TOWN LAUNCHES P.R. CAMPAIGN FOR ANONYMITY
It's About Three Owls
by Stephen Capen
"about three owls, that way.
In the heart of the sun-gilded hills of California lies a quiet place that will never see the fame of this westernmost strip of land in the country, its avocados and surfboards, that Catapult's name is so cavalierly uttered alongside. Located in a state that regards itself as so progressive it refers to nearly every place of any importance as a City, it is odd indeed that this bastion of simplicity lies like a refuge, a mecca, to those who are lucky enough to discover it.
Consequently there's a lack of anything characteristic of gluts, of any sort -- population or otherwise: no ATMs, no chain stores, no cable, no pizza joint, no traffic lights and no traffic. Never a wait in line, except maybe on Friday night when film buffs pile into the Stranded for a movie, a communion of town emotions, in the dark. Perhaps most remarkably in this hyper-techno-cyber-age, in all of Catapult--which spans far across woodlands, sub-alpine forest and foothills and boasts a river running through it--there is only a single computer. This one.
The sky just exploded onto the land bringing torrents of rain and lightning to scare the bejesus out of the hardiest of souls, applauded by ear-splitting, rolling thunder. The storm passed, and the small Pfister sat aquiver under a giant oak tree, head buried in his lap, collecting his thoughts which were now quite drenched, when he was startled by the call of a Great Horned Owl closeby. The hoot came one long, then two short, repeated four or five times. Pfechulae listened.
The child was insinctually drawn toward the calls, making his way close enough until he noticed that the owl was being answered by yet another Great Horned about half a mile away. He looked briefly into a reflection of the moon in the owl's eyes. Then he followed the calls from the first on to the next, when the night air, vibrating with a fresh, cold crackling ionization, was pierced by yet a third caller in a chain forming a still melody that the boy followed like a song.
He soon found himself on a hillock overlooking familiar lights and the equally familiar din of heated debate coming from the DrinkUpAndGetOut. Pfechulae Pfister had arrived home, delivered by three totems of Athena, protected from the ferocity of Nature by her own stalwarts looking after their human kin. Lucky boy.
There's no real mystery about why such an odd collection of human beings should come together in a place that's as far out of the way as, say, the home to a resident no more unlikely than the rest of us: village saint, Norodom Balatalangsarangtangaramrabangtangnangalangsrambang -- his friends know him as Hobie -- who came here from Bali. Or what exactly happens when Hobie bursts into DrinkUpandGetOut shouting
"and what effect it has on old Yankee lobsterman, Brainard Ames who, by the way, is a 400 pound vegetarian! Ever heard of a 400 pound vegetarian? We've got one! This man is a giant.
"When you walk, walk, when you sit, sit--but above all, don't wobble!
The town is not meant for some, but it holds me. I am much a part of this town as any other. I am held apart from it, though, by my money. But I wouldn't have it any other way. A bittersweet reward for a life of some hard work, but not too much. Strange circumstances.
Who am I exactly? I live alone in this 30 room mansion on the ridgeback, in the only mansion in Catapult. I am prone to loping around these vast rooms like any other primate. I even contemplate like a monkey, absently, scratching my chin with a large hand, spellbound when the rains beat down on the quiet town.
Sometimes I glare down at the town and clench my fists in fury, banging on the windows. The valley only stares peacefully up at me in my rage. I stand framed behind my own glass, like a caged animal. And at other times, I have been known to walk through Catapult kissing those who were like me, attracted to this place. After the shock, there is always a little glint of glee that twinkles in their eyes when they are reminded: there is magic here.
And that trio of winged creatures, which are not birds, watch over this town which is not a City, and its human aggregate, a virtual stockpot of humanity, who left their birthplaces and arrived here bound by a distinct yet subtle common thread.
Every Saturday afternoon at 1:30
on San Francisco/Bay Area
Radio Station: KUSF-fm, 90.3 on your dial.
Further mischief in Catapult.
Plus, an interview with the author of The Alchemist,