Your Friend's Disappearance, As Observed By The Owl

Will Caroline get in a truck too?

Your Friend's Disappearance, As Observed By The Owl
Photo by Dirk van Wolferen / Unsplash

by David Yourdon

Your one friend in the whole world is gone! Caroline, swallowed up by the “secret passageway,” as she called it, that whorl of vines arching over the park exit. 

A gust blows over a leaf pile and covers your shoes. The light is failing, the year is failing, and Caroline is gone. Will this year be like last year? Last year, your friend Otto walked down that secret passageway one afternoon, everything seemed fine, but then — well, Otto moved away, I heard your dad tell you, his family was worried about climate change, and they got in a truck and left California. Will Caroline get in a truck too? You crane your neck to search for the answer, but you see nothing. There’s something to be seen, you just don’t have eyes for it, you’re too young, so a better way to say it is you look for an answer and you see this:______________.

Eventually, because it’s late, or because he can hear your whimpering, your dad appears. He smells like meat. Your face tells him what has happened: your one friend has disappeared. You’re dressed in yellow rain gear, but it didn’t rain today, and your dad gets distracted trying to figure out how that happened. Will Caroline come back? You ask him with your chubby chin. He looks at you with his chubby chin. He says, of course she will. 

Look at the owl, he says. Now you’re both staring at me, and he’s explaining how wise I am, how you should ask me when your friend will return. But of course I saw only what you saw, I know only what you know! Perhaps even less, since I never saw Otto, and I too am confused, I wonder why it was so hot this summer, hotter than the summer before, windy and wild, full of odors I didn’t recognize, odors that I could compare to mulch or dead fish but that are more properly described as ____________, like how it must have felt when Caroline left today or when Otto got in a truck and moved to a different state, just before the mudslides started.

Will Caroline come back? You ask again, this time in words, the words you rarely find, not in all the time I’ve seen you play here have you found so many words. You are crying, and your dad is saying of course she’ll come back, you’ll see her here tomorrow, in this very spot, don’t worry, just ask the owl. But I believe you’re right to be sad. I believe that what you feel right now is the only feeling in the universe, the lone reality. 

David Yourdon is a writer based in Canada. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, HAD, Atlas and Alice, BULL, and elsewhere.