Cynthia’s Winter

value sketch of a coyote 3 - 5x7
Eduardo Suré; Value Sketch of a Coyote 3, 2018; Graphite

Snow arrived early last winter and covered the fields, hills, and forests in perfect white. No one expected to starve to death among such beauty. No one expected to fade away where an entire landscape looked like peace; where trees extended their branches out generously offering their snow. Yet, an eastern coyote named Cynthia found herself fading away.

The surrounding silence welcomed all types of sleep. Cynthia could hear her own steps as she hunted. The snow made the combination of a crunch and rub as it compressed beneath her paws. She also heard her stomach growling, moving air and water through her body, and reminding her of her persistent failure to catch prey.

Cynthia had been born healthy and had been among the largest cubs. As an adult, she would have looked like a wolf if she would not have been starving; but she was. Her mostly gray and white coat with some black and red scattered throughout hung on her bones. Her ears remained large: too large for a wolf. Her face and muzzle were thin and foxlike.

The quiet and stillness provided one advantage to Cynthia: she heard more. She heard movement in the distance, turned to look, and spotted a pack of five wolves approaching her. Were it not for the snow, she would have seen them too late; but in the open snow covered field, they could not sneak up on her as easily.

Cynthia knew how wolves hunted. She knew that they did not want her to run yet. They wanted to get as close as they could without her noticing. Once close, they would set up around her and would threaten her until she would run. As she would run, one of them would bite her throat. Her life would quickly end.

Having spotted the pack, Cynthia had two choices: run and hide, or run and hope the wolves gave up their pursuit. If she hid and stayed, Cynthia would be in constant danger: the scarcity of prey that winter drove the wolves to expand and fiercely protect their territory. She would run into the wolves again and again. She was already starving there, so she decided to run.

Cynthia tilled through the snow as fast as she could toward the boundary of the territory. When the pack of wolves saw her flee, they began to run after her. Both she and the wolves were starving, but she was a lot more motivated than they were as she ran for her life. Her rate through the snow was much faster than the pack’s. She pulled further and further ahead of them. After about a mile of tearing through snow, the pack stopped pursuing her. She was out of their territory, and they did not wish to spend any more precious energy on her.

Cynthia traveled a little further to ensure she was away from the wolves. She found high ground and lay down to rest. She was only a short distance from the edge of her old territory, but everything was unfamiliar. She huffed a deep breath and blew it out in frustration. She was tired and lost.

It was difficult to mark how much time had gone by. It was day and then it was night, but not much changed. New snow fell and touched up any spots that had been marked. Cynthia had been just as unsuccessful hunting in the new territory as she had been in the old one. She stopped and howled sometimes, hoping a coyote nearby might hear her. She thought that two or more coyotes might have more success finding food. Each of her howls was quieter than the last.

One day, Cynthia walked slowly through the snow and hunted. She paid careful attention to her nose hoping it would detect something. She listened carefully for any sound stopping frequently thinking she’d heard movement. She reacted so much, she began to doubt her hearing.

Just as she was getting ready to give up on the hunt, she clearly heard something moving under the snow. She faced the direction of the noise. Her ears were perked up and searched for the location of the sound. She tensed her muscles and readied herself to pounce. When she heard movement beneath the snow again, she jumped forward and struck with her paws where she thought her target was. She missed, but saw a rodent flee into a hole in the ground. She began to dig. She dug vigorously at first. The ground was frozen and hard. She grew tired. She slowed down. Her digging became less productive. She could tell she was getting closer, but she was too low on energy. She stopped to rest. She stared at the hole. Although she was starving, she did not have the strength to continue.

After she had stopped digging and had appeared to have given up, an American badger named Jacob stepped in and continued to dig after the rodent. Cynthia watched the badger take her place at the exposed tunnel and dig. She did not threaten or stop him. She did not have the strength. She just watched him dig, find her prey, and catch it. To her surprise, the badger brought the rodent to her. She was grateful, and ate it as fast as her starving body allowed.

Jacob had been watching Cynthia hunt for the rodent. He had teamed up with coyotes to hunt during past winters, so he was looking for an opportunity to do it again. The partnerships had not lasted much longer than the season, but they had lasted long enough to survive food shortages. Cynthia seemed like she could use some help; so, he helped her and made a friend as a result.

Cynthia and Jacob hunted together after that. The badger was familiar with the territory and showed her where they were most likely to be successful. After she regained some of her strength, she became a great hunter. The partnership was very productive. The pair even found time to play together. When they grew tired, they rested together trustingly.

About mid-winter, Cynthia was fully recovered. Soon after, she was driven to build a family. She marked her new territory leaving scents so male coyotes could find her. She became very vocal too: she howled, howled, and howled. Eventually, male coyotes arrived; and Jacob left.

Cynthia never forgot Jacob. She did not know from where he had come. She did not know where he had gone. All she knew was that he had saved her life, and she hoped to find him again someday.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Advertisements

A Bit of Luck

Value Sketch of a Buck - 2018 - 4x3
Eduardo Suré; Value Sketch of a Deer, 2018; Graphite

I felt like a coward, Gary. I should have stopped to help those kids change their tire, but I didn’t. They had been different from me, do you know what I mean? I had let myself imagine the worst they could do to me. It had been obvious by how they’d placed their jack that they’d no idea how to change it. I had been on the highway twenty minutes when my guilt weighed its heaviest. I figured that as I had sat comfortably in my old pickup truck looking at the pavement running under my headlights, they had still been outside struggling to see in the dark; trying to figure out how to change that tire. It would have taken me five minutes, Gary, if I had not been afraid of them.

I was feeling pretty low when I thought I saw redemption waiting for me on the side of the road. After I drove around a big curve, I saw a car on the left shoulder with its flashers on. I pulled over immediately to help. It was too soon actually, and I had to drive up the shoulder. I didn’t want to miss my second chance.

As I drove up slowly to the disabled car, I saw the driver standing by it. She looked fine – not fine as in attractive – but like she was going to be alright with or without my help. My second chance vaporized. It was there still, but not really substantial. I couldn’t put my hands on it and use it to pick myself up.

I would have driven off, but it occurred to me that she’d hit something. That’s why her car was disabled. The front of her car was wrecked. I looked up and down the shoulders on both sides of the road for the other car, but I didn’t see one. I thought that maybe she rear-ended the other car and its taillights were out, so I looked harder. That’s when I noticed there was something on the ground across the road on the other side. It was a deer.

The deer was big, but hard to see. I mean, I could see it on the ground; but I couldn’t tell if it was dead or alive. For the most part, you hope that things are alive; but you don’t in this case; do you, Gary? If the deer was alive, it was suffering. It was in a lot of pain – in agony. I couldn’t tell because it was so hard to see. I needed to cross the road to find out.

You’d think I was afraid of getting hit by a car, but I wasn’t afraid of crossing the dark highway. I should have been: cars weren’t slowing down to 55 miles per hour to go around that curve like they were supposed to. What I was actually afraid of was the injured deer. I don’t know what exactly I was afraid would happen. I know injured animals can be aggressive, so I must have imagined it kicking me down or biting me. Do deer bite, Gary? I guess it really didn’t matter. What was a bite to me compared to what it would endure if I didn’t help? It could have taken days for that deer to die. All I had to do to help was make sure it wasn’t alive. I wasn’t going to let my fear dictate whether I did the right thing again.

So, I got out of my truck and crossed as far as the middle of the road. I only made it to the middle because cars started zooming by in front of me. I don’t think they could see me as they came around the curve. Maybe it was hard for them to tell what lane I was standing in. I thought about running back, but then cars zoomed past behind me. When I saw a gap in the traffic between me and the other shoulder, I sprinted across. I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did. I stopped to catch my breath on the other side and marveled at how three lanes had been so hard to cross.

I snapped out of it so I could do what I’d set out to. I had to find out if the deer was dead or alive. It laid there on the shoulder not quite on its side with its feet underneath it as if it could stand up any second. I walked up to it slowly trying not to startle it. I observed it carefully to see if it was breathing, but I couldn’t tell. I walked around it and even crouched down to see if its body rose and fell with each breath, but I couldn’t tell. Its eyes were wide open, but I couldn’t tell where it was looking. Do deer even blink, Gary? I thought if I touched its eye and it blinked that I would be able to tell for sure it was alive. So, I approached it slowly and reached out my hand hoping it would move or blink before I touched its eye. I was scared that it would jump, you know; or that it would bite me.

Just as I was about to touch the deer’s eye, headlights attracted my attention to a semi truck that was coming around the curve. The gas-hoggin’ monster was on the roadkill-lovin’ shoulder, Gary! I debited three to six years from my lifespan to jump out of the way. I think I felt adrenaline squirt out of my sweat glands as I flew through the air. The semi truck struck the deer and spread it over the road like strawberry preserves over burnt toast.

As climbed out of the woods covered in brush and twigs stickin’out of my ears, you’d expect I was as mad. I wasn’t, Gary. I was happy. I was happy I’d done my duty to myself and gone and tried to help that deer even though I was afraid. A man has to be glad for what he can accomplish, you know?

I had another adventure crossing back. Cars zoomed by in front of me. A semi truck almost killed me again, but I sprinted across and I was alright.

There were two people watching me the whole time: the lady who crashed and a tow truck driver that must have arrived while I was across the street. I ignored them. I didn’t want to have to explain myself or have my experience cheapened by some uninformed or unthoughtful comment. I just got in my truck and drove away.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A Bit of Bad Luck

deer sketch - 2018 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of Deer, 2018; Graphite

Oh – I’m alright, only a little shaken up. The accident was just so random, you know? I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t looking at my phone or checking my makeup. I wasn’t even going a little bit over the speed limit. It was just one of those things, I guess. A bit of bad luck…

My poor car absorbed most of the impact. The front end was smashed. It looked terrible. I know it’s not alive, but it looked sad and defeated lying on the back of the tow truck. I felt like I was looking at a dog about to be put down.

The accident wasn’t my biggest shock on the interstate this evening if you can believe that. Something happened afterward that was even more stressful for me. It made me forget I almost died and was standing alone on the shoulder of a dangerous road at night beside my wrecked car.

As I had mentioned on the phone when I called you earlier, I hit a deer. It happened just after I had gone around the bend coming down the mountain. I can still see it in my head in slow motion if I close my eyes. A deer had dashed out of the woods, jumped over the rail, and looked right at me just before it met the front end of my car. When I hit it, it looked like the deer was leaning into my car and then lying its head down on my hood for a nap. But it all happened really fast – within, like, two seconds – and ended with my car jerking sideways and my windshield shattering. I was scared a car was going to hit me from behind because of that bend. I am so glad I was able to pull over safely to the left shoulder.

After I put the car in park and shut it off, I took deep breaths and said to myself, “Sharon, you’re alright. You’re going to be alright.” It took me a minute, but I pulled myself together and then called the insurance. They wanted to send the police and an ambulance, but I told them I only needed emergency roadside service. I called you right after that.

After you and I hung up, I thought I’d take a look at my car. It was really dark out and the batteries in my flashlight were low. My hazard lights did illuminate around the car a little, so I was able to see the damage. It looked bad, but I was glad I wasn’t tore up myself.

I looked over at the spot where I’d hit the deer expecting to see it lying out on the road. The deer had actually moved itself off to the right shoulder. I couldn’t tell if it was still alive because it was dark. There were some streetlights on the interstate, but they were very far apart. Also, the headlights of oncoming cars blinded me while I looked back.

As I squinted my eyes trying to see the deer, a truck pulled over on my side. I thought someone stopped to help. I watched it slow down and drive slowly toward me. Then, it parked further from me than I thought it should have. I thought that maybe the person didn’t want to scare me or something.

After the driver turned off his headlights, my eyes began to adapt to the dark. I saw the truck was beat up. Unless an old farmer is driving with a Labrador retriever sitting by him, there’s something very scary to me about an old beat up pickup truck. I was very aware of how alone I was.

I watched the truck’s driver side door open and hoped the passengers’ door didn’t open too. It didn’t. An unsteady leg popped down out of the driver’s side and planted itself on the white asphalt. Again – I couldn’t see very well, but I could tell it was a man’s. He wasn’t a farmer.

As I prepared myself to be friendly and grateful to this stranger who’d stopped to help, he walked to the line that marked the shoulder apart from the road and completely ignored me. He stood watching the cars loudly sigh by, and I realized he was going to try to cross the interstate. Even if it were daytime, cars would not be able to see him in time to avoid him as they came around that bend at eighty miles per hour. He also had to cross three lanes to get to the other side. I tensed up.

As soon as the road appeared to be clear, he started across. The fool only made it to the center lane before a car zoomed behind him. Yes, behind him. It would have hit him if he’d been walking just a tiny bit slower. Almost immediately after, a car zoomed in front of him. I thought I was about to watch him be killed. The fool sprinted across as soon as the car went by, and he actually made it.

Once he was across the road on the other shoulder, he walked over to the deer. He stopped near it and looked at it. He then walked around it appearing to inspect it. I couldn’t tell what he was going to do. And I’ll never know because, as he started to look like he was going to do something, a semi truck drove up the shoulder he was on. I screamed. No one could hear me, but I screamed. The truck hit something and smeared it down the road like strawberry jam.

As I stared in horror at the spot where the man had stood, I noticed movement in the woods. Something crawled out of the bushes. It was the fool! He stumbled a little, stood up, and walked over to the guardrail. He stood at it for a few moments looking around, and then climbed over back onto the shoulder. I don’t understand how he got so far, but I suppose he had all the motivation anyone needed. I was relieved to see he was alright.

As if I hadn’t been through enough, I suddenly noticed a man was standing next to me. His presence startled me and I screamed. It was only the tow truck driver of course. He’d been standing there watching the fool too. He didn’t say anything to me, but I think we both knew our principal interest was finding out whether the fool would make it back to his truck alive. Loading my car onto the tow truck could wait.

After a group of cars zoomed by, the fool crossed the first lane in front of him. He didn’t go further because a group of cars zoomed by using the center lane. When they cleared, he ran forward just in time to avoid being hit by a semi truck. He had to wait in the middle lane because the cars just kept coming. For a moment, he appeared trapped. I was really afraid for him. Just when I thought he was going to be hit, he sprinted across and made it to the shoulder.

The tow truck driver and I watched the fool in awe as he walked back to his truck. He didn’t come by to see if I was OK or to sheepishly mention why he’d taken suck a risk. He didn’t even acknowledge our existence. He just got into his beat up truck and drove away.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Rebecca’s Inalienable Right

rebecca - 2018 - 5x7
Eduardo Suré; Rebecca, 2018; Watercolor

When the subway’s doors opened, Rebecca White boarded slowly frustrating the younger morning commuters behind her. She shuffled with her retirement sneakers toward the priority seating near the doors. Two men had already settled on the bench. She glared at the men until one of them acknowledged her and quickly offered her his seat. She smiled the best that she could as she accepted it. When she sat, she pretended not to notice that her large handbag hit the other man on the bench who had ignored her. She allowed her large winter coat to overflow into his space. The doors closed and all the passengers settled. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. She never napped because she did not trust people, but she felt exhausted. Rebecca did not wake many hours later when the operator announced, “This train is out of service.” A kind passenger patted Rebecca’s shoulder on his way out and found her dead.

Hours earlier, Rebecca had been aware in another place. She was suspended in a directionless space. There was, however, a single cue giving her the perception that she was moving. It was a light ahead of her that grew in both size and intensity. The light was a perfect white: a light that represented everything.

Rebecca heard someone call her name. “Rebecca,” the voice said. “Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca.”

“WHAT?” she shouted.

“You can do it again if you want.”

“I can do what again?” Rebecca asked.

“Life.”

Why?” she asked.

“Rebecca, you have an inalienable right to liberty. Your personality – your neuroticism in particular – restricted you your entire life.”

“I meant, why would I want to do life all over again?” Rebecca said.

“Life can be beautiful.”

“It could be if it weren’t for all the living. People are everywhere and their rotten hearts are filled with betrayal. They pretend to be your friend one minute and stab you in the back the next. Always wanting something– It was best to be alone; it was best to do everything alone. I could do anything anytime I wanted, even if I had to watch my own back the entire time. And those were just the regular people; there were monsters too. People were monsters.”

“There you go.”

“Why do I still have these feelings?” Rebecca asked. “I’m dead, right? Shouldn’t I have a gigantic cake-eating grin on my face right now?”

“You won’t be perfect until you go beyond.”

“Aren’t I beyond now?” Rebecca asked.

Beyond beyond.”

“If I go back – and I’m not saying I’m going to – but if I go back, can I have a few things be different?” Rebecca asked.

“Such as?”

“I want to be perfect if I go back,” Rebecca said. “All of me.”

“You get a random half of your mom and a random half of your dad, but I’ll see what I can do with the unique mutation.”

“I don’t want to go back then,” Rebecca said.

“You can do what you want, Rebecca; but just know that you have the right to be free.”

“I was free,” Rebecca said.

“Do you remember your first kiss? You were thinking Ryan Harris was giving you mono the entire time.”

“It’s called the kissing disease for a reason,” Rebecca said. “I didn’t know all of his medical history.”

“You were fired from your first job on the first day for yelling at your coworkers.”

“They were too chatty with the customers and avoiding doing their share of the work,” Rebecca said.

“Do you remember when you were old enough to take your first trip to the beach unaccompanied by an adult with your friends?”

“Oh, now I’m not allowed to miss my friends?” Rebecca asked.

“You were so depressed that you would all be graduating that you stayed in the hotel room crying for the entire duration of the trip.”

“At least they didn’t have to see me in a swimsuit,” Rebecca said.

“You were a beautiful young lady and you did not enjoy a moment of your youth. I can go on and on with examples if you would like me to, Rebecca. My point in the end would be that you were imprisoned by your own personality your entire life. That was not just.”

“All right, I’ll do it again,” Rebecca said. “But first I’d like to know why you won’t just let me go beyond beyond if the afterlife is so great?”

“Time on Earth is a privilege. It is like a rollercoaster. Think about how much you experience on a rollercoaster: anticipation, excitement, fear, relief, surprise, laughter, nausea, etc. Earth is like that; the afterlife is not.”

“The afterlife sounds lame then,” Rebecca said.

“Would you want to ride a roller coaster forever?”

“Yes,” Rebecca said.

“You’re being hostile.”

“Fine,” she said.

“Are you ready then?”

“Let’s do this,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca was born again. She did not remember her life before or her timeless existence after it. She was herself as she was in her previous life, but on her best day: not suspicious or anxious, but happy and resilient. Her first kiss was sublime and she remembered it fondly for the rest of her life after she recovered from mono.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Elsa’s Toddler

elsa - 2018 - 3x2 portrait
Eduardo Suré; Elsa, 2018; Watercolor

The sun is reflecting off the large pet store’s windows on Sunday morning. In addition to pet supplies; the store sells bathing services, adoption services, and kenneling. There are training classes on Sunday, which is why Elsa and Jeffrey have come.

Elsa is a border collie with long flowing black and white fur. Jeffrey is a human toddler with blonde hair and freckled skin. Elsa is gently leading Jeffrey into the store. Since he pulls when they walk together, she uses a harness that fits around his torso. If she were using a collar, she would be strangling him: he does not want to go into the store.

Elsa patiently guides Jeffrey through the front door as other dogs walk out. Strangers give Elsa and Jeffrey impolite looks which she ignores. She is aware he is not well trained, and for that reason brings him to this class.

The two of them walk past store aisles to a round pen where the class will be held. Jeffrey looks down the aisles of toys and food with interest and is walking distractedly. Elsa has to stop him before he runs into the wall of the round pen where the training will be given. She opens the small door and coaxes him in. They find room on the floor to sit and wait for the class to begin.

“Good morning, everyone,” a German shepherd says. “Welcome to Toddler Training 101. My name is Sawyer, and I will be teaching this class for the next six weeks. Let’s take a few minutes to get to know each other. Please tell us your name, your toddler’s name, and what you would like to get out of this class.” There are a total of seven dogs in the class and each brought one toddler. Elsa is the fourth dog to respond.

“Hi. I’m Elsa and this is Jeffrey,” she says. “I guess I want Jeffrey to learn good manners, but I would also like him to bite me by the end of the class. Or at least fight with me in some way. He’s really shy.” Some of the other dogs agree that they would like that from their own toddlers as well.

After the remaining three dogs finish introducing themselves, Sawyer says, “Let’s take some time to loosen up. Play with your toddler for ten minutes. Let’s help them relieve the tension of being somewhere new and get really comfortable with this space.” The dogs glance around the pen at each other. They’re not sure how to respond to the instructor’s request. Some of them give their toddlers’ leashes slack so that they may roam near. Others try to get their toddlers to play with their neighbor’s.

Elsa takes a toy out of her bag. It is a stuffed banana with big wobbly eyes and floppy arms and puffy feet. She wiggles the toy in front of Jeffrey. He looks at her and then at the toy, but does not take it. She rubs the stuffed banana over his face hoping he will bite it, but he turns away. She then grabs his face, shakes it, and growls. He does not respond. When she tussles his hair, he moves away as far as his leash will allow.

Sawyer approaches Elsa and Jeffrey. “Elsa, right?” he asks. “Is he usually this easy-going?”

“Yeah, mostly,” she replies. “There’s maybe one or two toys he plays with. I keep trying to make him more aggressive, but he’s just too chill.”

“Is that banana one of the toys he likes?” Sawyer asks.

“No, he likes a ball that’s squishy and lights up when you hit it against the ground,” Elsa replies. “I think I brought it.” Elsa stuffs the banana back into her bag. She rummages through until she finds the ball. She rolls it to Jeffrey, his eyes light up, and he picks it up. He bumps it against the ground and it beings blinking wildly. A smile erupts on his face as he admires it and squeezes it in his small hands.

“What does he do when you take the ball away?” Sawyer asks.

“I don’t know,” Elsa replies. “I never tried that.”

“Go ahead. Take the ball away from him and let’s see what he does,” Sawyer says. Elsa reaches over and snatches the ball out of Jeffrey’s hands. His face turns red with rage. He walks up to Elsa, draws his arm back, and swings an open hand at her face. It connects with her snout and makes a hollow smacking sound.

“Oh, my Dog!” Elsa shouts. “I can’t believe he just did that! Thank you, Sawyer!”

Sawyer nods at Elsa with a smile. “You just have to think about what motivates them. Some toddlers like food, others like toys, and some just want attention. Take it away or give it to them depending on what you’re trying to get out of them.”

“How do I get him to attack other dogs?” Elsa asks. “I want him to get really territorial with my friends when they come over.”

“Whatever his favorite toy is, give it to him to play with before your friends arrive,” Sawyer says. “As soon as your guests come through the front door, take the toy away from him and give it to them. He’ll learn to hate them.”

“That makes sense,” Elsa says.

“Do you have a water bottle?” Sawyer asks. Elsa nods. “Ask your guests to spray him in the face a few times when they come over.”

After a few more minutes of play, Sawyer asks everyone to form a circle. He hands out a calendar that outlines each week’s lesson. He explains how the training course was developed. He shows them by example how to teach their toddler to come to them. He tells them to try to train their toddler to come to them before the next class and then dismisses them.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Software Update 2.19

laura in wheelchair - 2018 - cropped
Eduardo Suré; Laura in Wheelchair, 2018; Watercolor

Laura opened her wheelchair’s drive management system and selected the customer service counter at her nearest MobilHuman store. The wheelchair’s automation transported her from her living room to her garage, loaded her into her car, and took her to a strip mall. After parking in a handicap space, the car door opened automatically and the chair conveyed her up the entrance ramp to the door. The chair then took her through the building to her destination.

The MobilHuman customer service department was minimalist, bright, and modern. The technology running everything was well hidden to avoid blemishes on the architect’s creation. A handsome young man in his early 20s greeted her with a smile.

“Good morning, Laura,” he said. “My name is Jason. How can MobilHuman enhance your personal transportation experience?”

“I would like a different wheelchair,” Laura replied.

Jason turned to the counter behind him and looked down at the display surface. “I see that you own the Stallion model with the Zippy 2.19 operating system,” Jason replied. “Which of the following best describes the component for which you need assistance: color, seat, wheels and tires, controls, propulsion, battery, applications, or would you like to hear more options?”

“The whole thing,” Laura replied. “I’d like a completely different wheelchair.”

“Sorry, I don’t understand,” Jason said. “Would you like me to repeat the components?”

“Please don’t,” Laura replied. “Look: the chair wanders off, so I want a replacement.”

“I see,” Jason replied. “Has the chair taken you to a wrong location?”

“No, it just leaves when I’m not in it,” Laura replied.

“I understand,” said Jason. “Please give me a moment to look over your service plan and the chair’s diagnostics.” He smiled at her before turning away to face the counter. He maniacally operated the countertop interface like a pianist reaching the climax of a dramatic piece of music. Laura watched him stop to read for a minute.

“Will you be able to replace my chair?” Laura asked losing patience.

Jason looked at her and smiled, “Well, Laura, there’s nothing wrong with the chair. It looks like…”

“But there is something wrong with the chair,” Laura interrupted. “It wanders off.”

“It looks like the chair’s performance is in accordance with Zippy 2.19’s terms of use,” Jason said.

“Listen to me, Jason. While I was at the gym last week, I got out of the chair to use a weight machine. When I was done with my first set, I looked over and my chair was gone. Gone, Jason. Do you know where it went? It was on the other side of the room with some stranger’s phone plugged into it!”

“Uh huh,” Jason replied.

“Three days ago, I went to a bathroom at the mall. I took a little longer than usual. I had a big steak dinner the night before and no roughage: don’t judge me. After I was off the chair for a few minutes, it unlocked the stall door and left the bathroom. It left me in the bathroom, Jason. And it left the stall door open!”

“Did it come back?” Jason asked.

“Well, yes – but where did my wheel chair go, Jason? I am disabled. I can’t walk. I don’t carry a grappling hook to close bathroom stall doors.”

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Jason said.

Inconvenience?” Laura asked. “It wasn’t an inconvenience. It was cruelty.”

“You may need to adjust your settings, Laura,” Jason said.

“I don’t want to adjust my setting,” Laura replied. “I had to go to work earlier than usual this morning, and the chair wasn’t even in my house. I had to call in sick. I want a different chair.”

“Laura, I can help you change your settings,” Jason said. “They’re all within the boundaries of the terms of use. Would you like me to guide you through your options?”

“What are these terms of use you keep referring to?” Laura asked. “I don’t remember agreeing to anything.”

“You couldn’t update the chair’s software without entering your digital signature which acknowledged that you read and understood the terms of use,” Jason said. “There was a helpful summary in a bulleted list just above the button you clicked to accept the terms.”

“What did the summary say?” Laura asked.

“I can help you with that,” Jason replied. He went to the counter and tapped through the menus until he found the text. “It says that the user agrees to allow MobilHuman and third party affiliates to use the chair while it is idle as a voice and data switch, a vehicle for deliveries weighing less than 75 pounds, as a recharging station, and other services detailed in the agreement above.”

“What the unsalted crackers does that mean?” asked Laura.

“I appreciate your patience while I assist you, Laura. Would you like to change your settings to increase your chairs availability of service to you?” asked Jason.

“No, I do not. I want a different chair,” Laura answered. “And I don’t want it to have any software updates. This chair was actually fine until the software update.”

“I’m sorry, Laura, but MobilHuman only sells chairs with automation,” Jason said.

“Can I go back to Zippy 2.18?” Laura asked.

“I’m sorry, but Zippy 2.19 had critical software patches to eliminate known security vulnerabilities.”

“You know what, Jason,” Laura said, “Just forget it. Thanks for your help. You’re doing a great job.”

“You’re welcome, Laura,” Jason sincerely said.

Laura left MobilHuman in the same chair she went to exchange. When she got home; she took her old manually operated wheelchair out of storage, cleaned it up, and got into it. She parked her automated chair out of the way and chained it to a column in her house so it could not leave.

At first, Laura was happy to use her old wheelchair. Then, she noted that the seat could not be adjusted when it became uncomfortable. She also found it highly inconvenient that she had to reach for her phone to control devices that had all been connected to her automated chair. It was also difficult and time consuming to get in and out of her car. A couple of days later, Laura went back to using her MobilHuman chair.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Down the Mountain

timothy - 2018 - cropped
Eduardo Suré; Timothy, 2018; Watercolor

On the side of a snow covered mountain that villagers who lived nearby called Denali, there was a cave. The cave was in a place where no practical person would come across it unintentionally. It was deep and it branched off into other deep caves. Whatever light was in the cave or whatever activity occurred within, it was obscured by its depth.

And so it was possible that the creature, Timothy, could have lived in the cave peacefully and undisturbed his entire life. The creature was five feet tall, and his entire body appeared composed of stone. He walked on two legs like a human. His eye sockets were hollow, except for blue flames that burned where one would expect his eyes to be. He lived alone and followed the same routine every day: eating nutrients he found in the rocks, thinking deeply, and resting. He had parents once, but they died along with all the other creatures like himself. He was the last of his kind.

All of Timothy’s basic needs were met within the cave; however, he was lonely. He wanted a friend. He wanted someone to show how big he’d gotten, tell about a clever thing he’d done, and he wanted someone to interact with.

Timothy knew that there was a village located about 2,000 feet below the entrance to his cave. The villagers could not see him, but he could move to a spot on the mountain where he could see them. They appeared to him to get along well with each other, so he thought they might be friendly toward a stranger like himself. He decided to climb down to the village and see if he could make a friend.

Timothy did not mind the darkness of the cave, but he frequently looked outside. He liked to watch the sun rise and set, the stars twinkle in the sky at night, and the different ways the moon looked on different nights as it traveled across the sky. He was also familiar with the snow that covered the outside of the mountain, but he did not have much experience walking through it as he hardly had any need to travel far from the cave. As he hiked down, he found the snow was slippery. He fell several times. It was a long climb down.

When Timothy arrived at the edge of the village, he saw a woman gathering wood from a pile outside of her house. He walked over to her and stopped beside her where she might see him. When she looked up from her wood pile to see who stood beside her, she froze and stared at him. When she realized that she was looking at a living thing she had never seen before, she dropped the bundle of wood she had held in her hands and ran into her house screaming. Not knowing how to respond to the fleeing screaming woman, he hiked quickly back to his cave.

Timothy thought for a long time about the woman’s reaction. He asked himself why she had become afraid after just seeing him. He had stood very still. He concluded that she had never seen a creature that looked as he did. He had not realized ahead of the encounter that he looked very different from the villagers.

A few days later, Timothy decided he would try to find a friend in the village again. He had seen villagers completely covered in clothing during the winter months, and he could do the same to look more like them. He covered himself in clothing his kind had collected in the cave in the past. He made sure he covered everything. He even found some dark goggles with which to cover his eyes.

As Timothy hiked down to the village, he worried that people would be able to see that he was different anyway. He was afraid they would scream and run away like the woman had. He did not consider that they might attack him because he had never seen his kind exhibit violence. Although he was afraid, he continued to hike down the mountain hoping to make a friend.

When Timothy arrived at the outskirts of the village, he came across a man returning from a hunt. Timothy stood still on the path as the man walked by. The man looked at him and waved. Timothy copied the gesture and, in that way, had his first positive interaction with a human. He felt encouraged.

Timothy cautiously walked into and through the village. In an open area, he came across a group of children. They were playing with a ball. They were throwing it and kicking it to each other. At one point; a boy failed to catch a pass, the ball flew past him, and landed by Timothy. He picked it up and threw it to one of the boys closest to him. The boy caught it. He thought they were finished when the boy chose another child to toss the ball to, but then one of the other boys threw the ball back to Timothy.

The kids thought Timothy was just another child and they included him in their game of catch. When they got tired of passing the ball to each other, they played other games. He was clever enough to learn the rules of each game right away. The time passed quickly and he could not remember if he’d ever had so much fun. He happily did whatever the children did. If they played with the ball, he played with the ball. If they chased each other, he ran around with them.

Then, the children started stealing each other’s hats. Timothy became nervous when he first observed that. Instead of running and dodging the attempts to steal his hat, he froze. One of the children easily pulled his hat off his head and saw his stone skull. The child stopped and stared. Slowly, the other children noticed that his head was very different from their own.

Almost all of the kids ran away shortly after that. However, one child did not run. The child was more interested in the creature’s appearance than she was scared of what might happen if someone was really different from you.

“Why are you completely covered up?” she asked. Timothy did not reply. “Are you trying to fit in?” Again, he said nothing. “You might fit in for a while if you hide under all that clothing; but if you want real friends, you need to show them who you are right away. Some kids might not be your friend; but the ones that are nice to you will probably be good friends.” They stood quietly for a few moments looking at each other. Then, he began hiking back to his cave. “My name is Stephanie, by the way!”

Timothy thought about the advice Stephanie had given him. The advice did not make sense to him. He thought if people saw him, they would always run. However, he also considered that he did not have much of a choice but to take her advice because everyone would know that he might visit the village wearing a disguise. They would be on the lookout for him.

A few days later, Timothy worked up the courage to visit the village. He did not wear clothing as he hiked down the mountain. He did not hide any part of himself.

When Timothy arrived at the village, he saw the same group of kids playing in the village square. Stephanie was among them, and he went directly to her. The other children ran away, but she did not. She was frightened after seeing all of him. She had not seen his flaming blue eyes before. Because she was the one who told him to come as himself, she felt she could not run. Instead, she invited him to play catch.

The children who had run away watched Stephanie play with Timothy. When they saw that he only wanted to play, they came back. They were very interested in being around this creature who was so different from themselves.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ronald’s Birthday

baby triceratops - 2018 - cropped
Eduardo Suré; Baby Triceratops, 2018; Watercolor

Sixty-six million years ago, there was a nest in the middle of a prairie with a single egg in it the size of a melon. The nest appeared as if someone had started to dig a hole for a kiddie pool, but had changed their mind. It also appeared they had decided the shallow hole and the dirt scattered around were unsightly. Instead of refilling the hole, they threw some grass over it to hide it. It was not the tidy bird’s nest one would imagine.

A single female triceratops, named Deborah, grazed about the nest. Deborah was very tall and long and extremely heavy. In fact, she was enormous. She had a large round horn on her nose. She also had two very long horns that grew out of her head just above her eyes. She used her size and her horns to defend the nest and the large expanse of land around it that made up her territory.

One bright and beautiful morning, the egg cracked. A creature small enough to fit inside the cantaloupe sized egg broke pieces out. When it removed enough of the shell so that the size of the exit was large enough, the little baby triceratops stumbled slowly out of the egg.

The baby triceratops, named Ronald, looked like a sweaty sloppy mess on the ground. He was a miniature version of his mother, but without horns. Ronald was exhausted from his effort to break out of the egg. He sat on the bare ground to rest. While he did, his skin dried off a bit and his muscles loosened up.

When Ronald felt rested, he began to wrestle with gravity to get on his feet. Although it was very difficult and required him to use all of his strength, he was determined to get up. He grunted and whined, but he eventually succeeded and stood up.

Standing had indeed been a challenge for Ronald. The hard work brought him some satisfaction, but also pointed his attention to a feeling that gave him some distress. So, he whined very loudly. The sound of his cry was like someone was letting the air out of a balloon while pinching apart the opening. However, crying did not help him feel better.

Ronald did not intend to just stand around and wait for help to arrive. He took a few steps forward and stumbled as he did. Walking was additionally challenging for him because he was in the nest. No matter what direction he went, he had to go uphill to get out. Again, he was determined to beat gravity. Step by step, he walked up a side of the hole until he arrived at the upper rim. He paused there for a moment and scanned the prairie around him wondering what to do next.

Deborah, Ronald’s mother, had been watching him. She needed him to begin learning to be independent right away, but she also knew she would need to do many things to take care of him until he was ready to be on his own. She walked over to him and placed herself where he could see her. Ronald wailed at its mother, but she did not move any closer to him. His instincts told him that mom had what he needed and he would need to go to her. The distress he had felt was hunger and mom would help it go away. So, he walked to her with a little less difficulty than he’d had inside of the nest.

Ronald easily figured out how to get milk. Although he was Deborah’s first baby, she appeared to know how to feed him too. She even appeared to feel better herself as he ate.

After a few minutes, it was Deborah’s turn to eat. After all, she needed nutrition to make good milk for Ronald. So, she left him and went out to the prairie to find some green vegetation to eat. He was no longer hungry, but he was also not full. He would have happily continued to eat, so he made a lot of unpleasant noise that Deborah ignored while she grazed.

As Ronald digested his food, he became cold. He stood alone in the middle of the field and shivered. Deborah grazed near enough to him that he could see her. With less graceful movement than he had shown when he went to her for food, he walked to her across the grass. The longer walk gave his clumsiness an opportunity to show. He stumbled and nearly fell a few times as he walked across the uneven prairie. He was grateful that she had grazed in one spot while he traveled. Eventually, he reached her. Under the bright sun, upon the quiet prairie, with a light breeze making the grass dance in the distance; he stood by his mother feeling warm and happy.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Judging Linda

linda 2018 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Linda, 2018; Watercolor

Donald sat at the end of the family’s kitchen table that faced his wife, Elizabeth, as she cooked. She moved from cutting vegetables at her worn out counter to stirring broth and meatballs in her dented pot on her old stove. He did not watch her; he was looking at his hardened hands. He used his thumb to scrape off his fingernails the semi-gloss he used at work that day. He frowned when he saw paint he had not completely washed off his skin.

“Did you have a bad day, Papa Bear?” asked Elizabeth. Her nickname for him made sense to anyone who knew Donald.

“No,” replied Donald. “I just can never get the paint off my hands all the way.” He showed her his hands. He was able to tell by the way she was stirring his dinner that something was wrong. “How was your day, Honey Badger?” Donald and Elizabeth did not know what honey badgers were.

“It was alright,” answered Elizabeth, “until I found a pair of pants in Linda’s drawer. When I was putting away the laundry…”

“A pair of what?” asked Donald.

“Pants,” answered Elizabeth.

“Women’s pants or men’s pants?” asked Donald.

“All pants are for men,” answered Elizabeth.

“I mean, were they the kind of pants sold to women?” asked Donald.

“Women who aren’t saved,” said Elizabeth.

“You know what I mean,” said Donald.

“Well, yes,” answered Elizabeth. “They look small, but they stretch. They must look painted on – showing everyone her behind. Can you believe she has been wearing pants behind our backs?”

“Have you talked to Linda about it?” asked Donald.

“She knows Deuteronomy chapter 22 verse 5 as well as you and I,” answered Elizabeth.

“Well, is she actually wearing them?” asked Donald.

“Not now, she’s not,” answered Elizabeth.

“I don’t mean now,” said Donald, “but does she put them on at school or when she goes out with friends?”

“I bet you it’s that Barbara,” said Elizabeth. “Did you know she’s Catholic? Only goes to church on Sundays for an hour. They let their children do whatever they want. Catholics. Just confess and you get a clean slate on which you can go right back out and write filth like it’s the bathroom wall at the bus station. ‘For a good time, call Barbara 555-244-2888’. That’s what her slate says.”

“We knew she was going to meet all kinds of people in high school,” said Donald.

“We should have put her in private school,” said Elizabeth.

“You know we can’t afford that,” said Donald.

“And they worship idols! Catholics,” said Elizabeth. “Imagine: praying to a statue you bought from some sinner at a flea market.”

“Why don’t we just call Linda in here and talk to her?” asked Donald.

“Oh, I just want to spank her right now,” said Elizabeth. “Just make her wear those tight jeans and spank her bottom!”

“Now that just sounded a little weird, Honey Badger,” said Donald. “Why don’t you calm yourself and let’s talk to her?”

“I’m always calm,” said Elizabeth. “Always at peace. You know that. LINDA! LIN-DAH!” Donald and Elizabeth heard a door squeak on its hinges as it opened. A moment later, their teenage daughter appeared at the entrance to the kitchen. She wore a modest long sleeved shirt and a long matching skirt, but she was barefooted. She was a sophomore in high school, but looked like a little girl to Donald and Elizabeth.

“Yes, Mom?” answered Linda. “Hi, Dad.”

“Have a seat, Linda,” said Donald.

Dad, I’m in the middle of my pre-calculus homework,” said Linda. “I’m going to forget something I just figured out.”

“Listen to you father,” said Elizabeth. “We need to talk.” Linda pulled the seat closest to her away from the table and plopped herself down in it. She sat slouching with her arms crossed in front of her chest.

Donald began to say, “In a letter to Timothy, Paul said…”

“I found a pair of pants in your drawer!” interrupted Elizabeth. “Why have you been wearing pants?”

Mom,” Linda began to protest.

Donald began to say, “The bible tells us…”

“To dress modestly,” interrupted Linda. “Those pants are Barbara’s, Mom.”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Elizabeth.

“I spilled my school lunch all over her,” said Linda. “I felt really bad about it. It looked like she peed herself. I lent her my spare skirt and promised I would wash them for her.”

“Oh,” said Elizabeth.

“Anything else?” asked Linda.

“We’re sorry we jumped to conclusions,” said Donald.

“Can I go finish my homework with Barbara?” asked Linda. “I can take her evil pants back to her. They reek of the Devil.”

“Don’t be smart,” said Elizabeth. Linda’s mentioning the Devil gave Elizabeth goosebumps. “Be back by eight.”

“Thanks, Mom,” said Linda. Elizabeth watched her daughter rush out of the room. Donald looked disapprovingly at his nails. The meatball soup boiled over. He sighed.

“Let me serve you your dinner so I can go pray for forgiveness,” said Elizabeth. Her voice broke at the end of her sentence.

“I don’t think you did anything wrong,” said Donald. “You’re just making sure Linda gets into Heaven.”

“I said by my reaction that I don’t trust her,” said Elizabeth. She tried to swallow a lump in her throat. Donald did not want her emotions to escalate to crying. He did not want to be hungry while he consoled his wife.

“Why don’t you go on ahead, Honey Badger,” said Donald. “I’ll serve myself. It’s OK.” Elizabeth hesitated and then nodded her head in agreement. Donald watched her walk out of the kitchen with her apron on. He sighed with relief. He found some sour cream in the refrigerator he was not supposed to eat because of his health, and he took from the bread box a baguette also forbidden to him. “Take your time, Honey Badger!”

As Donald soaked up the last of his soup with his baguette, Linda arrived safely at Barbara’s house. She returned the jeans she had borrowed and worn twice that week at school. Barbara lent her a pair of shorts Barbara’s mother only allowed her to wear over her swimsuit at the beach.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Unspoken Pledge

gardener - 2018 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gardener, 2018; Watercolor

Daniel is eating dinner with Matthew in the office space of the city’s abandoned minor league baseball stadium. The men are not talkative. They are recovering from tense moments that occurred during the last mission. Daniel is a good spotter, but he made some mistakes. He watches Matthew, the shooter in their sniper team, open a meal packet. He opens one too. Daniel knows Matthew will not say anything when he is unhappy. To fix things, he has to get him talking.

“Do you think we can rely on them to keep watch?” asks Daniel.

“Why?” asks Matthew, “Because they are civilians?”

“Yeah,” says Daniel.

“Sure,” says Matthew.

“Do you know any of them?” asks Daniel. He looks down and spreads peanut butter on bread that feels like slightly damp particle board. It does not fall apart as he expects it to. He finds a packet of grape jelly and looks up at Matthew to coax an answer.

“No,” says Matthew. He is working hard to chew his food. “Just stories.”

“What stories?” asks Daniel.

“Like the guy with the face,” says Matthew. “He’s a born grenadier. He used to make his own explosives before they started taking supplies from Grumpies. You still won’t catch him using a grenade launcher. He wants to run into trenches and Dead zones and whatever. You’d think he’s crazy, but he keeps walking away with the same number of holes in his body.”

“What about the two little Mexican girls he was talking to?” asks Daniel.

“They sell burritos,” says Matthew.

“No, really,” says Daniel.

“They’re illegals,” says Matthew.

“Illegals?” asks Daniel. “Why are they hanging around with this bunch?”

“I asked Maria the same question,” says Matthew. “She’s the older one. She speaks OK English, but it was obvious she wasn’t born here.”

“What did she say?” asks Daniel.

“Short or long version?” asks Matthew. Daniel thinks about it. He feels the tension easing.

“Long,” says Daniel.

“Alright. So, Maria and Juana crossed over a couple of years before the Grumpies invaded,” says Matthew. “They had to work off what they owed the coyote in a sweat shop. They were basically slaves. The living and working conditions were crap. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere. The work was backbreaking, but maybe less so than it was back home. At least they got to eat every day, she said. In the end, they let them go after they paid off their debt.”

“That’s actually shocking,” says Daniel.

“Yeah,” says Matthew, “They didn’t believe it either. So after that, their cousin set them up to work in this crazy mansion. The owners were absurdly rich – huge place. There were a lot of workers to keep the place looking perfect, but it was this set up where the owners didn’t want to see them. So when the owners left, everyone would come out of their holes and work their butts off doing their job. When the owners came around, everyone would disappear. It was weird, but the girls loved it. The work was light compared to anything they’d ever done. They had their own clean beds, air conditioning, showers – they had to wear uniforms, but it was new clothing for them.”

“You’re making me sad,” says Daniel.

“Sucks, right?” says Matthew. “But she said they were happy. The other workers were like family. Well, she said some were actually extended family. Maria worked in the gardens. Juana worked in the kitchens. Life was good.”

“Then the EMPs hit,” says Daniel.

“Maria said she didn’t even know it happened,” says Matthew. “She said she was outside repairing garden boxes with a hammer. Then, she heard some people yelling to each other – just asking each other questions. She thought the owners were back, so she stood up to hear. She had an unobstructed view west from the garden she was working at. She said that she saw them coming like a swarm of ants across the field.”

“Sounds like the mansion was perfect for a base,” says Daniel.

“That’s what they were going to use it for,” says Matthew. “Maria said she just stood there watching them come. She didn’t know what to make of it. Then, she heard some taps. Workers just fell. She snapped out of it when someone close to her caught a bullet and she saw what that does to a head.” Matthew puts food in his mouth and chews slowly.

Daniel imagines the scene. It was probably a beautiful day. Everyone was just doing their job before it happened.

“Maria said she ran to get her sister,” says Matthew. “She just ran. When she got to the door, she couldn’t turn the doorknob because she still had the hammer she was using in her hand. When she got to the kitchen, everyone was standing around the appliances trying to get them to work. Everyone’s focus changed real quick once Maria told them what was happening outside. They all ran out, except Juana. She would have run out too if Maria hadn’t grabbed her in a panic and asked her what they were going to do. Lucky for her because no one else made it wherever they were going.”

“Shot?” asks Daniel.

“Yeah,” says Matthew. “So Juana said they needed to run through the mansion to the stables. Farm girls. Maria didn’t want to run outside, but Juana said they wouldn’t need to. The owners connected the stables to the house so they could show off their horses to guests without having to go outside. Sweet little Juanita took a kitchen knife to go.”

“Since you mentioned it, I think she’s going to use it,” says Daniel.

“Well, that’s where Maria’s eyes watered when she was telling me the story,” says Matthew. “When they got to the stable, there were two Grumpies from a fire and maneuver team lingering after securing the stables. The girls had to make a choice quickly: go back or move forward.” Matthew puts food in his mouth and chews it slowly as Daniel looks at him with anticipation.

“How did they take out two Grumpies with one kitchen knife?” asks Daniel.

“A kitchen knife and a hammer,” says Matthew. “The girls were raised on a farm or whatever they call them over there. They slaughtered their own pigs. Fast. Quiet. Physically, she said it wasn’t hard.”

“Yeah, but with a hammer?” says Daniel.

“They probably don’t use .22s to stun pigs before killing them in Mexico,” says Matthew. “Not poor people. Look, I really don’t know. Anyway, the girls rode off bareback on racehorses into the backcountry.”

“So why didn’t they go back to Mexico?” asks Daniel.

“Maria said they were mad as hornets,” says Matthew.

“She said hornets?” asks Daniel.

“No, I said hornets,” says Matthew. “They were angry, OK? They had nothing most of their lives. When they got something, it was a big deal. Then, someone just took it.”

“Does it make them happy killing Grumpies?” asks Daniel.

“I don’t know,” says Matthew. “But they feel like they need to.”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED