Deal 166: Animals for Apple

Once again the forest critters gathered, and for a short time they had an understanding that no one was to eat anyone else. The gathering was held near the edge of the forest, in a meadow. Beyond the meadow, the forest gave way to open land, farms, and orchards. Their distant relatives had the use of the open land for grazing, and had sent a representative to the meeting. The denizens of the farms were depending on the grazers for representation. Overhead, a few hawks circled lazily, keeping watch from the air. Closer to ground, the foxes and coyotes kept watch.

Raven, an old coyote, a large cud-chewing grazer named Daisy, a great stag who answered to Bambi, and a number of the smaller critters stood in a circle.

“Hunters are still an issue” grumbled Bambi. “I understand they are part of the larger plan, but they did kill my parents in a wanton act.”

“You can’t judge all humans by that” warned Daisy. “They care well for my people, and guard us from him and his kind.” She nodded at Coyote, obviously unclear on the fine distinctions among the various Canidae present.

“Humans are useful servants.”

“Who said that?” asked Daisy?

“Down here.”

“Oh, there’s cats present. Figures.”

“Humans, Hunters all,” grumbled Bambi.

“No, not all. And even among the hunters there are good and bad,” said Raven. “I’ve lived on the edges of their fires for a long time, and tempted them and taught them. They can be taught.”

Many of the critters chuckled at that.

“Heard about that snowman incident,” said the cat. “Just who taught who?”

Raven didn’t feel obliged to reply to that.

The horse spoke up, “There’s always apples.”

“Letting your stomach lead you around again, are we?” scoffed Coyote.

“No. Humans set great credence to stories. Several stories feature apples symbolic of ideas. Sometimes they are the forbidden fruit eaten despite warnings. Sometimes they are tempting but poisoned. Sometimes they are the wisdom of the gods. And sometimes they are just a snack. Which also sounds like a good idea about now. Where’s the snacks?”

“We didn’t arrange for apples, silly horse,” grumbled the cat.

“But there might a germ of an idea here” opined Raven. “Apples are deeply symbolic to them. Perhaps we can distract them with Apples. If not the fruit, then perhaps just the idea of the fruit. Or just an image of the fruit. A word in the right ear at the right moment could do the trick.”

“The last time you tried that, all we got was a recording company that owned the rights to some humans from across the pond. Named for some crunchy insect.”

“But maybe we should try it again. Perhaps that wild genius puttering in his friend’s garage down in the valley…”


Deal 165: Technology thief

He looked around the cluttered room. Most everything was just as worthless as it appeared at first glance. But there were treasures scattered about too. The trick was to spot the treasures, and in particular to find the one thing that would make a difference.

The room was perhaps a thousand square feet. About half of that was devoted to tables, with a workbench in the corner. The rest was shelves floor to ceiling. The shelves appeared to be packed with bits and pieces, for the most part stored in orderly piles, bins, and boxes. The obviously functional things were sorted by function, and the less functional were sorted by material. The tables held more complete objects, in various states of assembly. The workbench was well appointed with tools, and was clearly in active use by day.

He wandered among the tables, waiting for something to speak to him, to attract his attention. He wasn’t precisely sure what he was after, he had only been told that he’d know it when he saw it.

The nearly complete Jacquard loom caught his eye, but he quickly noticed it was missing its card reader and couldn’t possibly function without it. The lovingly restored automaton of a peacock was striking. But also too showy to be it. There were a number of timepieces ranging from skeleton pocket watches to a full scale church tower clock dominating a corner of the room. Still, none of them seemed to be in any way out of the ordinary aside from their place in this collection. Finally, at a table located far away from the workbench, he spotted them.

The typewriter was a lovingly restored Remington Portable 1. It looked to be complete and working. Evidence of the latter fact was found in the form of a sheet of paper in the machine, with the words “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out” written on it.

Next to it was a substantial pile of paper. A quick glance through the top few sheets revealed that the writing was not improved over the first few sentences.

Beyond that was an elaborate gramophone, with a large brass horn, rosewood, ivory, and ebony inlays on a mahogany cabinet, and a full sized turntable for the newer flat records. In all details, this was a classic Berliner Gramophone. But the record waiting to play was a complete anomaly: a recording of Bohemian Rhapsody labeled as recorded in 1875. Clearly that was about as real as a $3 bill. On closer inspection, there was more wrong with the gramophone as well. The horn was clearly of modern manufacture. The case was real inlay work, but clearly performed on a modern plywood cabinet.

He didn’t need to set the need to groove to know that there was just too much wrong with that toy.

The typewriter, on the other hand, revealed detail after detail that spoke to its true value.

He closed its case, collected the novel beside it, and made his way out before anyone noticed the intruder.


Deal 164: Ninja puppeteers

black clad performer
wished invisible to all
pulls strings to wave hands
Punch, Judy and Crocodile
writ large in full view of all

black clad performer
is the lie that all accept
seen by all, ignored
truth told by fiction, puppets
slapstick, music, providence

black clad performer
believes himself unseen
while moving puppets
while audiences see all
yet suspending disbelief


Deal 163: Raven and Truth

Silence settled as Raven composed himself. This could be a challenge to the old trickster.

But he’d lost the bet fair and square, or at least due to being out-cheated at his own con game, so he felt like he should at least try to make good on his marker. He had promised to answer a question truthfully. And no matter how much it stung to do so, justice would not be served if he prevaricated this time. But how to do it. He nervously paced back and forth waiting the question that might seal his fate.

He was especially annoyed at himself for allowing things to go so far. His mission was to deliver a specific bit of mis-information, and now that he was bound to only tell the truth, how could he possibly achieve that.

Wait, a minute. What was it he had really promised? Surely not all truth, all the time, and the whole and complete truth? No! He’d only promised to answer a single question truthfully. Surely he could twist that promise to allow delivery of more than just the truth. As long as the question was not directly about his lie, at least.

He stopped pacing and looked across the fire, expectantly.

“Come on now, there must be something you want to know about.”

The village’s eldest spoke for those assembled. “There is any number of things we might enjoy making you admit to. Plans gone awry. Deals that were actually too good to be true. That recent business with the children and the snowman. But those all seem like a petty use of the boon you have granted. Instead, we want to know why you are here, tonight, making this bargain.”

Damn. He hit the nail right square on the head. But I still can’t help but chortle a bit about the snowman, which was funny right until that carrot got lodged in my craw.

“You know me too well to trust me. Why do you trust me now? Because you want to trust me, just as you always want to trust me.”

There. That at least set the right tone. Perhaps I can get around this by telling the lie in the way I tell the truth.

“There is a conflict affecting those who walk among you. It could spill over to bother some who are more strictly mortal.”

A half-truth is still true.

“We are everywhere. Unseen. Sometimes even unknown to ourselves. But the conflict is real, and affects all of us whether or not we know we are playing the game. You need to know this, or at least some of this. One of you gentlemen may be involved.”

That should get them thinking. Still true, even if I’m hoping one of the younger ladies is actually hearing me. A lady who is younger only by appearance. She won’t ordinarily trust me, hence this ploy.

“This is bigger than my pride.”

A half truth. At least I can admit to myself that my pride is pretty big, even if I’d never admit it to these people.

“And you needed to know.”

At that, I made a show of bursting into flight, brushing many of those seated around the fire with my wing tips as I took to the air and left through the open door.


Deal 162: Drunk memories

“There goes another one now.”

“Uh huh.”

“Really. I just saw the caped and cowled bastard over there.”

“Nothing there but empty tables.”


“Listen old man. You are drunk, you are imagining things.”


“You know the rules.”


“You didn’t see anything real. You can’t go around scaring people in my bar. Try it again, and I’ll cut you off.”

At that I bit my tongue. Sam must be serious to make that threat where a customer might hear him. But I was sure I’d spotted one of those mysterious society members, the ones that everyone knows are actually running the place even though everyone knows they don’t exist. But Sam was right to be concerned. If they were real, and there was one here, he would be within his rights by their rules to just make me disappear. Or take me to their facility, and make me forget.

There was a germ of a memory behind that idea. As if perhaps I’d already been taken once or twice, and the treatments hadn’t been completely effective.

“Sam. I know the rules. But—”

At that, he shook his head sadly, and nodded to someone behind me.

“He’s remembering better times again, when he was one of us. Maybe he’s jealous, maybe it’s just the beer bringing it out. Do a better job this time.”

And the world went dark.

I opened my eyes, and the bar was spinning around me. Damn. Sam is pouring heavy tonight, I’m already drunk. I saw someone moving away from me suddenly, a little like they had just picked my pocket. I looked around.

“There goes another one now.”

“Nope. Not here.”

“But my purse—”

“Not here. But that beer is on the house.”