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Very short stories to read at the bus stop.


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Scorpio

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There's always been a tendency to escalation in the animal kingdom -- well, all of the kingdoms really, since the animal kingdom is itself an escalation from gangs of protists ganging up on other gangs of protists -- but on the scale we can all see without a microscope, we can still see examples, even over the course of a human lifetime. Traditionally it's been longer claws and fangs, better armor, more sophisticated venoms, tighter knots in the white and gray matter, more elaborate protocols for friend/foe recognition and courtship, use of sharper and harder tools.... But there's always been the potential for that sideways leap to a different order of existence altogether.

The first time I saw a scorpion carrying a pistol was in 1983. I had been rescued from a stint as a prisoner of war, held by the armies of the Nine-Banded in the Chihuahuan Desert in the Zacatecas region, by a pair of gray-haired lesbians armed with farmer's spades. Old Scorpius never really had a name, but like any unique individual, he never needed one. When you are the only one of your kind, your entire being is your name. I had never been that rare. The old lesbians never even asked me my name. They called me Juan Carlos, which is what they called both their mule and their donkey, and I never saw fit to argue. They were the ones with the spades. Apparently spades trump clubs.

Old Scorpius was a force of nature. In particular, he was gravity. When he walked through a room, he warped the orbits of everyone else with his strangeness. Words you were sending across a table to a friend would veer off in his direction and slingshot away outside beyond the flapping blankets that served as poor doors for keeping out the dust, beyond the trellises of flowering vines and morning glories, and into the orange skies. When he was in the room, watches and clocks took longer between ticks. The closer he was, the more time slowed.

Tiny as he was, he could barely hold his revolver aloft. It was enormous in his trembling left pincer. But he would finish his mescal, walk beneath the wind-bothered blanket door, and go out and down the path where he would build a fire to melt lead to cast for his bullets. Leftover lead he would let drip into a pan of water to erupt into crumbling spontaneous sculptures as it suddenly solidified. He would save the blobs to show to the old lesbians and they would interpret the shapes for him, looking for omens and divinations.

I stayed with the women as their third beast of burden, in gratitude for my rescue. I stayed until the winter came, and then headed east through Nuevo Leon toward the coast. Before I left, I asked Old Scorpius to loan me a bullet to melt for my own divination. He did so, with grace, and even without the help of the old women, I could see that the shape was that of a fish. A fish with legs. When I spun it into the air, it had landed pointing east.

So I walked to the coast, and when I got there, I waded out into the gulf and kept on walking.

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Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

30th Jul 2011, 05:11   | tags:

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el fro(peterelfman-at-gmail-dot-com) says:

This has a Michael Crighton quality to this. I totally dig it.

30th Jul 2011, 05:27

Did you catch the reference to that old Battle Pangolin story from ages ago?

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30th Jul 2011, 05:33

Viv says:

I enjoyed this

30th Jul 2011, 13:24

Dhamaka says:

I did (I think)- and I like the link to the image

30th Jul 2011, 19:32