“Why does it look startled like that?”
“Animals open their eyes wide like that when they need to be alert, when they need to be extra sure of all their surroundings. The owl does it too. It’s not startled but it is careful, it wants to make sure it sees everything, and it does. The owl sees through everything, and knows what is right and what is wrong.”
“I don’t believe that,” Dalia whispered back. She looked up at her father.
“Well you haven’t seen enough wrong yet to recognise the watchers of wrong. The owl sees into the night. It knows the way to the other side.”
Her father hung a cigarette from his lips then scrounged for a light. When he had lit his cigarette he looked back up but the owl had gone; silently, eerily, had taken off deep into the woods somewhere. He put his hand on Dalia’s head and led her back to the house.
“Hey! Your hand is cold!” she said, holding his arm, but secretly relishing the contact. Putting his beer in his pocket he turned mid-step and swung Dalia up onto his hip.
“Whoops!” he said, Dalia laughing. “Shh! You’ll wake your mother.” He pointed to their bedroom upstairs.
In the kitchen he dropped Dalia on her feet and scuffed to the potbellied stove in the living room. There was a sense for Dalia of being left behind. Some grave thought had been playing on him and he needed only the right setting to give himself to it.