January 2021

Mr. Squeakums
Sitta pusilla, brown-headed nuthatch

People don’t like snarls of old pine, the skeletons of dead trees. They get in the way of subdivisions, of farms, of chain restaurants. But to someone who is quick and clever, for whom a pine scale is a tool and the labyrinth of pinebark is a larder, what better home could there be? But they are so hard to find, now. You flit about, a rubber duck that is quick and alive, echoing from the pinetops with your kin, hoping that somewhere a great old pine will fall and give your children a home.

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With the Zombie House of Preservatives and the Senotaph both likely to impeach, but unlikely to convict, Zombie President Brayne left the Blight House for the last time, attending a “heavy metal going away concert” at Joint Zombase Sinews. Still refusing to concede the election to “Dully” Oblongata or acknowledge his role in the insurrection that led to members of the Zombie Congress being eaten by his followers, President Brayne insisted that he was still in charge even as he boarded a plane for his retirement in Festeria.

In his inaugural address, Zombie President Oblongata pledged to heal divisions between the parties, promised not to pursue recriminations against the Mortician Party, and pledged not to undertake any “divisive” actions that the Morticians might not like, essentially handing the opposition party a de facto veto over the now-ruling Necrotic Party. In exchange, the Mortician Party reiterated its belief that Brayne remained the legal president and its desire to see President Oblongata “torn to shreds and eaten.”

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Cyanocitta cristata, blue jay

Formed by light and not by pigment, going brown in the wrong light or when crushed, one of a handful of blues in a world of green, red, and brown. When angry, you show your crow side, angry and harsh, caws for alarm. But when the mood is light, when your loved ones are near, a lighter trilling note that speaks to the soul of a songbird. And of course, when a puckish mood strikes, the perfectly imitated cry of a hawk to put everyone to flight while you watch.

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King Bird
Gallus domesticus, feral rooster

The last survivor of an urban flock, shipped poultry class when no one could tell that he wasn’t a mother-to-be. Would be city limits farmers moved away, abandoning their birds to a world full of hawks in the sky and foxes that yowl in the woods. One by one the hens were taken, but long spurs and caution have left him alone, the wary king of the woods. Like jungle ancestors in the Indian under-canopy, he scratches out a living, and his crowing is a triumph of survival. The other birds pay him deference, for he is the largest, he is the escapee, he is the survivor.

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(Sialia sialis, eastern bluebird)
Quarrelsome, argumentative, pushy, muscling smaller birds out of the way when there are precious arthropods at stake. But in the house sparrows, those bibbed invaders from far-off lands, a formidable foe arose, one that did not hesitate to build his nest around the bones of your young. Yet your brilliance, brown feathers blued by a trick of the light, is the ace in the hole. No one mourns a house sparrow, but at the thought of a summer without bluebirds, the hue and cry went up. Birdhouses, solely for you, now dot the countryside. Feeders burst with farmed mealworms. Whoever said looks can’t buy happiness has never been truly blue

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(Zonotrichia albicollis, white-throated sparrow)

His long white beard is a sign of neither wisdom or age yet he wears it proudly, conjuring seed gleanings from even the poorest soils. Off-key exclamations echo happily, too spontanious for songs yet too melodious for cries. Spells, perhaps, cast beneath wild black brows streaked with yellow. Charms for a safe migration, prayers to keep house sparrows at bay, cantrips for warm weather to bake off the evening chill. We will miss him when he vanishes over the summer, taking his battles to far-flung lands, before reappearing once more as if by magic or resurrection as the halcyon days grow short.

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Sassy Bird
(Thryothorus ludovicianus, Carolina wren)

The sole song of winter, bursting forth from nearby branch, followed all too often by a trill that is fearsome in its alien, raptorine suddenness. That both come from such a tiny ball, a needle-beaked walnut of curious energy, is remarkable. Tail cocked at a jaunty angle, investigating impractical pockets with nesting dreams. Coat pockets, drain pipes, winter-cooled grills, they all sing secret songs of safety that only winter trillers can hear. Personality and impracticality all in one, a tiny mirror of ourselves.

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The remaining members of the Zombie House of Preservatives have voted to impeach Zombie President Brayne for a second time. Accusing Brayne of “formenting a buffet” by urging his zombie supporters to eat members of the Zombie Congress, the measure passed 50.5-49, which was enough to carry the House after 338 members were devoured by rabid Brayne supporters last Wednesday. It was technically a bipartisan measure, as the upper half of Mortician Party Representative Pons joined with the 50 surviving Necrotic Party members in passing the articles of impeachment. The remaining 49 members of the Mortician party, which includes the torsos of 6 members and the lower halves of a further 4, opposed the measure.

Mortician Party representatives gave a wide variety of excuses for voting to support Brayne. “We, really, deserved to be eaten,” said one party member. “It’s our own fault.” Another Mortician Party representative claimed that the pro-Brayne horde had been a “false flag attack” of living humans disguised as Brayne supporters. The most common response to questions about the vote from Mortician Party members, however, was “shut up.”

The impeachment now moved to the Zombie Senotaph, where a 2/3 vote among the remaining Senotaphers is required to remove Brayne and bar him from running for reelection in 4 years. Given that same body’s acquittal of Brayne one year ago, after he was captured on tape eating a world leader, a conviction seems unlikely. Despite the attack, Brayne’s opponent, “Dully” Oblongata, proclaimed that he still intended to take power even if he was exercising it from “within the stomach of the opposition.” At press time, Brayne had not formally responded due to the confiscation of his tongue by the Zombie Security Advisor, but had made a number of what anonymous sources call “angry noises.”

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“The name’s José Donzerly, and I’m a national hero,” he said, thrusting his chest out.

“Oh?” said the Prylzakian border guard, looking bored. “You don’t say.”

“I’m mentioned in the American national anthem, even.”

The Prylzakian looked up. “You’re joking.”

“José can you see, by the Donzerly light?”

A pause. “Welcome to the Republic of Prylzakia, Mr. Donzerly.”

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Uri Savashadam, the top Israeli assassin, stared across the table as the joke hung in the air.

“Did…did you just make a joke about how drinking only almond milk would be just nuts?” the client said.

“Yeah,” Savashadam said, downing a tall glass of the stuff. “Is that a problem?”

“Well, I’m just not used to it.”

“You’re used to assassins with sticks up their ass, eh?” Savashadam laughed. “Well, I like to make jokes, so deal with it. Murder can be fun, so why not enjoy life while making a killing, eh?”

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