The new clippings begin to move. Being cut from a now improved hedge, they are not unattractive. I take, in their motion, that they want to be fed. After all, they are now separate from the support system of the unburdened hedge. Nothing from the mother plant. Perhaps with sustenance, they can latch on in the neighbor's barren yard. I would not feel abandoned. I go inside to make eggs. The clippings try to follow. They skirt along the grass, scratch across the patio. I leave the door open, wondering how they might approach the steps. Gravity is no fool.
The smallest boy anyone has ever seen rides a cassowary around in its opulent cage. He clings to the reins with one hand, waving his tiny hat with the other. The cassowary runs in panic, turning the corners of his pen just before crashing. Though the boy mercurially tugs the reins, he does not direct. The cassowary heeds its instinct. Instincts that hold no boy. People who had come to see the entire zoo stop instead at this marvel and stand five or six patrons deep. They query each other: who could have made such a small and delightful saddle?
THE COST OF INFIDELITY
He wrangles turtles: drive them to grazing, sit with them through his bean lunch, urge them back. The turtles do not mind. Occasionally, one strays off the etched path and he runs after it, turns it around, hopes the herd abides his absence. The strain comes from the weeks of the drive to market. Day after day of turtle prodding, forcing the herd along trails unfamiliar to them. Alone, his wife tends those not ready for market. One son assists as he can, getting better each drive. The other, burdened with his shell, can do little beyond be vacantly loved.
Main street is folded and stacked away. Compressed for storage, it becomes improved. The hardware store is established apart from its previously crated wares. The barbershop pole is placed just inside the shop's front window as the shop waits. The coffee bar has been removed, but those prime tables that reach the sidewalk are left. Two townsfolk stand at the statue of Todd Billingsworth as it is shelved. No one wonders why we have a statue of Todd Billingsworth until the statue is put away. Those two townsfolk move to stand by the fairground gazebo. They read outdated notices.
Running from the tyrannosaur, Quibble did not take time to think that in modern America there should be no living tyrannosaurs, that no physics or biology that he was aware of permitted this. Yet, he had just seen a delightful woman bitten in half, a child of undetermined gender eaten whole. Why would a tyrannosaur, unless starved, want to do this? Another incongruity. Perhaps by running, he was playing into a space-time-biology practical joke. If he stopped and admitted the absurdity of the apparent occurrence, would it evaporate? The tyrannosaur is fading. A victim emerges whole again from ordinary air.
He tends his flock of glass sheep. He judges how light moves through them. Tapping, he keeps them in the matted grass, mindful of cracked hooves, of shatters lurking within stones. You would think he would not have to worry about wolves. Wolves cannot eat glass sheep. But it is the nature of wolves to hinder shepherds. On the ridge they wait for the flock of thinly breakable sheep to come into range. They lack the dexterity to be accurate, but what they cannot manage in aim they try to make up with force when they toss their amassed stones.
As he opens the bottle lightning leaks out and makes a scorch on the ground just below the bench we share. We talk of the scorch, the brittle electric grounding, remark the grass seems darker than the clover. He tells me this happens every so often. When he is not careful to hold the bottle directly upright. When he uncaps the lid too quickly. When the neck of the bottle has been unjustly agitated. There are so many things that can cause a breach. I nod and feign interest. It is the bottle that draws me. Lightning is not rare.
I found a hidden room in my home. Apparently, I had built it many years ago. Perhaps it was to be a shelter for World War Three. Perhaps merely a hurricane safe room. Perhaps a refuge from the advance of extreme politics. When I opened it up, the wife and I were sitting there at a table where a number of canned goods had been opened. I turned on the one light in the room. My wife and I turned to look at me with disinterested eyes. I said to myself, "This isn't the solution I thought it would be."
Ken Poyner offers currently four collections of poetry, and four collections of flash fiction. The two newest collections of poetry, Stone the Monsters, or Dance and Lessons From Lingering Houses emerged July/August 2021. He spent 33 years working in the information arts, and lives with his power lifting wife, several rescue cats, and multiple betta fish in the lower right-hand corner of Virginia. His stories have appeared in The Cafe Irreal nine times previously, most recently "Accessory" in Issue #80.