One of my regular writing activities is the FFF (the Fs stand in for the workds Friday, Flash and Fiction but I’m not sure of the order) challenge on Authonomy. Every week, there’s a theme-sometimes very loose, sometimes prescriptive-and we set about writing something on it. The usual word limit is 1000 but, occasionally, it’s less. It’s inspired some of my favourite stories; it’s also inspired a lot that are destined to rot on my hard-drive. This is one of the latter. The theme was ‘The Letter’. I’ve tried to be clever with my interpretation of the challenge; if I were an external observer, it would irritate me immensely. But I’m not. This is my blog, and I’ll be self-consciously quirky if I want to…With a failed marriage behind me, a barn conversion in the Cotswolds seemed the perfect place to recover my pride. I’d spent months holed up at home, bingeing on cheddar and I was ready for a change. I leapt at the chance of a taste of affordable country life. I suppose it seemed strange that the estate agent smirked when I signed the tenancy agreement, but I was too excited to pay him any mind. I was leaving the rat race behind me.
“I’m sure you be very happy there,” he’d said, “And the landlord’s a real hoot.”
At the time, I didn’t give his comment a second thought, but he was right. Absolutely spot on. There are probably other phrases to describe a six-foot owl, but ‘a real hoot’ was as good as any.
The landlord was waiting to meet me when I arrived. He didn’t offer to help, but it might have been difficult under the circumstances, what with the lack of hands and everything.
“This your first time out of the city?” He asked in a reedy Dorset brogue.
I nodded, “I’ve got cousins in the country.”
“You’ll love it here,” he began but he came to a halt, “Is something wrong?”
Honesty was probably not the best policy at this juncture but I’ve always said I must be on some sort of spectrum, “It’s just…you weren’t what I was expecting.”
“Too young to be a landlord?” He smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“No,” I replied, a little unwisely, “I didn’t think you’d be…an owl.”
If I’d offended him, it barely registered, “I inherited the barn from my folks. Wouldn’t know what to do with it otherwise. Still, you meet all sorts in the landlord game.”
“You make a lot of friends, then?”
“Kind of,” he said, and fell silent.
“So,” I said, making small talk to mask my unease, “There much to do around here?”
He grunted, “There’s a dairy might interest you.”
Because I’m fat, I thought. It’s always the same. Anytime anyone tells me about their holiday, they assume I’ll be interested in the restaurants. “And the neighbours?”
“Oh. Any reason?”
I suppose you’d call his next gesture a shrug. On an owl, it was hard tell. “Who knows? Maybe it was too quiet.”
“I like quiet,” I said, to fill the silence.
“And it’s very safe. You can leave your doors open at night. And your windows…”
“Great,” I said, thinking that I wouldn’t bother.
“You know how long you’ll be staying?”
“I’ve signed for six months but we’ll play it by ear.”
“A lot of folks come to the country and never go back to the town,” he said, as he flew away.
I didn’t bother to unpack, just waited till he’d gone and hotfooted it back to the city. I’d lose my deposit, I realised, but that was the least of it. Never get close to an owl: it’s the first rule of being a mouse.