In the end, he spent the better part of two weeks in the backyard, screaming at night. At first, it sounded like a wounded deer, or a baby, or a trapped raccoon. I knew it couldn’t be a baby, but there is something about an animal making desperate human sounds that pulls you out of bed and into the night. It had happened before.

I left my baby--no longer a baby, really, but almost as vulnerable--in the house. She peered out of the window into the darkness. I told her to watch for my headlamp, that I would call out to her when I made it to where she might see the light’s strobe, streaking against the moonless sky.

August nights beckon winter with abandon, a shameless cold. My warmest robe and Rainbows, flip-flopping through dew-heavy grass, taking off the sandals to wade the creek, robe pulled up, creek muck sucking feet down, rinsing feet, stalking.

My child shouts out from the window, “Mama, I’m scared about you!”

She has seen my light disappear into the heavy brush and it’s not until I am hip deep in grasses that I consider the reality of living on the edge of a golf course. This is no place for sissies. Here and there, daybeds, matted grasses telling of mama moose and baby moose, the proclivities of bison, their hulking shadowed masses still as an abandoned automobile, and lethal.

The crackling scream is nearly above me now, and I am just so close that I can almost see this creature, and even though I know what it is, I need to see it to reconcile the aching cry it makes over and over again, pained and imploring, ceaseless.

Several more paces. My daughter yells again from the window. I marry her tone of voice with my imagination and come up with a grisly image: a child watches her mother disappear on a simple lookabout; standing guard in the window, as instructed, she listens closely as the silence turns to chaos, her mother being trampled to death.

I retreat.

My girl is relieved, the bed is warmer than it has ever been. We leave the curtains open, and talk about the creatures outside: the wolves we saw less than one mile away, the bird feeders hung high to discourage bears, buffalo larger than the back door. No wonder the poor child never wants to hike.

And then, the scream. It is nearer than ever, an arm’s reach away, just outside the glass. Together we hold our breaths, both of us waiting for it again, and then, it is the sound of a conch shell held to your ear, the rush of ocean suddenly, magically in your palm: the fireplace a megaphone to this expanse of feathers spreading, giant wings pushing air, bringing body to a halt.

A clamor of talons, the tinny echo of claws clasping the metal flashing around the chimney top. My quarry has landed, and if we could just crane our necks out the window and look up, we could see him: massive, unmistakeable, crying out ten feet from our pillows.

Brian Tobin
1/19/2015 05:22:10 am

so what was it? (Beautiful writing BTW)

1/20/2015 03:48:58 am

Brian, It was a great horned owl. Later that season, a several others moved in and passed long hours into the night hooting back and forth.

Thanks for the compliment ;)

12/1/2023 12:41:46 am

Thankks for a great read


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