OWN THE ROAD BETWEEN TOWNS on my old bike, under the eucalyptus trees between Arcata Redwood and the Indianola Cutoff. Empty space, the crush of traffic just a few yards off, but I keep to the wide shoulder, straight ahead, all straight lines, traffic coming on relentless. I'm watching out for piles of dead grass, sharp dry thistles, fallen limbs, dry crackling leaves and bark strips.
Almost every day, I find an owl, either curled in the weeds or stretched out, as if sleeping, flat on crumbling pavement. Sometimes I pull a feather or two: golden, barred, soft. I inspect the sound-muffling apparatus at the end of each strand of filament. Remember seeing owls leap in front of vehicles as I've passed here myself at night, driving or riding. Their habit is to fly along above the marsh plants, picking off rats and mice with sudden dives.
Almost every day, I find an owl, either curled in the weeds or stretched out, as if sleeping, flat on crumbling pavement. Sometimes I pull a feather or two: golden, barred, soft.
The highway must hardly enter their calculations as they swoop and glide in silence.
In a tree, I note the presence of a human leg, in plaid pants, a sock, and a cheap shoe, protruding from a crotch about six feet off the ground. I can't tell if the foot belongs to a living man or a dead one, so I stare at it.
That's a hell of a place to take a nap, I think, and how the hell did somebody get up that slick trunk and through the narrow crack. There is a kind of hollow inside, where he's resting. Or maybe that funny smell is the first bit of stink rising from his rot. The cars are flying by, There is an anonymous pressure from the nearby roadway. I think of trying to hail a cop, but there isn't one in sight, northbound or southbound.
I think of poking or maybe jabbing with a stick, see if there's any reaction. But what if there is?
Most likely he crawled up there and died.