Literary Upstart Winner: Owl Stretching Time 

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He thought he could sell owls as “the new pet.” Because they are twice as smart as a rat and three times more tenacious than a weasel, but turns out people don’t know how smart rats are and people hate weasels. And there’s laws! Apparently! Against selling owls. So, ha on us. Ha on that, but we still raise them because Mitchell is like those anti-government militia guys and believes all Americans should be able to raise owls and other night birds. Why does that big magician have to hit the little quiet one? What the hell did the little one do? Nothing, just because he wants to be...

So Mitchell decides financially it’s in our best interest to: cash in our life savings, go to Vegas, and make our fortune, but his idea of fortune is more like a gambling problem and—he actually bet the farm. Like the saying, only for real and sadder. There should be a word for that, when you live out a saying. There’s probably a word in German. Einbitzen. Glockensaying. They have so many words. And beer. And past mistakes. Nazis.

Where are all those owls going to live? Know what? I don’t give a Hoot! Exactly. Hoot! Hoot! Fucking Hoot! You know they say they’re smart, like they have toy owls with graduation caps, but owls are dumb and they try to peck you and bite you when you are giving them their nightly mouse. “I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU! I’M TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR WATER SO YOU WON’T DIE! STOP ATTACKING ME!” These are scars, all up and down. You know what I hope that Big Magician hits the little one so hard he starts spitting out coins or playing cards or rabbits or apologies for breaking the big one’s wand or fucking his sister while he was out on a shell collecting trip to Myrtle Beach. All those broken bivalvia mollusca and shark teeth like a bread crumb trail of broken...

Maybe a time-share would be nice. I don’t think Mitchell is coming, he told me he’d meet me at... they say it’s like owning your dream home for one or two weeks a year. And you can even trade with other people. So you get this cheap one week time-share in Munson, Illinois, then trade it for Puerto Rico, or Hawaii, or Greenland or Newfoundland or New Zealand, because who doesn’t want to trade for Munson Illinois, who doesn’t want to see the Cokahaga Boulder Museum or the world’s largest industrial hydrating pump? Or sit in a bird blind trying to see rare owls for 29 hours straight. The worst vacations create the best–

I wanted to see Circus Ole or whatever it’s called. That French Canadian circus, I saw a brochure and they have the commercial on a loop in our hotel. They don’t talk during that, no one does, and it’s a different kind of magic with jumping and trapeze, and they even have this one where the girl is all covered in seashells and she rises up like Aphrodite on a big clam and these French Canadians are all jumping around her like dolphins. And then a pearl falls and breaks into a sad eastern European Clown who sweeps himself up and throws himself into a garbage can where he finds true love with a balloon. No one smashes or gets sawed in half, they just jump and tumble and fly past each other. Never touching, never. Connecting. It must be nice to be rewarded for always missing, to always get out of the way in time. It must be nice. To be that. To be French Canadian. •


Jonathan A. Goldberg has had work seen at the Public Theater, Ars Nova, The Flea, Woolly Mammoth, and many other theaters. His play Font of Knowledge will premiere this summer at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. He's won the Rita and Burton Prize, the Israel Baran Award and was a finalist for the Jerome Fellowship. He co-writes the monthly comedy show Ephemerama at the Magnet Theater in Midtown Manhattan.



Calling Mrs. Gallagher | Fall | Literary Upstart Finalists

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