iCoroner

Image shows a pencil sketch of a robot standing.
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of a Robot, 2018; Graphite

In 2043, Hurricane Angela battered New Orleans. Even the dead suffered. The storm raised the water table so high that air tight coffins popped out of the ground. Concrete vaults weighing tons floated away from cemeteries like haunted ships. Dead bodies made their way into neighborhoods and were found spread out on lawns and entangled in trees when the flood waters receded.

To spare the living from the horror and for public health, robots were deployed to recover the dead. The robots were incredibly capable at recovering bodies and coffins. They were gentle enough to keep the remains intact, but powerful enough to recover vaults. They solved problems on their own, such as how to retrieve a body from a tree and how to carry a large awkwardly shaped coffin back to its place in the cemetery without damaging it or other tombs along the way.

As one of the robots carried a concrete vault, half of it broke. Part of the vault that was not held by the robot fell and hit the control pack mounted on the robot’s back. The strike caused a crack in the metal and allowed water to leak into the pack. The moisture damaged the robot’s hardware. Detecting the damage, the robot’s trouble shooting subsystem sent a message to the operations control center to notify them that it required repair.

The contractor sent two technicians to repair the unit. Because of the weight of the robots, two people were required to lift them. Therefore, the company always sent two technicians into the field.

“Let’s split up,” Ruth said as Larry put their company maintenance vehicle in park. “I’ll do a quick check of the tombs Unit 219 has serviced since the call. Then, I’ll go find you.”

“As long as it’s quick,” Larry said. “I don’t want to do all of the repairs just to have you show up at the end to sign the maintenance log.”

“I’m not you,” Ruth joked.

Larry walked alone through the above-ground tombs. Some were the size of garden sheds and stood alone surrounded by iron fences. Others were long sun-bleached walls of stone where people were filed away in their final resting place. The city of dead was quiet and the wueee-hueee-wueee-hueee-wueee from the robot’s movement was audible in the distance.

Having heard the robot, Larry walked in the direction of the sounds it made. The echoes off the stone caused him to take a few wrong turns, but he soon saw the back of the robot as it walked in a direction away from him as it worked.

Larry had to jog to close the distance between them, and he was out of breath when he caught up to the robot. He was not used to running and the added weight from his standard tool bag made it additionally difficult for him.

Larry saw the damage to the robot’s control box, pulled out his tablet, and tried to shut Unit 219 down; but the robot would not receive the signal. Therefore, he would need to shut down the robot manually. That required him to walk up to the robot, insert a metal key in its control box, and turn it to the off position. Robots could identify company maintainers, so Unit 219 would stop moving once it saw Larry.

Larry retrieved his key from his tool bag and walked to the robot. The robot continued to work. He placed the key inside the control box, turned it to the off position, but the robot did not begin to shut down. Instead, it turned toward Larry, grabbed him firmly, and stuffed him into a body bag. As the robot zipped the bag up, Larry shouted for it to stop; but it did not. The robot took Larry and placed him on a pile of other occupied human remains pouches. Its software ran a feature recognition and identification algorithm to determine in which tomb it should put Larry.

Larry struggled in the bag to move his arms and take his phone out of his pocket. He unlocked it with his thumbprint, opened the calling application, and selected Ruth from his favorites. There was no signal, so the call failed. He tried again, and failed again.

Larry could tell he was running out of air in the bag. He fumbled around in his pockets to find a small knife he always carried. After he found it, he contorted his arms to pull the knife out of his pocket and open it. Then, he quietly cut a slit in the body bag so he could breathe.

Larry tried to call Ruth again. The phone’s virtual assistant said, “Sorry, we are not connected to a network. I see you have tried to call several times. Please record a message, and I will send it when we have a network connection. Say ‘record’ to record, or ‘cancel’ to cancel the call.”

“Record,” Larry said.

“I’m sorry, I did not understand that,” the virtual assistant said.

“RE-cord!” Larry shouted.

“Please begin to speak after the tone,” the virtual assistant said.

After a tone; Larry said, “Ruth, Unit 219 forced me into a body bag. I don’t think it can tell the difference between a living person and a corpse. I couldn’t connect to it from my tablet to shut it down. It grabbed me when I tried to shut it down manually. Leave the site, call headquarters, and ask them to disable it.” He hit send.

Ruth had inspected the tombs and had found that Unit 219 had been performing his tasks as programmed. She walked through the city of tombs and looked for Larry. Abruptly, she stopped walking as if to listen. There was a faint sound in the distance: wueee-hueee-wueee-hueee-wueee. She began walking again in the direction of the source of the sound and it became louder.

When Ruth turned the corner, she saw Unit 219 placing a human remains pouch in a tomb. A puzzled look appeared on her face. The robot was dirty, and units are usually cleaned as a part of service and maintenance.

“Larry!” Ruth called out. “Larry?” Unit 219 sealed the tomb and turned toward her after she yelled. Ruth observed the robot as it looked at her. “That’s an extra-long scan, Unit 219. Aren’t you going to say, ‘hello’?” Her phone began to ring. She reached into her pocket, but then the robot began walking toward her. “Stop immediately, Unit 219!” The robot did not stop.

Ruth’s eyes opened wide as she guessed what the robot was going to do to her. She could not outrun it, so she thrust her hand into her tool bag and pulled out a short cylinder. It was the size of a hockey puck and had three buttons which she pressed at the same time. While holding down the buttons with her fingers, she gripped the device firmly as Unit 219 closed the distance between them.

Unit 219 stopped within reach. It extended its arms to grab Ruth. She dodged the robots gripping hand and struck it in the chest with the device. It stuck. When she unclutched the device, it released a powerful electromagnetic pulse and shut the robot down.

Larry ripped the body bag open and crawled out. While dusting himself off he said, “I thought he almost had you.”

“Yeah, Larry. Thanks for the warning,” Ruth said as she recovered her tool bag from the ground.

“I did call you,” Larry said.

“You just hush, and help me disconnect the power before the unit reboots,” Ruth said.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Running Storm

This image is a pencil drawing of a fallen tree.
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of Fallen Tree, 2018; Graphite

Mr. Robinson is content as he hears his three grandchildren’s shoes crunch behind him on the gravely trail. The four hikers are quiet as they pass peach-colored mountains and waterfalls under the cool shade of cottonwood trees. Mr. Robinson leads the group. Jonathan, who is ten, follows at his heels. Anna, the youngest, is next. Shirley, who is sixteen and the oldest, is at the rear. The group is very tired after hiking nine miles into the backcountry. No one had complained during the long hike, so Mr. Robinson is very proud of his grandchildren. They know it is almost time to set up camp and they look about for a comfortable spot as they walk. On their left, they see a clearing of high flat ground surrounded by trees. A stream has cut into the land over the years forming a beautiful valley next to it.

“Let’s camp there, Grandpa,” Jonathan says with excitement.

“I’m sorry, Jon,” Mr. Robinson is apologetic. “We can’t camp there.”

“Why not?” Jonathan asks. “The ground looks level and soft. It’s high ground and we wouldn’t be under any trees.”

“Sorry, Jon,” Mr. Robinson replies calmly. “It’s just not a good spot.”

Jonathan is upset that his grandfather did not agree with his suggestion. Being the middle child, he feels like his opinions are always inferior to Shirley’s or secondary to whatever Anna’s needs are at the time. He had given good reasons for camping at that site, but his grandfather had not provided reasons against it. He had only said it was not a good spot. Jonathan had been taught by his parents to only insist once, but then follow an adult’s instructions. However, he feels badly because his grandfather ordinarily agrees with him more than his parents.

Mr. Robinson notices the weight of the silence as they walk. He suspects that Jonathan is upset that he shot down his suggestion without an adequate explanation. He is eager to make the group cheerful again.

“Sorry we didn’t set up camp where you suggested, Jon,” Mr. Robinson says. “Once we are out of sight of that ground, I can explain why. Is that OK?”

“OK, grandpa,” Jonathan says.

As they hike, Mr. Robinson treats the ground Jon pointed out as if it were a person on the street he’d caught intending to harm them. He frequently looks behind the group toward it and makes everyone nervous. As it begins to fade out of sight in the distance behind them, he checks one last time as if to ensure it is not following them.

“Shirley, let’s switch places for a little while,” Mr. Robinson says. “You lead, and I’ll walk behind you guys so you can hear me.”

“OK, grandpa,” Shirley says as she jogs past everyone to get to the front of the group.

Mr. Robinson waits for the children to walk by him. Once behind them he says, “Before there were horses in America, native people walked wherever they went. They carried everything they needed, just like we are doing.”

“Like homeless people, grandpa?” Anna asks.

“Shut up and listen, Anna,” Jonathan snaps.

Mr. Robinson continued, “Back then, there was a warrior named Running Storm. He was the best hunter in his tribe. He was known for running after game until it was too exhausted to go on. He was also fierce in battle and, being the fastest runner, was the first to engage the enemy.”

“What is game?” Anna asks.

“Wild animals people hunt for food,” Shirley answers.

“One day, Running Storm and the other men in the clan left to hunt,” Mr. Robinson continues. “The women and children stayed behind at camp. There was nothing extraordinary about the hunt that day. They were successful and began to make their way back to camp with their trophies. As they neared their camp, they saw from their distance that something was wrong. There were too many people moving around the camp. Their movement was erratic. The camp was being attacked. The men dropped the animals and ran to camp as fast as they could. Running Storm led the charge. The men soon arrived at the camp and defeated the attackers, but they were too late to save their families.”

“Oh no!” Anna shouts.

“As you might imagine, the men were devastated,” Mr. Robinson says. “Running Storm’s sorrow was exceptionally great. His grief was so abundant, the Spirits took notice of it. And when he cried out that he wished he had been as fast as the wind so that he would have saved his family, the Spirits granted his wish: they turned him into wind.”

“Jerk Spirits! That was so Monkey’s Paw!” Shirley comments.

Mr. Robinson continues, “Running Storm could not protect his family in life. So in death, he fiercely protects his family’s burial ground.”

“Is it where I wanted us to camp?” Jonathan asks.

“Yes,” Mr. Robinson replies.

“I’m not scared by ghost stories, Grandpa,” Jonathan declares.

“It’s not just about a ghost story,” Mr. Robinson says. “The Ranger asks park visitors not to camp there. Not too long ago, a man hiked into this backcountry alone. He saw the beautiful place we saw and, like you, thought it would be a great place to camp for the night. As he would try to set up his tent, the wind would blow it away. He gave up on it and set up to sleep under the stars. He tried to have dinner before going to bed, but he could not start a campfire because the wind would blow it out. He gave up a hot meal and, after having some trail mix, tucked himself into his sleeping bag. During that summer night, he got so cold that he thought he was going to freeze to death. He finally had the good sense to leave. He was too cold to pack, so he left anything he couldn’t use as a coat behind. When he was rescued, he told the Rangers what happened. The Rangers don’t tell everyone that story, they just mark it as a hazardous area on the maps.”

Jonathan is satisfied by his grandfather’s story. True or not, he had gone through the trouble of explaining why he had shot down his suggestion. He forgives his grandfather.

The family soon sets up camp at another location. It is not as beautiful as the one they had seen, but it is beautiful indeed. After setting up camp, Mr. Robinson and Jonathan retire to one tent; and Shirley and Anna sleep in another. Later that night, a big tree that had rotted to the core falls toward their tents. A powerful gust of wind blows suddenly and changes where the tree kands. The crash as the tree hits the ground wakes everyone. They exit their tents.

“That was lucky,” Jonathan says. “Just few yards to the left and the tree would have killed all of us.”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Fire Bear

fire bear - 2018
Eduardo Suré; Fire Bear Sketch, 2018; Graphite

Dr. Amy Garcia planned to work off the anger that night. She thought it was the most productive thing she could do. It was better than going home, being alone, and eating junk until her stomach hurt. She would take the energy generated by her terrible feelings, put it toward lab work, and maybe even advance knowledge in biology.

Dr. Garcia went to a wall in the lab to retrieve her protective clothing and equipment. As she gathered it, it began to drain the energy out of her. The company logo was all over the safety gear she had to wear. She had worked at Animalia Labs for so long, that her personal brand and reputation were intertwined with the company’s. She may as well have been tattooed with their logo too. It was one of the reasons she was so angry that night to hear that she was passed over for a promotion. She took a deep breath and, with great effort and resentment, she tied back her hair, jerked on a lab apron, and snapped on her safety goggles.

Dr. Garcia prepared a workstation with a live materials observation container and a special microscope. As she prepared it for the tiny creature she was going to study, she thought about all the ways she was a better choice for management than the man their senior executive picked. She had definitely put her time in at the lab. She had worked through lunch, had stayed late, and had gone into the lab on weekends to finish special projects. She was an internationally recognized biologist, but Dr. Stephen Martinez had not accomplished anything significant in the field.

Dr. Garcia’s thoughts were on the unfairness of her current situation, not on proper laboratory procedures. To her distracted mind, everything around her workstation appeared setup correctly. She glanced over the live materials observation container, microscope, and measurement equipment before leaving the workstation to retrieve a specimen. She had actually neglected a few safeguards, but that would not be the worst of her problems.

Dr. Garcia retrieved an unknown species of tardigrade from another room. Tardigrades, also known as Water Bears, were extremely tough. The animals could survive extreme cold, heat, radiation, and even the vacuum of space. They were tiny and, when seen under a microscope, looked like grubs with many legs, claws, and round horrible mouths. She was going to record some physical descriptions and run some routine tests on the specimen.

As Dr. Garcia worked, it was clear she was not herself. She was angry and her mind was on her past and future at the lab. Subconsciously, she took out her frustrations on the tardigrade. She exposed it to higher extremes than the species was known to tolerate. Yet, the specimen survived.

In her growing rage, Dr. Garcia saw the animal as a symbol of the company. She went from subconsciously trying to hurt it to trying to hurt it on purpose. The animal bore the extremes until she tested its heat tolerance. Many tardigrades were known to tolerate heat as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit. She exceeded that in her testing. She turned up the temperature little by little at first. As the animal survived, it challenged her frustration and she raised the temperature higher and higher in response. The tardigrade refused to die.

When Dr. Garcia saw the temperature displayed on her lab equipment, she realized how unethically she had behaved. She stopped turning up the heat and examined the specimen. She expected it to be dead. She saw the tardigrade sustain a smoldering reaction. The slow, low-temperature, flameless combustion did not surprise her: what surprised her was that the tardigrade moved.

Dr. Garcia felt terribly about what she had done. She thought the animal was suffering, and she was going to end it. She reached for the thermal control to quickly incinerate the animal; but, before she touched it, a display showing the tardigrade’s temperature began to go up. The animal was self-heating.

Dr. Garcia watched the tardigrade change to a deep red and began to panic. As if sensing her state, the tardigrade’s self-heat rapidly accelerated. The doctor never expected to observe thermal runaway in a living creature; but it was happening. Then, the tardigrade ignited.

Dr. Garcia froze with shock. The flame from the tardigrade grew quickly. She felt the heat from it hit her face and she winced. That is when she unfroze and ran to the nearest fire extinguisher. She stopped momentarily to review the label on the extinguisher and determine whether she could use it on the equipment she was using. She quickly glanced back at the specimen. It was moving out of the container.

The tardigrade took flight like a wasp on fire. Dr. Garcia abandoned the extinguisher. She swung the lab door open, flew through the doorway, and slammed the lab door closed behind her. She thought she was out of danger.

Dr. Garcia looked into the lab through the door’s tempered glass window. She looked around for the creature and could not spot it. Suddenly, the flaming tardigrade landed on the glass. The doctor jumped back and yelled. The tardigrade stuck to the glass and rapidly accelerated to a higher temperature. The glass began to melt.

Dr. Garcia took another step back and watched in disbelief. When the tardigrade began to crawl through a hole in the glass, the doctor ran away down the hall.

As Dr. Garcia ran, an idea lit up her mind. There were marine life units in the facility. If she jumped into a tank and the tardigrade followed, it might be extinguished.

Dr. Garcia followed the signs to the marine lab as she ran through the halls. Her lab coat flew behind her like a cape. She slid as she went around corners. She thought she heard buzzing as if a bumble bee was behind her, but she did not dare stop to look back. She only stopped when she arrived at the door leading into the marine labs. It was locked.

Dr. Garcia turned the doorknob and shook it violently, but the door was solid and would not open. She looked back, and the flaming, flying tardigrade had followed her. The flames around it grew as if it was preparing to torch her.

The doctor was suddenly aware of the necklace hanging from her neck that displayed her badge which also served as a key card. She slammed her badge against the key pad. It unlocked the door. She jerked the door open and fled through. She did not have an opportunity to close the door, and the flaming tardigrade flew through it.

The tardigrade followed Dr. Garcia as she ran through marine life offices. She ran through a lab. She ran through a room with small marine specimens in tanks. She ran through some double doors, felt cold air, and stopped. She saw a pool.

Dr. Garcia did not know if the poolwas empty, if it held dolphins, or sharks; but she jumped in. It was deep enough that the doctor did not touch the bottom. She swam up and looked toward the light emitted by the animal on fire. The tardigrade hovered over the edge of the pool as if deciding what to do.

The doctor noticed that part of the pool was as under a roof, but the other part was open to the night sky. The tardigrade flew over her head and the pool and left the facility. Dr. Garcia watched it go and thought to herself, ‘What have I done?’

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Corrupted Water

sketch of water monster - 2018 - 4x3
Eduardo Suré; Sketch of a Water Monster, 2018; Graphite

Deputy Nicholas Martin found himself repeatedly dialing up the air conditioning of his county government SUV. He placed his palm over a vent to verify cold air was coming out. The daytime temperatures had been high, and he had looked forward to a cool desert night; but it was hot. The air conditioning in the deputy’s personal truck did not work, so he appreciated being able to drive around in a cool vehicle. He was especially glad to be able to drive around during that hot night with the windows rolled up and keep the dust and bugs from the farm roads outside where they belonged.

The deputy was rarely in this part of the county. He found himself becoming anxious in the darkness, on an endless dirt road, surrounded by vast fields of cotton. On most nights, the sky was full of stars and he felt like he was with somebody or like someone was keeping an eye on him. It did not feel that way tonight. He felt as if he was in an abandoned warehouse, with the lights out, and did not know the direction of the doors.

The deputy tried to remember the name of the farmer who had called. He did not recall meeting him in all the years he had worked as a deputy. The records showed that Farmer Eric Thompson lived alone and was an older man. He probably worked hard all the time and kept to himself like most people in the county.

The deputy saw a single light beam in the distance among the cotton. After driving further down the dirt road, he saw a figure in the darkness. It stood with its back bent, crooked limbs, and the long shadows cast behind it from the SUV’s headlights made it look sinister. It was an older man, and he was signaling the deputy to stop. He held a flashlight and knew enough to keep it pointed down so as not to blind the deputy. The deputy slowed down and pulled up next to the man.

“Are you Mr. Eric Thompson?” the Deputy asked.

“Yes, sir,” the farmer replied simply. His face was apologetic, and he was no longer an evil figure menacing the deputy from the darkness. “I called about someone wreckin’ my crops. I can show you.” Before the deputy could reply, the farmer was walking down the dirt road ahead of him.

The deputy did not like the farmer taking the lead, so he waited in his SUV. He hoped the farmer would return after noticing he was not following, but he did not. He continued to walk away and was nearly out of sight; so, the deputy drove after him.

Farmer Thompson walked surprisingly fast. The deputy guessed that working alone all that time, he never had to wait for anyone and moved as fast as he could. Without any indication as to why, the farmer stopped walking and looked out into the cotton fields. The deputy parked his SUV, got out, and walked hurriedly to the farmer as if to catch him before he wandered off again.

“Where’s the trouble, Mr. Thompson?” the deputy asked trying to keep him in one place with the question.

“Look out there,” the farmer replied pointing with his flashlight. “Do you see how the cotton plants are smashed? Makes me so mad. I needed every one of ‘em to repay my loans and stay in the black this year.”

“It looks as if someone drove a steam roller over them,” the deputy said. “How far back does that path go?”

“All the way to the river,” the farmer answered.

“It’s an odd track,” the deputy said. “Could someone have drug a flat-bottom boat through your fields to the river? Maybe a jon boat?”

“Probably not,” the farmer replied. “See how the mounds and the plants are crushed in a direction away from the river? I don’t think anyone’d come from the river anyway. No one goes in there since WorldChem Co. built upriver. I’m surprised my cotton grows after all the chemicals they dump in there.”

“They don’t dump in the river,” the deputy said.

“Not while the government is looking they don’t,” the farmer answered. “The government can’t test for everything; especially not the new stuff.”

Deputy Martin moved his eyes over the long path of flattened cotton plants. It began beyond the reach of his flashlight’s beam. He turned to look behind them to see where it led. In the distance, he saw pecan trees. It looked like the track led to them. He did not want to go into the forest-like darkness of the pecan crop; he easily imagined himself lost among the identical trees.

“Do you know where this ends?” the deputy asked.

“Nope,” answered the farmer, “but they appear to lead to my crop of pecans.”

The deputy and the farmer followed the path to the pecan trees. They followed the track into the wood. As he had feared, everything looked the same in the dark – especially with the crop of pecan trees planted so evenly spaced. He was grateful to have the farmer as a guide and a track to follow back out.

To help himself calm, the deputy looked back at the farmer and said, “It’s easy to get lost in here, isn’t it?” When the deputy looked at the farmer, he saw the farmer frozen as if scared.

“Did you see that!” the farmer whispered loudly.

The deputy turned to look in the direction of the farmer’s frightened eyes. He aimed the beam of his flashlight around trying to spot what the farmer had seen. Every tree made a shadow which moved as the flashlight passed over it. “What did it look like?” the deputy asked.

“It looked like a big blob of water,” the farmer answered. “It was the size of a tractor. Translucent, but cloudy. Kind a’ brown.”

The deputy thought the farmer might be tired. “Let’s go back to my truck so I can write this down before I forget the details,” the deputy said.

The two men followed the track out of the trees and walked quickly through the cotton. Once they were back on the dirt road, they saw the vehicle. The farmer followed the deputy back to his government vehicle. The deputy invited the farmer to sit inside. He set up his computer and asked questions for the form he had to fill out. The farmer did not have his identification with him for the deputy to scan; so the deputy had to manually enter his full name, date of birth, and address.

It quickly became hot in the SUV. Wanting relief from the heat, the deputy turned the vehicle on. The headlights illuminated automatically. As he looked up and out of the windshield at the vast cotton fields wondering what he should include and exclude from the report, he saw a large brown figure cross the beams of the SUV’s headlights.

“Did you say you saw a big brown blob?” the deputy asked.

“Yes, sir,” the farmer answered. “Why?”

“I think I just saw it,” the deputy replied and, without warning, something slammed into the side of the SUV. The deputy saw the fields outside spin as the vehicle rolled. Neither he nor the farmer had buckled up: they tumbled around, hit the insides of the SUV, and knocked into each other.

When the SUV stopped rolling, the farmer let out a yelp. “My back ain’t gonna be right after that.” The deputy was glad the farmer was conscious. The SUV was on its side. The passenger door was against the ground. To get out, they would need to break the windshield or climb up and out through the driver’s door.

The deputy reached out for the radio receiver. He placed it near his mouth, pushed a button, and said, “Code one. Deputy needs assistance.” When the operator responded, the deputy was speechless. The creature had moved into the path of the SUV’s headlights. He saw it clearly. It looked like an enormous, shapeless, and muddy blob of water had not flattened after falling on the ground. It was clear from its appearance that there was something wrong with the water. It was impure. It was beyond contaminated. It was corrupt.

It appeared to the deputy that the monster was aware of the two men. It looked back at the deputy and studied him. It began to move toward the SUV. It seemed to flatten the ground as it moved slowly over it. It flowed deliberately. When it reached the hood, its dirty water began to sweep over it. The water went over the top. It poured down the sides. As it began to spill inside of the SUV through cracks, the deputy pushed the button on the radio and said, “Make that a code 10. Send everyone.”

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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

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