When The Owl Calls Your Name
By Sarah Harison
"Grandpa Jim, Grandpa Jim, tell us another story."
Grandpa Jim looked at his grandchildren affectionately. Jessica was 14 and lookin' more like her Ma
everyday. James the third, known as Jim 3, was 15 and at the age where he thought parents and
grandparents were dumber than dirt. He was playin' with this thingamajig that made phone calls, played
music and games. He had been complainin' all day that he couldn't get any bars up here, whatever that
means. Grandpa Jim sighed, he remembered when VCR's was high tech.
"Tell us another story about Aunt Sylvie, please Grandpa!" Jessica pleaded.
Grandpa Jim heard Jim 3 sigh, the kind of sigh that only put-upon teenagers can make. "Ok Jessie, I have
a story about Aunt Sylvie that I think you two are old enough to hear. But no nightmares. Your grandma will
skin me alive if'en you have nightmares."
"I promise Grandpa." Jessica said solemnly.
"As you know, Aunt Sylvie was thought highly of in Spooks Cove. She was known as a granny doctor. That
was a lady who knew how to make medicines from plants and roots. She was also a midwife, that's
someone who delivers babies. She was friends with'en all the critters in the woods, raccoons, 'possums,
coyotes, birds, and........."
"Bears!" blurted out Jessica.
"Yes, even bears. But there was more to Aunt Sylvie than that. She had the gift of knowin'. She said it
come from her Cherokee side. You'll understand more as the story goes on. The story starts when Aunt
Sylvie went to visit her husband, Virgil, in the McElrath family cemetery."
"Jimmy, please come over, I have ta talk to ya now." Aunt Sylvie said on the phone. "Something bad is a
I sighed as I hung up the phone. I had hoped for a nice quiet evening with my girl, Jessie May. When I
arrived at Aunt Sylvie's cabin in the holler, she was all a twitter. Aunt Sylvie is not one who is easily ruffled.
"What's wrong, Aunt Sylvie?" I asked, knowin' something was very wrong.
Aunt Sylvie composed herself. "I was at the cemetery today visitin' your Uncle Virgil. I was tellin' him all
the latest news when I heard them. The owls was hootin' all around me. Do you know what it means when
owls hoot in the daytime?"
"No Aunt Sylvie, I don't." I replied
"It means someone is gonna die!' She answered.
"Nonsense Aunt Sylvie. Owls will sometimes come out durin' the day in matin' season. It was just some
owls he'in' and she'in'."
"No boy, not that many. These weren't no owls a courtin'. It's just a matter of time before them owls call a
"Call a name..... what?" I was confused to say the least.
"When the owl calls your name, Death comes a callin'."
I felt a chill run up my spine. "Aunt Sylvie have you ever heard an owl call a name?" I wished I hadn'ta
"Yep, once, just before your Uncle Virgil passed from this world." She replied.
A few days later I was at the Spooks Cove Grab And Dash pickin' up a bottle of Tennessee Farms
Strawberry Wine for Aunt Sylvie. Ok, I was also pickin' up a case of Bud and a bag of naco tortilla chips for
myself. Ashley Jenkins was workin' the cash register.
"Hello Jimmy, I see ya pickin' up a bottle of Sylvie's favorite wine. You tell Sylvie that the poultice she give
me for my acne worked. Spencer Ballard brought me back a whole bag of oranges from Florida. I give
Sylvie half them oranges for the poultice. It was worth it. Oh, say hey to Jessie May for me." She gushed.
I was only payin' half attention, I was thinkin' about spendin' tonight at mine and Jessie May's favorite spot
at Bear Mountain Waterfall.
I drove up to Sylvie's house and she come out sayin' "the name's dun been called." She had tears in her
I felt a rush of fear. Now I'm not an overly superstitious person, but I got a mighty amount of respect for
Aunt Sylvie and her gift.
"Aunt Sylvie, come inside, let me pour you a glass of wine. I want you to drink some wine and then tell me
what you heard." I didn't want to know.
"The owls was callin' last night, they called Ashley. The only gal I know by that name is Ashley Jenkins,
George and Edith's youngest. Oh, that poor child, she give me oranges for that acne poultice I made fer
her. Ya see those seedlings on the windowsill, I growed those from the oranges she give me." Aunt Sylvie
I left her house feeling a bit torn. Should I warn Ashley? About what? Aunt Sylvie may be wrong and as the
preacher says, the good Lord decides when it's your time.
I was drivin' through town the next day and seen Sheriff Hall's patrol car outside the Grab and Dash along
with a crime scene truck from Asheville. My heart fell to my stomach. I stopped the car to talk to the sheriff.
"Hello Bob, what's goin' on? Somebody git robbed?" I asked.
Sheriff Bob sighed. "It's worse than that. The Jenkins girl didn't come home from work last night. Her
parents went lookin' for her and found her car in the Dash and Grab's parkin' lot. The door to the store was
unlocked and the lights still on. No sign of Ashley. No money was taken from the register. She ain't one to
worry her parents like this. If'en she went off with her beau, she would locked up first. She was a
responsible girl. I fear the worst. Have you seen Ashley lately?"
"I seen her yesterday afternoon when I stopped by the store to pick up a couple of things, but I ain't seen
her since. You think someone took her?" I was feeling sicker by the minute.
"I do and I don't think this will end well. Damnit, this kind of shit doesn't happen in Spooks Cove! The
crime scene fellers are lookin' for fingerprints and sprayin' luminol for blood. I don't think we'll be that
lucky to find evidence. Since nobody saw nothin', he must have been in and out real quick." Sheriff Bob
said, lookin' as sick as I was feelin'.
I told Sheriff Bob that I would be prayin' for Ashley and I drove off. He said he was gonna pay a visit to
Ashley's beau, Spencer, and see what his story was. I dreaded tellin' Aunt Sylvie, but I knowed that I
needed to be the one to tell her.
I drove up to her cabin and she was a sittin' on the front porch. I walked up the steps and she had a look
on her face that told me she already knew.
"Ashley's dead ain't she?" She said sadly.
"She's missin', we don't know nothing else."
Aunt Sylvie sighed, "She's gone, I feel it in my heart. Oh, that poor sweet girl. Here Jimmy, have some
As she was pourin' me a cup of tea, I noticed she had three cups sittin' by the tea jug. "You expectin'
someone else, Aunt Sylvie?" I asked.
"Yep, someones a comin' and I dread it down to my bones." Aunt Sylvie looked off toward Whisper
I soon heard a vehicle comin' up Sylvie's driveway. It was an old pickup truck and I recognized the driver.
This day couldn't git any worse.
"Ya better go inside, Jimmy. Edith will feel more comfortable talkin' with me alone." Aunt Sylvie said sadly.
I went inside and closed the door but left it open a crack. I knelt down and put my ear to the crack. I
knowed eavesdroppin' was wrong but I couldn't help myself.
Edith Jenkins climbed the steps to the porch. Aunt Sylvie looked kindly at the distraught woman. She was
wearin' a plain pink cotton dress, her hair was all messed up, and she looked like she hadn't slept.
"Please sit Edith and have some Chamomile tea." Aunt Sylvie poured her a cup.
Edith took the cup without even lookin' at it. "Sylvie I needs your help, Ashley is missin'. I brought a
picture of her. Please, help my baby!" She pleaded.
Aunt Sylvie took the picture and looked at it. She closed her eyes. "I ain't gonna lie to ya Edith, I'm sorry,
but Ashley is in God's hands now."
Edith wailed and started hittin' her chest with her fists. She begun sobbin' uncontrollably. Aunt Sylvie got
up and put her arms around the woman and held her until the sobbin' lessened.
"Sylvie, we need to find her and bring her home. Where is her b.......?" Edith couldn't bring herself the say
"I'll do my best ta help, Edith.....Jimmy!" Aunt Sylvie yelled. "Bring me that jar of Valerian tea from the
I was so startled that I fell back on my butt. I git up and went to the cupboard and found a jar of Valerian
tea. I brought it out to Aunt Sylvie.
"Edith, take this home with ya. Use two teaspoons and a pint of boilin' water. Drink a cup and give some
to George and the young'uns. Ya got to be strong for your family."
"But Sylvie we gots to go out and find Ashley." Edith argued.
"No, leave that to Sheriff Bob and his deputies. The menfolk in town are formin' search parties. You and
George need to be with your family." Aunt Sylvie said firmly.
Edith got up and walked unsteadily back to her car. As she drove away, I turned to Aunt Sylvie and said
"you know more than ya told her, don't ya?"
"Yep boy, the feller who dun this has killed before and he'll do it agin. He's like a dog who's tasted blood
and won't stop killin' 'til he's put down. I feel like Ashley is somewhere near a stream. I see a wall of rock
and something ta do with the Cherokee. That's all I got." Aunt Sylvie picked up Ashley's picture. "I need ta
do some thinkin'."