Friday, February 25, 2011

Nutty Days

Jersey rolled out of bed, his whiskers twitching in the fall air. The briskness was exactly what they needed. It would bleed the strength from the stems holding the acorns to the trees. A tuft of fur between his ears stood up and he fruitlessly pushed a paw through the cowlick. With one hand on the door hole, he prepared to leap into the tree's void.

"Honey, remember to take the trash out," called Jersey's wife.

"Yes... yes." He looked to the door's side and saw the bag filled with husks that he'd set there last night. Next time, he needed to place the bag right in front of the door. If he couldn't help but stumble over the bag, then he would remember. He checked the bumpers all the way down to the garbage dumpster on the forest floor and they were all aligned correctly. He calculated the velocity and lifted himself on the twig pull-up bar to swing once and kicked with both feet to launch the bag against the first bumper.

Without a second glance he leapt into the void outside his house to glide over the forest floor holding his arms and legs out to catch the air in the skin flaps between his limbs. He would careen off the oak trees at stress points that he'd already marked out and the collision would shake the acorns to the ground.

Two sets of claws wrapped around his arms as a pair of kestrels lifted him into the air. "Hey, I'm busy. I'm going to miss my targets."

The birds cawed. "You'll make a juicy snack."

Jersey struggled, but claws were tight around him as he dangled no longer gliding through the air. "I've got a job to do."

"Figures," said the female kestrel. "They always argue about the laws."

"Laws don't keep our stomachs full," said her husband.

Jersey shook his head as they rose over the tops of the trees. Predators had a different view of the laws. As they rose higher, he saw a symmetry in the trees that he couldn't see when he was closer to them. Yes, he'd set up the stress points to get all the nuts, but he could combine that with an extra sling that would drop from the trees with the energy from the nuts and sweep the pine needles from the school's eaves. Not bad, thought Jersey, he could wrap up all his work with a little extra effort. Of course, first he had to avoid becoming lunch.

"Where are we going?" asked Jersey.

"Someplace quiet," said the male kestrel. "Meals should be eaten in peace."

Jersey struggled but he couldn't get free. "I'm not going to be a quiet meal. There are better pickings out there," he squeaked.

The female kestrel ground her claws tight to painfully squeeze Jersey's forearm. "There are ways to bring peace to our meal."

Her motion created enough space for Jersey to twist his hand and tickle the base of her foot. She careened into her husband and the two of them flailed falling toward the ground. They released Jersey to stabilize their descent. Jersey concentrated on the stress points with a minor modification that he'd seen. He had to come in fast, so the kestrels couldn't recover him. He knocked the acorns loose and swept the needles.

He struck the stress point solidly and careened from tree to tree as acorns pinged like raindrops to land on the forest floor. He didn't have the sling this time, but because of his momentum he slid across the roof dragging the pine needles with him. With a last caper he rounded up the acorns from the ground and scrambled up the tree and into his hole dropping the acorns into the storage bin.

He crawled into bed with his wife.

"Hmm..." His wife rolled over. "Home already? You're lazy today."

"No, no. I got everything accomplished." Jersey flicked a pine needle out of his fur.

"How do you get so much done?"

"Multitasking," he replied.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gross Memory

Stars blinked indicating the flying silhouette rapidly closing on Keats who guarded the Librarian's mounds. He threw himself to the dirt and rolled to look upwards. Flying through the space where he'd been, the man-sized bat's momentum carried it over the radiation jungle beyond the mound's rim. Keats hoped the bat would hunt elsewhere and dreaded another night of evasion. At least, the monster's hunts would hinder the Beattites raids as well.

He felt more than heard the footsteps of a Beattite. A shadow moved down into their fields to steal corn. Keats slid down the side of the mound. He wove between the leaves, his footsteps sounding loudly to his ears; yet, the crack of ears pulled from stalks punctuated the darkness.

Keats leapt upon the back of the Beattite raider and curled his arm around the man's throat to squeeze his windpipe. They rolled through the dirt knocking cornstalks to the ground. The man's elbow caught Keats in the jaw, but he held on.

"Who's out there?" Fear laced Shakespeare's voice.

"Raider!" called Keats.

The Beattite landed a knee in Keats ribs and his grip loosened. The raider ran towards the mounds and into Shakespeare. Keats chased and tackled him from behind and together they wrestled the man to the ground.

"What do we do with him?" asked Shakespeare.

"Our duty." Keats knew their duty was to bring Beattites to the librarian, but it didn't seem fair that outsiders learned stories from the man. Yet, he had to accept it. The Librarian had rescued them following the disaster.

"Why should they become learned?" Shakespeare shook the man between them.

"The librarian says," answered Keats.

"Why should we listen to the librarian?"

Keats swung his arms to point to the corn. "His wisdom recalled the teachings before the bombs and brings us plenty."

"No," Shakespeare pulled the Beattite toward the mound. "The word of a single man is a dictator. We should decide. We should become learned. We free this man."

Keats and Shakespeare watched the man fall down the far side of the mound and spring upwards to run into the depths of the San Joaquin jungle.

Shakespeare muttered under his breath, "Democracy begins."

Scene seed in memory of John Gross who fantasized he might read everything.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Too tired to shed her clothes stained with blood, Nightingale retreated to her tent. Her eyes closed as soon as she leaned against her hard bedroll, but sleep hid from her. The faces of those who had died flickered in her eyes. War was pointless she wanted to scream through raw lips.

"Nightingale?" Pili, one of the apprentice doctors, asked tentatively. When she stirred, he continued, I know you search for news of your brother --"

"He's dead." The apprentices were too tentative. They thought her healing was magic. She grimaced, but let it fall away and tried to smile to ease the lines around her eyes.

"Yes, but when I brought water through the camps, one of the soldiers knew you. Your fame gives them hope."

A sadness burned in her throat. They didn't need hope. They didn't need her. They needed to stop the war. "You wouldn't wake me because one of them knew me. We've earned our fame by saving lives.

"He... he..." Pili dropped to his knees. His face was chunky like rich loam. "He fought at your brother's side."

Nightingale raised her hand to place it on Pili's collarbone, which scratched with dried sweat. "Where is he?"

"Gone, but with his last words he asked me to give you this." Pili handed her a sheet of papyrus with the corners folded and brittle.

A half-page of writing in her brother's cramped style. Addressed to her. She held her breath as she skimmed. It couldn't be her brother's writing. The writing ended in mid-sentence. She dropped the paper.

"What is it?"

"Nothing," said Nightingale, pressing her hand against Pili to keep him from rising as she fled the tent. She climbed a ridge where the moon shone with black rents where streams etched scars into the earth. Pili's footsteps had followed hers, but he abandoned the chase.

The letters couldn't be true. They'd had enough money when father died. No! Her brother couldn't have come south to fight wars -- create wars -- for profit. Nightingale gulped a breath of cold air. She sang one of her people's funeral dirges. The mournful notes pealed into the canyons leaving her empty.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Flower Eaters

The day orb banishes the others, but not the visions gouged into
Billy's eyes. Abandoned in the mall's playarea, he remembers the
twisted shapes milking the dandelions. Sap stains their chins in the
moonlight while fires temper toothpick-sized spears.

"Mommy, mommy." Billy points at others-sized petstore kittens.

Harried, he suspects she'll say no. Her voice drops to her fighting
tones. "One of us should be happy."

Later, Billy cracks the door to let the kitten hunt the others.
Screeches tear the air.

The next morning, spikes pin the kitten's flayed skin to the door.
Billy's the only one to cry.

I posted this one last week on Lily's Friday Prediction. I haven't posted it here and decided to post it as my #fridayflash contribution because I'm jetlagged from my flight out to Sweden today. More coherent posts later.