Patchwork of Sorrow
Hope Through an Owl’s Eyes
Moist air stuck to his feathers. Wailing wind swirled through the street until it passed into the oak he was perched on. A few leaves abandoned their according branches and decided to join in the wind’s journey. He would too, eventually, but for the moment all he did was readjust his position. Smoky clouds clotted the crimson and gold rays of the setting sun, but occasionally the deep colors would break through. The scent of rainwater, pine needles, and desperation hung thick in the creeping fog. He recognized this as the smell of his home.
Street lamps sleepily awoke and lit up the gloomy, broken road and the sagging house he was observing. More specifically, the small, bony child who sat on the porch steps. He didn’t seem to mind the cold, but the passing gusts of wind would shake his thin frame. Squinting, he penned an open journal. The boy seemed captured by whatever he had to get down on paper, scrawling frantically and murmuring under his breath. With further observation, his eyelids were puffy and darkened.
“Calvin.” A second, older boy stepped out from the orange glow of their house. When he didn’t receive a response, he leaned on a wooden support beam and stared down at the child. “It’s going to rain soon, you’ll get your book all wet.”
“I’ll come inside in a little bit.” Calvin muttered without taking his eyes off his work. He flinched as the older boy sat beside him on the steps. “Jo, I said I’d—” “I’m scared of him too.”
He shut his journal and stared up and his brother. Tears slipped down his large, round eyes, and he embraced Jo fully. They sat quietly for a few minutes, Calvin sobbing into his brother’s hoodie, and Jo trying his best to keep his composure strong and comforting. Their solemnity echoed in soft waves through the woods around them, infecting the wind.
The Owl felt the weight of their burden flow through his wings to his talons. He had seen families grow old in this town—his home—and knew each and every secret that made up the woodwork frames of their flimsy nests. After many years, he realized there was a certain pattern to the suffering of men; there was a central patch that held the pain-filled quilt together.
Stirring his thoughts was the pit-pat of feet from down the street. As it came nearer, he noticed the footfalls were mixed with the rustling of a heavy pack and the clinking of something metal. The two brothers looked up cautiously. Then, Jo’s solemn expression broke into an excited smile, “Tommy!”
A puff of fire orange hair popped up underneath the lamp light, his face pink and his grin wide. “Joey-boy! You wouldn’t believe what I found!” He carried a large, black backpack and climbed up the porch steps, passing Calvin. Jo greeted his friend with their classic handshake, laughed, and then gave him a pat on the back. “Did the library restock its comic section?”
“Even better!” Tommy gave a mischievous smirk, “I found the big booms.”
Jo gaped. “What? Who even sells fireworks here?”
“No one does. I went to Dunbar.”
“Shhh, it’s a secret. I wanted to show you first, and then scare the others with ‘em.”
“Oh that is just perfect! Go put your bag down in my room, mom’s almost done making dinner.”
The two older boys, exchanging equally excited comments, headed into the warmth of the sagging house. Calvin jumped as the door shut, leaving him in the dark. He stood facing the entrance to his home for a few moments, as if he was considering something. Then, he kneeled down and scooped up his journal. Trembling, he searched for the page he was on last. By a slip of his hand he tore one of the papers, and sucked in a tight breath. He stared at what he had done until desperation overcame horror and he threw his journal as hard as he could. As he let out a screaming sob, the wind picked up and drowned out his cries. He buried his face into his palms and slumped, exhausted, onto the porch steps.
The Owl extended his wings and let the wind carry him away from the sagging house and all its burdens. There was one more place he wanted to see, one he hadn’t visited in a very long time. He flew above his home, a town embedded into the woods and mountains around them. It was as if man and nature merged into one here, and what resulted was unnatural. Gray roads and square homes cut through the dark green forest life, as if the two could ever exist together. Perhaps the oddness of this town—the place of his birth—was embedded into The Owl’s blood. Perhaps this was the consequence of men coexisting with a force beyond their understanding and control.
The Owl swooped down when he spotted his target. It was a small patch of land with trailers lining the roads instead of houses. Towards the very back of the land was a trailer further than the rest. Gently, he landed on a pine tree’s extended branches nearby. He had a perfect, up-close view of the place where she lived. The squarish windows glowed with a dirty orange glow; it was the only light in the forest. He hadn’t visited this particular nest since the last incident, but he was morbidly curious to see her again.
The trailer door slammed open, and a boy ran outside, his hoodie over his head. There was a loud, angry yell and then—there she was. The consequence of this town’s bitterness, of its strangeness and unnatural existence: her. She was a tall woman, with awkwardly cut hair, full lips, and large eyes. She was beautiful and terrible. Screaming after the boy, she chucked a glass bottle onto the road. Its shattering noise intermingled with the howling of the wind. The pine tree swayed and quivered.
After everything she had endured, she was left broken. The Owl knew what horrors this town had inflicted upon her, he had watched from a distance since she was a child. He also knew what would become of her. Her fate was sealed like her mother before her. She was a shattered image of the fiery young girl she once was. Every day she would crack more until she was nothing but dust.
She stood still, breathing heavily, and stared in the direction her boy had raced off in, the orange glow of her trailer outlining her thin shadow. Her eyes were empty and cold. For a moment her face contorted as if she were having a quiet discussion with herself. She shook her head.
Raindrops sprinkled down from the smoky clouds, dusting her hair and The Owl’s feathers. She squinted up at the sky, and took a deep breath. She was beautiful. As she lowered her damp face, her hollow eyes met his.
She recognized him.
And then he knew. He knew what the center of the quilt, the patchwork of sorrows and desperation, was. All that he had seen came from a single, symbiotic fear that mankind held close to their hearts.
The fear of being loved.
Because if they could be loved, then that meant they were someone worth redeeming. And that scared them.
She was that fear.
As The Owl held her gaze, he silently promised her that he’d love her, forever, even when everyone else didn’t. Her cold eyes almost seemed to understand him, but he knew she couldn’t. Finally, she turned from him and retreated back into her nest.
The Owl kept his promise throughout the years following, and that promise extended to everyone in the town. He’d love the broken, the lost, and the desperate. This was his home, and it deserved all the loving an Owl could give.
About the Creator
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!
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