Little Owls

by Josh Luft

I can't get no relief when I'm trapped in one.

Oh well and boo-hoo.

"All the sun shines on Athens this morning," the radio man says. He's my kitchen counter confidant. Still, I silence him today with a satisfying click. I follow the scurrying, snickering, and sneaker-squeaks out the screen door into a breeze that rolls across the yard, bringing something achingly ripe.

My children stir up the yard for a time, a cyclone of grass and little winged things, before I shepherd them into the station wagon. The wagon is warped; the doors groan, the children moan. What happened to the safety in skeuomorphs?

Oh well and—

"Hoo-hoo," say the little owls. They refuse another lonely Sunday morning, popping from their perches on the branches and eavestroughs. They swoop down to the station wagon and latch their little talons to the loose roof rack. I smile and nod before I take my seat.

My husband, Dallas, in all his shades and variants, enters the wagon. He closes the door with a crunch and the two screws he removed from the roof rack rattle in his cup holder. He starts the wagon and rushes in reverse down the driveway. "We're off," he says, head twisted back towards the children. We bounce into the road and Dallas sticks his head out the window like a hound to say to the little owls above, "And you'll be off soon enough!" One of the children laughs. Dallas takes heart, smiling into the rearview. I know my children, though, and that laugh wasn't for him.

Dallas steers the station wagon through town. We wait for the rack to come down. Or pretend to. There's driveway gravel between my flats and the floor mat. I slide my feet forwards and back. I think about that song "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." I pretend I'm Her. I try to make the sign of a teaspoon but all I know is the sign of the cross.

"There goes the church."

We're on the wrong side of town now, reunited with the ghosts of the old neighborhood. Dallas speeds through every cul-de-sac to shake the owls free. The roof rack shakes and scrapes but won't break free. The little owls coo peacefully above and it's driving Dallas "up the friggin' wall."

"There goes the county line."

I tell Dallas that we're going to miss the service. He starts slapping his free hand on the station wagon roof. His strikes are nowhere near the little owls and he knows it. "I'm busy," he says.

I could be busy.

I'd like to be.

Oh well and boo-hoo.

We're outside of town now, at a gas station. Dallas is "draining the lizard." Before he left the wagon he said his new plan was to ignore them. "And then," with that trademark Dallas dazzle, "maybe up in the mountains, where the air is nice and thin, and their little owl eyes real heavy, I'll pluck the feathers clean off every single goddamn one of 'em!"

He thinks it's about attention. And it is. While he's away I feed the little owls bits of moon. They're just discs of cheese but the lie is sweet. When dinner's over, I run my fingers through their feathers and they run their wings through my hair.

Days pass by in a dreamy haze.

"There's an ulterior motive to the highway," Dallas says. He says a lot of things like this lately. He's put his trust in electrolytes, the most unnatural colors. Spitting dust into another desert afternoon, he says, "There's a symptom— No, a side effect that they don't tell you about when you know what's right." He looks over at me for the first time in weeks. "But I'll spare you the details."

I haven't heard the children in some time. They haven't made the mistake of showing all their sides. I imagine they're asleep and dreaming of being the moon, flying around the Earth and humming their favorite tunes. When I finally get around to checking on them, I see that their eyelids have grown and enveloped them like cocoons. Even better, I think.

States go by without a trace.

Oh well and who are you?

I've gone so long unaddressed that I've forgotten what to call myself. But that's fine. I realize now that a proper name never really mattered. The little owls, closer than they appear, look in my eyes and know. That's all I need.

I wake up one afternoon parked beneath an olive tree. Olympus is just down the road. I feel serene. It's just me and the children and the little owls. The little owls tell me my husband abandoned the wagon sometime ago. He has a new car and a new wife. His new car is compact and talon-free. His new wife hard-topped and breezy. She sings to him. There are cassette tapes misty with her lullabies. They're for sale at the next convenience store.

Oh well and where to?

I get behind the wheel and head for the mountain. The station wagon wheezes along with me to the top. I pass through clouds from a thousand years ago. We reach the peak and drive off, our breath returned. The wagon plummets for a spell until the children hatch. My little owls. They spread their wings and flutter out the back windows, joining their siblings on the roof. Together, they lift the wagon up into a bubble of azure. The world ruptures behind us.

BIO: Josh Luft’s work has appeared in The Awl, Black Heart Magazine, InDigest, LIT, and Storychord. He writes assorted oddities at whatafoolbelieves.tumblr.com. He was born in Oshkosh, WI, a land of airplanes and overalls. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.