All in a Day’s Work

On January 31, 1968, the North Vietnamese Army marched into Hue city in regular formation. There was no one to resist. They rounded up twelve hundred South Vietnamese government workers. American CIA operatives escaped through the sewer tunnels.

Months later, an American patrol came upon a suspicious mound near Hue and dug into it. They found hundreds of decapitated bodies. Several more mass graves with similar contents were discovered.

At 1st Marine Division forward headquarters in Phu Bai, a major was addressing a corporal. Beside them was a table covered with aerial photographs.

“You see,” said the major proudly, “I determine each morning’s fire mission on the basis of these photographs and intelligence reports of varying reliability.”

“To interdict enemy movements,” the corporal said. “But what about the villages?”

The corporal left the command bunker and walked toward several rows of hooches. He knew what those artillery rounds would do.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Something Missing

“When I was a girl not much older than you,” Helen’s grandmother said, “I liked a boy. Actually, I loved him very much. But it didn’t work out.”

Helen stirred. She’d heard this story before.

Her grandmother smiled indulgently. “You think you know this story, don’t you? Well, there’s more. I changed everything for him—my hair, my clothes, the way I stood, the words I used when I spoke. I did everything I could think of, and then some. Finally, he noticed me. We dated for a long time and then got engaged. But there was always something missing. Finally I gave up and returned his ring.”

Helen nodded. This was all familiar.

“He was gay,” her grandmother said. Helen looked at her sharply. “Neither of us knew it then,” her grandmother said. “Many years later, I learned that he had come out. It all made sense then.”

Copyright © 2013 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Cat and the Brain

Mark was a bright fellow and carried his brain proudly in his head, holding it in an upright position wherever he went. But for years he had been a slave to his cat, changing its box weekly. Mark was forgetful in all things but this.

One day his brain rolled out of his head onto the floor and bounced away. He couldn’t find it because he kept forgetting where to look. He would search this way and that, always kicking it out of the way without knowing it.

Finally, after hours of looking, he came upon his cat in its usual position, hunched over its food. Beside it was the brain, covered with dust. A portion of the brain had been eaten.

Mark was quite upset until he realized that the portion eaten away was the memory of his duty to change the cat box. He lived happily ever after.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Business Lesson

She bounced into his office, her face beaming. This was her first big promotion, her first real chance. And he’d given it to her. “You wanted to see me?”

He grinned at her, then scowled. “What are you so excited about? We have work to do.”

“Sorry,” she sat down, then held out a file. “I brought you the draft Lansley report. My comments are in red.”

He took it. “Okay. So I need you to look at the new State regulations and get me some feedback on how we can respond to them. I have a meeting about them tomorrow at eleven, so I need your comments by ten. Can you do that?”

“No problem,” she said. She smiled at him happily.

“And quit grinning,” he said. “This isn’t a party.”

“Yes sir.” So, she thought wearily, the first lesson is to act like you’re not having fun.

Copyright ©2013 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Ostrich and the Hyenas

The ostrich is the tallest bird in the world. At least that is what it had been told. It walked on three toes with its head held high in the air. When it hatched two chicks out of two very large eggs, they tried to assume the attitude of their parent. Together they were an aristocracy of flightless African birds.

An eagle flew over. I cannot eat them, it thought, for the mother has a beak like an ax and a kick like a zebra. Still, I cannot believe that this is any aristocracy.

A pair of hyenas happened by and considered the matter between them. While one distracted the mother, the other grabbed one of the young. The mother ran over and kicked the offending hyena, who let go of the chick. But, alas, it was too late.

Where there is a conniving underclass, no aristocrat is safe.

Copyright 2013 George Lowell Tollefson

Sick Leave

“You look terrible.”

Ann looked up to see her supervisor Karen in the cubicle door.

“I thought you were out sick,” Karen said.

“I need to get this agenda out today. It should have gone out yesterday.”

Karen came further into the cubicle and peered over her shoulder at the computer screen. “So do you have everything together?”

“I’m just checking it one more time. I was afraid I might have missed something.”

“Okay, so I want you to send it to Debra as soon as you’ve looked at it. She can make copies and get them mailed. You need to go home.”

“I don’t really have the sick leave—”

“Then don’t give me a sick leave request. Go home.” Karen gave her a mock glare, then asked, “Don’t you have regulatory material to read? You can do that at home more efficiently than you can here.”

Copyright © 2013 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Wood Ducklings

The wood ducklings leapt from the tree and fell through the sunlight and shadow, plunging into the forest litter below. Having recovered from the shock, they gathered among the dry leaves to begin their march to the pond in answer to their mother’s calling.

A bobcat crouched nearby in concealment, it muscles taut, its back crawling, stub tail twitching. Its claws, though sheathed, were at the ready, and its teeth were bared. One ear twitched. The cat had designs on the entire brood. An easy catch. It crept a little closer, one carefully placed paw at a time.

Suddenly a baying of dogs broke out. The ducklings crouched among the leaves. A hunter was in the woods.

The cat withdrew. The dogs fell silent. The ducklings, rising and milling about, reorganized themselves and advanced toward the pond.

It is in this way that life continues into life without our knowing.

Copyright 2013 George Lowell Tollefson