Home from the conference, I unpack my suitcase on our owl bedspread, mix a martini, and avoid the beady owl eyes and sinister talons of the neighbor’s owl painting hanging over the fireplace. My wife’s the owl collector. Her first owl was the carved wooden Barn Owl from our Vermont honeymoon twenty years ago. When I caught on, I warned my wife, “don’t tell a soul about your owl collection. You collect the owls.” The years brought us the Great Horned Owl from the jade market in Beijing, the Salt and Pepper Barn owls from Finland, the Spectacled Owl pillow from Montana. But friends and relatives noticed, word got out, and after years of birthdays and Christmases, the damn owls are everywhere. A group of owls is called a “parliament” and our twins joked about fleeing parliament for college. I started having nightmares about owls. Their turntable heads that swivel 270 degrees, their backyard hooting and screeching, their appetite for tiny scurrying prey. Out of habit I guess, yesterday I bought my wife an owl key chain from the hotel gift store. Pulling into our driveway, dreading the owls, I realized what it was really for. “But owls mate for life,” my wife will screech when I give her the key chain, our house key on it. I do have other reasons for leaving her beside the owls.
Pamela Painter's flash collection is titled WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO KNOW. Her short short stories appear in many anthologies, The Best Short Stories of 2017, and are forthcoming in New Microfiction.