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Listen On The Wind, adult fiction (1864 words)
© 2003, Doug Troutman
first serial rights 2003, RangeNet.org

 

Listen On The Wind

     The earth was all power and heat, a magma day.  The sky cowered in its flux.  Storm clouds raced heavenward in the distance, well beyond Hart Mountain, off the edge of the earth.  The raptor held fast, playing with the wind, dancing with ease to its song.

     Despite the booming scale of summer oppression, there were other songs; sub-themes of cool assurance as the bubbling spring nourished life around it.  Sage and willow grew tall along the stream, now only a soft whisper in a summer corridor.  A choir of insect life was harbored in the shade, alto, soprano, bass; soloists mostly, little concerned with any binding theme.

     A newcomer, a thunder-maker, appeared in his travel beast and stopped near the spring.

     A sage grouse burst from cover, joined by its mate, timpani on thundering wings.  The raptor rose slightly on the wind and dodged, but did not stoop.  Instead the bird drifted back on the wind, showing an interest in the newcomer.

     This one did not seem a threat.  Granted, he arrived in one of the travel beasts of the thunder-makers, but with only moderate fanfare and he had also silenced the machine.  Such patience seemed rare in their kind’s rush and bother of dust-cloud making.  It was the length of silence from the thunder-maker that began to draw the bird to closer investigation.

     He allowed the wind to push him backward in a drift of slow flight. The raptor could see that the thunder-maker watched, his eyes unblinking, focused on the bird. It was not the stare of threat or fear, just curiosity.

     The bird shot forward briefly into the wind, the thunder- maker’s eyes followed, then shifted to something else.  A deer had been bedded down quietly in the willows since morning and chose this moment to rise and go to water.  Such behavior was highly dangerous, but the thunder-maker merely watched passively.

     No gun boomed. No surge of energy and arousal, the thunder- maker merely yawned.

     “Hi, bird.”

     “What?”

     “I’m going to eat, care to join me?”

     Raptor hardly knew how to respond to such an invitation. “Well, I actually just ate, but it’s nice of you to ask.”

     “No problem, I doubt you like peanut butter anyway.”

     As the thunder-maker reached into the small ice chest on the seat, Raptor settled down to perch on top of the open door.

     “Well howdy there. Nice day isn’t it,” The thunder-maker offered.

     “It is actually. I was just wondering what you were doing out here.”

     “Inventory. Counting how many of you there are, how many deer, and too many damned cows.”

     “You mean too many eating-monsters?”

     “You turn a nice phrase, Mr. Bird, or should I call you Fred? I used to have a cockatiel named Phred, spelled P-h-r-e-d, but you could pass for a Fred.”

     He cocked his head to evaluate the thought. “You may call me Fred if you like. It will certainly save my trying to define my real name to one of you. Scree-fafa-too-c’ma-da doesn’t exactly roll off your tongues.”

     “Okay, Fred it is. You seem friendlier than most of your kind. You guys are usually pretty aloof and huffy. Katerina, the deer over there, doesn’t seem to be too aloof. By the way, have you seen Jeremy lately, or did you eat him?”

     “Jeremy?”

     “My friendly fence lizard. Haven’t seen him the last two times out.”

     “You mean the scaly-runner that used to sit up on that big rock where the water comes from the ground?”

     “Yep.”

     “Burp.”

     “’Nuff said, balance of nature and all that stuff. How was he anyway?”

     “Meaning his intellect, or flavor?”

     “Whatever.”

     “Low and high, respectively.”

     “And they say you guys don’t have any sense of humor.”

     “What’s a sense of humor?”

     “Making jokes, wry irony, transpositions of meaning, shit like that.”

     “Do thunder-maker’s have a sense of humor?”

     “Until they get elected.”

     “That was a joke?”

     “Irony.”

     Fred shuffled across the top of the door as the thunder-maker took a bite of his sandwich. He watched closely, observing the technique.

     The thunder-maker stopped and looked over his glasses. “Uh, sure you wouldn’t like to try some?” He pulled a piece of the sandwich free and held it up to Fred.

     Fred took the morsel and immediately shook it vigorously to break its spine. The result was less than satisfying as the piece of sandwich went flying off across the desert.

     “No talent.” The thunder-maker observed.

     “That stuff tastes terrible!”

     “How do you like eating-monsters?”

     “Let them die and get squishy inside and they’re pretty good, but give me a fresh rabbit any day.”

     “Balance of nature?”

     “No, eating eating-monsters would balance nature, but they’re a real bitch to bring down when they’re on the hoof.”

     “You’re cool, Fred. I like your attitude.”

     “May I ask a question?”

     The thunder-maker finished his sandwich and took a drink of soda. “Shoot.”

     “I wouldn’t do that to you, you seem like a decent sort.”

     “Wait a minute. You’re not supposed to understand hyperbole, let alone generate it.”

     “Why not?”

     “You’re a bird, and granted this is supposed to be my great chance to encounter a true form of nature and generate all these mystic thoughts and everything, but you act like you’re I.Q. is higher than Newt Gingrich’s.”

     “It is.”

     “Irony.”

     “No, fact. It takes ten eating-monsters to equal one Newt.”

     “This is getting weird.”

     “Newt Gingrich is weird,” Fred chuckled. “I thought we were just forming a relationship based on every-day conversational aspects.”

     The thunder-maker took another sip of his soda. Would you like a piece of jerky?”

     “Sure.”

     The thunder-maker held the stick of jerky up and Fred tore off a piece as the thunder maker held tight to his end.

     “This is much better, what is it.”

     “Deer jerky. I smoked it myself.”

     “You name the same creatures you eat?”

     “No. That would be gross. YOU eat the ones I name. I only name the ones I don’t intend to shoot.”

     “So you do shoot some of us.”

     “Not harriers or other raptors. But I do shoot deer and stuff to eat. I lack talons such as yours and it’s a hell of a lot easier.”

     “What’s a harrier?”

     “You are.”

     “But I thought I was a Fred.”

     “Name - Fred, species - Harrier, or Marsh Hawk.”

     “Oh. You’re a thunder-maker. What’s your name?”

     “Dave. We call ourselves human. Sorry, I was rude earlier, I should have introduced myself.”

     “No problem.”

     “So anyway, how do you know about Newt Gingrich and all this other anthropocentric crap we shouldn’t be alluding to.”

     “C-Span”

     “You have a television set?” This time Dave was truly incredulous.

     “Hell no. We all sit on the powerline over a house in Plush and watch it after the humans fall asleep. But the guy watches too much the cowboy screaming channel.”

     “Country Music Television.”

     “That’s what they call that?”

     “To each his own. So when you aren’t eating lizards and watching C-Span, what do you contemplate?”

     “Sunrise, sunset, the metaphysical relationships of our existence, is there life on other planets, do birds exist in alternate universes, can you get a pizza delivered in less than thirty minutes on Alpha Centauri.”

     “You’re pulling my leg and you watch WAY too much television.”

     “Real brain drain isn’t it.”

     Dave held up his jerky and Fred took another bite. This was better than eating-monster with maggot dressing.

     Fred heard a sound and turned to look. Off across the valley a coyote had caught a rabbit and the rabbit let out a death scream.

     “Do all you animals have intellect?”

     Fred though a moment, “Well, not what I would call real intellect. They all have thoughts once in a while, like what plant do I eat, or run like hell- here comes the coyote! Which was the rabbit’s problem over there across the valley, slow run reflex.”

     “What rabbit?”

     “Oh, the one Coyote is eating. You mean you didn’t hear the commotion or see them?”

     “Nope,” Dave squinted and tried to look into the void, “I can’t see much past the fence line down there, and my hearing is pretty bad since the war.”

     “Wow! Revelation city! You’re the ‘master race’ and you’re blind as a bison and deaf as a dace.”

     “Wait a minute. There you go again. How do you know about bison and dace?”

     “PBS.”

     “Oh, I should have known.”

     Fred fluffed his feathers and scratched the back of his head. “So what do you guys of the master race plan to do with the planet anyway? Do you consider this ‘war’ avocation, vocation or sport?”

     “You watch PBS and C-Span and you have to ask.”

     “So it’s a toss-up between love the world and all the little critters, and nuke ‘em till they glow.”

     “You got it.”

     “Who’s winning?”

     “You have to ask?”

     “Eating-monsters and mushroom clouds.”

     “Bay at the moon and piss in the wind.”

     “Yep.”

     “Common Man wipes out intelligent thought.”

     “A scorched dearth policy.”

     Dave and Fred spent the rest of the afternoon in the heat of the desert, watching, listening, and worrying about their respective places in the greater scope of things.

     They decided that, for a while at least, the planet would continue to spin, and the contract on America would disappear.

     Newt had self-destructed and the House membership made him look for a new ghostwriter and shuffle off to a rubber room mumbling, “Bill is the bad boy, Bill is the bad boy”. It was kind of amusing that he shuffled off with an intern he’d been having an affair with for six years.

     They figured it would be a good idea to send Jessie Helms gift subscriptions to “Playboy” and “Penthouse”.

     They figured they’d like to send the Senate ethics committee tapes of Phil Gramm’s conversations with wife Wendy about Enron. Maybe there were even tapes of Wendy and Ken Lay getting really  shmoozey in a dark secret place?

     They plotted a divine miracle learning experience, the Pope and the College of Cardinals would all get pregnant, and maybe reverse some long standing guidance to their flocks about women’s rights. “Megan’s Law” might get a few monasteries posted with warnings.

     They figured the stock market should collapse in a 9.5 earthquake, crushing all the stockbrokers into a paste of pork bellies to be sold on the wild carnivore’s commodity market.

     Every banker to ever cheat his depositors should be run down by a Brinks truck returning the money to depositors.

     Dumb bombs would strike all defense contractors guilty of skimming taxpayer’s dollars. Of course, that would obliterate the entire industry.

     Those who rape and pillage the land for profit would awaken to a never-ending pile of eating-monster poop landing on their heads.

     As the sun set and Dave packed up to leave, they figured they’d made a good start. A bird and a man could communicate and take a little look at the world together. They could appreciate their world and a good joke. What they hoped for was absurd on its surface, but then clichés sometimes come true.

     After all, who could predict we would ever have in hand TWO bushes for the birds?