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.




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