Search View Archive

Woodchuck & Lemur

Woodchuck had been gone a very long time when he finally reappeared with a companion stranger than any creature the people had ever seen.

                  Lemur am I said a small person with a tail striped like a raccoon

and big charcoal eyes.

                  On far away very

                  island live I

                  from where many there

                  are people like me look

                  Say must I there nobody

                  like all you look

                  would strange when come

                  you to live where I

                  As strange as the looks and speech of Lemur was the fact that in his small arms was the box the people had seen so many times which belonged to Woodchuck.

                  All you who know Woodchuck know of this box.

                  It seemed overlarge blocky and square in little Lemur’s short arms.

                  In a voice like spices Lemur spoke again.

                  Travelling Woodchuck

                  with am his valet

                  Moment along

                  will he be

                  Lemur flashed his eyes the wider as if nothing in the world could be more natural or desireable than having him as a valet and his long tail circled over his head like a halo or so the people thought who knew Woodchuck who had been made by God but always confused the people with his transformations and now more than ever because Woodchuck had begun to dress as a cop and drive a police cruiser.

                  He has done this at last to avenge us it was said as Woodchuck

began to rule the long stretch of highway that ran through the land of the people.

                  He chased other cars away or extorted large amounts of money or flashed his gun for most unusual of all these changes was to see that Woodchuck had begun to carry a gun.

                  The people hurrayed for now the highway was almost entirely clear of automobiles which had cut down the people like a scythe so that rarely did one see the road without also seeing a corpse and a broad stain of blood.

                  Yes he has avenged us at long last said the people and this is why he came here.

                  But Woodchuck did not get out of his police cruiser to accept the people’s thanks.

                  Instead he began to drive faster and take the whole length of highway as his own zooming its length over and over in shorter and shorter periods

of time so that the people’s reprieve was not all it had originally seemed for the highway now had a new danger.

                  When Woodchuck had first been seen in his uniform Lemur leapt around in glee at the sight and took care that Woodchuck had shined shoes and a crisp crease in the pants.

                  Now while Woodchuck was obsessively driving covering the road’s distance faster and faster Lemur would put on shows for the people climbing atop the box for it was comparatively big and Lemur lightfooted and dancing or even leading groups of the people in exercise stepping onto and off the box cheerfully as if there were nothing more pleasant than aerobics his tail curling overhead like a smile.

                  But by this some of the people were not amused and thought Lemur a foreign interloper who had turned the head of the once immovable Woodchuck who had always been respected by the people but who now was feared.

                  So fast did Woodchuck now drive that he completed the length of the highway and its return in half the time anyone had previously thought possible.

                  With his window down as he raced by the people could hear the ascending noise of his arrival and its diminishment as he flew past and beyond but what they heard was not the police cruiser’s engine but talk radio which Woodchuck played at a deafening volume.

                  Radio in a car played loudly and constantly on long stretches of highway has a way of turning one’s own mind into that of the radio.

                  One could see it in the intensity of Woodchuck’s eyes as he roared past

in a harsh cloud of audio cant and the people sat at the side of the road

awaiting Woodchuck studying him for the brief second he flashed by and worrying over his fate arguing which had occured first radio or cop uniform and which was worse a random daily threat or the swelling of monstrous power whose visits were more or less predictable but showed no signs of abating.

                  Lemur kept smiling and trying to occupy the people in less morbid pursuits.

                  He liked to sing

Farewell and adieu to you Spanish ladies

Farewell and adieu to ladies of Spain

For we have received orders to sail to old England, 

But we hope in a short time to see you again.

                  Spain go I not ever said Lemur one day by which the people gathered

that Lemur never been to Spain.

                  He looked sad though his tail still danced in the air with his words.

                  When eyes my close

                  Spain see I in green

                  trees and sky blue

                  sound water shore

                  away away

                  a breeze sweet

                  Lost in thought Lemur did not notice immediately that he had failed to hold down the lid of Woodchuck’s box and Woodchuck’s penis had escaped.

                  The screaming siren of Woodchuck’s police cruiser alerted him.

                  Shall what do I

                  duty most important

                  my most failed have lamented Lemur loudly as Woodchuck screeched to a halt and stood from the car.

                  He had grown in size as Woodchuck was able to do but he had never seemed as big as this or more imposing.

                  And while many had been the time before when Woodchuck had let

his penis escape the people had never before seen him truly angry.

                  But now whether due to his having entrusted another or because the cant of the blaring radio was still in his ears Woodchuck growled savagely.

                  His badge and belt-buckle still shone from the polishing Lemur had given them.

                  His gun was ready at his hip and club and handcuffs hung from his belt.

                  His face was red and his breath heaving.

                  First Lemur’s tail bent away and trembled like a sapling against a strong wind.

                  Then Lemur himself collapsed and lay on the ground stone dead

                  Then the people noticed once he was at rest something they never had before of Lemur in his constant happy activity that he was in fact very old.

                  At this Woodchuck again experienced transformation.

                  He resumed a more normal size and the uniform he was wearing fell around him like large bags.

                  Woodchuck crawled out through the neck of what had just before been

his shirt and for a moment looked at the people who had seen his shame.

                  Then he left to search for his penis but also the people say because he felt so guilty for being so blind to Lemur’s goodness as to forget himself and overpower Lemur with his spirit.

                  Soon the highways of the land returned to being places where the people were randomly slaughtered as they remain to this day.

                  As for Lemur the people made a box of thatch slightly bigger than

Woodchuck’s box.

                  They laid Lemur in it and addressed the box for Spain where Lemur

had never been and they sang

Farewell and adieu to you Spanish ladies

Farewell and adieu to ladies of Spain

For cars on the highways still kill all our people 

And Woodchuck will never see Lemur again

                  No one can say whether Woodchuck himself ever forgot how he had turned on his friend and in a moment of anger under the spell of the radio

killed that gentle soul.

                  But today if you see a Woodchuck out of his hole he will stop for a second and look at you before scurrying away as if afraid to know what you think of him for how he was responsible for the death of poor Lemur.


Ted Pelton

Ted Pelton is the author of several books, all fiction: Bhang, Endorsed by Jack Chapeau 2 an even greater extent, Malcolm & Jack (and Other Famous American Criminals), and the novella, Bartleby, the Sportscaster. He is also the Executive Director of Starcherone Books, and a Professor of Humanities at Medaille College of Buffalo, NY.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2008

All Issues