Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Crane

You won’t remember this but you used to love watching the travelers come through the rye field in their dark suits, dragging the big rubber sacks. You’d crouch just inside your little princess tent cradling your stuffed animal dog. I’d lie on my stomach beside your tent with the binoculars pressed against my face, elbows in the dirt, waiting for the white crane to show up.

There came a day when you were finally ready to go up and meet the crane yourself. You’d outgrown your princess tent and the stuffed animals. Now you lay on your stomach beside me with your own binoculars. I think I see him, you told me. You’re right, I said. That’s the crane. Are you ready to meet him?

Yes. I looked at your bright face, your mouth very serious. Take this, I said and handed you my scythe. You rose up from the ground and pulled your hood over your head. You pushed through the rye, your black cloak flowing. It almost looked like you were floating. You brushed past all the travelers who still dragged their lumpy bags across the dirt.

The crane stood very still on its stick legs, feathers ruffled by the wind. He turned as you moved closer, your cloak flowing. Through my binoculars I could see your hand reaching out to him with your long fingernails. It looked like you were asking him something. Then he opened his sharp beak and spread his wings wide. He shrieked, sounding almost human, and in seconds the travelers surrounded you. But you swept the scythe like I taught you, parallel to the ground, and took them out two at a time, cutting through their dark suits. I watched as they piled up.

The crane took to the purple sky, still screaming. This time I knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Before long his wail was replaced by the noise of a police fanboat coming up through the swamp.

I was proud of you but sad too.

This is what I told your mother: She’s become an expert reaper. When she comes back she’ll do much better than we ever did. And your mother agreed.





A Brief Gathering

Baht’s face pressed into the dry red and orange leaves, crushing them where he lay. He had collapsed half in, half out of the stone foundation of an ancient building. The air was full of black smoke and screams of monkeys and macaws. An arrow stuck straight up out of his forearm, pinning him to the forest dirt. The blood was dried and black and there were flies. An hour ago he’d been standing at the foot of the hill giving a speech “to his countrymen.” He’d waved his arms and shouted a lot, a rain of spittle exploding out every time he enunciated a great word. However, he’d been wrong to gather all the forest animals and try to educate them about the municipal legislative chambers, over which he presided. Even in his drunken state he should have chosen a better pulpit. What does a chipmunk care about percentiles and electoral divisions? A chipmunk is only interested in having his cheeks full of acorns. But they were gathered here just the same, to see the political suicide of a man who’d left his own species behind.

The badgers were the first to leave. The deer and the groundhogs followed. The venomous snakes were not far behind. The moles didn’t have far to go to get out of earshot. Still, he went on loudly extolling the virtues of his own political preferences and denigrating his enemies, now with an audience of some fire ants and a robin with a crooked foot. When he lifted his arm in a toast to his own political achievement, an arrow shot straight through his back, leaving a clean hole between ribs but missing, by sheer luck, any vital organs. He’d been born with a small lung on one side, thankfully, and the arrow merely singed it.

Stumbling then onto the old stones of the foundation he collapsed, only to have arrow #2 stick his arm to the earth. He lay in a bed of autumn leaves and opened one eye to behold his attacker: a spindly figure with dark eyes and a tall hat. The figure spoke even as he drew back his bow once more. That’s enough. THAT’S ENOUGH. He fired off the final arrow that brought first a stillness back to the forest and then the shock of complete silence.

But before long the chipmunks were chattering and flirting again and a pair of wandering sheep began to graze just over the rise. The dark figure straightened up and walked back across the moss and through the bramble patch before reaching his skiff and paddling quickly away into the violet twilight.




All Robot Friendly

Salamander see something he do something. Salamander kill many people. Chased one man across field –right there! But Salamander only kill bad people. You no worry.

How many people have you killed, Salamander?

Seven. Ten. Seventeen. Some days I not remember. But for everyone I kill I make robot life form. To replace.

What does the robot do? How could a robot replace a living person?

They do. People don’t know difference. They replace them. They wear their clothes, hang with friends. Nobody know. Only me robot maker can see difference.

Have I ever seen one of your robots in the real world?

Many times. But they don’t go in water. If you want to see if man is robot ask him go in pool… Man you always see in lobby? He robot.

That blonde-haired guy?

Yes. You ever hear him talk?

No. He seems friendly though.

All robot friendly. I make them that way. But that one he no talk. I no get voice replicator working. Keep short circuit. So I just leave like that. Make so he smile and walk away. He replaced this bad man who steal people money. I kill him, put robot there. Robot no steal money. Robot smile people.

But what about that guy’s family?

His family don’t know. Think he no want talk anymore. But wife left him. She say he too creepy.

You shouldn’t kill people, Salamander.

I know…

Just stop killing people. Just don’t do it anymore.


Salamander, look at me. Why do you have to kill people?

Sometimes Sun tell me to do. Sometimes Moon. Sometimes Wind.

You don’t have to listen to those things. You can make your own choices.

Who you, my conscience? Why don’t you shut up? SHUT UP!

I’m just making a suggestion. I—AKKK!!!! EUCHHH—ERKKHH!

That’s what you get make suggestion. I no like suggestion. You make Salamander mad. He no like guy talk talk talk. Ask question, ask question. You die like rest. I make robot you. Much better. No talk so much. I ran out voice replicator anyway. I make robot just smile, make people happy. No talk talk talk. Talk bad. Robot good. Salamander make world better one robot at time. You thank me later.