Year of the Owl from Lucas Wetzel

A selection of 365 short bits, extracted and compiled from various studio writings, notebooks, voice memos, letters, stories, and essays.

Quite enjoyable and amenable to your on-the-go lifestyle.

https://lucaswetzel.com/the-year-of-the-owl/

Year of the Owl from Lucas Wetzel

Dazzling Tales of Broken Truths Vol. I

In middle-age
I decided
to get myself
a narrator
and take up
the life
of a protagonist.

Critics found
themselves having
a few problems
with this approach:

a) In the book, the narrator early describes the protagonist, Mr. X, as “…the only man in his class in school who is unlikely to wield a pitchfork.” But then, later on in the story, Mr. X is described as “…the only man in the county who could run the family dairy, manage the town’s small hotel, maintain several properties, is the seventh son of a seventh son, and spends his time on learning books as a hobby.”

In other words,
they found
the narrator
unreliable.

They went on
at some length
with their critique:

b) In the book, the protagonist, Mr. X, describes himself as “…the most intelligent man in the world, with three degrees in mathematics from a four-year university.” But the narrator, who is Mr. X’s roommate, reports, “There are two things I can’t write about in this story…my name and the names of the people I worked with and their jobs.”

Mr. X (punctuation marks removed, emphasis on “him”) says one of his supervisors writes in an annual review:

“This guy is a fucking genius! He’s got two degrees, he’s got a doctorate, and you’ll never see him in a story book. Give him all the raises!”

c) In the book, Mr. X, says “I’ll work for anybody you want”. The narrator describes Mr. X as someone:

“…who loves work. He’d rather sit in his office, alone, and wait for the sun to come up and his job to end than spend time for any reason with any woman or child he co-created.”

The critics
seemed unsatisfied
with my fictions
and the fictions
of those
around me:

d) In the book, the protagonist, Mr. X, talks to Ms. M, his co-worker. “I’m always a good liar, especially when I tell the truth, and no matter what happens, I always get away with whatever needs gotten.” The narrator describes Ms. M. as “…a woman who is constantly telling lies, and never even tries to avoid them.”

e) In the book, Mr. X, says “I never get tired of lying about anything. I can just sit down and lie about anything. It’s something I’m born for. It’s my work.” Later, in the book, even the narrator says “I can’t talk without lying, because everyone knows I lie. It’s my work.”

f) In the book, toward the end, we are led to believe that the narrator is Mr. X, the protagonist. This is perhaps the most distasteful sequence of the entire story.

Dazzling Tales of Broken Truths Vol. I

The Waterwood Box, 80

Catch up!

In the distance, Adam could already see a manta coming their way. Admiral Pinch and the Urchin Army were no doubt atop the manta, delighted at the prospect of handing over such vile trespassers to King Altern.

“Look, Spot, seem familiar?” Adam directed Spot’s attention to the manta.

Spot sighed. “Our old friend, Admiral Pinch.”

The manta stopped a good distance above the three travelers. Adam, Ramata, and Spot looked up at the manta’s underside. Urchins dropped off the manta, at first one-by-one, then they plummeted in droves, slowly sinking to Ocean’s floor, landing on top of each other, and rolling around to claim a spot of individual space.

Soon, the urchins covered all the seabed around, where they chattered and barked amongst themselves.

“We could still swim for it,” said Adam. “These things can’t follow.” Wide-eyed and nervous, Ramata looked with hope at Adam. The water-folk turned to Spot.

“We’ll be fine here,” Spot said. Hope drained from Ramata’s face.

The last few urchins dropped off the manta like paratroopers without any chutes. On Ocean’s floor, one urchin among the many rolled its way to a front-most position. The other urchins quieted.

“And I thought taking you home would be the last I saw of you,” chittered Admiral Pinch.

“Well, Admiral, as a wise Turtle once told me, ‘That’s what you get for thinking.’” Adam said with a smile.

“Snarky, water-man. You may be certain that Altern will fix that part of you.”

“Good, good,” Adam said with no hesitation. Ramata and Spot looked at each other, unnerved by the cool, even tone in Adam’s voice. “I hope you take us to the King soon. That’s why we’re here, after all.” Ramata smacked Adam on the shoulder but he refused to acknowledge it and went on with his steady-handed charade. “Are we ready to go? Don’t you think you’ve kept us waiting long enough?” Even Adam was surprised at his confidence and surety. He knew answers were close.

“I warned you once, child, about your impudence. Don’t-”

“Admiral, take us to King Altern or leave us be to find the King ourselves. There will be no more talking.”

The Waterwood Box, 80

The Waterwood Box, 79

Catch up!

“Ugh! Urchins.” Ramata looked unsettled. No sooner did the water-folk get out the words then the eel from inside the hovel swam out. It took off along Ocean’s floor, rapidly undulating its way along a path towards the next hut. The three of them watched as the eel entered the next hut and then it, plus another eel, exited. One eel continued straight ahead while the other eel slithered towards the hut to its left.

“What’re they doing?”

Spot answered, “Raising an alarm!”

“We’ve got to hide!” Ramata said. “Adam, you’ve got your wish. We’ll be at Altern’s complex soon enough!”

Adam tried to calm her down. “Please, don’t worry.”

“How can I not worry? I’m so far away from where I’m supposed to be!”

“What the worst that King Altern could do? Send you back to Tiskaloo?

“Eh, nopes! The King will probablies kill yins!” The two urchins from the hut below had rolled out to see what was going on above. “All yins, water-folk. Everyones knows water-folk’s not allowed outsides the Tiskaloo.”

“I’m not a-,” Adam stopped himself from telling the urchin that he wasn’t Tiskaloon. If Altern did plan to kill water-folk, better Adam was with Ramata than not. Together they might be able to escape.

“Notta whats, you filthy cuss?”

“Not afraid of King Altern!”

The urchin barked a short laughed and said, “Dumbs and uglies,” then rolled back inside the hut. The other urchin just sat there, staring, not saying anything.

Adam didn’t want to put his friends in any further danger, “Should we run?”

“Yins can’ts just gets outta the here, briny half-breed,” came the urchin’s voice from inside. “Words is out. Yins the here and that’s the thats. Alls the outposts know yins here. Unless yins wants to be tortured and maimed before yins killed, smarter to stays right the there.”

Ramata gasped and Adam joked, “More waiting, Ramata. Like every other thing we’ve done so far.”

“Adam, how can you joke now? This is dangerous.”

“My school says, ‘Life is danger.’ We’re in no more danger now than if we tried to run.”

“AH! Stupid fish talks smarts. Must helps to bes in schools that tells yins how to thinks. S’okeys, thoughs. I’m justs teasing yins. Altern real nices. Yins’ll sees. Everybody maybe lives a little longer.”

The Waterwood Box, 79

The Waterwood Box, 77

Catch up!

Chapter 17
Altern’s Complex

Luck was with the trio as they escaped the confines of Big Ruins. The frenzied sharks were nowhere to be seen and the waters all around greeted them with an eerie calm. They followed the length of the ship to its bow and headed into the open expanse of Ocean ahead.

Ramata and Spot had no idea how long it would take to get to King Altern. Neither had before been anywhere near the complex and could only guess as to distances (or even directions). They instead looked for signs along the way that offered them clues about where to go next. The only reason Ramata suggested their current direction was because last time she was near Big Ruins, there was a manta swimming by. Ramata had seen the sharks then, too, of course, but they weren’t a surprise. The waterfolk also glimpsed the Turtle, which was a big surprise. Ramata stayed hidden from the manta and the Urchin Army, but did remember which way the manta swam off. So, that‘s the direction they loosely followed. Whether or not this direction would lead to King Altern they could only hope. And hope kept them moving forward.

Though the way was slow and mostly unremarkable, Adam kept his complaints and impatience to himself. He knew that Ramata and Spot were putting themselves in serious danger by coming along with him. Their fear made him slightly wary of what he was getting himself into, entering Altern’s complex unannounced, but he was determined to find the Drain. He was also determined to keep his friends with him as long as possible so he kept his mouth shut and the three swam quietly through Ocean.

The Waterwood Box, 77

The Waterwood Box, 76

Catch up!

“Weren’t you listening, Adam?” asked Ramata. “The Drain is smack dab in the middle of Altern’s complex. Tiskaloons aren’t allowed there and you look enough like a Tiskaloon that you shouldn’t try to go there either, at least, not if you care for yourself. Adam, the Turtle just told you about the Drain so you’d be quiet and stop asking questions. I’m sorry, but you have to admit, there’s no going back. You got the answer to your question. Spot and I are both sorry it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.”

“Ramata’s right, Adam. You can’t just walk up to King Altern and ask to see the Drain. Let’s go back to Tiskaloo and figure out something else. It’s not the end of the world.”

Adam turned away and shook his head. “You can both go back. That’s fine. Go. Thanks for your help. I’m not going back. I’m going to find the Drain of the World and if that means I have to walk right up to King Altern and ask – then that’s what I have to do.”

“It’s suicide, Adam.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s taking charge of the only thing I really can control – my actions. You tell me, what else can I do?”

“Come back to Tiskaloo. We have options.”

“Or, come swim and study with my school.”

“And spend every day wondering what Altern has and if it might somehow get me back home? I can’t.”

Ramata and Spot looked at each other. Their eyes were rimmed with fear yet they both knew Adam was going to do whatever it took for him to get some questions answered. He was determined to go with or without them. Since they knew Adam had no idea of where he now was or how to get where he wanted to go – they decided they had no choice but to help him. As scared as they were, they had to help him.

The Waterwood Box, 76

The Waterwood Box, 75

Catch up!

Spot nudged Adam’s back

“I’m here because I want to know where I can find land,” Adam said.

The Turtle looked at each of them before asking, “That’s it?”

Relief surged through Adam. This wasn’t so bad after all. He smiled. “That’s it.”

“Go outside the ship, back out into Ocean, and swim down until you can swim no further. Reach down and – when you hit something hard – that is land.” The Turtle began to swim up and away.

“Wait, wait!” Adam cried out. “Dry land!”

“Ohhh…well, that’s different.”

“A lot different, yes.”

“There isn’t any,” the Turtle said matter-of-factly and again attempting to swim up and away.

Ramata put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Adam.”

He shrugged the water-folk off and swam up towards the Turtle. “There must be something!” Adam yelled. “An island somewhere…some…thing…,” his voice broke off into loud sobs.

“Please keep down the noise! I’m trying to leave this ship without becoming shark food!”

“I don’t care if the sharks come here! They can come eat the rest of me.”

The Turtle sighed and stopped swimming. “There’s another way, of course. Isn’t there always? If you want dry land, you must simply unplug the Drain of the World. But, since you can’t really do that, you won’t get any dry land. So, learn to enjoy Ocean and quit pining for that which cannot return. You’re alive, child. There is no greater gift for which to ask.”

“What’s the Drain of the World?”

“Dear child, my patience, and air, run thin.”

“Please, if there is any chance, any at all, I have to understand it.”

“And I’ve explained to you that there is no chance. The Drain sits in the middle of King Altern’s complex and is that which allows the King to rule over Ocean.”

“Ahem…,” Ramata interrupted.

“That which allows King Altern to rule over most of Ocean,” corrected the Turtle.

“But, what’s the Drain do?”

“What do any drains do? When unplugged, water flows through them. If the Drain of the World is unplugged, it would drain the water from Ocean.” All three of the travelers gasped and the Turtle continued. “I can no longer stay here. I must get air.” The Turtle swam off to a balcony set and disappeared into it.

Adam tried to call out further questions but the Turtle didn’t respond. He turned to Ramata and Spot. “You heard the Turtle.”

“Yes. I’m so sorry,” Ramata said again.

“Me too, Adam,” offered Spot. “Maybe you can join my school…if you didn’t want to live in Tiskaloo, that is.”

Adam couldn’t believe his ears. “What? Weren’t you listening? The Drain of the World! We’ve got to go!”

The Waterwood Box, 75