Memories of Otis - Shifty
An extremely angry voice screamed out, shattering the tranquility of the morning. Mother was on the warpath again.
My brother and I grinned at each other knowingly across the breakfast table, before getting up and heading off in the direction of the bathroom.
We found her standing there by the basin, quivering with rage and glaring at Otis.
This was a ritual that seemed to occur every other week.
This ritual would involve her walking into the bathroom, half asleep and unsuspecting. But most significantly, she would be barefoot. She would then proceed to place her foot into a fresh white puddle of owl droppings, and (as if that was not enough), then proceed to smear it across the bathroom tiles.
Otis, perched on top of the bathroom door, returned her stare with an expression of complete and utter disdain before eventually closing his eyes and adopting a rather pained expression.
Suddenly, and without warning he stretched his neck forward and opened his beak. A smallish pellet dropped out and skittered across the floor, before settling a few inches away from my mother’s right foot. This pellet usually consisted of indigestible food matter such as fur, feathers, bones and teeth, depending upon whatever he had eaten the previous night.
Having shown mother exactly what he thought of her hysteria, he puffed out his feathers, assumed his previous position and stared back down at her with a mixture of contempt and triumph.
He really knew how to add insult to injury.
Completely at a loss for words, mother glowered back at him (somewhat ineffectually, it must be said).
“You, you…damn bird…” was all she could muster in front of us. Sensing defeat, she looked to us for sympathy. Unable to control ourselves, we stood there grinning broadly at her, knowing that we shouldn’t but completely unable to stop ourselves from doing so.
“Tell your father that I want that damn owl out of the house permanently!” mother said in exasperation and angrily pushed past us, and then proceeded to hop down the hallway towards the bedroom, in as dignified a manner as she could muster.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to maintain any sort of dignity, when you’re dressed in your nightgown, you’re hopping on one leg and the other is covered in sh!t.
Round one to Otis....
Otis was named after Otis Reading, one of my dad’s favourite singers.
In actual fact, he preferred Shirley Bassey but that didn’t seem like a good name to give to a male owl, so was never really an option.
We had had Otis since he was still a chick. My father discovered him in a mound of grass on the research station whilst walking the dogs. Just how he got there was never clear. We presume that he had fallen out of a tree and somehow wandered there. Shooing the dogs aside, my father picked him up gently with both hands and examined him. He seemed remarkably unscathed from his adventures and from the attention from the dogs, whom, whilst being good natured would have licked him to death, had Otis been left to their attentions for much longer.
He looked like a wad of dirty grey cotton wool that had been through a tumble dryer, as he sat in the palms of my father’s hands. He assessed my father with his black beady eyes for a few moments before letting out a tiny but demanding chirrup. As far as Otis was concerned, they had bonded, and therefore daddy had come home, and better still, it was feeding time.
Dad carefully wrapped him up in his jacket for protection, called the dogs and carried him back towards the house, and into our lives.
Re: Memories of Otis - Shifty
From the time he was able to fly, Otis had taken a preference to sitting on top of the bathroom door whenever he wasn't hunting or out with my father on one many excursions. As a result the bathroom door and the window were left permanently open, so that he could come and go as he pleased.
Unfortunately he didn't like sharing the bathroom with anyone, and regarded it as his own private sanctuary. He particularly resented our evening bath time intrusions and would get quite agitated with all the activity. From the top of his perch, he would glare down upon us, with all the resentment that he could muster. If he was feeling particularly cantankerous, he would even hoot disapprovingly.
As far as he was concerned, the bathroom was his private domain and he treated it as such. After all, we were forever having to clean up his droppings, bones, feathers and partially consumed animal corpses.
But if Otis was unimpressed with our bathroom activities, Father O’mally was even less impressed with his.
He came to visit one weekend whilst on his way back to Bulawayo. One evening whilst having a bath he accidentally dropped the soap onto the triangular space of flooring that lay between the bathtub and the open door. Perhaps feeling a little too relaxed, he didn’t bother looking over the side of the bath. Whilst blindly groping to retrieve the soap he felt something strange in between his fingers. Overcome with curiosity, he picked it up and held it to his face.
Being somewhat shortsighted, it took a split second to focus on exactly what it was that he was holding. When the realization hit him, he let out a loud scream and threw it against the bathroom wall. Unfortunately his throw was not exactly what you could call strategically planned, and was more of a reflex action. It rebounded off the bathroom wall and did a couple of twists before dropping into the bathtub where Father O’mally was still seated.
Unaccustomed to sharing his bath tub with such an unorthodox bathing partner, an extremely panic stricken Father O'mally leapt out of the bathtub and skidded out into the hallway, as naked as the day he was born. An unexpected and not an entirely pleasant surprise for my father, who happened to be walking down the passage way at the time.
It turned out that Father O’mally had picked up the remnants of Otis’s previous hunting expedition, a half eaten snake. At the time, he didn’t realize that it was dead and I don’t suppose it would have made much of a difference.
Several hours and several brandies later, Father O’mally eventually saw the funny side. But, coincidence or not, I don’t ever recall him staying over again.
There was much hilarity amongst the workers on the research station the following day when my father relayed the story back to them. They were even more impressed when they saw the size of the snake that Otis had killed, some of them didn’t even realize that owls could kill snakes. Otis was starting to gain quite a reputation.
A reputation that was going only going to grow once he discovered the joys of aerial dive bombing and bare-back dog riding.............
Re: Memories of Otis - Shifty
Very exciting. Pity it stopped there. Please finish the story of Otis, and all his antics.
Re: Memories of Otis - Shifty