Once upon a time there was a boy who lived beside a forest that was dark and smelled of skunk cabbage and was crawling with slugs that were a foot long and covered with sticky slime. This didn’t stop the boy from going into the forest because he was curious and wanted to know what was beyond the trees down the path that started where his own yard ended.
One day when his mother was busy with house cleaning, the boy took his brother who was smaller than him and they went into the forest a few steps and there they stopped to look back at their house. Then they looked down the path into the forest and back at the house again and then down the path again and they wondered what they should do. They walked back to the beginning of the path and looked at the house to see if their mother was watching. She told them to stay out of the forest but they thought that it would be alright if they just stood at the edge of it for a while and looked. So they stood and looked into the forest and wished they could go in and find out what was there amongst the tall trees where the sun hardly touched the ground because of all the leaves.
While they were looking an owl glided past their heads and silently beat it wings as it flew off down the path and into the forest. That was impossible to ignore and they started walking quickly down the path into the trees hoping to see the owl again, forgetting that they weren’t allowed to go into the forest. When they had walked for a while they saw the owl high up in a tree sitting on a big branch preening its feathers with its beak. They stood at the bottom of the tree and looked up at the owl. The owl stopped preening and stared at them.
Who who, it said, who who who.
Who are you, said the boy and his brother said it too, who are you?
The owl didn’t answer, just saying who who again, and looking at the boys with its large dark eyes that blinked slowly. Then the owl swivelled its head completely around so the boys could only see the back of it.
The boys walked around to the opposite side of the tree and looked up at the owl again noticing that the owl’s feet were now going the wrong way.
Look at his feet, they’re backwards, said the boy to his brother who laughed.
Then the owl swivelled its head back to the other side and once again they were looking at the back of the owl. They walked to the front of the owl and saw that now its feet were forwards and not backwards. Then the owl closed its eyes and went to sleep.
Let’s go home said the little brother, I’m hungry.
They looked for the path but when they found it they couldn’t remember which way to go because they were confused by the owl’s head going this way and that way. They tried to remember what the owl looked like when they first saw it but it was impossible to say which way the owl’s feet were supposed to go. When they looked up at the owl again it had turned its head around which made them even more confused.
I want to go home, said the little brother, I’m hungry. Then he started to cry.
Don’t cry, said the boy, I need you to help me think.
The boy went back to the path and looked up at the sky. He saw the sun and remembered that the earth turned on its axis once every day, which made the sun come up and go down, even though the sun never really moved. The boy remembered that when they had entered the forest the sun had been in their eyes. The boy had a brand new wrist watch which he got for a birthday present and he knew how to tell what time it was. Looking at his watch he saw that it was still morning so he knew the sun was still getting higher in the sky.
If the sun was in our eyes when we walked into the forest, he said, we should have the sun on our backs to go home.
They stood on the path with the sun at their backs and ran as fast as they could all the way home, where they had milk and cookies and drew pictures of owls.