Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flash Fiction #5: A New and Novel Weapon Against our Common Enemy

The council was impressive. Every grass wanted to attend. Every grass had to attend. As the August sun broke the horizon, the light washed over the sea of rich green and tawny blonde stalks. Only the dome of the sky grew above them in this place. Here, at least, the tall ones hadn’t yet come. The open prairie was their own…for the time being.
But fear of the enemy on the horizon had called them here. Fear called them, and a need for action.
The din of one billion blades of countless species of grass swooshed in the gentle wind. A warm-season giant rose above them all, stretching his leaves outward. The other grasses—even some strange, scrawny forbs with pungent yellow leaves—took notice. The Monarch was a Big Bluestem, an ancient warm-season. He had ruled the prairie for decades. He survived fire, drought, flood, and wind. His tripartite seedhead looked like a foot of a turkey. Full and plump, each seed dangled, ready to deliver its genes to the wind, where Big Great Blue had millions of children.
As the morning wing stirred in the great-wide-open, Big Great Blue began to speak: “Warm Seasons, Cool Seasons, Forbs, Weeds, and fellow Sedge…” the Great One paused as the attention of the plains drew to him. He continued, “We have a great threat at our doorsteps.
“You know of the evil of which I speak.” An audible gasp flew up and murmurs made their rounds.
The Monarch continued, “Yes, yes. The ancient enemy, we must acknowledge, is far stronger than us.”
A cry came from the Ryes, “We can beat them! They can’t block it all!”
The full-sun species scoffed at the Ryes: “Quiet yourselves, shade-lovers!”
Always the politician, always willing to compromise and live with neighbors, Big Great Blue raised his leaves and boomed to the prairie: “We must not fight amongst ourselves! Our greatest strength is our diversity! Our roots grow strong. And deep. And we shall not outcompete each other while our enemy advances, year after year, to destroy us all.
“Yes, we know that some of us—the Ryes, Bluegrass, the Beebalms and Hostas—some of you are willing to live with them. But they will grow taller. They will dominate and wash away soil. They will push up and up and shove us down as they take up every square-inch of nourishing sunlight!”
The grasses nodded. All species knew Big Great Blue was right. He was always right. His wisdom came, after all, not from him alone, but from the eons of growth under the prairie soil. More than simply allies, the rhizobacteria and roots took invisible carbon and infused it into the ground, making it black and whole, full of life and experience from the ages. Big Great Blue’s roots went deep into the network. He knew what was best for them all.
The grasses wondered if their king was hesitant out of fear. After pregnant silence, he spoke four words. These words would be the true purpose of their gathering: “We need a weapon.”
“Fire! More fire!” Cheatgrass screamed.
A response came from one normally quiet. Not now. Winterfat, terrified at the prospect of more fire, replied, “I bet you’d like that, Cheat.”
“No fighting! And no, we shall have no more fire!” Big Blue boomed.
“But what? What weapon can defeat them?” Indiangrass and Needle-and-Thread asked.
“We require a new and novel weapon against our common enemy. We must enlist the humans.”
Porcupine Grass quivered. “The humans? The ape-people?”
“Yes. They are our best weapon against the high-ones. They may tame some of us. And to attract them, we shall need to be sweet for the four-legged ones.”
“Why?” an unnamed yellow grass asked. “They will eat us!”
“Yes. They will. We must learn to adapt. You see, the humans like to kill and eat the four-legged ones. The four-legged ones are not leaf-eaters. They belong on the plains. We attract the four-leggeds, the humans will come.”
Nodding Rye and Needlegrass nodded in affirmation.
Their King was indeed their One Monarch. He stood, inspiring. He knew his wisdom was true. He said, “The humans will chop. They will burn. They will push and pull out the seedlings of our enemy. With them, and the four-legggeds, we shall rule the earth!”
The wind swished across the flat plain and the infinite multitude erupted in applause.
Thus, it was foretold, that grasses made their compact with humans, the greatest weapon of all against the trees.
And the rain would fall. And the trees and shrubs would push into the plain. But the ape-people, with their cleverness, would push them back.
And the grass swayed in the wind, content.
But some looked at the ape-people with their clever tools. Some of the grasses wondered. Some of the grasses asked, "How long, O Monarch, will this peace last?"
Great Big Blue knew, but he did not share.


Agnes said...

A very nice piece, Dan. I can close my eyes and imagine this rustling among the grasses...

donald duck said...

I love the way you made us recognize the grasses are living things with individual needs. We need to be reminded we share spaceship earth with trillions of other living entities and humans are but one part of this miracle We should be reminded we are the entities with the most responsibility to assure continuance of the environment. Thanks Dan

Mary Kay Baum said...

Awesome! Dan, I had no idea that you had the understanding and the vision to put this together. I was in suspense waiting to hear who the tall ones were (trees). And enlisting the humans - so poignant - risky yet needed.
The Monarch term was a bit confusing because of course I thought of the butterfly at first. You clarified that so I could think of the Monarch as the authentic one - God present in creation. I, of course, ache for female genders in leadership. You are truly gifted. This parable needs to be spoken and heard. Amen. Alleluia

Wes Jackson said...

This is your best piece yet, Dan!

Kari said...

Nicely done.