By Susan Helene Gottfried
Most of my fellow Stiffs, you may have noticed, are mystery or thriller writers. I’m not. You’d think that this would make me feel like I don’t fit in, but I am the creator of Trevor Wolff, a man who fits wherever he damn well wants to. And besides, I like the Stiffs. I’ve learned a lot from them.
They have worn off on me, too. In fact, I think that I’m going to need to take a hiatus from reading so many mysteries and thrillers for a bit, much as I don’t want to. But it’s either them or books, and I’d rather not give them up.
It all started at the end of December. I woke up at four in the morning, startled awake by a distinctive “Who, who, who-who-who”. My first thought was, “Cool. We have owls. Who would have thunk?”
But I heard it again. And again.
And my fellow Working Stiffs crawled into my brain. What if that’s no owl but is actually some guys who are signalling each other that they’re in position to come storm my house? Have they cut the phone lines yet? My cell phone’s downstairs; where is the Tour Manager’s? How will we survive this?
By the fourth or fifth hoot, I decided that any bad guys would have gotten bored by now and given up. Yet the owl didn’t.
I woke the Tour Manager, who, as always, thought I was nuts. “It’s an owl,” he told me.
“Yeah, but … what if it’s not?”
“Go to sleep,” he told me and proceeded to show me how.
I laid awake until the night quieted. By morning, I decided that being visited by an owl was pretty cool.
The next night, I heard the owl around ten. I sent the Tour Manager outside to see where he was. The report came back that he was across the street, between two houses. And that he’d been scared off when the Tour Manager had gotten close.
I figured that would be the end of it, but my owl came back for a third night. And then a fourth. I laid in bed with a book -- yes, a mystery -- and listened to the hooting. At first, it gave me warm fuzzies. We had a new pet, sort of. The owl liked us as much as I liked it.
But then, my brain went into overdrive. Owls, some Native Americans believe, presage death. Whose death was this owl telling me about? Mine? The Tour Manager’s? Our kids’? Maybe one of the neighbors?
I didn’t sleep easy that night.
When I turn this into fiction, my owl will inspire a songfor my fictional band, ShapeShifter. But the Stiffs… they’d have that home be invaded. People will die. That’s how it is when you write mysteries and thrillers.
Me, I’m on hiatus from the books until my brain stops being so morbid. Time to go read a nice romance or two.