The Old Hoot Owl
Text copyright © 2013 Miranda Beall. All Rights Reserved
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Deep in the cedar groves of summer where it is neither day nor night but rather a constant gloaming prophesies The Old Hoot Owl, heard but seldom understood.
“Christ, Cass,” Brad said as he wiggled beneath the barbed wire fence. “I swear you’re the creepiest person I know.”
Cassandra remained silent. She was accustomed to having her feelings ignored.
“Maybe if that guy your father hired to plant tobacco quit hanging snakeskins over the fence for rain, you’d be OK. It’s as creepy as you are, Cass.”
It was true. It was an old wives’ tale that a snakeskin hung over the fence would bring rain. And they needed rain. It seemed that every July and August was drought weather. Over the tree tops in the late afternoon dark, ominous clouds would collect, rumbling with discontent. And they’d rumble on their way above with a drip here and a drop there or nothing at all. Just tumble on, leaving nothing in its wake.
“You forgot the bats behind the shutters,“ she thought to herself, “and how they vie with the lightening bugs for attention.” In her mind’s eye she could see the dark winged shapes gliding across the night sky lit by the moon.
“People do that when the drought is really bad, “Cass said. “And it’s really bad.”
She paused. “Did you know that if you have a headache, you canwind a snakeskin around your head and it’ll go away?”
“You and your snakes,” Brad muttered.
“Ouch!” he exclaimed as the thorny thicket tore at his legs. “Next time I’ll have to wear jeans,” he murmured to himself.
“I don’t know about you,” Cass began, “but our well is just about dry. We’ve been rationing water for about three weeks.”
She peered into the dusky, shrunken swamp.
“Hey, look!” Brad called.
Something smooth and silky slit the calm surface of the swamp water and then disappeared.