I’m sure it’s not possible to explain the last few nights, but I’m going to try. I’ve come out of them a different person, and I think it’s worth at least trying to share.
It all started with a storm. The rainy season is finally here and it’s kicking all kinds of ass. Roof ass, dirt-road ass, my ass, tree ass, and (most applicable to this story) baby owl ass. Coming to school the morning after this asspocalyptic storm, I met two children in the road having fun— which is never a good sign. They were dragging around what appeared to be a cotton ball tied to a string. They said the storm the night before had blown it down. “Give me this!” I thought on the inside of my head. “Semre mi Anyifu!” is what I said outside of my head.
Having been towed around on its cotton ball face, the guy was a little worse for the wear, but his inner, sleepy nocturnal beauty chopped off my ability to not love this creature. “I shouldn’t, I can’t take this home,” was my first thought. “I wonder what I’ll name it…” was my second.
The little guy, who I soon dubbed Erol and nicknamed Baby Beak, wasn’t as healthy as I would’ve liked at first. I got him on a Thursday and, distressingly, had to leave my village almost immediately for the weekend. I left him with a student to care for, and, morosely, assumed he would soon be in a hole next to the baby deer and baby chameleon I’ve tried to save. My morbid baby graveyard.
So my excitement was understandably boundless when I returned Sunday evening and a naked child ran up to me saying, “Anyifu amua O bana!” Which is always good to hear, right?!
From what I gathered the kids had thrown it up into the attic of their house and it spent several nights wrecking shop and tearing all the bats up there into bite-sized bats. So I went to investigate with an ever-growing army of naked child soldiers. A naked child went up into the dark attic and came down still naked-- but with an owl! “Momo-yo!” I remember saying to the naked child.
The guy didn’t fly that well, but he still had managed to wing his way onto the handle of my bike parked in the corner of the living room. The sun had given up on the day and the eyes of my new boarder were starting to sludge their way open. He reminded me of waking up in the early a.m. when I was little to go hunting. “Jaaared… Jaaaaaaared… let’s go kill baaaaambi.” And goodness knows Baby Beak was in a hunting mood when he woke up.
I had engaged in my ritual evening wash- my back porch is relatively secluded, and it’s there I disrobe and gleefully splash water out of a bucket onto my dirty (that’s not a tan) bod. My dirty bod was just starting to glisten in the moonlight when I heard the most unearthly, “SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.” It was Baby Beak screaming inside. Luckily I was wearing my Battle Suit (the nude) so I confidently strode into my living room to investigate this new sound. It was mayhem.
I keep a tight ship, you understand? Dirt on my floor bothers me. My clothes are kept folded. So the sight of a swarm of bats possessing the inner sanctum of my house rankled me. Where the bats came from, why they would pick the only night a predator had inhabited the room to come, and where are my pants, were all questions that I quickly dispatched. Now was a time for being bold, not think-y.
Team Human and Owl:
Weapon of choice: Broom (+3 range, +2 agility, +4 style: it’s pink)
Teammate: Fledgling Owl (+30 death talons, +25 razor beak, -2000 Doesn’t know how to hunt)
Team BATtle: (information unavailable due to shield of pure evil)
After the feathers/vile-leathery-wings settled, there were three casualties- two bats and my sanity. I eviscerated a bat and laid it as an offering in front of Erol. His antics during the fight had been restricted to crazy hopping, swooping past my head to knock over all my candles, and that insane hissing, but I decided he still deserved some of the spoils.
I was a bit worried about Baby Beak. He hadn’t touched the bat and I was wondering if he’d actually eaten at all in the last week or so since I’d had him. Somehow he learned how to fly like a pro in the middle of the night and increased his elevation to reside on a shelf above my back door. There’s an interesting Lebanese man in my village right now (Shaalti Massoud, a famous Oud player that’s touring Africa for giggles) and when I ran into him down near the river we had a conversation something like this:
Me: “Hey, cool technicolor green snakes wrapped around your wrist.”
Not Me: “Thanks, wanna touch them?”
“Yeah, what kind are they? I’ve got a baby owl. Wanna come over and see it?”
“I don’t know what kind. I don’t think they’re poisonous though. We should feed them to your owl.”
“That’s definitely the best idea I never would have had. Let’s do it.”
Fast forward to midnight. I’m hunkered down. Literally, I’m as hunkered as I’ve been in my life. A pubescent owl is screaming back and forth across my parlor, nearly extinguishing the sole burning candle after every frenetic pass. Two snakes are leashed to a chair in the middle of the floor, twisting together into the strangest green ball. A frog hops through the scene, sure he’s stumbled into a carnivorous hell. The night is a long one.
Do you see the feast I’ve gathered and set before you, my Baby Beak? Trust your instincts! HUNT.
Total failure. The night/early morning ends with me holding a peeved owl, force feeding him fish morsels and dripping an oral rehydration solution into his extremely sharp beak. The snakes I released the next day and the frog was never seen again.
Night 3: The Finale: Not with a bang, but with a whimper
He’d been sleeping all day while I was at school teaching. His torpor was more than entertaining and endearing during the daylight hours. He hadn’t really been becoming active till well after dark. Reclining on my back veranda watching the slow-glow of a dying day to my left and a percolating storm on my right, the strangest feeling happened to my head. If you’ve had an owl strafe past you and take a little piece out of your shoulder with its talons, you know the feeling I’m talking about. “Since when did Baby Beak turn into Baron von FlyBeak???” The thing took off like a real ace into the thick jungle that climbs the hill behind my house. I spent some time trying to track him down, all the while mindful that it was in the same area where I’d let my prisoner snakes go earlier that day. His “SSSSSSSSSS” became fainter though, and I decided I’d fully rehabilitated him in a week and he was going off to tell the other owls of my kindness.
That’s my baby owl story. Sorry I took so long to tell it, but I’ve got a lot of time during these computer classes I teach to write. The combination of the solar panels that UNDP donated to my school and my recent acquisition of a mobile modem has brought the power of internet into my swampy village. I figured I’d use the WWW for what it was meant for—frivolous rambling.