When Angels Sing: Chapter Nine
The Background Continues
What shaped Sheila, the protagonist in my very first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today?” How did she become, as an adult, a loving time-traveler who cares so deeply for the environment and for her fellow man?
That is our goal in this series of short stories, to fill in the gaps and leave you with a better understanding of this remarkable woman.
So let’s continue. The year is 1970 and the twelve-year old Sheila has just raced into the kitchen to discuss something of grave importance with her parents, Sam and Heather.
The Smell of Freshly-baked Apple Pie
It being September in Olympia, it was only natural and not at all surprising that Heather should be baking an apple pie that fine, sunny, sparkling morning when the twelve-year old cherub known as Sheila crashed through the screen door, breathless from a long run. In fact, the apple pie was completed and sitting on the counter to cool when lovely Sheila, she of the midnight hair and jade eyes, poured a glass of goat’s milk and faced her parents.
“Mother, Father, did you know the Socorro Elf Owl is now extinct?”
Sam looked at Heather for clarification, for obviously he was drastically and hopelessly in over his head regarding elf owls, despite his multiple Phds and IQ off the charts. Unfortunately for Sam, Heather was likewise stumped, as they say, and she returned his look of cluelessness.
“And what, pray tell, Sheila, is an elf owl, and who is Socorro?” her mother asked.
The stunningly beautiful twelve-year old took a drink of the ice-cold milk and then proceeded.
“Socorro is not a who, Mother, it is a place, in Mexico to be exact, the natural habitat for the Socorro Elf Owl, the tiniest owl in the world. It is so tiny, Mother, that it lives in abandoned woodpecker holes, and during migration it flies all the way to Arizona and New Mexico. Or rather it once did because it was just announced that the Socorro Elf Owl is no longer. It is extinct, dead, without life, defunct, as it were, never to be seen again in our lifetime.”
Sam could wait no longer, so he cut a piece of the enticing apple pie and took his first bite. The look of rapture that crossed his face was worthy of a painting being created in its honor. He chewed and looked thoughtful, not an easy combination of activities.
“That’s horrible,” he said after swallowing. “And why is the Socorro Elf Owl now extinct, Sheila?”
Sheila had her own swallow to navigate before speaking, having followed her father to the counter to cut a piece of perfection for herself.
“Loss of habitat, Father, or so says the National Geographic magazine I just read, and in truth I have no reason to doubt the veracity of that article or that organization. It is, after all, their job to keep track of these things. Anyway, it seems that Mexicans are cutting down more and more of the forests, in Mexico of course, so that they might farm, and that loss of forest meant loss of habitat, and by extension the loss of the poor Elf Owl. It is no longer, one of thousands of species which have gone the way of the Dodo Bird, never to be enjoyed again. I find it incredibly sad, don’t you?”
Sam and Heather both agreed that it was, indeed, sad. Tragic, in fact, but they felt the need to push their caring daughter a bit, to test her conviction, so to speak. Heather took the reins.
“Sheila, darling, what would you do for the poor farmers of Mexico? They have families to feed and farming is how they feed those families. If those forests were saved so that the elf owl could live, then families would go hungry and suffer. We can’t have that, can we?”
Growing up Quickly
She really was a lovely young woman, this twelve-year old Sheila, transitioning from child to woman in the blink of her parents’ eyes, curves and mounds pushing against her clothes, the childhood softness redefined, looking more and more like her mother daily. At that moment, the moment of her mother’s testing inquiry, the sun shone through the kitchen window and Sheila was illuminated, a vision more beautiful than any painting by any of the world’s greats.
“That’s the problem, isn’t it, Mother?” Sheila said. “Of course the Mexicans must farm. That’s all they know to do in order to survive, so they cut down forests and, by natural selection, some would say, the elf owl waves goodbye and is no longer. What of it, others will say? It is only one species, there are still millions, and progress is progress, after all.
“But Mother, Father, therein is the problem….progress! There is no stopping progress. The population in the United States, right now, in 1970, is a little over two-hundred and three million. By the year 2016, the year this country will be in environmental crisis, the population will be over three-hundred and twenty million, and believe it or not, the population of the world will be over seven billion. Yes, Mother, Father, seven billion!
“Those seven billion will need food, and many will turn to farming, especially in poor countries, and industrialized nations will rape the earth for natural resources, and more forests will be cut down, and more rivers polluted, and more animals will become extinct, and more, and more, and when will it end? Mother? Father? When will it end?” And then the child named Sheila wailed in sorrow and frustration and ran from the kitchen.
“Should I go to her?” Sam asked Heather.
“Leave her be for now, Sam. There is nothing we can say at this moment to make it better. She needs to feel it all. She needs to shed tears and be in pain if she is to fulfill her purpose in life. The earth of the future desperately needs our Sheila. It just doesn’t know it yet but we know it, and we must prepare our daughter, as best we can, for the battle ahead.
By the Bank of the Creek
There sat the young woman named Sheila, in quiet repose, the tears and wailing having ended, a look of peace on her flawless face as she looked into her cupped hands. There, in those hands, was a ladybug.
“We will make the world understand, Delilah,” she said to the bug, and miracle of miracles, the bug listened intently and seemed to nod its head in agreement.
“We must make them understand, Delilah, because if we don’t, heaven help us all.”
The bug nodded its head once again as a small tear slid down its cheek.
“Don’t worry, Delilah. I know what I must do.”
And What We Must Do
Is stop for this week. I’ll be back next week with another installment of this prequel. Thanks for riding along on this whimsical look at the future….the past….and the present.
2016 William D. Holland #greatestunknownauthor
OMG, how egotistical of him….the greatest unknown author…is he serious….has he lost his mind….is he ready for the padded room?
Nah, he’s just billybuc being billybuc!