The Owl

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December 22, 2021 by The Citron Review

by Anne Louise Pepper


At our house, when supper is done, and the sun has gone leaving the sky pale at the edges and dark overhead, my mother scrubs the pots, arms deep and elbows working. She lays the clean things on the counter and drains the gray wash water. Silently, she steps into her boots. Silently, she waves for Clyde, our old brown dog, whose tags clink as he rises, stiff but eager. Before I can stop her, my mother is through the back door and at the edge of the damp woods behind our house. She slips, vaporous, heedless of nettles, between heavy trunks and ferns, through curved blades of grass, graying as the light drains, past grunting bears and hunkering cougars, where millipedes glide in lines and spirals, and bent-legged spiders watch from elastic webs. I run to the back porch and stare at the shadowed mass. I yell—Come back! Clyde’s tags jingle. Frogs creak. Bats flutter in strange circles. Come back!

Once, a pale owl squalled silently at my window, eyes dark in its moon face, wings thrashing as it sought purchase on my too-small sill—a frantic moment—and was gone. 

I’m here—says my mother as she crawls into my bed and holds me. She smells of moss and sweat. Her chest lifts, and I shiver, though she is warm. I’m okay—she kisses me, squeezes, then slips away, tucks the cool sheet where she had been, and is out, shutting the door behind her.


Anne Louise Pepper is a writer who lives with her family on a forested plot near a small town east of Seattle. She began writing in her twenties, but lay it down. After a two decade hiatus, she began anew. Her work has been published in failbetter magazine.




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