The Lonely Hooting Owl | Teen Ink

The Lonely Hooting Owl

October 23, 2014
By Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

There’s a pleasant breeze in the night, just the right one that blows the smoke away from you. I’ve been a night owl lately, haunting the veranda come nightfall and burning cigarette after cigarette until my lungs lit up in protest. Worse, I still keep chasing the skies for every jet that flies by. Wishing maybe, just maybe, it’s that one.

Mom and Dad have flown out the country again. A week’s passed since the tears and goodbyes and airplane take-offs, but they’ve rooted down in my head. I don’t even know why. We aren’t close in the slightest. Sure, Jason was quite warm with them, but it was a different business with me. Maybe it’s because he was five years younger than me. Stilted dinner talks fell apart after the “Catherine, how’s school?” answered with my own well-worn “Fine”. But maybe that’s just how things are. A seedling needs its sunshine, after all, or else it wilts and dies.

Except it’s been days since they went off-radar. No one even knew what happened. One day, it’s all wonderful as I hyped myself up for their arrival. Then Jason called me. A plane reported missing and before you even check the flight number, the anxious, instinctive feeling’s there. It’s like some nasty ventriloquist’s got you from the inside, and you don’t even own your voice.

I blew smoke. It drifted in the wind, away. The whole community’s silent. There’s not a car in the street, and our neighbors’ lights are mostly shut. Only the branches and their leaves dared move. I sucked the last life out of my cigarette, smudged its burning end out, and tossed it. They’re strewn all over the wooden floor. Oh hell, I need to sweep that up. I don’t want Aunt Evelyn asking around again.

I crossed to the dining room. The setting for two was undisturbed. I can hardly blame Jason for his loss of appetite. We’ve survived the past few days, but drinking cold, jellied soup is not living. I haven’t seen the little ghost since last night.

I climbed the stairs to the bedrooms, and stopped by his door. It’s way too quiet, like how the world shut its yawping mouth when the bad news floated by.

Straining my ear against the door, I hear muffled sounds.

I knocked. “Jason? Your food’s cold. You really must eat.”

His voice came through the wood. “No.”

“You’re too hard on yourself. Come on out.”

“Go away.”

“What, do you plan to starve yourself out?”

No reply.

“I’m going in,” I said.

With a hand on the cold metal knob, I opened the door. There was an inching creak. The room was black if not for the computer’s bluish glow. And there in front of it, Jason sat petrified on his chair, his face perfectly calm, with Dad’s Berretta pressed against his temple. When the light of the hallway spilled into his room, he looked at me, and in a graceful arc, swung the pistol from where it was, aiming it at my forehead.

I drew my hands up.

“Jace, what--”

“Step back, sis.” His voice scraped hard at the end, and it sank grumblingly.

I crept to him at  a careful pace, but he rushed back, spectre-like, swinging the pistol around. Then he trained it shakily at me again.

“Please. Just leave me to do this.”


“Don’t call me that.”

“Jason,” I said. This time he was calm. He sat on the bed, shivering all over like a wet pup. I wrapped my arm around his drooping shoulders. “Tell me what’s going on.” I reached for the pistol, but he shot me a look that bore enough fearful threats.

Jason toyed with the heavy Beretta, flicking the safety absentmindedly. The gun was old with countless scars in its paint. He tossed it about in his young, clean hands.

“You know how it is.”

“Mom and Dad?”

He nodded.

“Look at yourself,” I said, picking up his icy hand, and warming it in mine. “Oh my god, Jason. You’re so cold...”

He drew back. “I’m fine. Really.”

“No.” I bundled him in the loose checker bed sheets. “You’ve got to look after yourself.”

“It’s ruined you too. Since when have you ever smoked or gotten drunk--”

“Inebriated. I was just slightly inebriated.” I blushed, and suddenly felt conscious of my own slips and faults.

“It’s killing me. It’s killing us.”

“I know. But we can work past this, right? It can be done. That’s how I get through it.” I let out the faintest smile. “I imagine this is what they’d want. For us to go on. Crazy as it sounds, I like to believe it.”

“I don’t know, Cath. I just don’t know.” He looked at the computer screen. The page was nearly blank except for an opening line. The cursor was blinking where he stopped.

“Dear everyone, especially to those who wasted themselves on me,” it read.

“I was writing it when you intruded,” Jason said. “It was supposed to be beautiful.” He looked at the gun, cocking and uncocking the hammer. “When it was done, I was gonna sneak to the fridge, and eat a whole bar of chocolate. Then I’d blow my brains out, and be done with it.”

He’s a kid. That’s it. Just a little kid.

“Oh, Jace... Come on, let’s go down right now. We’ll drink a gallon of milk and eat every chocolate in sight.”

He was still.

I lit up another cigarette. The smoke wafted out the bedroom window. Suddenly Jason looked cross, and his face soured.

“Cathy,” he said.


“You know that’s bad.”

“Calms my nerves,” I said. I inhaled deeply, and savored the smoke curling out my breath.

“Stop it, please. You’ll get cancer.”

I laughed a trifle more than I should.

“You’re such a character, Jason, you know that? Here you are, and what, you’re thinking about me smoking myself to death? I’m just two years away from being grown up, anyway.”

“I’m worried for you. I hate the world and everything in it, but not you.” Then, he snatched it from my lips, and stomped it on the dirty carpet.

“Hey, you ass!”

For a second, he smiled. Not the goofy, face-bending kind, but of the gentle, almost unseen wry variety. He was so young, so innocent. I wrapped my arm around him, hugging him tightly.

“Please, please, please don’t go, Jace. Just don’t do it. There is hope. There always is.”

He sighed and turned away.

I moved my hand to the pistol again but he withdrew. “Touch this, and I’ll kill you, Cath. I swear it.”

Dead silence.

“Oh god. Jace, what are you saying? Do you... Do you hear yourself?”

He couldn’t look at me. Of course, he couldn’t. “I’m sorry. I just--I don’t know.” He ran his fingers down the length of the barrel contemplatively. “When that policeman and the airline representative told us what happened, did the world go quiet for you?” he said.

“Too much. There was something to that, wasn’t there? It made me feel like ending it right then and there.”

“But you didn’t.”

“But I didn’t.”

We sat like that for a long time until the sunrise. I had nothing to say.

It seemed eternities passed before he stood up, and said, “I’m through with this.”

“Okay, look. Just sit down. We can talk this through,” I said. My heart was racing. My skin was burning, and if he didn’t sit down soon, I’d scorch myself to ashes like my million other trampled cigarettes.

“No. Come on. Let’s go outside. I want one last look--”

I rose too, and clasped him on the shoulder, but he shied away. Oh Christ, what if I can’t stop him? All these thoughts of love ought just to burst from my mind, enveloping him like a shell from the pain, the despair. Then all would be right. But it can’t.

“I’m tired of that, of everything.” He walked to the window where the sunlight shone bright and hopeful, and peeked through the shutters. “I hate it. In a couple hours, Aunt Evelyn’ll take us to God knows where. I just can’t stand that. Even thinking of it scares me. I’ll be in someone else’s house, sleeping in someone else’s bed, eating someone else’s crummy bacon and eggs. It sounds silly, I know, but...” His eyes locked with mine. “I miss Mom and Dad.”

“It’s okay. I’m here. We still have each other.” I said.

“But Aunt Evelyn--I don’t want to go with her. I just want to stay here.” He held his head between his arms, the gun still clenched in his fist. With dry racking sobs, he cried. He turned to me with his swollen eyes, and said, “Cathy, could I ask something?”

“What is it?”

“Do you remember that lullaby Mom used to sing?”

I nodded. My voice was like hollow wind. “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird...

“...So hush little baby, don’t you cry. Daddy loves you, and so do I.” By the end of it, his head rested on my lap with a look of near bliss. Smiling and his hand crossed over his chest that rose and fell steadily.

“I can’t believe what’s happening to us, sis,” he said, voice choking. “When I first heard the news, I thought it was some joke. It couldn’t be true, like Jesus should save us from these things. Then I heard your footsteps running up the stairs, and your door slamming shut. And you never joked about serious stuff. I locked myself up after that.”

Then he closed his eyes and curled his mouth into a thin, hard line. It’s impossible to describe unless you’ve lost someone you’ve truly loved.  Little Jace, who never cried when his toys broke, oh little Jace, you have to keep together.

“Hey, look at me, Jason. We can pull through this mess. Jason?”

But it’s like he couldn’t hear a word I said. “Did you know I haven’t had a bite to eat or a glass of water since last night?” he said. “I mean, I’d really love it if you fetched me a something for my throat. It’s so hoarse. A little water might do.”

I was stupid. I was so goddamn stupid. I went to the kitchen without even thinking and groped for a glass in the early dusk. When I got back, the door was locked.

“Jason? Jason! Open up, now!” I pounded the door so hard, the dust showered from it. I kept hitting and thrashing and bashing for hours. The cup was no longer in my hand. When I looked down, the floor glittered with my blood and the shards of glass. But my own pain was secondary.

He hadn’t done it. There was no bang, not even a whimper. Just silence.

Then, he said, “Cath, I’m not coming out of here.”

I said nothing.

“I have to confess something, sis. I have two bullets. And it’s better you don’t know what the other was really for.”

I said nothing.

“But it’s better like this. When I fire the first shot, I want you to run away, far way. Don’t come back. Not until they find me.”

I said nothing.

“Don’t attend the funeral. I don’t want to see you sad.”

I said nothing.

“Cath, say something, anything. I need to hear you.”


“Promise me you’ll do those.”

“Okay... I promise.” I was crying. I slid down to the floor, back against the door. The beams of sunlight stretched to my toes, and the warmth was almost comforting.

“Thanks,” came his voice through the wood. “You shouldn’t have come back. I’ll miss you, Cath. I really will. But I just can’t stay.” After a long pause, he said, “I’m so sorry. Visit if you want.”

“Wait, please.”

Why can’t I move? Why can’t I stop him?

“I love you, Jace. Okay?”

The author's comments:

If you're going through tough times right now, stop reading. Get help. Talk to someone. There are escapes other than suicide. I promise things will get better.

More people love you than you'll ever know.

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This article has 18 comments.

on Sep. 29 2015 at 9:27 am
Chrissiana1320 BRONZE, Hypoluxo, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It isn't what you can do with your strength, but how you chose to use."

-By me, I think.

That was so good. The ending was really sad though. And i wondered what would happen with Cath.This piece almost made me cry.

Beila BRONZE said...
on Mar. 8 2015 at 1:42 am
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 516 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Sorry, technical issues with Teen Ink. That was me. :)

. said...
on Mar. 8 2015 at 1:41 am
Jason died, and because it broke my heart, I cannot say I loved this... but I really want to. Your writing is phenomenal. I think you capture a lot of subtle details of characterization and tone in this story that set it apart from other authors' work. I am also impressed by the honesty and verisimilitude in your characters. In real life, girls smoke to hold themselves together, and boys kill themselves because they're falling apart. In real life, the people who die in plane crashes are parents, and their kids become emotional wrecks, and the new guardians are not at fault for anything at all but are left to bear the burden of the family tragedy. In real life, you can't save even your own brother, and in real life, it's impossible to unlock the door. Thank you for unapologetically casting a light on this experience, and for your Author's Note. We like to say that "suicide is never the answer," but I think to help people who turn to that, we need to understand them first. Sometimes, it sure does look like the answer. Reading this story could be the first step towards that understanding, that acceptance--thinking of suicide doesn't make you alien; it just makes you very, very hurt.

on Mar. 4 2015 at 9:37 pm
Allen. PLATINUM, Palo Alto, California
32 articles 9 photos 525 comments

Favorite Quote:
[i]No matter how much people try to put you down or make you think other things about yourself, the only person you can trust about who you really are is you[/i] -Crusher-P

It's very difficult to critique this because honestly, it's touching. The emotions displayed are not cliche, not too melodramatic, and terribly beautiful. A few things I would change: 1. The tenses often swap here. In the beginning you write "There’s a pleasant breeze in the night...", which implies present tense. Later on, however, you switch to past tense- "I went to the kitchen without even thinking." 2. The reasoning behind the suicide seems rather brutal. Most teens or adults (and I say most, not all) would not kill themselves over someone else's death. Perhaps elaborate or add more reasons. 3. How did they end up in the house alone? Are they 18 or over? Another detail that would have been nice to know. 4. Who told who about their parent's disappearance? In the first few paragraphs, Catherine mentions Jason calling her. Later on, Jason asks Catherine about how she felt when the airline representatives told her. However, all in all, this is a masterfully told story that should have landed at the very least an editor's choice, let alone a magazine feature.

on Feb. 13 2015 at 7:39 pm
BreeZephyr SILVER, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
7 articles 0 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” - Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

I read this story probably two weeks ago. ...And I cannot stop thinking about it. Seriously. It just comes back to me, over and over and over. "I love you Jace. Okay?" That line. Over and over. My little brother's name is kind of similar to Jason, btw. Maybe that's why your story won't leave me alone. I keep thinking about how I would feel if I lost him. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that this is a stellar story. It sucked me in, made me care, made me freak out when Catherine left the room (I TOTALLY saw what Jace was doing; I reacted to it the way I do when I'm watching a movie--screaming at the screen), made my heart stop when the story ended and I didn't know what was going to happen. Excluding the first few lines (I agree with another commenter--they were a little low key compared to the rest of the story) it kept me on my toes. Thank you for such a great read. I hope you post more short stories like this. :)

on Jan. 26 2015 at 7:41 pm
Jtatsu PLATINUM, East Brunswick, New Jersey
26 articles 0 photos 77 comments
That was beautiful. Tragic but beautiful. I loved all the details, your character's personalities in all their complexity, and I'm speechless. Mindblown.

on Nov. 26 2014 at 9:41 am
BronyBirdOfPrey BRONZE, Oviedo, Florida
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"What's the fun in making sense?" -Discord

*imitates mind explosion*

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 17 2014 at 9:32 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Thanks! Yeah, I figured the first paragraph needs a better hook. Thanks for the feedback--I'll remember to add something more grabbing in my next story.

on Nov. 16 2014 at 5:10 pm
Icithra PLATINUM, Arlington, Massachusetts
26 articles 0 photos 46 comments

Favorite Quote:
The wastebasket is a writer's best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

That was crazy good! It was so full of emotion and the dialogue and actions were incredibly relistic. It was amazing, and the only thing you might want to change is the first sentance wasn't as tension-strung as the rest of the story. I almost lost intrest, you could add a really small hook to keep me reading. Great job!

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 10 2014 at 9:11 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Haha, I don't mind the delay! You're doing a wonderful thing reviewing other people's work and providing feedback--that's what we writers need the most.   It was actually the first story I've written where I bothered interweaving a sub-layer of themes. Also, I'm glad you noticed the contrast. I'm still toying with symbolism, and I was scared of not getting it right.   Thanks for the review :)    

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 10 2014 at 9:05 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Thanks*   Wow, this is the second time I've messed up spelling in it in the comments.

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 10 2014 at 9:02 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Thank! It's an honor to be named such.

MalaikaJ GOLD said...
on Nov. 9 2014 at 3:26 pm
MalaikaJ GOLD, Cloquet, Minnesota
19 articles 2 photos 127 comments

Favorite Quote:
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. - James Michener

That was amazing! I don't even know what to say, it was so vivid. You are a fabulous writer and this was the most moving piece I've read on Teen Ink. Great, great job!

on Nov. 7 2014 at 8:32 am
Extraterrestrial SILVER, Singapore, Other
9 articles 4 photos 66 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it's a plan!"

Okay, so, I don't know if you remember but you left a comment on a thread I started... like a week ago... and I'm sorry it took so long for me to read your story, but I am so glad I did because this is one of those stories that just takes your breath away. Also, run-on sentence is run-on, and I really need to organize my thoughts to form coherent sentences on this sheer amazingness that you have written. I'm a sucker for stories with a great mood/atmosphere, and you've pretty much had me hooked right from the start. I love the slow falling-apart of your characters, and the slowly-mounting sense of desperation towards the end. The story of two siblings, drifting apart and coping with loss separately -- the older sister by smoking and drinking, the younger brother by toying with the idea of suicide -- and yet brought closer together simultaneously. I particularly love the bit where you contrasted the gun "with countless scars in its paint", and Jason's "young, clean hands." That really strikes a chord. I love how the siblings' roles are reversed, and how the younger sibling is, in a sense, the one stepping up and taking charge. He's self-assured and determined to follow through with his goal, which is suicide. And Catherine, while older, is so much more unsure and... scattered... about the future, if that makes sense. The last few lines, when Cath accepts that there's nothing she can do to stop Jason, just breaks my heart. You use such vivid imagery and description that I can just see everything playing inside my head. I don't think there's anything to critique. This is just perfection. Again, sorry for the terribly long response time, but thank you for sharing this horrendously tragic (in a good way) story with us. 

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 3 2014 at 10:45 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Thank you! I'll try to be more prolific, haha.

Lunch SILVER said...
on Nov. 3 2014 at 10:44 am
Lunch SILVER, Manila, Other
5 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is always something left to love." – Gabo Marquez

Thank! I'll check out your work :)

SilverLiner said...
on Nov. 3 2014 at 10:38 am
SilverLiner, Accra, Other
0 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:

Guise, that...was lovely. you really are amazing with the ink! will definitely be looking out for more of your work.

Rae_Cobra GOLD said...
on Nov. 1 2014 at 9:59 am
Rae_Cobra GOLD, Altamonte Springs, Florida
10 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We are destroying the world. We should fix it. We are killing our planet. We should revive it. We are not doing much to help the people. We should do more for the people. We are always fighting. We should try loving." -Rae Cobra

This is super fantastic! It was touching and sad. Could you please look at some of my articles? Their linked below. :) Have a superb day!   Wither Falls - Revenge from the Past   Deep Depths, No Air   Underworld: Whispers of the Dead