She loved this book.
“E is for elephant.
F is for fox.
G is for giraffe…”
The little girl looked up from the book that her mother was reading to her, and smiled, happily,
“M is for monkey.
N is for newt.
O is for owl…”
The girl sat quietly in her bed, pondering the exotic pictures, reaching out from time to time to turn the pages, and joining in whenever she could remember what the animals were called.
“X is for all these eXtraordinary creatures
Y is for Yak – and it’s also for You
And Z is for where you can find them all living, happy together at home in the… ZOO.”
They turned the final page together and the little girl marvelled – as she always did – at the big colourful family of animals, all of them smiling and waving goodbye. She still wasn’t sure what they all were. She got confused sometimes. But it didn’t matter. She loved the pictures, and the words were… just words.
“There” said her mother as she tucked her daughter up in bed.
They kissed and said goodnight.
Her mother was just about to turn out the light, when the little girl heard a noise from the garden.
“What’s that mummy?”
“Don’t worry darling, it’s just an owl in the tree. Night, night. Sleep tight.”
She turned off the light and gently shut the door, plunging the room into darkness.
The little girl lay still and listened to the wind whistling through the groaning tree outside, the furthest branches of which scratched against the window.
She told herself not to worry. It was just an owl, mummy said.
But she was worried. She was. What was an owl doing in her back garden? An owl of all things, with its long neck and its spindly legs and its yellow and brown skin. Who knew they sounded like that? And what was it doing in her tree? The picture in her book showed it standing on the ground, next to a tree, as tall as the tree itself, eating leaves from the top. But mummy knew about everything, and she had said that the owl was in the tree. How high, she wondered? Surely, her tree would snap under the weight of the owl, and the creature would come tumbling into her bedroom through a broken window, squealing in pain and trampling everything underfoot in the blackness of the night.
The blackness. Oh no. What was this owl doing, prowling through her garden in the middle of the night? The owl in her book was a daytime owl. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. It was hot. Perhaps this was a different kind of owl, one that only came out at night to climb in the trees under cover of darkness to search for children to eat? Perhaps that was how these night-owls kept warm. Perhaps it was only the daytime-owls that ate leaves.
The wind outside whipped sharply through the garden, and the little girl heard the tree creak and moan in the storm, the tips of its branches scratching hard against her window. She pulled the covers over her head and rolled herself up into a tiny ball, closing her eyes as tightly as she could, hoping that the owl would not find her.
© Gerry Webber 2013