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Huitlacoche



The three of them agreed that the Statue of Liberty would be a good place to record the vote that would decide the election. Gerald and Russell were the candidates for President, and Esther, laboring up the spiral stairway with her heavily bandaged foot, was the voting public. Gerald scowled when his opponent went back momentarily to help Esther, but she soon made it clear that she saw through Russell’s calculated show of concern when she took a small notebook from her padlocked purse and scribbled a note in it for posterity.

Once they stood in the crown, a closing oration was in order. Gerald went with his oft repeated claim to have discovered that it was the corn smut, served at the company party as a conversation starter, that had protected them from the plague that had so swiftly dispatched an entire population. Russell relied more heavily on an expression of resolute willpower. “I’m the only one who knows how to shoot the damn guns,” he said. “I found them, I collected the right ammo—and, I even located a cleaning kit. Everybody knows it’s regular maintenance that keeps the machine out of the ditch.”

“Brilliant!” Gerald cut in. “Now we can dig our garden with a pistol butt! And let’s not forget that Esther’s foot would not be so terribly mangled if your facility with weapons had been up to warding off a wild poodle. Perhaps we should not view my knowledge of books with such disdain. Surely we need to avoid false hopes that satisfy, for a moment, our desire to dispense with fathoms of responsibility!” Gerald’s audience pondered his speech until it seemed they were considering other things entirely: hot meals without having to boil water, microwave ovens, quick flights to distant lands.

When it was time for the vote, the two men looked aside for a moment as Esther wrote the name on a wall in all lower case letters.

“Congratulations,” Russell said.

“Oh it was a splendid race! None of that shameless rhetorical maneuvering for a change.”

Esther, snacking on diet puffed rice crisps, paused. “What’s that noise? It’s a kind of ‘bottlebottlebottlebottlebottle’ sound.”

Gerald and Russell immediately surrounded Esther to shield her from all threats, and squinted out at the harbor. “There!” Russell said, raising his binoculars. He fiddled with the focus wheel. “A rusty little tug boat,” he said. He reached for the rifle and lifted the front lens cover on its scope.

“What are you doing?” Gerald asked, losing control of the military.

Russell handed the binoculars to Gerald. “We both knew this day would come,” he said, taking aim.

“That boat’s flying the Mexican flag.”

This story was written by Daryl Scroggins, who has taught creative writing and literature for a number of years at The University of Texas at Dallas and The University of North Texas. He and his wife, Cindy, recently retired early and moved to Marfa, Texas, where they pursue art and writing projects. His poems and short fiction have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, and his most recent book is This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel.
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