Little Head-Bob ducked his head against the blowing rain, dug his talons into the bark of the elm bough, and leaned against the broad tree trunk.
He could see into the house by a lamp left on in a bedroom. Something about the young man sleeping there seemed familiar or important, like an itch he couldn't reach to scratch. He sat and stared, mesmerized by the rising and falling as the boy breathed. Gradually the young owl began to doze, puffed up against the wind and rain.
Bob slept deeply, gone a long ways back in time, walking down his hometown street. It was probably about 1966, before they had moved out to the country, the old trees, and the owls.
Walking home from school, he gazed at the Elm trees that lined the street, fingertip-twigs just touching as the branches arched completely across. He looked down the street and he knew right then that all this was going away. The sunlit leaf patterns on the street, the smell of tiger-lilies in a yard, the humming bird that kept stopping to stare in his face - the way it all was, would be gone in just a while.
He walked on down his street to the house he had lived in all through grade school, in the little town he had lived in all of his life. As he walked he said to himself, to the humming bird, and to the trees: "I promise, I will remember you".
Something startled the owl awake there in the quiet woods, nearly dawn, by the little house where the young man lived. The owl looked in at the bed. The boy wasn’t there. Little Head-Bob looked around him. He knew, and watched himself knowing; that the boy was gone and not coming back. All his people might not be coming back. This place would remain a while and then, it wouldn’t, at least not as he saw it now.
And Little Head-Bob the owl began to see time.
As the morning sun warmed the woods Little Head-Bob dreamt he was a young man long ago, one of The People, standing in a place not far from where a young owl dozed.
He looked down the hill. He saw a herd of deer grazing. Once or twice one of the bucks would stop and lift its head to look his way before turning again to the new grass. Farther over, down close to the river he saw the woods, recognized each tree there, and knew them by names only the breeze could say.
And then he knew that something was coming, something big like the wind. All this that had been for as long as The People had known, would soon be gone.
The young owl barely heard the man whisper: “I promise, I will remember you”.