The Wise Owl

by Adam Acidophilus

One warm summer evening, on the banks of a slow winding river, Heron fell in love. He was quite smitten. He was enchanted. The moment was perfect.

But – rather at odds with convention – Heron had fallen in love with Fish.

“Are you mental or something?” said the other herons. “We eat fish, and fall in love with other herons. You’ve got it the wrong way round!”

“I cannot help myself,” said Heron.

“Neither can I,” burbled Fish.

So they went to see the wisest of the birds, a wise old owl – who had unaccountably assumed the mantle of authority.

“Well I must say – ” said Owl – “I’ve never heard of such a thing before. And you are quite certain that this is love?”

“Blissfully,” said Heron – while Fish, who was out of water, flapped vigorously in agreement.

“And what kind of fish are you?” asked Owl. ”Are you a salmon, or a trout, or something else?”

“What need have we of society’s labels?” interrupted Heron – who was quite radical in his outlook.

“Hmm, very well,” conceded Owl. “It’s about time somebody shook up the animal kingdom. Let us view this relationship as a breakthrough. Congratulations!”

“Gulp!” went Heron.

“Mmp!” went Fish.

“What?” said Owl.

“Oh … shit,” said Heron. “I’ve eaten her.” And he stood there – surprised, yet strangely satisfied.

“You said you were in love,” said Owl. “What happened to that?”

“I guess instinct took over,” sighed Heron. “Although, it could be looked upon as an act of consummation, couldn’t it? Oh well. Back to the riverbank.”

And so Heron flew off, returning to his usual haunts, and Owl vowed never to endorse such a ludicrous affiliation again.

Now, a few days later, Fox and Chicken came to see him.

“We’ve decided to set up in business together,” said Fox, “and we thought you might like to be a backer.”

“A backer?” said Owl. “To a fox and chicken business? How very exciting!”

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Chicken. “This is how it works: we get a bunch of hens, they lay eggs, and then we sell them on the open market.”

“And what does Fox do?” asked Owl.

“Nothing!” said Fox. “That’s the beauty of it!”

“I see … ” said Owl. “So you do nothing, and the hens lay eggs ad infinitum?”

“Yep,” said Fox and Chicken – in unison.

“And shall you be limited by liability, or floated on the stock exchange?” asked Owl.

“Neither,” they replied. “It’s a coop.”

Owl considered this. ”It’s brilliant!” he pronounced. “I presume you have a business plan? Projected figures? Safeguarding protocols?”

“All here in black and white,” clucked Chicken, producing a sheaf of documents.

“Well, here’s to your first million!” laughed Owl. “Just make sure you don’t eat her, eh?”

“Right!” said Fox. “Gulp!”

“Squalk!”

“Oh … fuck,” said Fox. “What am I like?”

“Ah well, might as well finish her off,” said Owl – joining him in an early breakfast. “No eggs, I see? Ha!”

And they had a good laugh about it; and ate up all the rest of Chicken.

For some days after Owl found himself in a quandary: on the one wing, he was an advocate of liberal ideas – but on the other, the steady feathers of tradition wielded a heavy influence. And it was at this point that he was visited by Singer-Songwriter and her Dolphin.

“I suppose you want to get married?” said Owl.

“Our connection is far stronger than that,” replied Singer-Songwriter. “For Dolphin and I are not mere lovers, but thinkers, and artists, and healers, and together we intend to reimagine a new narrative on our journey, which we shall curate together moving forward.”

“Really?” said Owl. “How marvellous.”

“We need not permission – nor money – nor your blessing – our minds are quite made up,” Singer-Songwriter continued. “Nothing can throw us asunder – for Delboy and I are wedded and bonded and sistered and brothered and theyed in the great wholeness of contemporary journeyness.”

“Delboy?” asked Owl. “It’s called Delboy?”

“Our spiritual partnership is eternal,” said Singer-Songwriter.

“And you are sure?” asked Owl.

“Certain,” she said.

“Actually, it’s a shark,” said Owl – bluntly. “But never mind, eh?”

“Shark? Why no, he is a dolphin!” said the woman – reaching for her autoharp and kazoo.

“It’s a shark,” repeated Owl. “You can tell from the dorsal fin, the orientation of the tail, the serpentine swimming movement, the frightening profusion of teeth – and the absolute failure on its part to emit the characteristic clicking sounds so beloved by our great public. But never mind, eh?”

“He’s shy,” said Singer-Songwriter. ”You are being discriminatory.”

“Off you go then,” said Owl. “And bloody good luck to you!”

Regrettably, the ‘bloody’ was the only part of this benediction to actualise itself, immediately, in the river, as Singer-Songwriter jumped in and was torn to pieces in five seconds by her beau.

“Ah well, at least he’s eaten the autoharp as well,” sighed Owl. “So there is a positive side to it … ”

“Doo-dee-doo-dee!” sang Shark as he swam off down the river – for he had swallowed the kazoo as well.

And Owl retreated to his perch to reflect, glower, curse – and shrug philosophically.

“I’ve been offered a place at university,” a white rat told Owl – during another one of his durbars a few days later.

“Nope,” said Owl. “I absolutely forbid it.”

“But it’s in the medical research department,” complained the rat. “And I always wanted to go to university.”

“Is there a reading list?” snapped Owl.

“They’ve sent me a map … ”

“Is it going to cost anything?”

“A bit.”

“Is there a recognised qualification?”

“It’s a college, for goodness’ sake!”

“It’s not Leeds Polytechnic, is it?” growled owl.

“I want you to lend me the fees,” announced the rat. “I’ll be very employable by the time they’ve finished with me … ”

“Au contraire,” said Owl – who was, as you ask, multi-lingual, and self-taught.

“Look upon it as an experiment,” suggested the rat.

“But I am opposed experiments on animals,” sighed Owl. “And anyway, I’m hungry – ”

And so he seized rat, and swallowed him whole.

Moral: Isn’t nature wonderful?

© Adam Acidophilus 2021