Thursday, February 05, 2004

Story time... 

A little background to this story: it started as an exercise in my writing group over a year ago. In the exercise we were given an opening sentence which would, hopefully, blossom into something good. Or at least non-sucky. Thankfully mine turned out really well. It was a lot of fun to both write and read, and garnered laughs from the group. I fell in love with it. Unfortunately the actual story disappeared over the next few weeks. That seriously bummed me out, because I knew I'd never be able to recreate it.

But today I thought I'd use the premise as a springboard to another story. So, as I sat on the bus, motoring my way to work, the story was reborn. It's very different, but I still like it.


All of them: gone.

The accountants - gone. The secretaries - gone. The assistants and clerks and analysts - gone, gone, gone.

They had previously been disappearing from the meadow. Oh, not so quickly that you'd notice at first. It took most of the cows in the pasture at least a couple of weeks to notice that Ingrid or Arnold or Sunlee had stopped their lunch-time napping on the soft grass under the trees that almost hid the near-by seven story office building from sight.

But she had noticed right away. She was always more observant than the others, which caused a frisson of envy amongst their ranks. But she couldn't help it. That was just the type of cow that she was.

But last week something so unheard of had happened that even the others had noticed immediately. Last week the office workers had stopped coming. None of them had seen any suited humans take their usual breaks for at least five days. The lack of people scared the cows. Even the bulls admitted to being unnerved. All were certain that their way of life, peculiar to the bovines of St. Epistle's Meadow, would soon be as gone as the humans they had come to rely upon.

There would be no more socks to eat.

Her great-grandmother, a cow of taste and adventure and distinction, was the first to discover the sartorial delicacy. Of course she was initially ridiculed, as were all creatures of vision, but soon her peers saw that her vision - the human foot covering as an unrivaled taste sensation - was, indeed, a thing to be pursued, a desire to be satisfied. For this she was revered, the story of her first sock told over and over until it became almost mythological in scope:

As was her nature, Great-Grandmother wandered away from the other cows, bored of their gossip and passivity. She found herself on the other side of the meadow, close to the trees that rimmed the pasture that she called home. Amidst the music of the woodland creatures she heard a gentle whistle, following by a soft snorting, then another gentle whistle. Great-Grandmother had never heard such sounds in all her - admittedly young - years and was moved to investigate.

She came upon a young human male sitting under a tree, leaning against the trunk. His head drooped to his left, his eyes closed behind the heavy framed glasses and his chest moved up and down, a shallow motion. She thought that maybe this human - of which she had seen few - was sleeping. She didn't understand how he could sleep comfortably in such a position, but she'd heard from the elders that humans were very strange creatures. It was the reason the elders had escaped from their farms when they were her age. They could take the strangeness and cruelty of the humans no longer.

She knew that she should walk away, warn the others about this male encroaching on their home, but he looked harmless enough. Then her wide wet nose - a nose that was the envy of all the cows because its beauty was unparalleled, desired by all the bulls - her sensitive nose picked up a subtle aroma. She stepped closer, cautious. She lifted her nose, trying to pinpoint the source of the scent. It was definitely coming from the human. Closer still she walked, remembering the tales of the elders, terrified but intrigued in spite of herself.

He slept on, unmindful of the cow now close enough to nudge his head, had she so chosen. The soft sounds continued to issue from his mouth and nose. Her nostrils flared as she moved her huge bovine head down his body.

There! There was the fragrance! Her moist brown eyes, already big as saucers, widened even more when she determined that the perfume was even more heavenly than she originally thought. Off to the side of the male were two shiny strange things with openings and strings. The smell from them were kin to the scent she loved, but too strong, almost over-wheming. No, the aroma that caused her to salivate came from his feet, from the stuff covering them. She was sure the stuff was not actually part of the human, so when she decided that she needed to taste that which gave off the fragrance that was seducing her, she was sure she could do so in such a way that would not harm him. For it was said that, despite her impatience with the others of her kind and her need for adventure, she was the most gentle of bovines in the pasture.

And so, very carefully, so as not to disturb him, she took the floppy tip of one of the coverings between her flat cow teeth and pulled. His foot twitched, but he did not waken. The covering was pulled free of the foot - a pale, wide, ugly thing, disturbingly spare of hair, though she had no way of knowing that the foot was particularly hairy for a human - and the prize dangled from her teeth. She chomped on the fragrant stuff and found the taste even more delectable than the scent.

Soon it was chewed and swallowed and she knew that she had to have the other. And she did, still not waking the male in the process. When that was gone she wanted more, but nothing else about him smelled so wonderful. So she started to walk away, dejected, when the human finally awoke. He stared at his bare feet, wondering what had happened to his foot coverings, and made vaguely upset noises about it.

Then he noticed Great-Grandmother nearby, looked her in the eyes. Somehow she was able to communicate to him with her wide saucer eyes all that had transpired. He seemed scared at first, then angry. She thought he was going to revert to all she had heard humans could be when his mouth stretch wide and he showed his teeth. But rather than looking frightening she thought that maybe, just maybe, he looked pleased. Then he roared. His roar was happy, she had to admit it, and he moved to her, put his slender, fragile hand on her thick neck and stroked it. The roar had subsided, but more happy sounds came from him. He was trying to communicate with her in his human way. She understood none of the noises, but she could sense his positive feelings. And somehow she knew he'd be back.

Of course he was, and over the course of the years he brought others from his seven-story building, who brought others. Never too many people. Just enough. They all knew to bring extra socks - worn, of course. Great-Grandmother convinced her tribe to give the socks a try. They were hesitant, but once tasted the need for worn socks could not be denied. They discovered the difference in tastes and smells that each person imparted to their socks, and how the same human could have different tasting socks from day to day, depending on so many factors that it took Great-Grandmother and Grandmother years to discover and enumerate them. She preferred argyles and women's trouser socks to the athletic socks that the coarser amongst them seemed to like.

Now it appeared that none of them would enjoy another sock. The humans, many of whom were as close to family as creatures of another species could be, came no more. And within a week she noticed, with the saucer brown eyes and wide moist nose inherited from Great-Grandmother, that the seven-story building was no more. The day before they had all heard a great boom as the ground shook beneath them. They huddled together in fear at the noise. And their fear mounted when she pointed out the red brick building, that had been there as long as any of them could remember, was gone.

For a couple of weeks they milled about, depressed. They didn't know how to get their humans back. Or their socks. Then she saw a male, big for a human, enter the clearing in the same spot that the first human male was said to be discovered. He was dressed very differently from the people they were used to: a hard yellow thing covered his head, stick and metal things dangled from his waist, and the shoes that usually covered the coveted socks were heavy looking and tan, instead of shiny and delicate and black. She watched him, thrilled that another human finally showed himself, but not sure if this one would be as friendly as the ones they had known.

The rest of the tribe wandered close to her, keeping an eye on him. They observed him as he looked at them, then dropped something on the ground. He stretched his mouth at them, his white teeth flashing in the sunlight, and then he waved, yelling at them, and disappeared.

Apprehensively they stepped closer to the spot where the male had been. The breeze picked up, whipping at the trees, and an enticing perfume lifted on the breeze, whirling around them. They couldn't believe their noses. Their collective amble turned into a trot and soon they surrounded what had been dropped on the ground. Had they been capable of cheering, they would have.

Socks. Wondrous socks of all types and sizes and smells. Enough for each of them for at least a week.

She lifted her head from the pile of treats and spied the man nearly hidden amongst the trees. His brown eyes were wide behind their heavy-framed glasses and met hers. Silent communication passed between them, and she knew that this human would take care of them, the way his (she knew without knowing why she knew) ancestor took care of Great-Grandmother and her peers.

She dipped her great head at him, he waved in return, and he was gone, like a mirage.

But the socks were still there.


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Carol/Female/36-40. Lives in United States/California/Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley, speaks English. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection.
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