14. Delighted with His Useless Gift

Lucius trots off, probably figuring its not the stupidest thing he’s been asked to do that evening. Inglorion perches on a nearby retaining wall. It’s a pleasant evening, and in a very few minutes he hears Lucius’s happy chatter, and Brutus’s soft replies. They come into view. Brutus is pulling a small, hand-drawn wagon.

Inglorion steps forward to greet them. “I’ve brought you your owl,” he says.

“So you have! I’m delighted,” says Brutus, and he does seem pleased. He parks the wagon and lifts the owl easily, as if it were made of plaster. It seems inclined to roll in the wagon, so he and Inglorion use a few quick-draws to attach its harness to the sides.

Lucius takes his leave — he’s going home to start dinner — but Inglorion follows along with Brutus, reaching out to steady the owl occasionally with a proprietary air.

He asks idly, “Where will you put it?”

“I have no idea. However, he’s a fine fellow, and will enhance any room. I won’t leave him on the porch, where he’d fall prey to thieves.”

They reach the front door. Brutus releases the quick-draws and harness, and lifts the owl. Inglorion gets the front door for him. They survey the sitting room and kitchen. “Oh, there,” says Brutus. He jerks his chin towards the back wall. There’s a pass-through that leads to the tiny back room, a combined pantry and storage area. “Can you clear a space for it?”

Inglorion moves a collection of cups and assorted coffee-things, and Brutus settles the owl into its new niche. He walks it a little back and to the left, nods his head. They both step back to look at it.

“Damn, that looks nice,” Brutus says. And it does. It’s life-sized and finely detailed, with carefully articulated claws and feathers. Brutus is smiling broadly. “Thank you. I really like it.”

“My pleasure,” says Inglorion.

“Was it hard to fetch it down? Lucius made it sound like quite the adventure.”

Inglorion cocks his head, considers. “About halfway through I thought, You know, this is a moderately dumb-assed thing to do. But by then I was at the top of the roofline, so I thought I might as well press on.” He glances over at Brutus slyly. They both crack up. “Poor Lucius,” Inglorion says.

“Did you really tell him that it would be ill-advised for me to make the attempt?”

“Probably, though I’m sure you refrained out of wisdom, not incapacity. You’re right about the moldings — they’re all plaster, and I didn’t love trusting my weight to them.”

Brutus makes a dismissive noise and gesture. “You literally weigh nothing.”

“Lucius doesn’t think so. He hates belaying me. I outweigh him by 30 pounds.”

Brutus looks amused. “Yes, very hefty. You weight 125 and he weighs 95? I would have paid good money to see the two of you lugging that thing down the sidewalk.”

“Which is why I thought, you’re a strapping fellow and the intended owner, and should earn your owl. Such things have more meaning if you have to work for them.” He shakes his head. “What a monster I am, barking at Lucius to take and give slack, and to look sharp while I lowered it.”

“He said he could tell it was difficult, and that you were worried,” Brutus says demurely.

“I had the natural focus of a man who is wrestling an iron object into an improvised sling three stories above the ground,” Inglorion says with dignity. He adds boyishly, “I enjoyed it immensely.”

“You make me feel old.”

“Really? I think large is the key quality. You should let me savor my triumph. Being tiny is so rarely of use.” He smiles and adds, “I’ll leave you two. Lucius will have dinner ready, and it won’t do to keep him waiting.”

Inglorion’s relations with Brutus shift after the iron owl incident. Brutus has been interested in Inglorion — questioned him about events and his perceptions — but Inglorion has had a sense of being held at a distance, even manipulated. Now Brutus’s manner is warmer, almost tender at times.

At first, Inglorion attributes this to a sense of kinship. Brutus sees his son do something impulsive, Quixotic and a bit reckless, and feels its something he would have done as a young man. After a time, Inglorion realizes there’s more to it. Inglorion stole the owl because owning it would give Brutus pleasure, and he was unlikely and perhaps unable to steal it for himself. The theft shows that Inglorion wants to make Brutus happy, and will go to some lengths to do so. Brutus is flattered and humbled by Inglorion’s motive, and openly delighted with the uselessness of the gift. He could use a pair of breeding goats, but derives daily pleasure the cast-iron owl, with its fixed expression of exasperation and disdain.

For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.

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