11.26.2002 by , every Tuesday.
Sorry 'bout the delay. Postage out of Ro World has been backed up for several days.
This is a sort-of old story, from my first year of university. I still like it. Some months after I wrote this story, a good friend made me a straw person out of sculpey. I alternate between treasuring it and fearing it, which I think is just about right.
Life cannot be limited to tomorrow.
Demio stared at the words until they devolved into a collection of vaguely interesting syllables. He squinted his eyes and they became marching shapes. He held the paper at arm’s length. Six black blurs. Syllables, shapes, blurs. Nothing came of it.
* * *
Over in the meadow under the swollen blue sky, a small bird was singing. The liquid notes of its song spun with the breeze through the audience of tall grasses. The grasses were the colour of wicker, dried and spent from a summer in the sun. Insects hummed among them.
The bird preened its feathers quickly. Then it coughed, and up came a head from the field.
Gonf the straw person yawned and stretched. He stood up, peering ponderously at the Gonf-shaped cavity in the grass. He rubbed his pebble eyes with long fingers, watching the terrified songbird flee to faraway places.
Gonf was not happy. He had slept for too long. He was millions of miles from home, and far too tall to be vertical and stay hidden in the local flora.
Crunch, crunch. Gonf’s long straw feet left wide impressions as he walked away.
* * *
Demio crumpled the paper and picked up another. Be Kind and the World will be Kind, it said. Below it was a picture of an alien sun and a flying creature. His co-workers had all gone home, so Demio directed his grumbling towards the office rubber plant. He picked up the next sheet and rubbed his chin absently.
* * *
The straw person marched through woods and over streams. As he walked, Gonf became cheerful, and he sang an alien tune that sounded like a washing machine backwards.
Ahead in a clearing was a little house. It had a red roof and a wooden door. Beside it was a small field with a horse in it. Gonf walked up to the field and focused his pebble eyes on the horse. It was eating from a wooden structure. It seemed to be eating straw.
“Sarf,” said the straw person, “blue!” The horse turned blue. Startled with itself, it began to run loops around the edge of the field. Gonf nodded in satisfaction.
Two women came out of the house. They looked at the horse and gasped. Then they looked at Gonf and screamed. But Gonf was already walking away.
* * *
Demio looked at the coffee pot. Not much was left; he poured the heavy dregs into his mug. It was his sixth cup that night, and he was no further into his work.
The pages sat in a plastic “in” box that said “Demio”. There were eight of them. Each one had large letters on it, and some had pictures. Demio didn’t know who had put them in his box.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t about to ignore them. The last time Demio had ignored papers in his “in” box, his boss had nearly fired him. The papers had been an important report on fire safety at a nearby elementary school. Before Demio decided to read them, there was a fire at the school. Nobody was killed, but Demio vowed to never procrastinate again.
The rubber plant bore the burden of several nasty swears. The next paper said, Think positive and the impossible comes within reach.
* * *
Gonf loped down a road and towards a scattering of big grey buildings. He was happy with himself because of the blue horse, and because this planet had a warm star. Under the late day sun his straw back felt very nice.
Gonf walked up to the first building. His stone eyes widened in surprise when he saw the big sign over the door. It said “Jarvis Research Centre,” in the language of the creatures of this warm-star planet.
Defying all logic, this language matched the convoluted rhetoric of the straw people.
Gonf stood facing the sign. He stood there, unmoving, for two hours. The sun went down, but still Gonf stood. His straw mind was clicking like a typewriter.
Finally his eyes eyes sparkled. The answer to this strange puzzle was simple. Anything was possible in this universe. Coincidences happened.
Gonf smiled a picket-fence smile. Then he walked right through the wall.
* * *
Demio looked down at the floor. He’d arranged the papers in a line, a circle, and a smily face, hoping to find a pattern. There was none.
Demio glared at the rubber plant when someone knocked delicately at the door. As Demio moved to open it, a huge lanky creature burst through it, grinning horribly. It paused to size up Demio.
“Earth nice,” it said, “Sun very good. Do you have my papers?” Its voice sounded like two bells being scratched with a nail. Demio opened his mouth wide and made squeaky noises.
Gonf smiled. “S’okay,” he said, looking down. His long fingers gathered up the eight pages. “My assignment,” he said loudly, beaming. “Hyperion motivational posters.”
“Lost them,” Gonf boomed helpfully, patting the prone figure. “Fell from ship. Good Earth Man.”
The rubber plant seemed to smile.
* * *
Gonf left the office building and walked three miles to his space ship. He jumped in and set the controls for home. On the seat beside him the eight pages took a well-deserved nap.