Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three Ear Holes and Flies Silent

"It's pure built to hunt. Got three ear holes and flies silent. It can open and close each pupil separate from the other one. They ain't a better hunter." So says a character about an owl in Chris Offutt's story "Barred Owl" from his book OUT OF THE WOODS. "Well, reckon you know your owls," the narrator replies. Chris sent me the story because he knows how much I like books with owls in them. This one did not disappoint! A real beaut. But be forewarned there is some gruesome owl business involved! What Chris's character said about owls made me remember something I read once, and I thought I had told you about it before, but I can't seem to find the "post," so I'll tell you again. In her book ON RARE BIRDS, Anita Albus writes of the barn owl, "The sound of bells doesn't faze it if its nest is in a church tower. It's got nothing to do with the bird, and the thundering noise is much too conspicuous for its fine-tuned hearing... It has the best ear of any bird in the world... When it strikes, its eyes are closed." Between the ellipses there's a long discussion of the barn owl's "three-dimensional hearing" but my typing fingers are getting tired. And I could have sworn there was a part about an owl snatching a mouse from deep in a snow bank but I guess that was some other book. Don't worry, I only spent a few hours looking for it. Chris Offutt and Melissa Ginsburg gave a reading the other night in the neighboring village of Water Valley. Dr. Theresa and I went out there to see them. Melissa read some new poems about Freud! Chris read a story from a forthcoming collection and I was getting mighty worried there wouldn't be an owl in it but then WHAMMO BLAMMO just before the ending he slipped in an owl! Whew. Many thanks to Montgomery Clift for portraying Freud in this "post."