Thursday, December 22, 2016

Melfi's Story

They first saw her at an animal shelter, and she was half under a blanket, crammed into a crate with what might have been her litter-mates, cowering in the midst  of utter bedlam, as her tiny ears rang from an ear-piercing cacophony of desperate canines crying out to be claimed. 

But this was not Dr. Jennifer Melfi's true origin story.

Hundreds of years earlier, she walked in silence slowly through a dark forest, her ears still lying flat, her eyes only recently opened, the full-moon shadow of a great horned owl, also called "the tiger of the air," hovering above her, occasionally haunting the night air with rhythmic hooting, a warning, in fact, not to the diminutive Dr. Melfi, but to all who would harm her.

In the shadow of the tiger, Melfi, her silky gray fur dappled with the moon's light through the sheltering trees, cared nothing for the owl, whether he be predator or protector.

The truth is, Melfi cared nothing for any of her fellow creatures, and with every passing day, she cared even less for them. They were not her problem unless they stood in her way. From the time she could walk, she would slap a coyote or a fox or even a huffing bear that crossed her path.

Furthermore, she was not above slapping a sleeping wolf, then hissing at him over her shoulder as she departed, the wolf too stunned to retaliate.
As Melfi appeared to Jade Deatherage in a dream

Other beings simply took oxygen meant only for Melfi, occupied space that was hers, ate the food and drank the river water and dew from the leaves that was meant for her, and her alone.

So why would she care that the tiger of the air always kept her in sight? That was his problem, not hers. 

Did he feel some connection with her, a kinship that went beyond blood inheritance, the handing down of likenesses and behavioral oddities, the giant owl who soared silently above a forest that was nothing more than a table upon which tidbits of vital nutrients futilely attempted to obscure themselves from him?

She would look at the owl with dispassionate eyes, her left pupil smaller than the right, a peculiar asymmetry assigned by nature to offset the perfect matching of her white paws. 

Gray as a cloudy night was the haughty Melfi, a sister, perhaps, to Dickens' Lady Dedlock, maybe sharing that Lady's secrets, something in her she needed to hide, though it pinched her heart and reined in her affections, depriving her fellow living things of those tender feelings.
Dr. Melfi's godmother

She had no way of knowing why she awoke one night, not in her sylvan home, but in a prison of confused and sullen cats and panicky and desperate dogs, their incessant and strident pleas being an ineffective rhetoric to soften a human heart -- or Melfi's. 

This clamor, this pandemonium, made Melfi, partly covered with a smelly blanket, miss the deep dark forest and her steady diet of baby mice and moles the great owl had secretly herded into her path.

Humans would come, the gangling species so often ridiculed in the forest, and take her to a ceilinged home with animals less bright and less interesting than those with whom she grudgingly shared the woods.

The humans didn't matter to her very much, their toys nothing like the moths and lizards and frogs she attacked in the forest. Only a puff ball tossed up by the female human while Melfi leapt at it from what appeared to be a bed of leaves, only that called back her capacity for leaping, soaring skyward so gracefully that the animals in the wild called it flying, and called her "Little Owl," but not to her face.
Dr. Melfi's primal home

She did not like being called "Little Owl." She did not like being called.

So, yes, stunning beyond words, Dr. Melfi was aloof, distant, grumpy, irascible, if you will. 

But as the years went by and the human hands nursed her through illnesses and gave her treats she would only eat in certain corners of the garage and scratched her gently beneath her tiny soft ears, the hands trying persistently but gently to touch her bean-sized heart, after all of this, she liked them even less.

Liked or being liked was not part of the deal. She was a child of the forest, one whose blending of hauteur and indifference produced a kind of courage so strong it captured the heart of a hungry owl though its razor-sharp beak watered for Melfi meat, a delicacy, a breakfast for him and the gape-beaked owlets back home.

The predator became her guardian angel. Everyone else's love would pale by comparison. 

She rarely spoke, but once was heard to say, "Leave me alone and let me be Melfi.  I'm just Melfi, but such a Melfi. You may admire my beauty from a distance."

To this day, she wonders if that is asking too much.
"And what are YOU looking at?"

1 comment: