Charlie: We dissected owl pellets at school yesterday. You know, owl poop. We saw a lot of bones and skulls in the different pellets. Mostly rodent bones….cuz that’s the owl’s main food source. Rodents. Which makes me feel a little sad for my pet rats, but that’s life. The Circle of Life.
Cassie: Hmmm. How interesting. You touched the pellets? When you were dissecting? With your bare hands?
Charlie: Of course. Sheesh. Don’t worry, Mom. They bake the pellets at high temperatures to kill any of the bacteria in the poop. You know, because of Moms like you.
Cassie: I see. In whose oven, ummm, did these pellets get baked?
Charlie: Oh, Mom. It’s at some factory where they prepare the pellets for all schools that do this science project. Sheesh. It’s done at a factory. It’s a big process. So there won’t be an uproar from the parents.
Cassie: How do you know that?
Charlie: The teacher had to explain the whole thing because one of the girls (of course) asked about the germs.
Cassie: Of course.
(Max enters the kitchen, grunting and shuffling. He drops his heavy back pack to the kitchen floor. Thud. He proceeds with his personal breakfast preparations.)
Cassie: Morning, Max.
Charlie: (to Max) We’re talking about owl pellets.
Max: I was wondering if we could consume breakfast in total silence today.
Charlie: No, we can’t. I was down here first and Mom and I are talking about owl pellets.
Max: (Max looks over at me and frowns.) Pellets? That’s owl poop, right?
Charlie: Yes, it is. Anyway, to prove that it wasn’t gross, I picked up one of the pellets. Held it up high for the class to see. I wanted to show everyone it was really going to be okay to touch the poop….because it’d been cooked and all.
Max: (look of disgust) The poop was cooked?
Charlie: Yea. Kills the bacteria. Anyway, a couple of the girls gagged. And then when we started to dig around in the pellet to find all the bones — that’s what we were supposed to do for the class — one girl said she was going to puke.
Max: No kidding.
Charlie: Yea. It was totally awesome. I sort of had to lead the class then, cuz the teacher had to take care of the sick girl. I told everyone that my Mom would be totally grossed out.
Cassie: I don’t know. I think I could probably handle owl poop.
Charlie: No. Not about the pellets. You would be grossed out about the girl who was going to puke. I told them you have issues. With throw-up.
Cassie: Oh my God, Charlie. You told the class that?
Charlie: It’s the truth.
Cassie: Be quiet, Max.
Max: What?! I didn’t say anything. But really. What kind of family talks about owl shit at breakfast?
Cassie: Max, you had the same section in Science…in third or fourth grade. I totally remember you talking about the owl pellets.
Max: Yea. But I didn’t talk about it for like an hour. At breakfast. There’e a lot of verbal diarrhea in this family.
Charlie: Since you bring up diarrhea—
Max: Alright! I’m done. Have a good day everyone. Weirdos.
Charlie: (calling after Max, who’s departing from the kitchen, backpack slung over his shoulder) Right back at ya, bro. (Pause) Now where was I?
Cassie: Max! Brush your teeth before you go. Max? Did he already walk out the front door?!!! That kid! (To Charlie) I think I’m kinda done with this conversation too.
Charlie: But I wasn’t finished yet.
Cassie: You can tell me more about it some other time. There will probably be more pellet dissection today anyway. Right?
Charlie: I hope so.
Cassie: Hurry up and go brush your teeth. Wait! Charlie, did you wash your hands thoroughly yesterday? Like, a lot. Like with hot water? Oh. My. God.
Charlie: Yes, Mom. Yes, I’m almost certain I did. At least once. I’m pretty sure. Anyway, what’s done is done. And everything was cooked. It was all cooked.
(Author’s note: It was pointed out to me by a reader that Owl Pellets are, in fact, not owl poop, but rather regurgitated food that the owl throws up — bones and whatnot — as part of the owl’s digestion process. This information did not make me feel better and I can see completely now where Charlie’s third grade classmate — the one who felt sick during the pellet presentation — was coming from.)