Who knows what all John told Sally that night? He stuttered and stammered, eventually giving up out of frustration, although she didn’t seem to judge him as much as he expected. Maybe she had seen worse. John woke up feeling relieved in an almost confident sort of way. Did he actually have someone with him who believed these things could be happening? Or, maybe she didn’t really care enough to make a big deal out of it. Maybe she had bigger fish to fry in Amarillo. Whatever the case, she stayed pleasant and had no real agenda about getting to Amarillo anytime soon. She seemed relieved the more detours they took. The more he shared the more he expected her to open up about this Texas town, but to no avail. She still looked away every time he started to ask about it. It was like she could hear his thoughts. It was the darnedest thing!
“We should decide what we want to do today. Do you have any family you want me to meet in Armadillo?” John gave a try at humor, to see if Sally would budge.
“Ha, you’re so funny! Did you see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that armadillo on the road in the beginning of the movie? Now that was some crazy shit,” Sally answered with a deadpan stare out the window.
“I didn’t mean to stir up any bad memories.” John said, wincing at the failed humor.
“Like I keep telling you, nothing you’re talking about is that bad. Relax! Everything is OK. Life is OK.” Sally’s voice edged into frustration.
“Everything’s not exactly OK,” he replied quickly. He couldn’t just leave it alone. No, he had to pick at it one more time. “You won’t tell me what the mystery is in Amarillo!”
“Are you retarded? Can’t you tell I’m not going to tell you about it? Why do you keep bugging me? Are you stupid—what’s your problem? Pull over and let me out!” she shouted.
“Oh my God, who’s over-reacting now!” he said, pulling over. “Guess you’d better get out.”
The moment of truth was in front of them, the fork in the road. As John pulled the pickup over Sally jumped out. She wasn’t going to hang around to give it a try. He thought she was bluffing. Who would want to be walking down the side of the road even if they were not actually in the middle of nowhere? It looked like a little town was in front of them. Did she know where she was?
John drove on, almost running off the road as he watched closely out of the rear side mirror of the Dodge pickup. His mouth gaped open when he saw her stick out her thumb and hop inside a semi as fast as a trucker could slow down. He thought she might have even flipped him off as she was closing the door. Damn! He couldn’t leave well enough alone. John felt sick to his stomach as he drove on. He thought about pulling over and flagging the truck down, but no such luck. Before he knew it the eighteen-wheeler was pulling alongside and passing him right down the middle of old Route 66. Darn it if the trucker didn’t blast him with the air horns as he drove past. Did she put him up to that? He was mad and sad all in the same moment. “Screw her! Assholes!” he muttered. Still, he couldn’t help following the truck for a ways, and he had to step on it to keep up. Where were they going? He guessed Sally was getting away from him and the trucker was having fun at the sight of his long face in the rearview mirror.
John may have followed for a long while but he got interrupted as a large-winged bird once again flew into the windshield of his pickup. Before he even realized why, he heard himself saying “Damn!” As he put together what was happening, the large bird glanced off the windshield and onto the side of the road. He couldn’t help but pull over, jump out and run back to none other than—a large owl. Why did it have to be an owl? And it was broad daylight! Was it the same bird who had been harassing him? He didn’t know. As he leaned down to pick up the dead bird a strong breeze began ruffling its feathers. The wind blew harder, almost knocking him down. He glanced up and saw the eighteen-wheeler disappearing into the long, narrow road ahead. He knelt by the bird and noticed a silver band around its ankle. He reckoned the bird was known by some man or agency. As he gently touched it, he had that strange feeling he was being watched again.
He leaned on down to look more closely at the owl. It was an owl, wasn’t it? Or, was it a hawk or eagle? The wings were huge and seemed to be big enough to carry a man. He was mesmerized by the beauty of this creature. He wondered what he should do. Should he pick it up? Carry it off the road? Make sure it was dead? Take a feather?
He picked the bird up by its shoulders, which felt more dignified than by the feet, and held the bird close to his own body. He felt a pulse, a thump, something going on within the animal. Maybe it was alive? The owl—it was definitely an owl, he realized. He could tell by the head. He figured it was a Great Horned Owl. Its head was slumped over. Maybe it was dead, after all. John automatically started to breathe on the bird. Actually, he started to blow air on the bird. Not mouth to beak. He found himself blowing air over the bird’s head. He didn’t know why. He continued to do this for fifteen minutes, kneeling on the side of the road, holding this large-winged, horned owl. After fifteen minutes there was a slight movement and the owl opened one eye and looked at him. John about dropped the bird. “Oh shit,” he thought, “what’s happening?” Suddenly he noticed more cars passing the side of the road. He felt exposed, so he decided to carry the owl to the trailer. He might as well see if he could resurrect this animal, and if it was the same bird it shouldn’t be afraid of the Airstream, as many times as it had landed on it.
He thought it might be calmer to get off the road a little, too. He placed the owl between two pillows on the bed so he could get in the truck and find a side road to pull off onto. Sure enough, there was a gravel road ahead with a nice turnout. John parked quickly and hurried back to the trailer. He opened the door and walked in. To his surprise, the owl wasn’t between the pillows. Not again! Was it starting up again? Chills ran up his spine, and he felt the temperature drop inside the Airstream. John sat down on the bed. He heard a sound and closed his eyes, thinking, “Get ready!”
Out of the bathroom stepped a very beautiful, goddess-like woman. He couldn’t help but burst out laughing, rolling on the floor. It was so ridiculous. He was losing his goddamned mind. Might as well!
When he stopped rolling and laughing, this woman-goddess-owl creature was staring at him nonchalantly. “Are you done?”
John wasn’t ready for the next adventure. He was reluctant, so he said, “No, I’m not done. I don’t know who you are or what you want. I’m not ready to believe anything about Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Spirit, gods or goddesses, for that matter. I’m not ready to think about it or even try to figure out what happened. Whatever happened to the owl doesn’t matter to me. I assume it lived. I don’t really care. Actually, I am fine if it’s dead. Maybe then it will leave me alone.”
“Are you stupid—what’s your problem?” she said the magic words!
His head jerked around quickly, as he asked “What did you say?” He shook his head. He started to feel overwhelmed, and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. His head started spinning, the trailer started to swirl around him, and he had no choice but to let go. When he woke up he was still lying on the floor, and he was cold. She handed him a blanket. He wrapped up tightly and asked, “What do you want?”
“Nothing. I came to deliver a message.”
John was hesitant to say much now. He knew the drill. “OK, let’s hear it,” he said, and he waited.
She smiled at him. “The time is drawing near. You must prepare yourself.” Hissing softly.
John heard himself muttering, “Oh shit. For what? Prepare myself for what? Would you please tell me who you work for? And what you guys want from me? I just need some logical answers to go along with this insanity.”
“It just seems like insanity. Actually, what you have been doing is insane. The way you people have been living is insane,” she said.
“Are you talking about me? Or humans in general?” he asked, while sliding his back to the wall.
“I am talking about both. You are not that much different than them. Thankfully, just a little, but I am not sure about you because of your skepticism.”
“OK, I hear you, thank God I’m skeptical, otherwise I’d just be crazy. Now tell me who you are delivering a message for. Who exactly do you work for?” It would be nice to finally know. He waited.
She stared at him.