They were closing in on me again. I’d been on the run all weekend, my only hope was to hide out among the ESL students in the community college. Morning classes were about to begin. If I could just make it across the street and up the steps...

I poked my head cautiously out of the alley, the street was nearly deserted but the sidewalks were crowded with students rushing from buses to their classes. I checked the crowds carefully for authority figures. None were in sight. I took a deep breath and visualized running up the steps—and sprinted from the alley.

A series of em dashes flashed in front of me, blocking egress across the street. Section breaks were thrown up to close the intersections. There was no escape. I was trapped. Doomed.

Students on the sidewalks stopped to watch two hulking, red clad officers roll down the street on either side of me. The imposing figures loomed over me. One of them read the charges in a droll monotone. “Dean Orwell. You are charged with willful and premeditated omission of comma’s in print--”

“But officer,” I protested, “it was fiction, a short story. I was using grammar creatively.” The charges stemmed from a flash fiction story I published in the university’s student newspaper, to demonstrate the importance of empathy and ambiguity in 20th century literature.

My protest was pointless, of course. The grammar police were robots.

“... if you can’t afford an attorney, a grammatical expert system will be downloaded to defend you.”

The robots each took an arm and led me away.

The verdict was as inevitable as the penalty. I would be sentenced to a remedial writing course. That would mean censure from the University’s Board of Governors, and probably dismissal. I should have been an accountant, computers like numbers. But, oh no! I wanted to be a writer, and became a professor of literature. 

© by ABR 2011
 
 
A light flickering in his peripheral vision caused Zaladam to jerk his head around. A lit monitor flickered in the cockpit. It was the first time in twenty years a screen had lit up. He dropped his pack beside the hatch of his crashed freighter, and rushed into the cockpit to see what was wrong.

It took Zaladam a second to recognize the in-system screen, the screen that monitored space traffic in whatever solar system he happened to be in at the time. He stared at the icons of two ships uncertainly. Memories of captaining the freighter flooded into his conscious mind. “Identify ships,” he commanded verbally, in case the icons were genuine.

“Unable to identify ships,” his computer answered in the voice of female celebrity he no longer remembered.

Zaladam wasn’t surprised that his old computer couldn’t identify the ships; the database hadn’t been updated in over twenty years.

“Project the ships’ vectors.”

The computer projected a line in front of the ships, and, sure enough, the ships were on a heading straight for the only habitable body in this solar system. His planet.

Zaladam stared at the icons for a moment. “Computer off,” he ordered, not sure what he should feel.

For the first four or five years after his forced landing he had hoped for a ship to come to his rescue, however unlikely it might be. His astronavigation system had crashed and flown him so far off course, before the main engine went offline and he was forced to land, that he couldn’t plot his position relative to any of the settled planets or colonies—but he was certain that he was many light years from any of the shipping lanes. The sight of those two icons should have been a beacon of hope. But they were not. It was a beautiful planet and, after living here for twenty years, it was home. Zaladam had no wish to leave. Walking back to the hatchway his sense of home grew stronger, and he dreaded the thought of sharing the planet with colonists. His proprietary feelings were a revelation. He had not been aware of them until now.

Zaladam leaned against the hatch and looked out at his planet. Exploring it in his shuttle and on foot was his favorite pastime. He had explored many areas with breathtaking scenery, and there was so much more to see.

During his forced landing he’d had the good fortune, and sufficient thruster control, to crash in a clearing beside a river. The natural clearing was on a plateau between a range of low mountains and a vast, flat plain. The clearing was surrounded by bush. He called it bush because it was not a forest; the foliage was very different than the trees on Earth. Something like bamboo was a closer, though still imprecise, analogy. It was quiet, except for the whisper of intermittent breezes. All life on the planet was photosynthetic, there were no insects or animals, and it was free of predators. Zaladam thought there must be microorganisms but none seemed to be harmful; he hadn’t been sick in all the time he’d been stranded here.

He had never tried to eat any of the local vegetation. It wasn’t necessary; he had been transporting a load of agricultural equipment and supplies, to one of the younger and more remote colonies. He had setup a modular hydroponics unit inside his ship and an inflatable greenhouse closer to the river, and grew everything he needed. Solid and liquid wastes were pumped into a wellhe had dug using a water drill he found on the shipping manifest. Zaladam knew his presence must have contaminated the planet, to some extent, anyway. But so far he hadn’t noticed any deleterious effects and he wanted to keep it that way.

Zaladam leaned against the open hatch and viewed the familiar scenery. It was tranquil and serene. In the distance, an arm of the lake shimmered in the setting sun, and he lingered to watch the sun set. Maybe it wasn’t the paradise described in utopian philosophies, but it was the closest thing to it had ever seen, ever expected to see. But how long would it survive after those ships found a planet ideal for development? Before his vista overlooked a city? And there wouldn’t be just one city, there would be more, many more, and every city would despoil nature for hundreds of kilometers around it, to provide its population with food and water, raw resources and luxury goods.

Picturing his home despoiled filled Zaladam with loathing and dread. He closed his eyes to dispel the image. He wished there was something he could do to prevent it, but progress usually ran over anyone who tried to stand in its way. He tried to remember what he had seen or read about the history of other newly discovered planets, and an idea came to him. By the time the sun sank below the horizon and the stars were visible, he had a plan in mind. He got to work and worked through the night. He didn’t know how much time he had left.

It was the middle of the afternoon the next day before everything was done. He packed enough food and sterilized river water to last for several days, and loaded it into the simple boat he’d made from local materials. After rowing upriver for several hours, he pulled the boat onshore and hid it. It took two trips to carry his packs to the base of a range of low mountains. He cached one pack and slung the other on his back, and started climbing. The mountain slope was steep but climbing it wasn’t too unpleasant. The climate was temperate and gravity 0.79 earth normal, a feature he appreciated with advancing age. It was almost dark by the time he climbed to a cave he had explored years before. He unrolled a thermal sleeping bag, ate a light supper and fell asleep, exhausted.

In the morning, he set up a tripod-mounted telescope and focused it on his crashed ship, and waited. He could only hope the cave shielded his life signs; he had no way of knowing what scientific advances had been made in the last twenty years. He had reduced the energy signature of his ship to nearly zero, but even with the equipment on his old, unsophisticated freighter he would have found a crashed ship. He was counting on the approaching ships detecting his.

Zaladam was prepared to hide in the cave for several days, but, by early afternoon, he spotted a shuttle descending. He tracked it on his telescope and watched it land near his ship. The shuttle was a model that hadn’t been in service when he was running freight between the stars. It was shark sleek, the vessel of a predatory species, conquerors. Its aerodynamic shape made his freighter look like the crumpled garbage can it really was.

Zaladam had to wait awhile before he saw the hatch open. The people—if they were people, he could not entirely dismiss the possibility of aliens—exited cautiously. He smiled wryly, remembering his own imaginary fears before venturing out of his crashed freighter.

Three bipeds—presumably human—climbed out of the shuttle and stood together, discussing his freighter. After a few moments, Zaladam turned his telescope to the freighter. It was crumpled and would never fly again, but it was intact and largely functional, and he experienced an intense sense of home seeing it in the telescope. He hadn’t had lived anywhere else since he bought it thirty years ago.

Zaladam turned his attention back to the landing party, and watched them check their instruments. One of the three bipeds tentatively released the catches and opened its faceplate, revealing a human face. Moments later the others opened their faceplates. Two of the bipeds were men and one was female.

All three started walking towards his ship. He had destroyed the crops in the hydroponics bay and greenhouse, and tried to remove all traces of recent activity, but that was practically impossible and Zaladam was worried. If these people knew anything about agriculture, they would see through his ruse. He could only hope his plan worked and they didn’t get that far.

He waited anxiously as the landing party approached his crashed freighter. They stopped suddenly and stood rigid, listening to his recorded broadcast, and immediately lowered their faceplates and sealed their helmets.

The proximity sensor worked, Zaladam thought gleefully, feeling a sense of accomplishment. He began to think there was hope.

The landing party regrouped and appeared to be engaged in a heated discussion. He saw two of the landing party gesture repeatedly towards their shuttle, but the woman seemed determined to investigate the crash site and kept pointing at his freighter, something he had tried to discourage by scrawling the universal symbol for infectious disease onto the hatch, to reinforce the broadcast warning about infectious pathogens on the planet and inside the ship. The woman argued persistently, threw up her hands in disgust and walked alone towards the hatch of his freighter.

Their wearing HAZMAT suits, Zaladam thought in alarm, and his fears for the planet returned.

The woman stopped in front of the hatch, stared briefly at the sign, then reached for the control box while stepping up to the hatch, triggering the emergency lights and sirens. Zaladam saw the flashing lights through his telescope, but was too far away to hear the sirens. The woman stood frozen with her hand reaching for the hatch, listening to his second, dire warning. Her hand dropped to her side and she turned away from the hatch.

Nobody wasted any time returning to their shuttle. Zaladam watched it takeoff and soar into a cloudless sky, and breathed a sigh of relief. His paradise was safe for a little while longer.

© by ABR 2010 and 2012
an earlier version was published in Healthy or Else and Other Stories
 
 
Flowers from the Stars

They streaked onto media screens faster than they streaked across the solar system. Six sleek leaf-shaped ships, heading straight for good, old Mother Earth. “We are not alone,” “first contact,” “proof at last,” pundits trumpeted, as images of the approaching ships were fed onto news screens. Speculation was inevitable, contact had not yet been made, nor were any communications received—but revelations were immanent, surely.

The six ships broke formation and spread around the planet. Three ships parked in equatorial orbits and three in polar orbits, blanket coverage. Kilometer long sails, as transparent as dragonfly wings, unfurled in a solar ring, and the ships orbited silently, turning in the sun.

The space agencies of the United States, Europe, Russia, China, and India attempted to make contact, but no communications were received or replied to. Euphoria faded, suspicions arose, and the people of Earth watched anxiously.

For twelve hours the ships orbited silently, then iridescent bulbs of shimmering green fell to the Earth like summer rain, and exploded. It didn’t matter where you were, when the sun rose, the barrage began and it lasted until sunset. Devastation traveled around the world with the sun. Earth was turned into a cacophony of blaring klaxons and wailing sirens, all shown live on television and the Internet.

The ships were outside the range of terrestrial defenses. Plans to load nuclear warheads into space shuttles were formed, but twenty-four hours after the barrage began, the bulbs stopped raining down, and the six alien ships orbited the equator and the poles, ominous and silent.

Not shown live and on the Internet was a video conference between the President of the United States and his defense advisor and top generals, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Premiers of France, Russia, and China, and the Prime Ministers of India, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

The President of the United States opened the meeting by saying: “Thanks for convening on short notice. We are getting some very strange damage reports. The only facilities targeted in the attack were vegetable processing plants and farm equipment. Not a single defense installation in America was destroyed.”

“Da! It is same thing in Mother Russia.”

“Every soy factory in China is destroyed.”

“We are a nation of vegetarians. My country will starve. You must send us food.” Pleaded Japan’s leader.

No one had any to offer, crops were undamaged, but the explosive bulbs had destroyed every grain, vegetable, fruit, and seed processing facility on the planet. “Guess you’re going to have to eat hamburgers,” the President quipped, in a momentary failure of statesmanship guarantying him a place in the history books beside Maria Antoinette. 

It was impossible to keep the extent of the damage from the public, and the ensuing pandemonium was predictable from historical food shortages. There were riots, accusations of hoarding, looting, robberies, and attacks on farmers and corner grocery store operators. Two vegan celebrities known for praising the moral superiority of their creed in the media were recorded on security cameras, holding up vegetable stands at gunpoint.

Stock prices of McDonalds and KFC soared until someone remembered reading that cattle were herbivores and chickens and pigs were fed corn and grain, and those stock groups tanked along with all the others on Wall Street.

The aliens did finally communicate 48 hours later, and in a fashion no less spectacular. They seized control of the airwaves, all of them. That grabbed people’s attention, and nearly everyone on the planet heard a computer-generated voice say, in one or another of the 50 most spoken languages on the planet:

We came to your planet to extend an offer of peace and scientific cooperation, but what we found was so appalling, so shocking, so depraved and perverse, our higher brain functions shut down and we went into a primal state, and lashed out. We offer no apologies. Though upon recovery we were able to complete our analysis of your culture and regret the devastation we caused. You are fetus eaters, and were you to stop your species would become extinct. Self-preservation dictates your actions. We understand that now. 

But know this Earthlings: You are alone in your perversity. Among all the intelligent species in the galaxy, you alone eat the unborn children of floral beings. There can be only one response--

At precisely that moment, an image of the alien lit up our dark screens. It appearance it was not too dissimilar to a daisy, and it is tempting to wax anthropomorphic and ascribe human features to the flower, or rather to the flowers, for the plant being had multiple flower heads. But it would be an inaccurate description, there was nothing resembling a human face on that daisy. Anyone looking at it, however, was immediately aware of a fierce intelligence in those daisy heads glaring down at us from space.

“—We turn our flowers away from your sun.”

Every flower head simultaneously swiveled 180º away from the camera and our screens went dark and silent.

Control of the airwaves was restored to human operators. Seconds later, news sites showed the solar collars of transparent leaves retracting into the ships. The operation proceeded quickly, and the ships left our solar system faster than they entered it.

The Earth was in crisis—survival was paramount—people soon stopped discussing the aliens and their message, except to denounce them when the stores ran out of cooking oil and the hamburgers burned.

They streaked onto media screens faster than they streaked across the solar system. Six sleek leaf-shaped ships, heading straight for good old Mother Earth. “We are not alone,” “first contact,” “proof at last,” pundits trumpeted as images of approaching ships were fed onto news screens. Speculation was inevitable, contact had not yet been made, nor were any communications received—but revelations were immanent, surely.

Six ships broke formation and spread around the planet. Three ships parked in equatorial orbits and three in polar orbits, blanket coverage. Kilometer long sails, as transparent as dragonfly wings, unfurled in a solar ring and the ships orbited silently, turning in the sun.

The space agencies of the United States, Europe, Russia, China, and India attempted to make contact, but no communications were received or replied to. Euphoria faded, suspicions arose, and the people of Earth watched anxiously.

For twelve hours the ships orbited silently, then iridescent bulbs of shimmering green fell to the Earth like summer rain, and exploded. It didn’t matter where you were, when the sun rose, the barrage began and it lasted until sunset. Devastation traveled around the world with the sun. Earth was turned into a cacophony of blaring klaxons and wailing sirens, all shown live on television and the Internet.

The ships were outside the range of terrestrial defenses. Plans to load nuclear warheads into space shuttles were formed, but twenty-four hours after the barrage began the bulbs stopped raining down, and the six alien ships orbited the equator and the poles, ominous and silent.

Not shown live and on the Internet was a video conference between the President of the United States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Premiers of France, Russia, and China, and the Prime Ministers of India and the United Kingdom.

The President of the United States opened the meeting by saying: “Thanks for convening on short notice. We are getting some very strange damage reports. The only facilities targeted in the attack were vegetable processing plants and farm equipment. Not a single defense installation in America was destroyed.”

“Da! It is same thing in Mother Russia.”

“Every soy factory in China is destroyed.”

“We are a nation of vegetarians. My country will starve. You must send us food.” Pleaded Japan’s leader. No one had any to offer him. Crops were undamaged, but the explosive bulbs had destroyed every grain, vegetable, fruit, and seed processing facility on the planet.

“Guess you’re going to have to eat hamburgers,” the President quipped, in a momentary failure of statesmanship guarantying him a place in the history books beside Maria Antoinette. 

It was impossible to keep the extent of the damage from the public. The ensuing pandemonium was predictable, from historic food shortages. There were riots, accusations of hoarding, looting, robberies, and attacks on farmers and corner grocery store operators. Two vegan celebrities, known for praising the moral superiority of their creed in the media, were recorded on security cameras holding up vegetable stands at gunpoint.

Stock prices of McDonalds and KFC soared until a fund manager remembered reading that cattle were herbivores and chickens and pigs were fed corn and grain, and those stock groups tanked along with all the others on Wall Street.

The aliens finally did communicate 48 hours later, and in a fashion no less spectacular. They seized control of the airwaves, all of them. That grabbed people’s attention, and nearly everyone on the planet tuned in to hear a computer-generated voice say, in one or another of the 50 most spoken languages:

We came to your planet to extend an offer of peace and scientific cooperation, but what we found was so appalling, so shocking, so depraved and perverse, our higher brain functions shut down and we reverted to a primal state, and lashed out. We offer no apologies. Though upon recovery we were able to complete our analysis of your culture and regret the devastation we caused. You are fetus eaters, and self-preservation dictates your dietary choices. We understand that now. 

But know this Earthlings: You are alone in your perversity. Among all the intelligent species in the galaxy, you alone eat the unborn children of floral beings. There can be only one response--

At that precise moment an image of an alien lit up our dark screens. Its appearance was not too dissimilar to a daisy, and it is tempting to wax anthropomorphic and ascribe human features to the flower, or rather to the flowers, for the plant being had multiple flower heads. But it would be an inaccurate description, there was nothing resembling a human face or emotions in that daisy. Anyone seeing it, however, was immediately struck by the fierce intelligence in those daisy heads glaring down at us from space.

“—We turn our flowers away from your sun.”

Every flower head simultaneously swiveled 180º away from the camera and our screens went dark and silent.

Control of the airwaves was restored to human operators seconds later, and news sites showed the solar collars of transparent leaves retracting into the ships. The operation proceeded rapidly, and the ships departed, leaving our solar system faster than they entered it.

The Earth was in crisis—survival was paramount—people soon stopped discussing the aliens and their message, except to denounce them when the stores ran out of cooking oil and the hamburgers burned.



© by ABR 2010 and 2012           
An earlier version was published in Healthy or Else and Other Stories                                           
 
 
published in Healthy or Else and Other Stories

T
he old woman stood in the courtroom turning the summons over in her hand. She read the words ordering her to accuse the old man of smoking or “you will be whipped in the street.” She thought of the old man and the golden-brown herbs he grew in their garden. She did not know they were not ordinary tobacco plants. She thought of them as magical herbs. When the old man smoked the herbs he made love with the power of a man of sixty. She had heard that women valued that in a lover. She did not know. The old man was only a year older than she was. They had grown up near each other and had been together since they were young. He was the only man she had ever slept with, and she was the only woman he had ever slept with.
      Oh, well. Maybe it won’t hurt that much, she thought, and looked into the street and saw that a crowd was gathering, and felt humiliated.
      “It is time for you to turn in this smoker.” The judge said.
      “I can not do it.” She replied.
      “Then the law must be carried out.”
      The old woman looked down at the summons and read again the words saying “or you will be whipped in the street,” and thought: Oh, well. Maybe it won’t hurt that much. She looked outside, the crowd was larger now and more people were joining it. She turned to the judge and said, “How can you ask me to accuse the man I have lived with for 65 years?”
      “The law is the law.” The judge said curtly.
      The old woman looked at the crowd in the street, and said, “I think I would rather die.”
      “Suit yourself,” the judge said and, without changing his expression, pulled out his gun and shot her right there in the courtroom.
      When the old man heard what had happened his first thought was to go and kill the judge. But that would surely be the end of his life, and he knew the old woman would not want that. So he did the only thing he could do, he tore the golden-brown herbs out of the garden and shredded them, all but the last leaf. He placed it in a little wooden box he had made for the old woman when they were both young.
      The old man withered and within a year he was dead. Everyone was sad, for he was very popular. His neighbor carried the little wooden box to the courthouse. He did not want to, but he felt obligated to fulfill the old man’s dying request. He set the box in front of the judge and told him the old man had sent it to him, and that it was cursed.
      The judge threw back his head and laughed, for he did not believe in such things. He reached for the box to throw it out and the lid opened. When he saw the words written inside he started to tremble and shake.
      As soon as he woke up the next morning the judge felt something growing inside him, and knew he was changed. He was never able to have sex with a woman after that. The women in town said it was a shame, for he was a relatively young man, in his early 50’s, they guessed.
      Years later the judge died after having lived a natural span of years. The undertaker told everyone in town that when he was preparing the body for burial he had seen a strange flowering on the judge’s penis, and on it were written the last words the old woman had said, as she laying dying on the courtroom floor: “Die you prick.”

© 2010 Allan B. Regier

 
 
reprinted from the print anthology My Dog is My Hero

A black dog ran towards us, it was pretty fast, but there was something a bit odd about the way it ran. When it ran up to us and stopped, I saw the reason. “That dog’s only got three legs,” I said in childish surprise. One of its hind legs was only half as long as the other and didn’t reach the ground. I’d never seen anything like it. 
     “Somebody said he got caught in a hay mower,” my Dad said. “He gets along all right. It’s a good dog.” My Dad had been working at the ranch for a month or two; my Mom and little brother and I were just moving in. I was much too young to go school, and my little brother was a year younger than me.
     The three-legged dog had learned to compensate for the missing appendage and got around really well in spite of his disability. He could keep up with the horses and did everything a ranch dog was supposed to do. He immediately adopted our whole family and went along with anybody going out of the ranch yard, especially my little brother and me. He wasn’t a constant companion like dogs in the proverbial boy-and-his-dog stories, or at least I don’t remember it that way; maybe I was still too young to develop a close relationship with a pet.
     The three-legged dog was born and bred on a ranch and was a ranch dog through and through. He would start off with us and then disappear following a scent, to investigate a noise, or maybe just to check out his territory. After a while, he would come back and hang out or play a bit, and then he’d disappear again while we played. My mother said he was protecting us, but I didn’t really know what she meant when she said it. Until we moved to the ranch, my world had been a suburban lot and my grandparents’ yard. 
     A couple of months later, my brother and I were watching a bull in one of the corrals. A calf was in the corral with the bull. The bull pushed the calf away from the hay. The calf tried to get at the hay again, and the bull snorted, put its head down, shook its horns threateningly, and took a menacing step toward the calf. The calf backed way off, looking scared and hungry. 
     Almost fifty years later, I can’t remember if we were there because Dad was feeding the cattle or not. It doesn’t matter. The bull was an object of fascination. Grown men were afraid to go near it. The day before, we had watched Dad and two other ranch hands on horseback trying to drag the roped bull back to the ranch and put it in a corral. It bucked, reared, dug in its hooves, and threw itself from side to side fighting the ropes and the weight of the horses. My Dad and the other two men had to fight the bull for every inch of ground.
     “That bull won’t let the little cow eat,” my outraged brother objected. Before I realized what he was doing, he slipped between the rails of the corral fence and was walking toward the bull. 
     “We’re not allowed in there,” I told him. “Come back.” I shouted it once or twice more, but my brother ignored me. 
     The bull had his head down eating the hay on the ground. My brother marched straight up to that big, ferocious bull and kicked it right between the eyes. I could hardly believe it. The meanest bull on the range backed up a step or two, looked at my little brother with red-mist in its eyes, put its head down, and started pawing the ground. 
     I knew it was going to charge. I don’t think I understood what death was at that age, but felt it encroach on some instinctive level. Then I heard barking, and from out of nowhere that three-legged dog came running up to the corral, ducked under the bottom rail at full speed, and planted itself in the space between the bull and my brother. The bull kept pawing the ground, but the dog stood its ground, barking furiously. 
     My three-year-old brother just stood there glaring obstinately at the bull, oblivious to what a dangerous situation he had created. The three-legged dog continued barking viciously while feinting and diving at the bull. Once or twice, he forced the bull to take a step backward, away from my brother. 
     “Get out of the corral. Now!” My father’s voice boomed from somewhere behind me. 
     My brother stopped glaring at the bull, turned, and ran for the fence. Because that three-legged dog never let up and kept the bull occupied, my brother was able to make it to the fence, where he quickly climbed out of the corral. 
     When the dog looked back to verify that my brother was safe, the bull lunged forward and tried to gore the three-legged dog with its horns. The dog saw, or sensed, it in time and avoided the horns, dancing out of the way on its good legs and then spinning around to face the bull. The standoff resumed for a moment, and then the three-legged dog decided his presence was no longer necessary and made a mad dash for the fence, spinning around frequently to bark at the pursuing bull to keep it at bay. The bull made a final charge at the three-legged-dog just as he dove under the corral fence. The dog slid under the fence in the nick of time, and milliseconds later the bull rammed into the bottom rail, causing the whole corral to shake—and that bottom rail was a solid log well over a foot in diameter. 
     Almost fifty years later, I still believe the three-legged dog saved my brother’s life that day, and if that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

 
 
“You killed it!” I hear a shocked and offended voice say. I look around and see another tenant glaring at me through thick glasses. Looking at him you’d think I just committed a heinous crime like genocide, mass murder, statutory rape, or pushed the button to launch a nuclear strike instead of killing a cockroach scurrying across the stovetop, where I am trying to cook a bacon omelet. 

“Cockroaches don’t bite,” his buddy says by way of explanation. “They’re nature.” It is apparent he doesn’t believe in killing cockroaches, either. But he says it without rancor or ideological zeal, a patient teacher instructing a slow child.

Both defenders of the maligned and persecuted cockroach have hair so dirty it is matted and tangled and wear the same dirty, soiled clothes day after day. Neither one has had a shower in recent memory. Otherwise they are not much alike. My instructor in green ethics is unobtrusive and sticks pretty much to himself. The other naturalist, who is still glaring at me like I am the Genghis Khan of the Downtown Eastside, is a worse pest than the cockroaches.

He hangs around in the hallways so he can accost everyone who comes into the building for a cigarette and goes from room to room asking for cigarettes, papers, weed. He will do almost anything for money and spends every cent he gets on pot and cocaine. 

Whenever anyone goes into the community kitchen it isn’t long before he comes in pretending it’s for a glass of water, but really it’s to see if he can cadge a meal or a few tokes or get a spare smoke, whatever. More than once he has been caught eating with his fingers from pots or pans left unattended on the stove, and cockroaches look like a healthy source of protein compared to the dirtiest fingers in Vansewer.

He is a morally superior plant killer, so I always make sure I cook meat. He finds it offensive, and glares at me while complaining that he can’t eat it. I just smile contentedly, knowing it keeps his dirty, dictatorial fingers and values out of my food.  

A cockroach crawls out of an element and heads in the direction of my frying pan. SMACK. Point made. 

© 2010 Allan B. Regier