Anything in that part of Kansas catches the eye, for there is nothing besides the road, the ditch, the fields, the blue dome of sky, so it did, the thing hanging on the strand of barbed wire like a rag but not a rag. I stopped the pickup, killed the engine. It got quiet right away, except for the wind. It was Sunday afternoon. The only sign of human activity was a jet at 37,000 feet.
I got out. It felt oddly safer inside the pickup, and safer while moving in it. I wonder now what I was afraid of. My guess: loneliness deep as the sky.
The heat of the dirt road came up through flipflops, the grass in the ditch scratchy on the ankles. I walked alongside the pasture fence to where another fence met it, where I could see what it was, the odd thing.
It hung vertically on the strand of wire, a work of deranged art. Tawny light filtered through wind-ruffled feathers of the splayed wings. It was an owl, its body not much bigger than my hand. I felt repulsion and tenderness. I had an urge to bring it home. I didn’t want to touch it.
I wanted to tell someone about it, but what was there to tell? An owl crucified on a barbed wire fence in a remote outpost of the Milky Way.