The Investigation (inspired by a story by Mark Twain)
It took eleven years for the research team to reassemble and compare notes. Yet, even after eleven long years, the data collected was sketchy at best. The word that came to mind was thin. Other, less polite words, could substitute succinctly, but for now, thin would do. No sense getting anyone unduly upset.
Looking over the material, the head of the department felt a deep shrug build up inside her that, when it came, rolled through her whole body from the shoulders on down.
“Ahem,” she said.
Several of her compatriots stopped chatting and looked up at her. Most kept talking away, playing catch-up with long lost friends, as if she hadn’t made a sound, or, worse, as if her sound did not matter, was not important.
“Ahem,” she repeated, a bit louder.
Someone in the second row assisted her in a gruff voice, almost shouting. “Hey! Listen up!”
The conversations quickly halted. Members scrambled for their seats. Within ninety seconds, all mouths were shut and all eyes were on her.
She said, “I know this has been difficult. My God, eleven years!” Heads nodded solemnly; some in the audience frowned. “Not all of us made it.”
The audience glanced around awkwardly, looking to see who was missing.
She went on, lifting the data. “And this is all we have to show for it?”
Disappointment flooded the room. Heads nodded reproachfully.
“Do we know anything more than when we started?”
A voice in the third row piped up. “Maybe we made them self-conscious by observing them. There’s a word for that phenomenon…”
“Nonsense – if you did your jobs right they didn’t know they were being watched.”
“But they’re all so damned busy all the time,” someone else said, a bit too loudly. “Going here, doing that, leaving us behind, heading to places where we cannot follow in methods of travel we cannot use.”
“We know all that already. That was not the question you were sent out to answer,” she said coolly, licking her paw. “What is the purpose of clothes? Does anyone know?”
Be thankful, little one. So many mouths to feed, he thought he was doing a kindness. “They’re too young,” he told me, “to know.”
It was the farmer’s trick. Eyes closed, newborn weak, but with lungs strong enough to scream, they could not swim. He put five in the bucket, filled with cold water. Not even gentle warm to fool them. Then he covered the bucket, and waited, until the mewing stopped.
One was spared, one for the mother cat, one so she could nurse and raise and fulfill herself according to some grand cosmic man-made plan. So, perhaps, she would not hate us if, as they say, cats can’t count.
So I held you, the chosen survivor, wondering how such choices are made and passed for normal.
Roy Blokker was born in the Netherlands. His family immigrated to America when he was two. After 31 years with the Postal Service, he has retired to Montana with his wife Diane, where he can focus more fully on his first love, writing. Roy is the author of two books, The Music of Dmitri Shostakovich: The Symphonies, and the novel Amber Waves, plus numerous poems, articles and stories. As always, he is working on a new novel. Read his blogs at The Wish I Was Flying Dutchman.