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.


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.


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.”


Brother Thomas

Regiment at Spanglers Meadow - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Regiment at Spangler’s Meadow, 2017; Watercolor
Thomas lies face downward against the body of a dead soldier from his regiment. He is not hurt, but his little brother Joseph is shot and lies somewhere behind him in the meadow. If Thomas is going to get Joseph, he must do it quickly. The fighting will provide the only cover on that bright summer morning. The way it is going, it might soon be over. Once the fighting stops, there will be nothing to keep confederate soldiers from spotting his movements out there in the open.

Thomas abruptly turns his head to search for his brother. It is clear Union regiments are losing. Many from the 2nd Massachusetts are down. He notes the losses by the 27th Indiana and they shock him. His eyes tear up and a lump develops in his throat. A wave of hopelessness flows over him that he had not felt since the Battle of Cedar Mountain when Jackson was handing their butts to them. This morning’s order forced his regiment to attack the Confederates from the meadow now covered with bodies in blue uniforms. The 27th Indiana is receiving the worst of the assault from soldiers positioned behind a stone wall.

“If Joseph is alive, I’m going to shoot him,” says Thomas. It was Joseph who wanted to join the 2nd Massachusetts two years ago. Joseph joined for duty and honor. Thomas joined because he was not going to allow anyone to kill his little brother.

Thomas swallows his hopelessness and looks behind him for his brother. He has cover behind the body of a soldier who fell just after Joseph did. Thomas hears someone from the 27th yell, “Fire!” He takes a crouching stance and runs from body to body searching each face.

Thomas hears a ball fly by his ear with a whooshing sound. He dives for the ground, but he does not stop searching. He crawls across the field checking the faces of more soldiers than he believes could have marched between his brother and him. He believes he has gone in the wrong direction until he spots a pink handkerchief. Thomas tied a handkerchief he borrowed from their mother to the back of Joseph’s belt as a prank.

Thomas crawls to Joseph. Joseph lies face down, so Thomas fears the worst. He begins to call to him “Jo!” cries out Thomas. “Jo! Jo!”

Thomas arrives at Joseph’s body. He grabs the cross belt and rolls Joseph onto his back. Joseph’s face is distorted from pain. Thomas is relieved Joseph is alive. Joseph has both hands against his chest. There is a lot of blood behind them.

“Keep pressing down on that chest wound, Jo,” says Thomas.

“It’s just my hand,” says Joseph. “But it hurts like GRRR!”

“Can you move?” asks Thomas.

“Maybe,” says Joseph. “How’s my leg?” Thomas crawls down to take a look at Joseph’s leg. His light blue trousers are soaked in blood on the outside front of his thigh. There is more blood at the back of the same thigh. It looks to Thomas like the blood is from an exit wound.

“Unless you were shot twice, it doesn’t look too bad,” says Thomas.

“I was shot twice,” says Joseph. “I was shot in the leg once and fell. When I saw you hit the ground, I motioned to you with my hand. That’s when I got shot again. They shot my hand.”

“You idiot,” says Thomas. “You and I are going to run a three legged race to those rocks over there.”

“We can fight from here,” says Joseph.

“We’re done here,” says Thomas. “We were done before we started. Even the commander knew that. How are you going to shoot that musket with no hand? Are the Rebs just supposed to run over here and fall on your bayonet? I need to get you to those rocks and stop all that bleeding.”

“Alright,” says Joseph. “If it’ll get you to shut up.”

“How’d you manage to get shot in the right leg and right hand?” asks Thomas. “You’re going to have to put your right arm around me to hold yourself up. I’m going to have that disgusting hand dripping blood on my shoulder.”

“I’m just afraid I’m going to pick up an illness rubbing against your thigh,” says Joseph.

“Shut up,” says Thomas. “On three.”

“No,” says Joseph, “Ready. Go.”

“Fine,” says Thomas. “Ready. Go!” In one motion, Thomas pulls Joseph’s arm over his head and lifts him off the ground. Joseph growls with pain. Having run many three-legged races as children, they move quickly across the field despite the obstacles on the ground. Shots fly through the air by them with a whistling sound and they crouch. They reach the cover of a rock and Thomas pushes Joseph’s back against it. Thomas helps him lower himself and sit.

“Don’t get comfortable, boys!” yells another soldier. He fires his musket. “We’re getting flanked!”

“You hear that, Jo?” asks Thomas. “Can you make it back to the woods?”

“Guess we’ll find out,” says Joseph.

“Ready. Go?” asks Thomas. Joseph nods his head. “Ready. Go!” Thomas pulls Joseph’s arm over his head again and lifts him off the ground. Joseph exhales sharply. They run from the cover of one rock to another. The other soldiers continue firing, but they retreat. Thomas and Joseph run through the woods. The sound of muskets lessens. They only hear shots fired in the distance. Their footsteps and breathing make the loudest sound.

At camp, Thomas cleans and dresses Joseph’s wounds. Their mother’s pink handkerchief is wrapped around Joseph’s leg. Thomas looks over his little brother and leaves to wash himself.

Thomas pours water from his canteen over his hands to wash off Joseph’s blood. After he dries them, he examines them. They are trembling.

Thomas hears an order to fall in. He shakes his head. He runs to the spot where he left Joseph to pick up his gear.

“Because of you, I won’t have whiskey after this battle,” says Thomas.

“What?” asks Joseph. “We just came back.”

“You’d better hope I get shot, Jo,” says Thomas, “or I’m going to beat you when I get home.”

“Just raise your hand,” says Joseph, “and wave at the Rebs like an idiot.” Thomas reaches down and squeezes Joseph’s leg. Joseph yells from the pain. While Joseph’s eyes are closed, Thomas runs to join their regiment.


Anthony Opossum

virginia opossum - 2017 - widescreen
Eduardo Suré; Virginia Opossum, 2017; Watercolor

Anthony is a Virginia opossum. He is almost as large as a cat. Most of his fur is a mix of gray and brown colors, but his face is white. When he is going about his business, his black eyes and long face are pleading. His face and fur invite touch, but his bare tale is creepy. His long snout filled with sharp teeth is unsettling.

Anthony lives inside the hole of an oak tree. The oak tree is in a forest. From the forest, he can hear the sounds of people enjoying their backyards. Children are particularly loud. He can smell barbeques and even some of the uncooked food people place on their tables. He is tempted to investigate. One day, he does.

Anthony pokes his head out of the hole in the tree where he lives. He looks around. He smells the air. There is no danger. He cannot hear people, but he can always smell their food. He climbs out of the hole and down the side of the tree. He walks with a sway on the ground. The legs on one side of his body move forward together at the same time. Then, the legs on the other side of his body move forward together at the same time rustling the leaves on the forest floor beneath his feet.

Anthony arrives at a fence where the woods end and a backyard begins. The fence is wooden. It is built with vertical boards. An empty space as wide as the boards is between them. He easily fits through a gap and feels delightful scratches on his sides as he crawls through it.

Once Anthony is in the yard, the smell of food hits his nose. It places a gentle finger under his chin and leads him across the lawn to the side of the house. There he finds two garbage cans surrounded by loosely filled lawn and leaf bags. The cans are overfilled with white garbage bags that prop their lids open. The smell is so strong he can almost distinguish the food items of the buffet that awaits him.

Anthony looks for a way to climb to the opening of the cans. He sees a way up using the lawn and leaf bags. They create a kind of staircase. As he climbs the bags, he hears barking. He looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog sprinting from the back of the house toward him.

Anthony is suddenly overwhelmed by fear. His body takes over. He falls on his side as if he has been shot. He lays on top of a lawn and leaf bag with his mouth and eyes wide open. His tongue hangs out the side as if his last wish was to taste the top of the paper bag on which he lays. He emits a putrid green fluid from his anus. The dog is suddenly silent. The smell makes him pause. His eyes water. He throws up a little in his mouth. Someone calls the dog’s name from the back door of the house. The dog is eager to sprint away from the smell.

According to Anthony’s heart and breathing rate, he is in a coma. However, he is fully conscious and mortified. He would have rather been bitten – no, killed – by the dog than witness the look on its face after he soiled himself. He is incredulous that he was capable of putting that awful smell in the air. He feels like a coward.

Anthony stops death feigning once the dog is inside. He pulls his tongue back into his mouth and closes it. He stands. He hates himself for responding the way he did. He feels ashamed. He feels he is worth nothing and should be dead. He tells himself he must never act like a coward again. He needs to be able to live with himself.

Anthony climbs the rest of the way to the opening of a garbage can. He is going to eat his self-loathing. He tears open a bag with his claws. The smell of the food in the garbage bag is strong. It is mouthwatering. He finds a piece of fried chicken and tastes it. Delectable. The outside is crunchy. The meat inside is full of flavor. It makes him forget what happened. He finds bits of scrambled egg. There is a hint of cheese and salt. Appetizing. He tastes a blob of something unidentifiable. It appears as though it may have come from a kitchen sink strainer. Tasty. He is experiencing so much pleasure he does not notice the dog has returned.

The dog barks. It is an angry bark. It says, ‘The only good reason you have to be in my garbage can is that you are dead, and you are clearly not!’ The dog is a little mass of fur, skin folds, and rage.

Anthony must fight, but not against the dog. He is on a garbage bag on the can beyond the Toy dog’s reach. He must fight against the feelings inside of him that lead to involuntary death feigning. He feels his legs begin to fail him. The fight going on inside of him is fierce. His mouth opens. Food that is not completely chewed falls out of his mouth. He refocuses from the dog to relaxing his body. He lies calmly on the garbage bag. The dog is barking. He takes deep breaths. The dog is barking. He is soothed by the delicious smell of garbage. He tenses and relaxes his muscles to the rhythm of the dog’s barking.

A woman comes out of the back of the house to investigate the reason for the barking. She sees Anthony in the garbage. She begins waving her arms. She picks up a river stone from the landscaping by the stairs, throws it at him, and misses. He hisses. She picks up another stone, throws it, and it hits the can he is in. He screeches. She picks up a third stone.

Anthony does not know what happened to that third stone. He jumps off and sprints toward the woods. The dog chases him. Anthony turns around and shows the dog his numerous sharp teeth. The dog stops chasing him, but stands its ground and barks. Anthony turns around and walks toward the fence. He goes through a gap and into the woods.

Anthony does not run the rest of the way home. He walks with a defiant wobble. He took flight, but he does not feel that makes him a coward. He did not soil himself when the dog threatened. He responded to the woman’s attacks. He threatened the dog when it chased him. That was much better than feigning death and stinking up the place. He did what he wanted to do. He did not let fear take over.

As a result, Anthony’s world is larger. There are more places to go. There are more things to see. There is more delicious garbage to eat. That’s a good thing, because the life of a Virginia opossum is short. Anthony is making the most of it.


The Christmas Egg Case

Eduardo Sure; Terry the Mantis, 2016; Watercolor on Paper

A field of Douglas Fir trees was spread out in straight rows and straight columns. They were short enough to fit inside of a living room. On the trunk of one of those trees, an egg case was attached. Terry and 219 other Praying Mantises were in the egg case waiting for summer to arrive so they could come out.

After Thanksgiving, a woman walked through the rows of Douglas Fir trees. She really liked one of them. The tree was healthy, an ideal shape, and just the right height for her living room. So, the woman cut the tree down, tied it to her car, and took it home. Terry’s egg case was on that tree.

The Douglas Fir looked beautiful in the woman’s living room. She placed a star on top.  She wrapped twinkling lights around it. She hung shiny silver spheres from the tip of every branch. Where there weren’t spheres, she placed just the right amount of tinsel. The Douglas Fir was warm in the woman’s living room. So was the egg case where Terry and 219 other praying mantises waited for warm weather.

Warm weather had arrived since the tree was indoors. After weeks of warmth, on Christmas morning, the praying mantises came out of their egg case. The woman screamed when she saw Terry and 219 praying mantises crawling all over her tree. She opened a window that was beside the tree hoping that they would march out of her apartment on their own. Terry was a smart mantis and started to walk toward the window, but then felt the cold wind and believed that they would freeze if they went outside. Then, the woman came back with a vacuum cleaner. They would surely die if they remained on the tree. Terry had to do something.

Terry shouted, “Brothers and sisters; if we go outside, we will die! If we stay here, we will die! You all must run into the vent when you hear the woman scream!” Then, when the woman was close enough, Terry jumped on her head and crawled into her ear. The woman screamed.

Two-hundred-nineteen mantises marched into the vents as the woman thrashed around her living room. Terry crawled around in the woman’s ear until all of his brothers and sisters were inside of a vent and out of sight. When Terry crawled out, the woman was so relieved that she kept Terry as a pet. Since all of his family was safe, Terry was alright with that.

The End