owl about that
Updated: Apr 13
A short story by Stephanie Greenwood.
Ruth opened an eye. Just the one. She could barley make out Korrie standing behind Julian. She closed her eye again.
“Julian, go back to sleep.”
She couldn’t muster more than a sentence. It was the middle of the day. The sun was high in the sky. She should be sleeping. She ruffled her feathers and turned towards the back of the nest.
Well, she couldn’t ignore that one.
Ruth opened both eyes this time and turned to face the origin of the ruckus. Ah. Julian had little Korrie dangling over the edge of the nest.
“Julian, put her down.”
Julian had to look down to meet her gaze. He was so much taller than the two of them.
“Ugh. Fine. It is natural, you know. She’s a little runt.”
Korrie stayed still as a statue as Julian removed his claw from her wing. As he turned to fully face Ruth, Korrie limped towards the back of the nest. She was at least half his size. That’s what happens when you take an extra three weeks to come out of your egg. Ruth remembered it being warm in there. She understood the desire to stay, she really did. But – yikes! She thought – it wasn’t worth it. Korrie was hung out of the nest almost every day, while mum and dad were soundly asleep upbranches (for all you humans reading, that’s our owl equivalent of upstairs). Julian had been born first. Then 4 days later, Ruth had come along. Followed three weeks later by a very late Korrie. Mum had been worried she would never hatch.
“Go to sleep Julian.”
“Oh, ruffling your feathers, am I?”
“There’s enough food to go around!”
“Can’t you feel it, Ruth? In your bones, in your beak. That instinct telling you to survive. To kill. To fly.”
Ruth rolled her eyes. What a knob.
“I saw that.”
“Saw what?” Ruth asked Julian, batting her eyelids.
“Just watch it.”
Ruth turned away from him and looked towards the back of the nest. Korrie was now soundly asleep in Ruth’s spot against the trunk of the tree. Ruth sighed. Such a typical little sister. Always stealing her stuff. She settled down next to Korrie and closed her eyes.
“Wake up, my sweet.”
Ruth rolled over to see her Mum’s kind face staring back.
“You’ve slept a while, Ruthie. We’re back with the hunt already.”
Every night, her Mum and Dad went out to catch mice for them. There was always plenty to go around but Julian liked to take most of it. She could see the pile lying in the middle of the nest, ready for tonight’s feast. She nudged Korrie and they both went over to where their Mum and Dad were sitting. Julian was eating already, of course he was. He looked up at her briefly. His eyes were warning her to not mention the day’s shenanigans to their parents. Korrie followed in Ruth’s shadow, trying not to make a sound.
“Korrie, darling, come over here.” Mum trilled.
Korrie’s face lit up. She raced over to sit with her mother, settling down under her wing. Ruth could relax with Korrie was safe for now. She ate her fill, zoning in and out of her mother’s updates on forest life. A dog had gotten loose from one of the human dwellings earlier in the evening. The mice had been hard to find as a result. Ruth had never seen a dog before. There was some more gossip about the beavers who lived by the nearest river. A marriage spat apparently. Ruth smiled as she saw her mother reach over and touch her father’s wing as she was speaking. This was similar to most nights that they had together as a family. After this, she knew they had flying practice. None of them could fly yet. But Julian was close. Then a bedtime story and back to sleep.
Ruth was flying. She could feel the wind in her wings, cold but fresh. She could see for miles and miles. She felt so powerful. Down below, the forest was teeming with life. She spotted the mice running in between the trees. She would be heading down there later to catch her own dinner tonight. Off in the distance, she could see what she’d never seen before. Smoke. And twinkling lights. Little square twinkling lights. The humans. Ruth wanted to get closer. She wanted to see them for herself. She wanted to -
Korrie’s voice brought Ruth right back down to earth and she woke from her dream with a jolt. She could see Julian holding Korrie over the edge. Korrie was crying – her voice trembled as she shouted again.
“RUTH! Please. He-” Her little voice gave way on the last word.
Ruth dashed over. She shoved him Julian aside, reaching over to catch the tip of Korrie’s wing with her claw. She pulled Korrie back up into the nest.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” Suddenly Julian was towering above her, “it wasn’t meant to be you.”
He knocked Ruth sideways, she lost her balance completely and tumbled over the side of the nest.
When Ruth came to, she was staring at a pink and yellow sky. Sunset. The trees above her made a beautiful lace canopy. She’d never properly looked up before.