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While you're reading, you won't think of this as an EOTW novella.(1) That's because almost the whole story takes place with some guysand a girl for a coupla minuteson a roof of their hunting cabin in the woods somewhere closer to a lake than to Pittsburgh. The cabin is surrounded by packs of animalsdeer, raccoons, mice, ducks, and not-Gentle Ben grizzlieswho are completely feral with blood lust aimed at the humans on the roof. You see, earlier in the night a swarm of blue meteors showered the forest, some even thudding to the ground. When the boysthey're called the Lightening Five from their HS football prowess daysinvestigate, they find "just some weird shit"(p.55), like the ground all blue around the strikes, temperature noticeably higher, space rocks pulsating in their ditches. But the knee-slapper is all the animals crowding around mesmerized by the blue; even the boys "drooled with lust"(p.62) for the blue. The worshipping ends abruptly when the blue-crazed critters chase the boys onto the cabin roof.

See, this was supposed to be a meaningful reunion, sparked when the one kid who bailed after a tragic/heroic incident returns after a 20 year absence. See, there was a fire back then and some of the guys saved some little kids, but the chicken-shit guy didn't' save the little girl burning in the boat house. And besides, he'd started the fire in the first place. But now he's back, to die with his buddies, to smile at a horrible death being chewed by raccoons because he's self-retributed hisself.

It's a long night up there on the roof. They have conversations. "We'll be okay if we stay cool, calm, and collected," is responded with, "maybe we should create some kind of distraction"(p.76). A stellar point is when a flock of demented ducks "staining the sky like a curtain of wet ink" attack while the guys "fire wildly into the maelstrom of wings and webbed feet"(p.94). Another notable section is when a bear chomps up a guy real bad, then leaves him in the clearing moaning for help like a VC ploy. Was there a squad of Kodiaks drafted into battle in Vietnam? I musta missed that. Another one is when some girl shows up pumping hard to get away from a gang of blue-eyed, antlered stags. She hits the cabin running, gets yanked aboard, is handed a rifle as the malicious mallards show, gets immediately knocked off the roof and into the carpet of animals below. What's left is "just a trail of blood"(p.95).

In the Prologue (which I really don't understand the reason for) it says this night "was about escape and destiny"(p.18). Well, two guys sacrifice themselves so others can live, but it's moot since the only remaining guy is left at the end of the novel sitting in an SUV covered in beasts while "soon his mad cackles echoed through out the woods"(p.128).

That's sacrifice nulled; an escape to blanklessness. Destiny? What's the point if there's no one around to get it? Further, does it mean sentient alien beings are directing this desperation? Or, ah, God?

What a silly tale. The Animal Nation as "destiny" is hilarious at first, but, I gotta admit, the last image of the guy sitting in his bullymobile with his empty pop gun and completely broken mind, with squirrels fornicating on the hood and bobcats pissing on the roof, with raccoons playin' pinochle on the trunk lid while that big ol' griz just sits there, waitingwell, I'd say that's a big gulp of GotchYa! from mankind's so-called wards. But seriously, how long do you think the Earth's varmints would last against the world's human militaries?

Too bad. 'Cause doncha think "we all got it comin', kid?"(2)

 

 

1) never stated definitively, but the meteors are "filling the sky"(p.128) hinting it's not just a local phenomenon. Besides, where did those cracked quackers come from?

2) William Munny, Unforgiven, c.1992

Illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne

text only © copyright 12/14/2014 by Larry Crawford

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