Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.


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Beautiful boys have a way of making even the ugly things they do bearable by the adorable symmetry of their smile.

My science teacher had a fondness for injured wildlife — all but bunnies that is, and if you have any familiarity with trying to save baby wild rabbits, you’d know why.  A student had brought in an injured barn owl that my teacher had taken great pains to bring to full health.  I remember peeking over the tattered rim of the cardboard box, smelling the pungent scraps of trashed blankets that how now become its bedding.  It was a beautiful animal, but I was at the age where I still refused to be star struck by even the simplest of pleasures in life.

When it came time to release the owl, our class trooped out across the soccer field and around the newly steam-rolled tennis courts.  The outskirts of my campus led deep into the woods, and there honestly wasn’t a better spot to release the animal that the students could appreciate it without having to buss’em out to the wild yonder.  Frankly, we were already there.

My teacher put the box at the very edge of the woods and backed away, spreading her arms wide in an attempt to sweep the students backwards.  Most compiled, starry-eyed with curiosity, fingers itching to become tawny brown feathers.  Some, however, were all too engrossed in with the act of release itself.  That is, to explain, control when the owl ascended away from its now dew-soggy home.

I heard the first dull thunk from the back row, where I waited anxiously with my eyes on the tree line.  I didn’t care how he left the box, I just wanted to see him slip between the thick branches of oak trees and disappear within a few shutters of my eyes.  The second time I heard a thunk, it was accompanied by a pained screech.

Several of the boys had filled their pockets with large gravel stones and had set about ‘encouraging’ the barn owl to take flight.  Encouraging as in, of course, hurling rocks at it.  I remember watching them arc and roll, the bird fluttering in panic to avoid the rain of assault.  

I didn’t care too much about the owl, I’ll be honest.  I’ve never had a particular attachment to animals or humans alike.  But something about what my young classmates were doing sent me clear over the edge.  I started scrambling at the back of the throng, gathering fist-fulls of pebbles and charging through the tightening crowd. 

I let the first one go – an outfielders throw, the kind that’s almost a clear circle, and the rock snapped from my palms and fingers and struck one of the fellas dead-center in the back.  I don’t really think I gave him much of a chance to muse over the irony, because as I kept hurling stones at them – they screamed at me:

“We’re just trying to help it to fly!  It’s not going fast enough!”

I kept throwing and throwing, pelting them so hard I could hear the crack of the stones on their knobby knees and elbows.  My teacher finally managed to restrain me, more ashamed of my reaction then the prior incident of bird-assault.

In the seconds she held me, we all watched the owl struggle to emerge – box tipping over, those few hesitant wobble steps – and then, just as I imagined, it lifted itself and winged between ancient trees into brambles and kudzu.

My teacher was my box then, holding my sweaty – metal smelling body between her cold dried fingers as I lunged towards the woods.

I had more stones to throw.

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