Archive for August, 2015

My brother, Colin, returned to the house empty-handed.

“What have you been doing? Where’s the firewood?”

“There’s something in the woodpile.”

“What do you mean? What’s in the woodpile?”

“Well, if I knew, I would have said there’s a snake in the woodpile, or there’s a chipmunk in the woodpile, or there’s a vicious, snarling wolverine in the woodpile, or there’s…”

“Okay, stop!” He’s so annoying. Trying to shut him up is like plugging a bathtub with a straw.

“I only see I should have been more precise and said, there is an unidentified creature of indefinable size with a questionable temperament in the woodpile.”

“For the love of God, will you please shut up. We need wood. Do you want me to go back out with you?”

Clasping his hands together in solemn, mock prayer, he said, “Yes, plleeeaaaasssse. I need my little sister to protect me and eradicate this vile interloper.” He finally grew tired of his performance. “Seriously, I need you to come out and hold a light while I dig around in there.”

“Well, that sounds like a dumb idea. What if you get bitten? You’ve exceeded your quota of trips to the ER for the year.” This garnered me a look of incredulity I may have deserved.

“When I said dig around, I didn’t mean with my bare hands.”

I grabbed my coat and the biggest flashlight we had before following him out to the garage. There I found him eyeing garden tools. “Maybe we should wait until Mom and Dad get home?”

Scrutinizing our collection and ignoring me, he asked, “What implement do you recommend?”

I thought a few seconds. “Maybe a crowbar?”

“Excellent idea, Chloe…strong ― perfect for flipping logs and beating things.”

“I would prefer not to see any bloodletting if you can restrain yourself.”

With a significant amount of trepidation, I followed him to the woodpile in our backyard. “What exactly happened when you were out here before?”

“Howling. Shrieking. Rustling noises. Loud!” he added for emphasis.

I whispered, “I don’t hear anything now. Maybe whatever it was is gone.” I didn’t want to see anything that was capable of howling.

Colin began using the crowbar to pull logs from the top of the front section. The wood was double stacked and the entire pile rested alongside our small barn. It was early in the season and we had about two cords. On a cold or rainy night, it was a perfect spot for small critters to take refuge. We’d had our share of mice, small snakes and occasional opossums on a regular basis. None of these visitors had the vocal chords to howl or shriek. Colin had rolled about seven or eight logs on the ground and I was focusing the light on the area he was working. I had begun to relax and stop worrying.

“Waaw. Hoo hoo to hoo oo, hoo hoo to wha-aaa waww ooooow!” This sudden, hideous screeching and hellish sounds of movement sent us scrambling backward in unison in a mad attempt to escape whatever was possibly about to throw itself upon us. We both fell over the logs on the ground as they rolled beneath our feet, sending us helter-skelter and finally landing, bruised, in a heap among them. The flashlight fell from my hand. Unfortunately Colin had a terrified iron grip on the crowbar and, in the melee, he had managed to conk me on the head with it.

He was yelling. “Grab the light. Get it up there.”

When I did, we caught our breath. Above us were two enormous, round eyes reflecting a fiery, black-as-the-Devil, shine. The thing had risen from between the stacks like Vesuvius exploding over Pompeii.

Colin said, “Don’t move.”

“I’m not even breathing.”

While it swayed slowly from side to side and appraised us, we sat there, motionless, attempting to look nonthreatening. I was aware of the sound of the talons scraping over the logs. I wondered how long they were.

Five minutes passed as we watched him rotate his head like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. The only other noticeable movement was me shivering. “I’m cold,” I whispered.

“Yeah, we seem to be at an impasse here. On the bright side, I think he’s scouting around the yard for smaller prey.”

“What kind is it?”

“A barred owl.”

“He’s really big and doesn’t seem interested in leaving. You still have the crowbar. You could whack him.”

“Now you’re okay with bloodshed? I’m going to report you to the Audubon Society.” A minute later, he said, “I think we need to make a break for it.”

“I’m not excited about your idea. But, I don’t have a better one.”

“On the count of three we get up and run for the back porch. Deal?”

I uttered a squeaky little ‘yes’ that brought the bird’s focus sharply back to us.

Colin said, “Could you try a little harder not to sound like a mouse?”


“Now we’re going to have to wait until he looks the other way again.”

When he renewed his demonic head twists, Colin whispered, “One… two… three.” Then we discovered our legs had stiffened into inflexible appendages. In those seconds we couldn’t spare, I watched, stunned, as the wings unfurled in a shocking display of dreadful, predatory intent. It was a four foot killing machine, eight feet from my face.

Colin pulled me up as it lifted into flight. We limped, stumbled and ran hard. There was no need to look back. I could hear the muffled wing sounds, then felt displaced air hitting me. I could feel it coming. My brother yelled, “Dive,” and pulled me to the ground, as it swooped two feet over our heads. We lay there, breathing fast, assuring ourselves it wasn’t going to return.

Patting my back, Colin smiled. “This might be a good time to get that wood.”

“Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea. Go do it. My work here is done.”


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