What Does the Owl Say?

Terry Johnston at Cafe Bienville, surrounded by her artwork.

Terry Johnston at Cafe Bienville, surrounded by her artwork.

There are some commonly asked questions when people first discover Cafe Bienville in Niceville.

Where are the menus? How did I not know this place was here? How many beignets come in an order? See the answer key below for these answers.

In the meantime, I’d like to answer one particular question that has haunted regulars of the cafe for years, including myself. Countless heated discussions have played out on the topic, with no resolution forthcoming.

In the far right corner, overlooking the booth most favored by intellectuals, is the painting of a purple owl. His look is deadpan, emotionless… almost cyborg. Behind him hovers a UFO, and above him is an incomprehensible, runic message in a chat bubble.

Is the UFO dropping him off or coming to take him? Does it have nothing to do with him at all? Is he an alien spy sent here to monitor our progress as a species? Do the aliens think owls are the intelligent life forms on our planet? Are owls are the intelligent life forms on our planet? But most importantly, what does the owl say?

I had a chance to ask the artist of the painting, Terry Johnston. She is known around Niceville for her high spirited and colorful works. Her paintings tend toward surreal, magical and mystical realms. Much of her work hangs for sale at Cafe Bienville, warming the walls with whimsy. On a side note, I recently found out it’s Terry Johnston’s brush that’s responsible for the distinctive Read it Again Bookstore exterior.

At first, when asked what the owl was saying, Terry gave no clear answer. She seemed reluctant to part with this closely held secret, but, being the intrepid and tenacious reporter I am, the secret was eventually given. And here, the answer to the long pondered question at Cafe Bienville, one that has stumped coffee drinkers for years, is at long last revealed:

As the purple owl sits upon his perch, he gives us the answer to our long search, and reveals the meaning of runes overhead and we must be brave and accept what he said even if our new knowledge is not what we expected the answer’s the thing because truth must be accepted. So the runes, translated, all roughly mean in the language of owls, also language of kings, to regard certain licking of mankind’s confections and how many of these licks and in what directions should these licks be directed and how many does it take to reach the sweet center and see the thing break?

And with that, consider this another mystery excellently solved by yours truly. You’re welcome.

Answer key: 

Where are the menus? 

˙ɹǝʇsooɹ ʇuɐıb ɐ ʎq ʎɐɹʇ ɐ uo pǝʇuǝsǝɹd buıǝq ǝɹɐ ʎǝɥʇ ˙ǝɔuɐɹʇuǝ ǝɥʇ ɟo ʇuoɹɟ uı ʎןʇɔǝɹıp

How did I not know this place was here?  

˙ǝɹoɯ ǝɹoןdxǝ puɐ ʇno ʇǝb oʇ pǝǝu noʎ

How many beignets come in an order? 

˙sןıɐʇǝp ǝɹoɯ ɹoɟ nuǝɯ ǝɥʇ pɐǝɹ ˙ǝǝɹɥʇ

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She is a Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020. She co-publishes Space and Time, a publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction since 1966. Join the community at spaceandtime.net
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