The Future Is Forever
Some time in the late morning after orange juice eggs bacon and toast for breakfast during that week after school ended, those first luxuriant no rush days with summer vacation stretching off into infinity, the future is forever. No pressure to do anything, no urgency, just have a lazy breakfast head up to the room play some records listen on headphones while reading Flipside or Ripper or Maximum Rock and Roll to T.S.O.L. or Really Red or maybe it was The Birthday Party, soaking it in, living in a punk rock fantasy land far, far away from the mountains and Longs Peak out the window, the Columbine flowers blooming, deer and elk down in the meadow, early summer all creatures great and small making their incessant racket which isn’t an unpleasant sound, just a constant background chirping and humming that you get used to and don’t notice after a while. The exact right amount of breeze slipping in through the open window, bringing with it exquisite earthy smells riding the air infusing the room pinesap flower snowmelt breathe it in bliss. At some point the record ended the yelling screaming punk rockers temporarily silenced just reading completely immersed in that fifteen year old dream life of Elks Lodge, the Starwood The Vex all those clubs in LA, bands, stage dives and fights, flipping through the pages of the fanzines and then I became aware of something. A slight alteration in the atmosphere almost like the air pressure changed but really what it was, and it took a few long moments to figure out, was that all those outside sounds had stopped. The screeching, squealing, clicking, borrowing nut hoarding tapping of all the squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, woodpeckers, and nuthatches and everything else was suddenly gone. And it was really fucking weird, like the world had stopped. Just completely come to a dead halt only the breeze still coming in silently and the smells wafting in but nothing, no background noise signaling that life still existed on the other side of that window. This went on for an eternity, literally, it really was time existing as one unchanging moment could have been five seconds five minutes five hundred years I sat there looking at the page in front of me and the immobilized record player, frozen, not moving an iota, every nerve attuned, every hair standing up straight. Utter stasis, stopped in time, acutely aware of the change outside the disquieting cessation of sound. And then it happened. Thunk. That’s the only word to describe it, right out the window, and with that thunk all the antler rattling mouse eating grass chomping worm regurgitating sounds came back like BANG the loudest symphony you’ve ever heard Wagner would have killed for something that powerful and all-encompassing. The globe started spinning again, time lurched forward, and I ran down the stairs out the door around the corner of the house to see where the sound came from and right there at the foot of the big fifty foot tall pine tree by my window lay a perfectly still very dead Great Horned Owl. These majestic creatures that rule the airwaves maybe some competition from the Eagles and Hawks but they are up there on the avian totem pole, noble not to mention uncannily alien with their heads spinning around their nocturnal habits and those eyes glowing yellow in the night. I’d never seen one close up, they are elusive aristocrats of the forest, and here was one looking just fine and healthy but absolutely stone cold dead. About three feet long with supple gray and brown and white feathering those yellow eyes now lifeless staring up at the branch from where he’d fallen, his last perch. I picked him up and took him inside and laid him on the counter in the kitchen. Later my mom came home; she was impressed because she’d never seen one close up either and with her unusual knowledge of animals almost an instinctual bond she knew this was special. Then we called this taxidermist, this guy Big John who was a member of the ski patrol and the enemy, a real prick, but he was the one taxidermist in town and he said he’d stuff the owl for $200. Well, I was fifteen and didn’t have $200 so screw Big John didn’t want to give him my money anyway. The owl was lying there on the cutting board starting to get stiff so we decided to cut off his talons and keep those. Which might seem disrespectful, but it wasn’t at all, and anyway he was dead. So we start sawing, hacking, with a steak knife and then a serrated knife Jesus it was like trying to cut steel cable, it seriously took an hour to saw through the dead owl’s legs, back and forth, working up a sweat holding those steel cable legs down. Finally they came off, I kept them for a few years, and they always made me think of that day when nature got quiet. I’m convinced the other animals had some kind of presentiment, a sort of animal kingdom communication going on that they all knew what was about to happen the great horned owl’s last moments and impending end were sensed and acknowledged by all the other creatures, a moment of silence that came before death.