map Take Me Under Your Golden Wing

by Joe Baumann

Published in Issue No. 244 ~ September, 2017

I was sitting on the porch swing, smoking, when Gala found the owl while trimming the bushes and plucking flowers from the row of hedges along the back of the yard even though the landlord had caught her once and told her to stop. She’d stuck her tongue out at his car as he left and gave him the finger.

She stood, brushing at her knees, and held the owl out to me.

“I found this,” she said.

The owl was tiny, fitting in my palm, with eyes the size of pennies, and the thing was the same copper color, a glinty flash of white sunlight smearing down its right side.

“What do you think it is?” she said.

“It’s an owl.”

“I know that. But it wasn’t there before.”


I finished my cigarette and followed Gala inside. She set the owl on the window ledge above the kitchen sink, where the afternoon light caught the left side, covering the owl’s eye and pointed ear. Its wings were folded tight like a sharp newspaper, pressed against its body in a hug.

“That looks good there,” I said. We both stared at it and then Gala poured herself a glass of water.

The next morning, the owl’s wings were spread open.

“That’s weird,” I said.

“It’s stretching,” Gala said, rubbing my back. “Did you sleep okay?”

“This doesn’t bother you?”

“Not really.”

“It didn’t look like this yesterday.”

“None of us looked the same yesterday.”


Gala and I ate breakfast on the patio, our coffee sloshing over the edges of our mugs when she poured it, the liquid spattering the concrete slab. Weeds grew out of the space between the pathway to the yard and the patio. I said we should pluck them.

“Is that our job?” Gala said.

“You pluck the flowers.”

“But those are pretty. We want the flowers. Don’t you like the flowers?”

“Of course I do.”

“I wonder if there’re any more owls out there.” Gala stood. I watched as she stalked along the hedges. She stopped at the same bush as the day before, now a bald green in the absence of the pink roses that had yawned open like jaws. She had sheared them off and stuffed them in a vase in the kitchen. Gala bent down, squatting just above the too-tall grass. I watched as she reached in and wrangled around, her body shaking as she stamped her hand in the tangled hedge.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” I said. She rolled her eyes at me, bent down further, then stood up, dragging her hand.

“Aha,” she said, holding a glimmering copper shape over her head like a trophy. “Another one.”

“They’re like Easter eggs,” I said when she’d returned to the porch cupping the owl in both hands like a baby rabbit, or a gulp of water.

“Let’s put it with the other one,” Gala said, brushing by me. I followed her inside. She set this owl down next to the first, whose wings were still stretched high, and Gala snuggled the new find next to it, as if they were holding each other, the one using its wing like an umbrella to protect its new friend from an unseen rain. Gala stepped back and smiled at me. We reached out to one another, and she held her arm around me and I held mine around hers and we watched our owls, waiting for them to pull each other close.


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Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Zone 3, Hawai’i Review, Eleven Eleven, and many others. He is the author of Ivory Children, published in 2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks. He possesses a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, Missouri. He he has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and was recently nominated for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2016.