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Petrarch's Storm

This is a little story I gave to sunhawk in honour of the holidays. I asked if she would mind if I shared, so here you are.

Petrarch’s Storm

Petrarch loved art.

He spent hours peering in skylights and windows, staring with longing at the beauty inside art galleries and museums. All of which would have been fine if he was human.

Petrarch was a screech owl.

He knew he should be spending his time hunting for mice, bats, and any songbirds he could catch—and oh, he could snag the tiny cousins while skimming the tops of field grass, barely a foot above the ground. But he wasn’t interested in hunting, not anymore. Not since the storm.

Petrarch lived near a small farm. None of that industrial nonsense, just vegetables, chickens, and a few beehives for company. His tree wasn’t far from the house, a little grove that the owners had left to him, and a pair of foxes that caused trouble in the chicken coop.

He was just about to patrol the fields for dinner one night when the wind came up suddenly. Great streams of air fit to pull the feathers from his wings. He tried to dark back into his nest, but an airy hand grabbed his talons and knocked him away from his branch. Petrarch tried desperately to escape, but those clever fingers of wind pressed his wings close to his breast and blew him away. He remembered a little glimpse of red as the fox watched him go, yipping with laughter. Canines never did have a proper sense of humour.

He struggled in the wind’s grip, but eventually lost himself in exhaustion. The wind whispered him to sleep.


When he awoke everything was too bright. Metal, glass, and the noise!! His sensitive ears cried in protest. He never did understand humans need to pack themselves into these cold places, nowhere to hear yourself hoot. Petrarch fluffed out his feathers and carefully preened all his primaries. No damage. He sighed in relief and swiveled his head to find out where he had been dropped.

At least he was on a roof. No fear of anyone stepping on him then. There was a triangle of glass in the middle of the roof. He flew over wearily to inspect what lay beneath it.

All the colours the city lacked showed themselves below. Pictures on the walls ached with life—blue lakes, skies, endless fields with every flower he could imagine. Some paintings were realistic; others just made him tilt his head in wonder—slashes of colour thrown against a wall.

Something inside Petrarch shifted as he watched the paintings below him. He had seen art before, but this time something was different. There was a hollow that started to feel full. Something he didn’t know he was missing until this very moment. He looked around the roof, searching for a way into the gallery. He needed more, needed to be closer. Then he saw the open vent, and into the building he dove.

Luckily the vent went straight into the gallery, and he could use his beak to open the vent covering until he was free. The smell of metal was making him itch.

No one noticed a small owl above their heads, flying back and forth, overwhelmed by all he could see. Finally he found a perch behind an emergency light, and he could view the entire room to his heart’s content.

He saw how some paintings were made of tiny drops, as if colour had rained on the fabric. Others were a gentle wash of one shade to the next—as he remembered the little stream near his tree, green to blue, and black. It was as if he were just hatched, watching the world made new. Then he noticed the people.

So busy, nervous, angry. They didn’t stop to see, just glanced once and moved on. He didn’t understand.

When he was hunting Petrarch could see every blade of grass, peer between every thistle stalk, and hear every rustle in his search for food. The slightest twitch and he could tell you if it was made by mouse, vole, or snake.

The people in the gallery looked displaced, like the wonder in front of them wasn’t important. He opened his beak to shout his frustration—but something else came out.

It wasn’t a sound; it was like the sharpness of a hunting dive. That moment when Petrarch could see/hear nothing else by the creature below him. Focused gravity.

He threw all that vision at the busy, scheduled people below him and they stood perfectly still.

He snapped his beak shut in dismay. What had he done?

The people below shook themselves and started to rush again. Petrarch ruffled his feathers in frustration. No. You will stop! He shouted again.

And they did. He tried asking them. Just look at the colour, look at the world you are missing. You are tired, just rest and see.

A man typing on a tiny screen turned and glanced at the field in the picture beside him. His fingers stilled, arms dropped to his sides.

Petrarch shuffled his feet, embarrassed. He hadn’t meant to force anyone like this. They just looked like they needed a little peace, a moment in their strict lives.

He hooted softly to himself and tried to tell them so. This time no one stopped suddenly, as if their strings were cut. Some ignored his silent plea. Others slowed down, puzzled, and started to look up.

A woman in a business suit stood in front of a small picture of a girl holding a flower. She started shaking.

Petrarch shivered with worry. What was this strange voice of his doing now?

Then the woman smiled so widely that Petrarch almost fell off his perch. Then she laughed, and put her hand to her mouth in surprise.

Petrarch flapped his wings excitedly. The woman below him laughed so hard she doubled over, dropping her purse. Then she slowly sat up and walked to the next painting, still smiling.

Petrarch noticed more and more people stopping instead of rushing by the sculptures and paintings. One man stared in awe at the skylight above him. Petrarch felt as if he can caught the sun and eaten its fire. He didn’t know what brought him to this city, but he needed to stay. The city needed his song.

He didn’t know where it had come from, or who caused the storm to bring him here, but it was everything he needed. Drinking in the art made him feel full as no mouse or bat ever had. And he could return the wonder.

He’d even spotted a place to sleep in the arch above the nearby bookstore, hidden behind the molding.

Petrarch thought this gallery could use a little more joy, and he was just the owl to provide it.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2010 06:09 am (UTC)
Thank you again for such a princely gift ^_^
Dec. 16th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
I am still thrilled that you enjoyed it, I really do obsess over these things..lol
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )