Bearer Of Bad News
A short story about a barn owl
September had arrived, and soon the autumn would begin officially, Thies was their second year in their new house, and they had terrific neighbors across the road who had become friends. Julie stood at the living room window, looking out with pleasure at the golden autumn afternoon and the swirling colorful leaves. She remembered how she and her husband Mike had wanted to find a house where their children, 5-year-old Dani and her brother 8-year-old Billy could run freely and enjoy their childhood. They had been living in an apartment in the town of Springfield, and it was sometimes a hassle to pick up the children at the school bus stop and then since they wanted to have some playtime take them to the local park, Many times this made dinner late. Mike worked at the regional Fed Ex office and always came home tired after making many deliveries. A bit over an hour's drive was the bigger town of Waverly, so there seemed to be no solution to their dilemma; there were no houses for sale in their town with a garden which would have been one solution. Then one Saturday, while the kids were at their grandparents, she and Mike went for a drive. They noticed a road leading off the main roadway connecting Springfield with Waverly and looked for a place to turn their car around.
The moment they had turned into the side road, it was as if they had driven into the countryside. On the short span of roadway were two houses opposite one another, and beyond that, there was open country with farms in the distance. Luckily, one of the houses had a For Sale sign in front of it. Beyond the back fence of the one house was a wooded area and beyond the other house was a sloping hill and a shallow creek with woods beyond that. If only the neighbors were favorable, they would have found a place to raise their children. They had seen that the family was at home, and that was how they had come to meet Jane, Dan, and their three children. Patty was 5, the same age as Dani, and Buddy was 8, so it was ideal, and they had a third child, Freddie, who was only 3.
They had purchased the house, made lifelong friends, and the school bus came to pick up their kids in the mornings, delivering them safely to Springfield Elementary and home again where they could run and play. Suddenly Julie came out of her daydream and was startled to see as the afternoon shadows were growing long, a barn owl was sitting stock still on the back fence staring at the house. She thought odd and then rushed to the kitchen to start making dinner. As she placed the casserole into the oven and turned on the timer, she saw that Mike was a half-hour late getting home. Usually, if he was going to be late, he would call. She wandered back into the living room, and when she looked out the back window, that barn owl was still sitting there.
Then the phone rang, and as she answered it, a voice informed her that Mike had had an accident on a Fed Ex delivery and was in Springfield Memorial Hospital. Suddenly she found herself grabbing her purse and dashing out the door and across to the neighbors. Jane opened the door and right away saw something had happened. Julie explained her situation, and Jane quickly walked across to watch the children. Julie arrived at the hospital in a panic and rushed to the information desk. It was only after finding out that her husband had a badly broken leg with a full cast that she calmed down. Mike spent six weeks in the cast and was miserable the whole time and then two weeks in therapy and finally was back to work. During this time, whenever Julie looked out into the yard, she thought again about the barn owl. She still wondered if it had come to warn her or if it had been just a coincidence.
By now, October was coming to an end, and it was time to look forward to Thanksgiving and the holidays. Then late one night, she was awoken by her daughter Dani calling out to her. Quickly she got out of bed and went to Dani's room. Dani was standing at her bedroom window, bathed in the moonlight, looking out. Julie went to stand beside her and got quite a shock. That barn owl was out there again, sitting stock still on the back fence. Dani was quite interested in that owl, and finally, Julie got her back into bed. Then knowing sleep was not going to come right away, she went down to the kitchen to warm up some milk. With her mug of milk, she went into the living room to look out, and sure enough, there was the barn owl.
The next day was Friday, and she waited until they finished dinner and washed the dishes. Dani and Billy were in bed, and she and Mike sat sipping some wine deciding what movie to watch. It was then that she decided to tell him about the barn owl. Mike listened with interest, and he, too, pondered if that could be some warning when it appeared. They both went over to the window, and sure enough, as night had come, the barn owl was back on the fence staring at the house. They sat back down on the sofa when the ringing of the phone broke the silence. Now Julie knew this had somewhat unnerved her, so she let Mike go to answer the phone. She heard him answer someone and then came to the living room doorway and told her to take the phone.
Her parents, who were still healthy and spry in their 70s, had moved to a senior community in Florida where they were very active, played golf every day, and had many friends. They had been in a bad car accident. She was scared. After making some phone calls, she had a ticket to fly down to Florida early the following morning. Jane and Dan took the kids to their house, and Mike drove her to the airport. Her parents were badly bruised and banged up but would be otherwise all right. She spent a week making sure they would be all right and settled them back into their home. They were already making plans to return to their daily activities. It was a blessing that nothing worse had happened, and Julie was back home, thankful that all was well. She had a few nightmares about that barn owl, and then things went on as usual.
Thanksgiving came, and the families got together to share the day. While Julie and Jane prepared the meal, Dan and Mike watched the football games on TV. They had an enjoyable time, and soon all the worries became a thing of the past. A week later, the first major snowfall came. Mike and Dan got out their snowblowers and made sure to clear their driveways and as much as they could of the road to reach the main roadway. Snowplows always cleared the main roadway, but they had to clear their own road. That day big snowflakes kept falling, and as much as they cleared the snow, more seemed to be on the way. Julie prepared a big pot of beef stew, and they decided to have dinner together. Meanwhile, the kids ran across the road to play in the snow, and Dan came out to help them build a snowman. That evening they sat down to dinner, and the kids were all in great excitement, eager to see how much snow there would be falling.
When they had finished dinner and the kids were upstairs playing, they kept little Freddie with them in the living room. Mike and Julie told their friends about their experience with the barn owl. Jane and Dan also thought that seeing that barn owl twice and twice something terrible had happened that it must have been a warning. Out of curiosity, all four of them walked over to the window to look out into the yard. They stood in a row and saw that the snow had stopped falling, the full moon had illuminated the back yard, and then the barn owl landed on the back fence. It settled there and stared at the house. They all exchanged glances and stood staring back at the owl. Suddenly a thunderous noise startled them, and it was Julie who first ran to the front door and pulled it open. They all ran out into the front yard and saw that a prominent corner of the roof had collapsed in on Dan and Julie's house due to the heavy snowfall. It was the part of the roof right above the children's room, and Jane reacted first, realizing that if their children had been at home, they would have been seriously injured or even killed. The barn owl had been right three times.