04 November 2009


in tribute to one of my favorite writers, i offer the following exerpt from sherman alexie's short story collection, War Dances:


What kind of bird was that?
An owl.
What kind of bird was that?
An owl.
Oh, that one was too quick and small to be an owl. What was it?
A quick and small owl.
One night, when I was sixteen, I was driving with my girlfriend up on Little Falls Flat and this barn owl swooped down over the road, maybe fifty feet or so in front of us, and came flying straight toward our windshield. It was huge, pterodactyl-size, and my girlfriend screamed. And -- well, I screamed too, because that thing was heading straight for us, but you know what I did? I slammed on the gas and sped toward that owl. Do you know why I did that?
Because you wanted to play chicken with the owl?
So what happened?
When we were maybe a second from smashing into each other, that owl just flapped its wings, just barely. What's a better word than flap? What's a word that still means flap, but a smaller flap?
How about slant?
Oh, yes, that's pretty good. So like I was saying, as that owl was just about to smash into our windshield, it slanted its wings, and slanted up into the dark. And it was so friggin' amazing, you know? I just slammed on the brakes and nearly slid into the ditch. And my girlfriend and I were sitting there in the dark with the engine tick, tick, ticking like some kind of bomb, but an existential bomb, like it was just measuring out the endless nothingness of our lives because that owl had nearly touched us but was gone forever. And I said something like, "That was magnificent," and my girlfriend -- you want to know what she said?
She said something like, "I'm breaking up with you."
Damn, that's exactly what she said. And I asked her, "Why are you breaking up with me?" And do you know what she said?
She said, "I'm breaking up with you because you are not an owl."
Yes, yes, yes, and you know what? I have never stopped thinking about her. It's been twenty-seven years, and I still miss her. Why is that?
Brother, you don't miss her. You miss the owl.

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