He wonders if the metaphor is too obvious, too clumsy, somehow too weighty. He shakes his head, hoping to dislodge a more original thought and when that fails, he lights another cigarette and stares at the screen, waiting.
He is meant to be writing 500 words on visiting an owl sanctuary, something, light, but literary, a combination of recognition and original thought.
He should be able to reference Ted Hughes, Edward Lear, maybe even use an illustration from Harry Potter to break up the text, but the visit has not gone as planned. He expected his daughter to provide a full collection of emoticons, from rolling eyes, her favorite, to cross face, bored face and finally plugged into i-pod face, but she has, yet again, wrong footed him.
At 9am she was downstairs, dressed in an extra-ordinary 80s jumper, but a jumper non the less and wellies, he knows her well enough to make no comment and they set off. Even in the car, she remained un-plugged, present and although she re-tuned the radio to something very far from Classic FM, she keept the volume below teeth chattering and announced that she had brought her i-pad to photograph the owls.
The owl sanctuary was not National Trust, there was no sign of a tea shop, chutney or hand crafted soap, instead there was a dirt track, a muddy car park with no other cars and a woman with so many facial piercings that even his daughter did a second take. The hand the woman extended to take the very modest entrance fee was filthy, every line on her palm was ingrained with mud or possibly something else.
She mumbled that the owls were “over there” and they were.
Owls on stands, owls in jerry built enclosures, owls staring out of the windows of small wooden sheds, small, almost silent feathered glove puppets.
His daughter walked on ahead, taking photographs and occasionally pointing out a particularly freakish looking one. It was if they have gone back in time, as if she was 9 or 10 or 11 again. He was almost scared to say anything, to break this spell of communication. He found himself tip-toeing behind her, trying almost to levitate, to keep everything, even his footsteps light, silent.
They came out of the owlery and found the hawks, he didn’t know there were hawks there, they were in rows, tethered by their legs to wooden stands. A hand written sign said that they were tethered all day but allowed to fly freely in their enclosures at night.
As he and his daughter watched, one, huge, brown winged, launched itself off the stand and managed to flap its wings for a second or two before the tethers pulled it back in to its’ stand.
None of the other hawks paid any attention.
Driving home, his daughter stared mostly out of the window, as they run out of motorway, she turned to face him
” I wonder if they keep on doing it”
” You know,the pulling at the tethers, trying to get away”
It was his turn shrug now
Her face was pressed against the window, her voice slightly muffled
“Maybe they forget or maybe they believe that this is the day that the tethers will break, this is the day that they will get away……perhaps the ones who don’t try have given up”
And now, he sits, staring at the laptop screen and all he can see, is no the hawks who keeps trying to fly, the ranks of the others, tethered, not moving, not even noticing the frantic attempts of the biggest hawk to get away.