A Letter to a Sir from a Sire

A Letter to a Sir from a Sire

Darrin Albert

Part 0: Sleeping in the dog house—- Always a bad thing?

“Drunken humans are sometimes called party animals,” began Malice the piranha. “And yet they often carry with them their own theories as to why the chicken crossed the road.” Malice was the anger management instructor at the School for Angry Fish. His aquarium sat atop a circular table in front of the large room as all twenty seats were filled to capacity.   “Now, to the gorilla warriors, combat wombats, and Navy seals who graced us with your presence this morning, I will say this only once.  No bickering amongst yourselves while I am imparting my profound knowledge.”

“What ever happened to it’s okay to be angry?” asked Fido (pronounced Feedo) as he raised his hand. He was the junkyard dog and owner of the Tagonist Forest Herald. This was his third day of class he was required to take after biting the mail man.

“Please wait with questions until the end,” Malice said. “And raise your hand for crap sakes! That just pisses me off!” Malice straightened his bow tie. “Sorry for that. Anyway, scientists warn us about the dangers of anthropomorphism and assuming too many human characteristics in animals. But what about the opposite problem, when we assume too few animal characteristics in humans? Of course, I am alluding to the importance of instinct.”

Several wombats started whispering to each other in the back. Malice smashed into the side of his glass. “No talking! That pisses me off!” Malice straightened his tie again.

“Commiserations on the fish and chips, or fish with chips on their shoulders. Now repeat after me: let’s be more like planet Earth and less like planet Hater! And then let’s be more like Planet Heart and less like Planet Hater!” The crowd repeated these lines in unison several times. “You will learn that we can change our perspectives with the same ease as changing these terms into their anagrams.”

Part 1: The birds and the bees (or turtles and scorpions as the case may bee)

“What’s it like, I mean, what is it really like, to be liked?” asked Tunic as he sat on the kitchen floor of the Wigwam Tree House with his head cocked towards the radio. Yet another save-the-turtle campaign advert was soliciting throughout the capital forest of Tagonist during the ongoing drought. Silas and Tunic were enjoying their eighth year of residence in their Wigwam Tree House.

“It is funny how news like this is neither like hearing the good or bad news first,” Silas said as he polished his painted underbelly. “It’s more like getting both kinds of news at the same time. How flattering it is that my turtles are heralded. And yet, how disheartening it is that the scorpions I love are pigeon-holed as the aggressor. But rumors are like tumors and not always so benign. Those poor scorpions….and pigeons.”

“Bees may have stingers,” said Tunic, shaking his head and staring at the floor, “but at least they are also known for their honey.” He raised his claw and pretended to sting himself repeatedly. “What are we but vermin, the kind that make rats seem cute and cuddly in comparison?”

Silas jumped in front of Tunic’s stinger and laughed. “None of us can help what species we come from or what pressures will be assigned by each habitat. Who is really more nefarious, the parasite or the host?” Silas put his can of polish into his favorite oak cabinet as “Turkey in the Straw” permeated the air waves.

“Who finds a leech more cute and cuddly than a puppy?” asked Tunic as he looked around for his emery board. “Emotion seems to mean more than logic these days.” He found his board on the floor by the garbage can and started filing his claws.

“At least leeches will stick by you in the end,” said Silas.

“I mean no disrespect,” Tunic said, “but how can you make jokes at a time like this?”

“Suffice it to say it isn’t easy being green….with envy,” said Silas. “Truth be told, I rather admire your claws and wish I had a pair.” He waddled towards Tunic with a noisy gait as his toe nails scratched the floor. Silas prodded Tunic a few times with the side of his shell to get him moving towards the door. “Now, where to? The penny arcade or the more posh dime store?”

Tunic raised an eyebrow. “Let’s go high on the hog.”

Part 2: Men from Mars, women from Venus, and Venus fly traps from Earth

Two mornings later, Silas slammed his fork down into his bowl after finishing his spring salad as his bunk-mate Tunic strolled into the Wigwam Tree House’s Hall of Mess kitchen area. Tunic was wearing his pajamas inside out, backwards, and unbuttoned. “Wow,” Silas said, “with a look like that, you make a hobo appear quite dapper.”

“You are too funny, Leonardo,” said Tunic as he approvingly looked at his attire in the reflection of the toaster. “At least I don’t live under a rock wherever I go.” Tunic stumbled over to the cupboard, acquired some freeze-dried “Dry Fly” cereal, and settled down alongside Silas on the hardwood floor.

Silas smirked. “I would say I pinched a nerve, but I lack your claws to do such a thing.” Silas strolled to the dishwasher, a small hole built into the floor, and put his dirty dishes inside.

“When did you get home last night anyway?”

“I think the bar-keep said it was 2 AM when she kicked me out,” said Tunic, staring at the ceiling.

“I have never seen an owl kick,” said Silas. “But I get your gist. Anyway, that barn owl Dusky seems very clock-wise, if you will. Not only is she adept at night-catting, but she has eyes on the back of her head. It’s for the best she sent you home. Some of those nocturnal organisms can get mean when drunk.”

“Barn owl?” asked Tunic with frustration. “You talk about her as if she were born in a barn, er, I mean, run-down trailer, or something. If you must know, owls are known to be very wise. Truth be told, I sort of fancy her. I mean, as far as those with plumage are concerned. And I think she fancies me.”

“I don’t care where she was born,” Silas said. “It’s just that you used to poke fun at her twisty beak all the time and I had no idea you had feelings for her. But you would best be patient to wait for her requited feelings straight from the horse’s mouth before making any rash decisions to step in the way of Cupid’s arrows.”

“You talk as if Dusky were a horse,” said Tunic.

“Of course not,” Silas said. “But since we are on the subject, you were the one looking the gift horse in the mouth with all that twisty beak nonsense. So when are you going to see her again?”

“We are going to the protest rally tomorrow night,” Tunic said.

“How romantic,” Silas chimed.

“It turns out that Wendel of the Navy Seals, Pinky of the Emperor penguins, Marcus of the Combat Wombats, and even Gorgi of the local Gorilla Warriors will be there with signage in tow.”

“Military types, eh?” Silas asked. “I am glad, mind you, but swat teams are predatory in nature and do more than just swat flies. I hope thugs like that can actually stir up some sympathy for the cause. Sometimes the line between irony and hypocrisy can be blurry.”

“Well, some of those thugs as you say don’t need tear gas to shed a tear of compassion for scorpions,” said Tunic shaking his head. “I ran into Lat and Rallo at the tavern.  As usual they will be there with all their fellow spidery friends. They are not much more well-liked than scorpions, but hey, every little bit helps. But I was hoping to get more enthusiasm from you.”

“I know, Tunic,” Silas said. “I just don’t want to get your hopes up. But I will try to get my turtle and tortoise friends to attend. Hopefully this year their fear of getting fired from their jobs will not stop them from coming. That is the vote of confidence we need. You get a bunch of spiders, scorpions, snakes, rats, and cockroaches together you don’t exactly drum up sympathy or money. One might as well dress up floats in thorns and call it a thorn-parade for the Creepy Crawly Convention.”

Tunic’s venus fly trap made a loud snap as it caught a fresh live fly. “Yes!” Tunic exclaimed as he hurried to get his newly acquired repast. “They are so much better fresh!” Silas wrinkled his nose.

“Speaking of prizes,” Silas said, reaching into the cereal box, “let’s look for the toy, shall we?” He swished his hand around as he fished around.”I got it!” He held up a small gold-colored coin wrapped with a clear baggy. “Oh wow, I won a plastic coin with an R on it.” He thumbed the coin, baggy and all, into the nearby trash with a perfect swish.

“What are you doing?” asked Tunic as he ran to the bin. He rifled through the trash for the coin and held it against his chest with a fervor usualy reserved for Gollum and his ring.

“Well sorry,” Silas said shaking his head from side to side. “I am not current on currency and failed to note that such a coin were of legal tender.”

“You don’t get it, mate,” said Tunic with a shortage of breath. “I was reading about that sweepstakes yesterday during breakfast. If you collect enough coins to spell W-I-N-N-E-R,  you win a five year supply of cereal! The food-stuffs can be collected on an intermittent schedule over a five year period or can be redeemed more quickly on an as-needed basis.”

“Oh come now,” Silas moaned. “Everyone knows that all the letters are readily available except the one you really need.”

“I understand,” said Tunic nodding his head. “But I clearly remember reading the rules of this game because I was thinking about this horrible Tagonist famine at the time. The ‘R’ is the one you want. There is only one R and thousands of the others. We found the golden goose!”

“Wait a minute,” Silas said with his hand on his chin. “Are you sure?” Silas snatched the box and started to read the fine print on the inside lining. “It appears you are correct. I guess we better hunt down the rest of the easy letters so we can… hold on…..wait a minute…it says that the promotion is not available to scorpions or any of their registered supporters!” Tunic glared at him. “Apparently a portion of the proceeds go to the Save the Turtles Fund like almost everything else these days.”

“Damn!” Tunic put his claws on top of his head. “Well can’t you just take your name off the sympathizer list and redeem the prize and pretend you don’t know me?” Tunic pinched his claws together in a panic. “We desperately need that free food. This drought in Tagonist is getting really old. Don’t be a dumb-drumb!” Tunic paced around the tree house in circles around Silas.

“You are right in that we need the food,” Silas said, “but I refuse to take my name off the sympathizer list. It takes a full year and ten documented hate-crimes, or what they call love-crimes, to get off that list. You are going to be the one to redeem the prize, and I will be there with you during the ride. That food is going to be highly coveted in this fair forest, and the pangs of hunger are going to make everyone have mercy on your species. I don’t see why they wouldn’t let you win as long as you gave a generous portion of the cereal to the annual R & D for R & D drive.

“What’s that?” asked Tunic stopping in his tracks.

“Research and Development for Repast and Drought,” said Silas.

Part 3: Food chain of command

The following afternoon, after lots of claw-twisting, Silas and his friend Tunic went together to the Tagonist Forest Herald carrying the winning “R” coin with them. The building resembled a large dog house in a clearing of trees. There were various sizes of news stands in front of the agency catering different sizes of newspapers to different sizes of animals. Silas grabbed a turtle-sized copy and stared at the front. “Someone beat us to the punch.”

“What do you mean?” Tunic asked as he scuttered over and peered over Silas to get a glimpse.

“Hold on,” Silas said, “let me finish and I will paraphrase it for you.”

“Fine,” said Tunic, “but hurry up.”

After a minute, Silas closed the paper and stuffed it into the nearby bin. “It appears that various Save the Turtles and Eliminate the Scorpions groups are organizing to collect as many of the so-called unimportant letters they can find to prevent us from winning.”

“But how did anyone find out we had the winning token so fast?” asked Tunic.

Silas removed the coin from his pocket and handed it to Tunic. “Never mind that. Just pinch the coin in half with your claws.”

“Won’t I void the prize if I do?” asked Tunic, holding the coin.

“I’m afraid that ship has already sailed,” said Silas. “Now it’s time to rock the Mayflower.”

Tunic pinched the coin into two pieces, exposing a small bug.

“Just as I suspected,” said Silas, “the small device inside was traced to the Wigwam Tree House. And Fido didn’t hesitate to bring the whole matter to the news that scorpions and their sympathizers were illegally keeping a winning coin. This situation does not sit well with me.”

“Can you be more specific?” asked Tunic, staring at the pictures of angry protesters gracing the front pages of the newspapers.

“Not only does society influence the news,” Silas said, “but the news has a funny way of influencing society.”

Part 4: Uncommon sense: What does popularity have to do with logic?

A week passed. Silas and Tunic were planting vegetables below the Wigwam Tree House. “How much for that doggie in the window?” asked Tunic as he made a shooting gesture towards Fido’s office down town. “It is a shame I can’t go predator and put him in a doggy bag.” Silas placed an onion bulb in the moist soil. The paper-chimp came by on his unicycle and tossed the morning paper so crudely that it kicked up dirt in Tunic’s face.

“Sorry!,” the primate shouted as he hobbled and wobbled along the dirt-road on his unicycle. “It’s par for the course in this kind of monkey business!”

Silas picked up the paper, dusted it off, and started to read the table of contents. With a sigh, he paged his way to section V8 tearing several pages in the process.

“I am no bloodhound,” Tunic said, “but I smell trouble.” He threw down his trowel and once again peered over Silas’s shoulder.

“You are wise to keep paperwork to origami, paper hats, and airplanes,” said Silas. “It is amazing how the newspaper can know about our very own arrest warrants before we do.”

“I can only guess it has something to do with the connections Fido has with the bloodhound police,” said Tunic.

“Still, Fido is going too far,” Silas said. “We must go farther. I know turtles are unfairly stereotyped for being slow, but we will get there. Right now your problems are more serious than mine. Suffice it to say that I carry a burden on my back and it is not my shell.”

“I may not be able to read,” Tunic said, “But I can read tragedy like an open book. I would be lying if I said I didn’t need your presence at a time like this.” They gave each other a hug as best as they were able to wrap their various appendages around each other.

Silas suddenly left the hug formation and stared at the ground.

“What’s wrong?” asked Tunic.

“I think I might have an idea,”  Silas muttered with a wry smile as he began to climb the spiral staircase up to the Wigwam Tree House. Tunic followed suit. “Think about it. Fido is not an out-of-the-closet bigot. He is just greedy. Remember that famous trial that Fido covered in his paper for weeks due to popular interest?”

“Yes,” Tunic said. “You mean the one where that orangutan Mr. Scopes plead insane for leaving those banana peels on the steps of Tagonist Forest Hall?”

“Precisely,” said Silas opening the door at the top. Tunic followed him in and closed the door.”The 2nd Scopes Monkey Trial to be exact,” Silas continued. “There is no better news than right vs. wrong. Like sports or reality tv there is a winner, a loser, and drama to boot. Moral issues are bigger than the Super Dog Dish, Siamese fighting fish tournaments, cock-fights, and bull-fighting combined.”

“I don’t see the connection or relevance yet,” said Tunic as he unrolled a large welcome mat by the fridge.

“Tagonist has been traditionally run by the martial laws of nature,” said Silas. “In the animal kingdom only the fit survive. Our government has always been anarchy. A trial is a privilege and not a right.”

“Especially for predators and their sympathizers,” Tunic chimed.

“Correct,” said Silas. “But that all changed when Fido bit the mail man. He made damn sure that he got a fair trial. Thanks to him, the Tagonist City Hall now requires a fair trial for any crime. Fido is an idiot, but he is a respected and savvy business dog. He will do anything as long as it profits the Tagonist Herald.”

“He is definitely no humanitarian seeing-eye dog,” said Tunic.

“Lucky for us,” Silas said, “our jury will be the very same Exemplary Council of 12 that acquitted Fido of biting the mailman 10 years ago.”

“What if we don’t get that jury?” asked Tunic.

“They are the only jury now,” said Silas. “The new Exemplary Council no longer makes decisions based on emotion and cowboy heroics. It used to be that any idiot off the street could be on the jury and lawyers would attempt to sway them with different pitches of sale.”

“As if one lawyer were the Avon Lady and the other the Watkin’s Man?” asked Tunic.

“After a fashion,” said Silas. “Not just anyone can be on a jury now, and that is the good news. To be on the council you must be licensed, trained, and highly educated in psychology. You show any hint of empathetic bias and you get the boot. You gotta know your ABC’s.”

“ABC’s?” asked Tunic.

“Antecedants, behaviors, and consequences,” said Silas. “It has to do with the chain of causation. Because of the current mystery still surrounding the etiology of human behavior, every trial the council of 12 were involved with ended up in a hung jury based on reasonable doubt. Fido learned this too when he was acquitted during his closed private trial. It is my hypothesis that he knows you will be acquitted too but will keep mum so as to drum up drama, debate, and interest in the current affairs section of his paper. Again, it’s the dollar signs in his eyes.”

Tunic pinched himself with his claws. “Ouch!” he exclaimed.

“What are you doing?” asked Silas abruptly, turning to face Tunic.

“I had to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming,” said Tunic.

“It may not be perfect, but that technique always works in a pinch,” Silas said. “Science is fine and good, but it is a shame that all the famous objects of scientific inquiry, including but not limited to Jane Goodall’s chimps, Pavlov’s dogs, the precocious parrot Alex, and even Albert’s rat all represented cute and loveable animals. I hope this council can see past their own biases.”

Tunic scratched his face and crawled towards the bathroom and entered. He shouted from inside. “So what does the foreman do in all of this zaniness?”

“The foreman will take into account how much influence an innocent bystander has in relation to a crime,” shouted Silas. “Crimes are not only caused by the agent of change that commits them but also the agents of change who do nothing to prevent them. Anyone found passing the buck is charged one dollar.”

Tunic started humming “Turkey in the Straw” as he came from the restroom and headed to the mop closet. He took out the mop.

“You must be in a pretty good mood about this,” Silas said. “You only clean house when you are happy.”

“I am afraid and sad if you must know,” said Tunic. “But sometimes the feeling of massive pain slowly turning to comfort is somehow more soothing than the feeling of deep comfort slowly turning to pain.”

“I think I know what you mean,” Silas said, crawling towards the window. “Even if the initial baselines seem to suggest otherwise.”

Part 5: Twelve not-so-angry animals

A month elapsed and the mayor of Tagonist Forest, Fido, agreed to grant the trial. And by now papers were flying off the shelves, racks, and holders. So while things in Tagonist Forest were definitely not “business as usual,” Fido’s business was lucrative. By now the trial had been hyped extensively in the Tagonist Forest Herald.  And anger poured out of the pages among a people divided.

“I hope the Exemplary Council of 12 will be as warm as the 12 days of Christmas,” said Silas as he and Tunic paced around the cave’s clearing looking around at the media frenzy.  Cameras were placed in front of each council member. Each of the 12 was already wearing a clip-on microphone and seated on a hardwood chair along the edge of the cave. A gorilla in a bailiff’s uniform approached Silas and Tunic and seated them on the low step of a set of bleachers just proximate to the council. The cave was well lit by hanging torches.

“Each member of the council will be given a question to answer in only one sentence which is symbolic of the accused’s prison sentence,” said Silas. “Soon the animals will introduce themselves and read their questions. You just relax, Tunic.”

Moments later the snake spoke into the camera. “I represent DNA and eugenics. Do messengers of tainted DNA deserve freedom, punishment, or isolation?”

The dodo bird was next. “I repersent natural vs. social law. Does Lady Liberty have the authority to suppress animal instincts in the presence of Mother Nature?”

“I hope these questions are multiple choice,” Tunic said into Silas’s earhole.

“I represent classical conditioning,” said the dog. “If once-bitten is twice shy, where does the fault lie, when in the presence of a mail-man bitten?”

“Fido has got to love that!” whispered Silas.

“Shhh,” said Tunic with a loud whisper. “We don’t wanna get into trouble!”

“And sleep in the doghouse?” asked Silas. “Point taken.”

“I represent medical vs. psychological abberration,” said the raccoon. “How much more nefarious is the criminal’s rabid and contagious temper than the common cold, if both stir up unrest, pain, and discord in the midst of the infirm?”

“I represent the atrophy of the innocent,” said the ostrich wearing a foreman’s cap. “How guilty are the innocent bystanders who stick their heads in the sand and do nothing to prevent a criminal’s hand?”

“I represent instruments of pain,” said the alligator. “What percentage of a crime is influenced by the presence of the weapon itself?”

“I represent logic vs. emotion,” said the monkey. “What percentage of a criminal motive is influenced by logic and/or emotion, and how do they interact?”

“I represent space and time,” said the elephant. “What part do the past, present, and future play in allowing the time and place for murders to occur on life’s stage?”

“I represent personality and conscience,” said the dolphin. “If ill-mannered organisms have no conscience, how can they be truly blamed?”

“Short, sweet, and dolphin safe,” whispered Silas to himself. Tunic glanced at him. Silas smiled back.

“I represent chance and fate,” said the Horse-shoe Crab. “Should tails be guilty or not guilty?”

“I represent life and death,” said the lemming. “To employ a punishment truly capital, must we abstain from the executions of those on life-row who lust to be put to sleep?”

“I represent wants vs. needs,” said the ant. “How must we treat others the way we want to be treated when not all want to be treated in a manner similar?”

Silas and Tunic remained in the penalty box visibly trembling as they awaited their fate.   The Exemplary Council of 12 scratched their heads with whatever appendages acted as their hands. The coveted plastic cereal token was reassembled and confiscated since Tunic broke it in half, and it was now sitting on a marble tablet with a regal ambiance as if it were made of real gold. The other readily available tokens that spelled “WINNER” were around it.

*

“The rules of the council are simple,” said Silas, cocking his head towards Tunic. “If each creature votes guilty, the punishment is 12 years in the pound. If eleven of the twelve vote guilty, the punishment is 11 years, and so on. To go free and win the cereal sweepstakes, you need a majority of hung jury or not-guilty votes.”

“I know,” said Tunic. “You are the turtle. You are supposed to be the slow one!”

“You can be the weird one,” said Silas.

“You are weirder,” said Tunic. “And in a room of only two creatures that makes you the weird one, relatively speaking!”

“Is there a problem over there?” asked Fido loudly from the podium. He was wearing a powdered wig and full powdered body suit.

“No sir!” said Tunic, standing from his bleacher and giving an exaggerated over the top salute.

“Lie back down!” whispered Silas as he knudged Tunic with his head. “This isn’t a military tribunal!” Tunic went back down as quickly as he stood. There were several snickers from media personnel. Fido slammed the gavel.

“This trial is back in session!” Fido said. “This is not a kangaroo court! Will the snake please take the floor?”

The snake leaned towards the camera. “Insofar that lowly predators are merely messengers of knowledge, and thus exempt from the claws of crows, how can we be truly blamed, save for the blood that mistakenly taints a pool of genes? I vote reasonable doubt.”

The dodo bird again followed suit. “By what amount of control does Lady Liberty hold, in passing judgment with Martial Law, when the Laws of Murphy have already been passed, by a Mother of Nature? Reasonable doubt indeed.”

“Be mindful of the carrot that pulls the pusher or the stick that pushes the puller,” said the dog. “Reasonable doubt shall be my vote!”

“Via virtue of what impetus can be judged, for better or for worse, when each can turn potential fear into kinetic pain?” asked the raccoon. “Reasonable doubt.”

“What do the shadows of innocent bystanders say about their master’s atrophy, denial, passing of bucks, and time buyer’s remorse?” asked the ostrich. “Reasonable doubt shall be my vote.”

“By what amount of influence, from 0 to 100, did the trigger play in pulling the claw?” asked the alligator. “Reasonable doubt.”

“By what degree of influence did logic play to jerk-the-knee?” asked the monkey. “Reasonable doubt.”

“If a picture is worth a thousand words,” said the elphant, “as if to see a photo of a tumor, so how much more is it to see a motion picture of a constellation of behaviors, as if nefarious behavior itself were an aberration worth a billion words, shown at 60 frames per second. Reasonable doubt.”

“Conscience is to charity as lack thereof is to crime,” said the dolphin. “Reasonable doubt.”

“I called ‘heads’ as guilty and ‘tails’ as not-guilty as the coin was in the air,” said the horse shoe crab, “and it landed on its side between two chairs. Reasonable doubt.”

“Guilt and innocence are moot points,” said the lemming, “when we are all technically on death row awaiting our turn. Reasonable doubt.”

“Phenomenology is a loop-hole to the Golden Rule,” said the ant. “Reasonable doubt.”

And so the jury was hung, due to the reasonable doubt generated by the inconclusive evidence of the human or animal condition. Tunic was now a free scorpion. The cereal token was now his to do with as he chose.

Silas whispered into Tunic’s ear one last time before the trial was over. “You now have the power to end the Tagonist Forest drought. It sure brings new meaning to the phrase ‘token economy.’ Woe to your enemies who wish to bite the claw that is about to feed them!”

Part 6: A metaphor is like a simile

The trial was over and it was now time for Tunic’s victory speech. This was customary after every trial performed by the Exemplary Council of 12. While Fido gave his own speech after winning his trial, Tunic handed the baton to Silas. Silas had already written a speech in advance in the event Tunic would win. As such, he approached the center of the cave in front of the microphone dangling from the ceiling. Tunic was the guest of honor, and sat holding his winning token in his claws. Silas cleared his throat and read from his note, making occasional eye contact with the remaining crowd:

Dear Tunic,

I must admit that I was  dubious as to what the verdict of the exemplary council of 12 would be. Which is a more dangerous affair, the murdered innocuous or the truculent and unshackled? Each among the animal kingdom is largely a victim of circumstance in a world where shells and claws alike fight for survival and flee from pain or death. I do not expect the outcome of this trial to absolve any despondent tears from the predator. Today the predators of the world can say a prayer for the prey! After all, the badgers share the same moral high ground as the koala bears, despite dwelling underground.

You, Tunic, own the power to satiate patriots of the enemy with unrequited compassion. I received a shield and you the sword, and by greater disdain of hammer than anvil, weapons of predatory destruction were arbitrarily relegated to the malevolent magnanimity of Gila monsters. This is despite predators and prey sharing habitats and ecosystems where sticks, stones, and words all obey the same cant of a coterie of reapers with survival fears. Hence the food chain.

Though elected to a regal throne, I am not a king of avarice or nobility. And you, my beloved Tunic, are not a lowly knight. Think of this note as a letter from a sir to a sire, and not the other way around. What separates predator from prey, or parasite from host, or love from hate itself, is but a blurry line dividing a conflict of interest amidst the same hazy, lascivious, and hedonistic ocean which is life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The phantoms of the night do not tell ghost stories. They share the horrifying tales of a creature-kind still mortal, unwilling to learn from history as the epochs of time, handed from cohort to cohort and zeitgeist to zeitgeist, give way to a future just as uncertain as the past, where the only disparity separating former from latter are words erased and words yet to be written. Who am I, but one who shares the role of hero and villain, victim and perpetrator, or the hunter and the hunted at the same time?

If one were to measure the net weight of blood, sweat, and tears could we ascertain the net weight of a creature’s pain by two decimal places? If we were to divide the age of the planets by the age of a tortoise in his ripe old age, the quotient would certainly be trivial, and just as much so, when compared to the infant’s age at still-birth and crib-death.

While a shield can fight via steadfast defiance a stinger can defend panic and fear. The line between fight and flight is a fine one. I know you can save Tagonist Forest from famine. Use your cereal token wisely and do not let it out of your hands until it reaches the appropriate party. Eat plenty, and you decide whether to share the wealth. Take a letter. How about “E,” for end.

“It doesn’t count!”  Tunic mumbled to himself looking at the winning coin in his hands. “You can’t make anyone like you!” Tunic swallowed the pieces of the coin, which were by now glued together, followed by a shot of Talstar insecticide he had concealed on his person, or scorpion. He continued to speak to himself. “They will have to find the token over my dead body, or shall I say in my dead body! Perhaps then they will realize that predators have the same blood and guts as a panda, kitten, or turtle!”

The scorpion passed away as the image of Silas faded away to oblivion. The coin would be found by none other than a lowly vulture, possessing neither sword or shield, to clear the stage after the first curtain fell. when the pigs started to fly, and the cows came home.

***

Darrin Albert writes with an eccentric style mixing humor, thought, and feeling. He has formal training with acting, creative writing, and other art forms. With his identical twin brother, he writes/records alternative rock music in their band Jack Outside the Box. He also toured with an improv comedy group called Nine and Numb. He has a masters in psychology, which helps him empathize with the characters he writes about.Darrin enjoys science fiction, British comedy, poetry, anime, manga, comics, and music. He is currently working with his identical twin brother on a full-length novel.

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