Kathleen, the Little Brown Bat

chiaroscuro bat - 2018 - 7x5
Eduardo Suré; Chiaroscuro Bat, 2018; Graphite

I know what you’re asking yourself as you walk through this cave. No; not, “Why did I pay to walk through a dirty hole?” – the other thing! You’re asking yourself, “Where are all the bats?”

If you look up, you’ll see me hanging from the cave’s ceiling. I’m the little brown bump and you can see a shadow behind me when your light source hits me. I know I look like I swallowed a golf ball – and I’ll address that later – but my species is called little brown bat.

So let’s get back to the question, “Where are all the bats?” Well, I murdered them.

I’m only kidding! But really, they’re all dead.

Take a seat on the floor covered by my soft guano, and I’ll tell you what happened.

Has your momma ever told you, “Stay away from those broad nosed, rat faced, mangy furred boys?” Well, that’s what mommas around here used to say when they were around. I think too many girls didn’t listen to their mommas.

One night, the bug eating was so good that I stayed out until dawn. That’s when I met a smooth talker named Nic. He had the blackest eyes, sleekest wings, and a neck tattoo. It was really just a birthmark, but the aesthetic effect was the same.

He looked at me. I looked at him. I flew SMACK into a tree. I was out cold.

Nic came to my assistance. That’s when I knew I wanted him to be mine. But I should have listened to my momma.

I knew something was wrong sometime between September and May. Come to think of it, it was in May. So; on Cinco de Mayo, I woke up.

I know it doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it was: I wasn’t done hibernating. I was woken when I coughed. As I breathed, the air going in and out of my throat flowed through mucous. I felt fluid in my lungs.

So, there I was: hanging from the ceiling, full of postnasal, tired, hungry, and ready to get me some breakfast insects.

I let go of the ceiling, dropped into flight, and flew out of the cave. I saw trees, bare trees, no bears though, but snow on the ground, and no insects. That’s important: there was nothing to eat! There were as many insects outside as there are people who look good wearing a fanny pack. Did I mentioned it was still cold enough to freeze to death?

My father always said the best time to give up on your goals is when they’re killing you. So, I flew back home.

As I flew through the cave and back to my spot, I saw Nic roosting at the top of the cave. What a fine piece of bat! I thought I would surprise him when he woke. I hung upside down next to him. I looked at his handsome sleeping face. And there was rabies on that face! I nearly fell all the way to the ground before I took flight. I should have listened to my momma!

Later, I found out Nic didn’t actually have rabies. I found out from some humans. They walked through the cave one day looking at us. They shone their lights at us as we slept. Like jerks. Like creepy jerks – watching us sleeping! One of them flashed a light on Nic. I heard the person say Nic had something called white-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome comes from a fungus. It stresses a bat while she sleeps. Eventually, she dies.

I was not going to die! I was not going to freeze! I was not going to starve! I was not going to get back together with Nic!

If there was no food outside, I had to conserve my energy. The best way to do that was to sleep. I had to sleep through the hunger. I had to sleep through the congestion. I had to sleep through the rotting egg smell from thousands of bats farting in their sleep.

I am not going to candy coat it: it was horrible. The fungus was eating through me. It was draining the life out of me. So, I drained the life right back into myself. I saved myself with gluttony. As soon as there were bugs outside to eat, I pigged out! That’s how I survived: by replacing everything the fungus drained and more. Many bats weren’t as lucky.

So, now you know why I’m alone, but present, fat, alive, and single. You can turn off your light and get out.


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.


Steven and the Loblolly Pine

gray fox on branch - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox on Branch, 2017; Watercolor

The White Oak was as spacious a tree as anyone could hope to be a prisoner in. The branch Steven stood upon was twelve feet above the ground, but the tree itself was one-hundred-twenty feet tall. Its crown of glossy green leaves provided a lot of shade. The thick trunk was white and brown, and its numerous strong branches spread as if offering to embrace. However large the tree; it was an island in a sea of yellow, brown, and green grass. Steven estimated he could not reach the cover of the woods by outrunning the collie, Labrador, and German Shepherd who treed him in the first place. He certainly could not fight them. His only choice appeared to be to wait for them to become bored and leave.

“Hey, how did you do that?” asked the collie. Steven was not expecting a question. Speechless, he looked down at the dog. It continued, “I can’t do that. Can you guys do that?”

“Do what?” asked the Labrador.

“He clearly means to ask us if we can climb trees,” said the German Shepherd.

“He could have meant stand balanced on a branch,” said the Labrador.

“We could all stand and balance on a branch if it were on the ground, but climbing a tree is something we’ve never done,” said the German Shepherd.

“Yes, I meant climb the tree,” said the collie. “How did you do that? I don’t know any dogs that can climb trees.”

“The cat can climb trees,” said the Labrador.

“His point is that dogs, at least any known to us, cannot climb trees,” said the German Shepherd.

“That little dog can,” said the Labrador.

“You’re beginning to catch up,” said the German Shepherd.

“I want to know how he did that,” said the collie.

“Probably fear,” said the German Shepherd. “Have you seen this dog run from a cardboard box? You’d think he’d seen Death in it.”

“You don’t know what’s in every box,” said the Labrador.

“Little dog, I want you to climb that tree over there,” said the collie. He gestured toward a loblolly pine; a very tall tree with a medium sized trunk and gray bark. Steven inspected it. Climbing it presented him with two challenges. The first was that the bark looked as if it could come off when he dug his claws into it. The second was that the nearest branch was more than halfway up the tree: sixty-five feet up. There was one potential advantage: the tree might have lacked branches because there might be trees close enough to give it competition. If they were close enough, it could be a way to escape.

“You may accept the challenge,” said the German Shepherd, “or we can wait for the eagles to return.” Steven searched the branches above him. He saw an exceptionally large nest that looked like someone dropped a pile of sticks on the highest branches. He was familiar with nests, eggs, and birds because the latter two were a part of his diet. By the look of the nest, it belonged to a very large bird. Even small birds could be fierce. An eagle would not ignore a gray fox near its nest.

Steven climbed down backwards with his tail leading the way down. He watched the dogs closely. He made sure to dig his claws into the bark of the White Oak with each step. He was ready to climb back up if they gave any sign they were going to bite him.

The dogs watched in awe as Steven climbed down. They visualized themselves walking up and down the tree, but they could not imagine being able to stop along the way or move backward to get down. They watched him paused on the trunk like a squirrel. He looked in their general direction, and they knew he was afraid. Seeing how his tension slowed him down, the dogs stepped back and gave him more room. He continued to descend slowly. When he reached the ground; he turned around with his head bowed, his ears back and flat, and his tail between his legs.

“You can’t outrun me, little dog,” said the collie. “Just show us how you climb a tree.”

Steven moved slowly toward the loblolly pine as the three dogs escorted him. When he reached the bottom of the tree, he put a little tension in his hind legs and then leapt onto the trunk. He smelled the pine leave the bark as his hooked claws dug in. He felt strong when he began to climb. He climbed fifteen feet and began to feel his muscles pumped. When he reached thirty feet up, he paused until he felt secure about his grip. At forty five feet, he was as high as he had ever climbed before. He saw a branch above him where he could rest. It was another fifteen feet up. He wanted to finish climbing, but could not release his claws from the bark. His muscles trembled. He looked down at the dogs on the ground. His grip on the bark tightened, and his limbs shook noticeably.

“Why are you stopping?” shouted the collie.

“At least make it to the first branch!” shouted the Labrador. Steven was frozen. He felt his muscles weakening. They betrayed him. He felt his claws loosening as some of the weaker muscles failed. Falling became a real possibility in his mind. Then, the German Shepherd barked loudly and ferociously. It frightened him so much, he scrambled the remaining fifteen feet to the safety of the branch. He stood upon it looking down at the ground far below. He panted. His heart pounded.

“Did you see that?” shouted the collie. “Did you see that little dog climb all the way up that tree?”

“I’ve never seen a dog do that,” said the Labrador. “He looks tiny up there.”

“It makes me wonder if he is a dog after all,” said the German Shepherd.


Run, Gray Fox

gray fox - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox Climbing Tree, 2017; Watercolor

May arrived and filled the field around the burrow with life. When Steven emerged from the den before dawn, he was greeted by the strong fragrance of flowers. It was loud outside as insects whizzed, buzzed, and whirred as they seemed to try to drown each other out. Despite the noise, he could hear water making its way over rocks in the creek nearby. It all made him want to go explore.

As Steven walked about sniffing and studying all of the different smells, the horizon hinted the sun would soon rise. The ambient illumination rose slowly until there was enough light to see the reds and yellows that covered the field. The Earth seemed to celebrate, and he felt the days ahead would be better than the cold and hungry days behind him.

Lisa slept in the den while Steven explored. She had begun sleeping longer than she used to. He estimated he would have enough time to hunt and return with a treat before she woke. He wanted to surprise her with an eastern cottontail. Steven surveyed the field one last time for its beauty. Then, he changed his point of view and began to hunt.

The day became brighter as the sun slowly crawled its way to the top of the sky. The coolness of the morning air was gone and was replaced by a nervous warmth. Steven had not had success. He picked up and lost scents of prey. Tracks led him to nothing. It was as if the rabbits were suddenly disappearing as they hopped along.

Steven suddenly found himself hunting much farther from the den than he had intended. He was in unfamiliar territory. At a distance, he saw buildings from a farm he avoided whenever he could. There was a large unpainted barn made of distressed wood, holes in the roof, and doors that appeared to be unmovable. There were rusted farm machinery and car parts randomly scattered between the barn, house, and shed. Tall grass and weeds surrounded and grew into the insides of the materials. The house was one fourth the size of the barn, but almost equally neglected.

Three dogs who rested on the porch of the farmhouse caught Steven’s scent. One of them began to bark. As soon as Steven heard barking, he searched the distance for the source. He expected to see a dog threatening somewhere far away. However, about a soccer field away, he saw a black German Shepherd and a black, white, and brown collie sprinting toward him and closing in.

Steven turned and ran. He knew he was not faster than the dogs, so he looked for the nearest tree. The first one he saw was a White Oak growing alone in a meadow. It was not a good option, but it was his only one. Its location changed his trajectory so that the dogs actually had less distance to travel to overtake him. With panic shooting through his body, he slowed down as he neared the bottom of the tree. And just as he heard growling and paw beats on the ground beside him, he climbed up and out of reach.

The German Shepherd and the collie stood up against the tree and barked menacingly at Steven. He held on to the tree unable to move further from fear and looked down at them. A black Labrador Retriever joined them and walked around looking for a way up. Steven’s heart raced as he watched the dogs below him trying to figure out how to get to get him.

Long minutes filled with the sounds of menace passed, but Steven was still alive. He became sure the dogs could not reach him. Being less afraid, he was able to move. He found a branch nearby upon which to rest. Once he was on it, his heart began to beat a little slower. The energy from adrenaline retreated from his paws and evaporated from his body. The blood pounding into his head slowed its rhythm, reduced its intensity, and he was able to think.

Steven looked around the perimeter of the tree for a way to escape. He was in the middle of a meadow, and there were no other trees nearby that he could leap to. He searched the ground for holes or abandoned dens he might be able to dash to, but he could not see them if there were any. There were brush and fallen trees that offered cover, but were so far that the collie would most likely catch him halfway to them. The despair that struck him felt all the more intense because he had so much hope for a good life earlier that morning when he had walked out of the den. Steven felt he might never again go home to Lisa.


When Steven Met Lisa

gray fox running in snow - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox Running in Snow, 2017; Watercolor
During a morning last February, Steven dug through snow to exit his den. After his eyes adjusted to the arresting light from the white fields, he saw Lisa for the first time. She was hunting. Her nose and ears were directed downward. She moved gracefully above the ground as lightly as if she were floating. He noticed her fur was mostly gray like his own. There were touches of orange behind her head, along the sides of her belly, and beneath her tail. Her tail had a black stripe along the top like his own.

Lisa froze appearing to hear something beneath the snow. She repositioned her body and put tension in it like a spring. After a moment of calculation, she pounced and poked her face into the snow. By her reaction, she missed her prey. The grace Steven witnessed when Lisa was stalking left. She dug frantically through the snow. As she flung the white powder back, it stuck to her fur like cotton. It also covered her muzzle and gave her the appearance of being rabid.

The vole Lisa hunted made a navigation error during its escape. It popped out of the snow and into plain view. Steven spotted it, but Lisa was too flustered to notice the fur ball in the snow. The vole looked around trying to gain its bearings. While the handful of fur sat in the snow overthinking its next move, Steven sprinted toward it. The vole saw Steven and began to scurry for the cover of a fallen log, but it had reacted too slowly. Steven captured it.

Steven trotted to Lisa with the vole in his snout. He stopped in front of her and offered it, but she did not notice. She continued to dig through the snow to find the same vole. Stephen waited for a minute, then gave a low bark to get her attention. It startled her. She leapt back and glared at him for causing her to jump. As she looked him in the eye, she noticed the wiggling vole in his snout. Her stomach growled loud enough for Steven to hear it.

Steven bowed his head slightly feeling sorry for Lisa, but also amused by her at the same time. He tried to tell her with his facial expression that the vole was for her. She appeared to understand and responded that she would not take it. So, he opened his snout and the vole leapt for the ground. Lisa’s expression changed from pride to panic as she watched it scurry back into the snow. She leapt for it, but it was gone.

Highly irritable from her hunger, she pounced on Steven and bit his shoulder. He yelped at the aggressive bite. Lisa held his body to the ground and waited for him to retaliate, but he did not. After it was clear that he was not going to fight back, she felt badly that she had knocked him to the ground and had bit him. She slowly got off of him and backed away with her head bowed.

Steven stood up and walked out of the impression they had left in the snow. He walked over to Lisa who was not looking him in the eye anymore. When he was next to her face, he shook off the snow that had stuck to him when he was on the ground. She growled, and he ran.

Lisa was disappointed as she looked up and saw him run away from her. He galloped across the field of snow and dove into an evergreen tree. She expected to see a cloud of snow fall as he went into it, but he did not disturb a single needle. A disinterested gray fox would have looked away, but she watched the tree hoping. Then, he jumped out from the upper half of the tree. As he trotted back, she noticed a bird in his snout.

Steven stopped in front of her and told her with his facial expression that the bird was for her. She understood. She stepped forward, took the bird from his snout, and stepped back. She looked at Steven with gratitude. Then, she opened her snout and let the bird fly away.


Paul the Cottontail

eastern cottontail - 2017 - crop
Eduardo Suré; Eastern Cottontail, 2017; Graphite

Paul sits still in the grass, but is not blending in. The tall fescue is a rich green, while he is gray and brown with specks of black here and there. He is an eastern cottontail, and he is the guardian of this and four other front yards. That is, according to him, he is.

Of the five yards, this one is Paul’s favorite. The lawn is poorly maintained; therefore, it provides clover, crabgrass, dandelions, and other delights. There is also a garden in the backyard with salsa plants, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, and cucumbers. The backyard is surrounded by a fence he can easily crawl under in case the dog is let out of the house. Since the dog cannot go to the front yard, he can leave his fecal pellets scattered around the front yard for later snacking and redigestion.

If we look into Paul’s heart, we will find a great desire. That desire is to be a hero. He feels his large ears are meant for super hearing. His large hind legs are meant for super running. His large eyes are meant for super seeing. He knows not the purpose of his short and fluffy white tail, but it must have a super purpose as well.

Paul goes to the backyard to eat his next course of flowers and to think heroic thoughts. With his super bunny ears, he hears the back door of the house open. A toddler sneaks out of the house into the backyard. The child’s eyes are attracted to the flower bed by the bright colors. There, on the mulch, he sees the rabbit sitting still with a petal hanging from its lip. The child screams with delight and begins to toddle toward the rabbit.

Paul must act eventually: the toddler is not very fast. The child walks toward the rabbit with each step rocking side to side. He appears about to fall, but disappoints. The toddler’s chubby little arms are stretched forward like a sleepwalker on television. Paul imagines the fat little hands pulling at his ears. That must not happen, he thinks.

Paul jumps from the mulch of the flower bed into the grass. He zig zags around the yard at an impressive speed. The toddler is delighted by the erratic movement. Paul runs from the child as far as he can in the backyard. Then, he sprints toward the child as fast as he can. At the last moment, he jumps and knocks the child down. The toddler begins to cry. A few seconds pass and the back door is opened by a woman. She does not even catch a glimpse of Paul’s fluffy tail as he goes under the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

It is dusk and the neighborhood is quiet. Parents are home from work, children are inside doing their homework, and mosquitos deter walkers. Paul sits in the front yard of his favorite home eating clover between a hedge and a blue spruce. Both would provide perfect cover should a hero require it. Days have passed since Paul defeated the toddler in the epic backyard showdown. He is anxious to put his super powers to good use again. He is anxious to test his courage. An opportunity arrives.

From three different directions, Paul sees three little girls come together across the street. All three elementary school girls are completely neglected by their parents while the sun is out and shortly after. Karen, a nosy walleyed girl, lives across the street. Nancy, the Insatiable, lives a few houses to the west. Betty, Le Terrible, invades from a couple of blocks to the east.

Tonight, they threaten Paul’s favorite yard with fire. Betty has a large box of matches. She strikes one on the side of the box. A bright yellow flame beside the head of the match appears and consumes the match quickly. The light illuminates the three little witches and casts sinister shadows on their faces. Karen asks for a match to light. She strikes it against the box and becomes scared as it flares in her fingers, so she throws the match into the street. Karen’s eyes open wide as her mind gives birth to an idea. She takes a match and presses it with her index finger against the box. With a quick and nimble stroke, she strikes it and sends it flying in an arc across the street. The girls are delighted.

Paul watches the girls take turns flicking matches. They become better at launching them longer and longer distances. One lands in his yard just a few feet in front of him. He jumps over to it. With his furry back foot, he thump-thump-thumps it out. Another flaming match lands in a mulch bed to his right. A small fire begins to spread, but he jumps to it and thump-thump-thump-thump-thumps it out. Then, a third match lands in the grass.

Paul is so focused on putting out fires that he does not notice the girls approach. After he puts out a tiny fire in the grass, he looks up and sees the three villains around him. He freezes. He evaluates his escape routes. Running by Terrible Betty is foolish. Walleyed Karen may have the worst hand-eye coordination. Portly Nancy may have the slowest reaction time. He bets against Karen and Nancy and loses. Nancy grabs him.

Paul has never been held before. He is a wild animal with ticks, zero healthcare, numerous predators, and at high risk of colliding with automobiles. He stops moving when Nancy’s powerful fingers press against his chest. He cannot breath. Adrenaline shoots through his body as she lifts him off the ground. It feels like a shock. He flails, but Nancy is too strong. He bites one of her hot dog fingers. She screams and drops him on the ground. After a breath, he sprints back into a neighboring backyard.

Paul hides safely under the cover of a bush. His heart beats like a drum roll. He can taste Nancy’s blood in his mouth. He does not like it. He also has a bad sensation weighing down his mind. He tries to think through the reasons he should be relieved. He thinks he prevented a fire in his yard. His bite may have sent the girls home. He left the danger behind him. Perhaps a hero would not have left. His mind is heavy because he did not see the situation through. He needs to go back. He is afraid, but needs to go back.

Paul takes a deep breath and runs out of his cover back to the front yard. He tries to think about what he will do when he gets there, but nothing occurs to him. He does not know what he will do if the girls are still there playing with matches. It takes him less than a minute to arrive. He sees the yard is empty. The girls are gone. There are no fires.

The weight is off Paul’s mind. He is proud to be a hero. With his large ears, he hears the front door across the street open. Karen’s image falls on his eyes. She glares at him. He defiantly picks up a fecal pellet and chews it as he looks back at her. It tastes much better than Nancy.


Carpooling on Sundays

Eduardo Suré; Economy Car Sketch, 2017; Graphite

I’m not a man,” said Margaret, “and I don’t know anything about ties, but I do know they shouldn’t be that wide. Or that short.” Margaret was short brunette. Her hair was naturally curly and it framed her face, which had a look of gentle authority.

“I never noticed,” said Susan. The waitress arrived with the lemonades the two women had ordered and set them on the table. She looked briefly at Susan for any needs. Susan was a thin woman with black hair and a shy demeanor that suggested she might play third chair violin in a symphony orchestra. The small Italian restaurant filled with a lunch crowd. The waitress noticed the hostess had just seated a party of four in her section and left to greet them.

“You never noticed our Pastor’s clown ties?” asked Margaret.

“I only know he wears a suit,” said Susan, “I sit in the back and never see much of him.”

“Well I do,” said Margaret. “His ties are twice the width of normal ties and they never make it past the apex of his big belly. It’s like a giant arrow pointing at his stomach and reminding us we need to pay tithing to feed him.”

“Oh, Margaret!” said Susan, “You are just as bad as Jessica!”

Margaret smiled and sipped her lemonade through a straw. She held it between her right index finger and thumb and picked at the ice in her drink repeatedly. “How is our wild friend?” she asked.

“Still the same,” answered Susan. It was louder in the restaurant than when they first arrived. Susan felt her words masked by the noise and that it gave them a fair amount of privacy. She became bold. “Did I ever tell you what happened with Brother Mark?”

“No,” answered Margaret. She leaned in. “Are we talking about Brother Mark the deacon?”

“Yes,” answered Susan, “that Brother Mark. And Jessica. I never told you anything?”

“No,” replied Margaret. “So tell me.”

“Well,” said Susan, “A couple of Sundays ago, I dropped Brother Mark off at his home after Church like I always do. As he thanked me before opening the door to get out of my car, he put his hand on my leg.”

“He did what!” exclaimed Margaret. “That’s gross! He’s married! And twice your age! And GAG! What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything,” answered Susan. “I kept my hands on the steering wheel and looked straight ahead out the windshield with my eyes popping out of my head until he got out of the car.”

“You are too nice,” said Margaret. “I would have slapped him on his ear. You called him and told him you wouldn’t give him rides to church anymore, right?” Susan took a sip of her lemonade and inspected the condensation on her glass as a way to avoid eye contact with Margaret. “Susan, you told him didn’t you?”

“Well, no,” answered Susan.

“Susan!” exclaimed Margaret. “Why didn’t you tell him?”

“Because I didn’t know who would open the church,” answered Susan.

“So you were afraid that if you didn’t give the old adulterer a ride to church, the congregation would just gather around the front doors whimpering in the rain?” asked Margaret. “Everyone would be OK, Susan. Besides, how ridiculous is it that an old man like Brother Mark needs a ride. What was Jessica’s role in all of this?” The waitress brought the women’s’ entrees. Susan watched Margaret smile and thank the waitress, but she could tell her smile was forced. Margaret was frustrated with Susan’s meekness.

After the waitress left them, Susan said, “Well, I told Jessica what happened. You know Jessica, she made fun of me. Saying we would have ugly babies and that I was going to hate changing adult diapers.”

“That Jessica,” said Margaret. “Did she tell you anything else? She wouldn’t miss a chance to tell you what to do.”

“She told me to tell Sister Sarah, his wife,” answered Susan.

“And she probably offered to go with you to tell her,” said Margaret.

“You know she did,” said Susan. “Of course, I told her I wasn’t going to cause problems in their marriage.”

You are not the one causing problems in their marriage, Susan,” interrupted Margaret.

“So Jessica said that she wanted a ride to church every Sunday too,” continued Susan. “The following Sunday, I picked her up first and then we went together to pick up Brother Mark. He was not happy to see her. Jessica stepped out of the passenger side – you know I have a two door – and folded the passenger’s seat forward suggesting to Brother Mark to get in the back seat. Realizing what she was asking, he said something about being bigger and having bad knees. Jessica just yelled, ‘Shot Gun!’ as if that settled things.”

“What did he do?” asked Margaret.

“He didn’t know what to make of the situation and Jessica didn’t move, so he had to crawl into the back seat,” answered Susan. “It really was too cramped for him back there.”

“Serves him right,” said Margaret.

“Jessica baited Brother Mark during the entire ride,” said Susan. “She asked him things like how the wonderful Sister Sarah was doing. How he and Sister Sarah went on dates without a car… Asked him if he’d ever learned to drive… She mentioned to me loudly that one of the young single men had asked her about me. Picked a cute one too. I’m sure she was lying.”

“What did Brother Mark say?” asked Margaret.

“He mumbled his answers,” answered Susan, “but Jessica didn’t care what he said. She knew she made him uncomfortable. When we arrived at the Church, she said she was glad we had decided to carpool together from then on.”

“And what did he say to that?” asked Margaret.

“Oh, he complained about his back and his knees as he got out of the car,” replied Susan. “He said they should take turns riding in the passenger seat. Jessica guffawed…”

“Guffawed?” asked Margaret.

“You know with her it’s not a laugh,” said Susan. “She cackles like a witch chasing children. Anyway, she told him he was such a kidder. Then, she grabbed my arm and dragged me toward some sisters that had just arrived and left Brother Mark to unlock the church on his own.”

“She’s a mean girl,” said Margaret.

“She is. And then, she sat by me during church,” said Susan. “When she saw him looking at me, she put her hand on my leg.”

“She didn’t!” exclaimed Margaret.

“She did. I could feel my ears go red and hot,” said Susan. “At one point, she looked him right in the eyes, grinning. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t even a normal human grin: she looked like one of those dogs on the internet that smile after they get caught doing something wrong. You know what I’m talking about?”

“The submissive grin? Ears back, squinting, bared upper teeth…” responded Margaret.

“Like that,” said Susan. “Well, it’s been a while since Brother Mark was in middle school. He didn’t know how to respond to that. After Church, he caught me at a moment when Jessica was off somewhere and briefly told me he found another ride home.”

“Have you heard from him again?” asked Margaret.

“No,” answered Susan, “But Jessica called him to ask if he wanted to ride with us to church on Sunday.”

“What did he say to her?” asked Margaret.

“He said no,” replied Susan.


Demon Waffles

Eduardo Sure.; Demon Waffle,  2016; Watercolor on Paper
One Friday evening, Mr. Berrydingle arrived at his home carrying two boxes. Mrs. Berrydingle and her two children, Harry Berrydingle and Gertie Sanchez, were very excited to find out what those boxes had inside of them. Mrs. Berrydingle hoped for plates and drinking glasses to replace all the ones that Mr. Berrydingle had dropped and broken. Four-year-old Harry Berrydingle hoped that the boxes were filled with peanut butter and jelly. And five-year-old Gertie Sanchez hoped the boxes held a puppy and a kitten. Luckily for puppies and kittens that like breathing, one box actually held a toaster and the other held a waffle iron.

After a brief moment of disappointment, the family was excited by the new small appliances. Mrs. Berrydingle would no longer need to toast their bagels using the iron. She would also finally be able to make waffles for her family herself instead of begging for them on street corners. Mrs. Berrydingle placed the toaster on top of the kitchen counter and put the waffle iron away in a dark kitchen cabinet. The waffle iron was very upset about that arrangement.

The Berrydingles used their toaster daily. Every morning, their home was filled with the warm smell of perfectly toasted bread and burning eggs. The family found joy in toast and butter, warm bagels, soft strudel, and many other things that they could fit in their remarkable new toaster. The toaster had an automatic timer; so they could put bread in it, go outside and chase the raccoons out of the garbage cans, and return to perfect food.

The waffle iron had a very different experience. The Berrydingles only used it once a week. The waffle iron made good waffles, but only waffles. The Berrydingles also did not trust the waffle iron like they trusted the toaster: they watched it make every waffle from the time the batter was poured inside until the finished waffle was removed. They never ever left it plugged in. Some appliances were used more than the waffle iron and some appliances were used less. However, the waffle iron always compared itself against the toaster, and the Berrydingles definitely used the toaster more than the waffle iron. After weeks of what felt like neglect and occasional disrespect, the waffle iron had had enough. It resolved to destroy the toaster.

To gather enough unnatural power to destroy the toaster, the waffle iron held on to all of the anger and jealousy it felt against the toaster. It buried deep inside itself the worst thoughts and feelings it had about the toaster. When it seemed the waffle iron would burst with hate, it was brought out from under the counter to be used by the Berrydingles. The waffle iron was an expert on the number of waffles that the Berrydingles ate and the number of waffles they saved for later. So, it allowed the waffles that would be eaten immediately to be made just as good as usual. But, it unleashed all of its hate and rage upon the waffles that would be refrigerated and later toasted. Using all of those bad feelings, it created demon waffles.

The demon waffles were taken out of the refrigerator the next morning so they could be warmed in the toaster for breakfast. Not suspecting anything, Mrs. Berrydingle placed waffles in the toaster and left the kitchen to continue working on Mr. Berrydingle’s face tattoo while the toaster did its work. As the demon waffles were reheated, they released a foul fart-like odor. The Berrydingles blamed Gertie Sanchez because she was the gassiest. The smell was constant; so, after establishing that Gertie Sanchez was innocent, they followed the smell to the kitchen. When everyone was there to see it; the demon waffles released a compact, slow moving, thick, black smoke out of the toaster’s slots. Mrs. Berrydingle bent over to look into the toaster, so the demon waffles caught fire. Mrs. Berrydingle screamed, unplugged the toaster, threw it in the sink, and turned on the water full blast to put the fire out completely. The toaster was ruined.

The waffle iron heard everything. It followed with great interest the sounds of the trash opening, the thump of something heavy being dropped into it, and the trashcan lid slamming down. It was very happy with the work of the demon waffles. It was even happier when Mrs. Berrydingle opened the cabinet and pulled the waffle iron out. She put it on the counter and the family stood around it. As if speaking directly to the waffle iron, Mrs. Berrydingle said “You were right, dear. This waffle iron is the same brand as that defective toaster.” Since the appliances were the same brand, the Berrydingles thought the waffle iron would also unexpectedly catch fire. Then; she picked up the waffle iron, opened the trash can, and threw the waffle iron into it.

The End