Brief Visitor at Midnight

I went outside at midnight recently, waiting while Star stepped out onto the pebbles in the courtyard to pee. It was deathly cold and moist. I was wearing nothing but sweat pants and an old t-shirt, but I was also wrapped up in my black hoodie.

As soon as I came out onto the concrete porch near the front courtyard, I saw a shape that wasn’t quite right. Fearing the wretched ‘possum that haunts the area (chewing, I suspect, my dog’s droppings), I tensed. Then I saw, by the silhouette, that it was an owl, perched in the shadows on top of the closest AC unit. I didn’t even breathe as I realized what it was; it was soft gray and brown, with horned upturns of feathers rising up over its brow. Slowly it rotated its head, much farther around than should have been possible. It peered at me with these reflective gold eyes, like the tarnished lenses of old flashlights, powered by dying batteries.

I turned my head back to the front door for an instant, to call softly to a friend. I wanted her to see it too. A second later, when I looked back into the dark courtyard, the owl was gone. Even in leaving, it hadn’t made any sounds at all. The effect was jarring, as if it had never been there. I started, spooked by the absence.

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