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#50112
jeanne_moore
Participant

Well, here goes. Here’s my story about the owl/girl in the barn. I’m pasting into the message, but if you’d rather have it as an attachment, let me know. It’s just under 1,000 – 997 total words.

 

Charley McGuire sat on the old tree stump in the dirt yard facing the barn, his sketch pad on his lap, pencil in hand. Quick strokes captured the old barn with the sagging door.

“Charles Allen McGuire,” his father growled as he stomped out of the ramshackle house, across the sagging back porch and down the squeaky steps.

Charley’s breath hitched in his throat. His father marched into view and stood between Charley and the barn.

“I have a good mind to burn that damn thing you draw in and all your pencils, too. You’re sixteen, too old to be settin’ around day dreamin’ like some silly girl. Get to work. Your chores is waitin’ fer you. The cow is waitin’ to be milked and the horse and mule is waitin’ to be fed. Then you gotta collect the eggs from the hen house. And let the hens out into the yard and feed them. After the mule’s et, I’ll hitch him so I can plow the field.

Charley clenched his jaw; so his tongue would stay inside his mouth. Sticking out his tongue at Pa would certainly mean a whipping.

“You mean plow the rocks,” he muttered.

Pa’s face warped into a scowl.

“What you said, boy?” Pa unbuckled his belt and started to pull it off. “Get, or I’ll thrash you within an inch of your life. How many times I gotta thrash you before you learn to do what I tell you?”

Charley gulped. His heart pounded so hard Pa must be able to hear it.

Clutching his sketch pad and pencil, he shot up and ran into the barn. He put the pad and pencil on the old wooden table in the corner and sank into the straight-backed wooden chair next to it. Sunlight poured through the open double doors. Charley didn’t need to light the lamp.

He took a deep breath but the knot in his stomach wouldn’t go away. Maybe if he milked the cow, the rhythmic action would help him calm down.

He froze. There was a stirring in the hay loft. Charley’s blood curdled. The scraping, screeching calls were almost like fingernails scraping against the slate he used chalk to write on in school. When Pa let him go to school. Then he relaxed. It was just a barn owl. He knew the sound.

He crept up the ladder to the loft. If he went slow, he wouldn’t scare the owl. His eyes just cleared the hatch at the top of the ladder when he froze. He gasped as the owl hopped and somersaulted. A teenage girl with golden hair and a dress of brown feathers emerged from the somersault. She shook her head and looked around.

She froze when she was Charley. Her large hazel eyes misted.

“You must never watch me again when I change from owl to human and back again. If you do, I’ll change back into an owl again and won’t be able to come back.”

“I must be dreaming,” Charley said and crept back down the ladder. He slumped in the chair by the table again, squeezed his eyelid shut and scrubbed his face with his hands. I must be crazy.

Footsteps. They were too light to be Pa’s. Opening his eyes, he saw the girl climbing down the ladder. Her back was to him so he had a chance to stare at her while she wasn’t looking at him. Her long hair fell loose down her back like a golden waterfall. The brown feathered dress stopped just below her knees. Dark-brown stockings covered her slender legs and her feet were covered in soft shoes the color of the faded brown-almost-white wood on the outside of the barn door. They looked like the moccasins he’d seen on the feet of the Indians in the book he’d struggled to read at school.

“You’re not dreaming,” she said as she walked toward him. Her yellow-flecked hazel eyes held his gaze “Papa sent me.”

“What for?”

“To help you do your chores so you can sketch. You must take your sketches to Laramie and find the newspaper office.”

‘Why?” Charley’s heart pounded. This can’t be happening. But I’m talking to her, so it must be.

“To show them your sketches. They will want you to draw pictures for the paper.”

“Pictures for the paper? I don’t understand.”

“They need pictures for their articles. The mercantile and the lady who makes dresses and hats need someone to draw pictures of what they’re selling to put in their advertisements in the paper.”

Charlie closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose between his left thumb and index finger. He opened his eyes expecting the vision to be gone. But she was still there.

“Why should I do that?”

“Because they will pay you. You’ll be able to get a room in the boarding house and won’t have to live with your father anymore.”

Charley slowly nodded as the information sank in. But he still thought he must be crazy.

Just then, Pa burst through the barn’s double doors.

“What the Hell you doin’ in here with a girl?”

Pa ran for her and grabbed her shoulders. She wrenched out of his grasp and stepped back and to the side. She somersaulted and became an owl again. Her wings unfurled. She flew out of the open double doors.

“What the Hell?” Pa screamed.

Charley clenched his hands into fists and struggled to breathe. He’d never see her again. He’d watched her change back into an owl.

Pa lunged for him. He shot up, grabbed his sketch pad and pencils and ran out of the barn. He kept running. He was too fast for Pa.

Charley ran and ran. He’d run all the way to Laramie of he had too. If he got tired, he’d walk. But he had to keep moving. He couldn’t – he wouldn’t – go back home. It wasn’t really home. Home was ahead of him.

 

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