featuring soft leather seats and multiple cup holders, except for the cute same sex couple riding in the back of a limousine. Those two were naked when they emerged, and already slathered, and slinky. Everyone air-kissed as if they meant it this time. Nothing new there.
Once all of the cars were parked at the same portentous angle and each witch was paired with a butt buddy for the duration, they laced up identical black boots, and started to march in single file up the mountain as a single stalwart entity. They trampled thousands of plants, bugs, and a few slow invertebrates caught unaware in the middle. They fashioned sticks for making insightful points along the way.
An advanced group of hard partying Northern pygmy owls at the top of Mt. Umunhum was not happy, naturally, to see so many humans kicking shit on the way up. Wasn’t the top of Mt. Umunhum supposed to be off limits?
“Don’t know no better.”
“I smell methane.”
“No different than baboons.”
“What’s that gunk they covered in, paint or powder? Must be hard to rub off.”
“That’s part of the mess they gonna leave behind.”
“If it’s not this mess it’s the next.”
“And how they get this high, anyway? Can’t fly, can’t hoot, can’t transcend.”
“That must be what those chains that rattle around their necks are for,” said one known wag of some stature.
The spectacle of all that featherless skin was hard for some of the more sensitive owls to process without premature regurgitation. Humans who looked no less aesthetically deficient than these had ruined a recent all night, all-owl romp near the Russian River by shooting wads of gunk into the air and grilling gross weenies indiscriminately. After that debacle, the alert was heightened. For good reason, it appeared.
But, it was the pinkish stench from hunks of a burning pig that finally became too much to take. That, plus the so-called music these witches were dancing to, which sucked big time. How could it be that none of these clumsy bipeds had heard the truth about James Brown?
When the call went out for reinforcements to all of the owls perched throughout the Forest of Nisene Marks in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I was standing nearby, which was close to the edge of the dirt patch in the adjacent redwood grove where I live, though no closer to the top of any mountain than ever. I was concentrating on the sharp beak of tawny owl as he spoke extemporaneously about the energy of will to be derived from the inspirational spiral galaxies, NGC3314a and NGC3314b, and trying hard to understand how it applied to me. The minor notes were often as meaningful in the big picture as the major hoots.
“Ain’t it funny,” the tawny owl was saying, “how you can believe you’re gonna make it no matter what the odds, just like Jackie Robinson?”
“You know how much it freaks me out when you tell me what I’m thinking.”
“But a good kind of freaking out. The kind of freaking out that cleans away the sludge in the pipes.”
“I never knew about all of the myriad chasms and crevices my body contains before I knew you.”
“You don’t know me.”
“It was just a figure of speech.”
“You can only know yourself. But you can’t be sure of that, either.”
“Okay, you’ve got me there.”
“That’s your problem, not mine.”
“I was just saying.”
“And you’re afraid that you never will be sure.”
“You’re not making it any easier.”
“Humans are the only species that don’t have to be smart and they still get to eat.”
“It’s hard to follow sometimes what you’re saying all the way to the end.”
“That’s because you can’t handle it when I tell you there is no end.”
“Okay, you got me there again this time.”
“For you and your kind, it’s all the time.”
“Do you notice how I don’t react anymore when you refer to me as just another example of my kind?”
“I notice how you do react.”
“It’s a disparaging reference.”
“Well, yeah, like…duh.”
“I still think I deserve some credit.”
“I’ma still be laughing my ass off no matter what you think.”
“But, how can seven billion people be all wrong?”
“All together and one at a time.”
Then, his ears started to quiver. Even I could tell something was up. I could also tell because he slowly rotated his neck more than three hundred and fifteen degrees, which was twelve to thirty degrees beyond merely disconcerting, and spit out something gross.
He eyed me mysteriously and said, “Your wife is a witch, right?”
“You know who I mean.”
“You know she’s a witch. Everybody knows that.”
That’s when the owls in the adjacent Forest of Nisene Marks began to hoot up a poly-rhythmic storm. They sounded like the bio-chemically mixed orchestra of Charles Mingus at Carnegie Hall. Before I knew what was what, the tawny owl had flown away. I should have been used to it by then, but I wasn’t. Something held me back, something human.
Most days hanging out with the tawny owl, although what he calls it in his nomenclature is completely different than that, I don’t deny I can’t keep up. I don’t know what’s what or where it’s coming from. I try not to be dumb enough to deny the obvious. That’s a bottom line proposition, or a least common denominator, or whatever. I have learned it’s best to admit misjudgments and get it over with fast. As to mistakes, of which we all know I’ve made a few, that’s another story for a later date and I don’t want to talk about it. The tawny owl may laugh his ass off but I think there is a lot more going on than that.
When he’s out and out rude, however, or spewing gunk, or sharpening barbs or missives, or dropping shit bombs on or near my first person singularity, or flying off without a civil word of explanation, of course I have to question the deeper meaning of the relationship. I may hem and haw, flail at flying bugs, poke holes, thrash in my sleep, pull at threads, but I will not bray. In that area, I refuse, more or less absolutely.
But then I always think better of my insecurities and manage to say, with the deepest meaning I can conjure, “What the fuck.”
As we all know by now, it’s not a question.