The Encounter

By Jeffrey Zable

I was walking through the ruins of the City, past the bodies that lay along what remained of the buildings and by the crumbling curbs that led into streets much of which had holes that led down into nothingness.

And coming upon the body of one of the rotting deceased, I realized that I had known this person a long time ago. And looking closely at his face, I noticed a little bug in the middle of his left eye.

“Do you mind!” said the bug looking up at me.

“I do mind!” I replied. “Given that I once knew this person, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take off and find a new corpse!”

“If the person is no longer alive, why should it matter if I enjoyed what’s left of him? And besides, you should appreciate that of all the bodies out here, I chose your friend!”

“Not appreciated at all!” I responded. “We humans have empathy, especially with regard to family, friends, or acquaintances. You, on the other hand are a pariah, an insignificant bug who contributes nothing to the world!”

“Such a limited perspective!” the bug replied in a matter of fact tone. “And by the way, what have you contributed to the world that is so important?”

Thinking it over, I wasn’t able to answer immediately but finally came up with something that I believed to be worthy. “I’ll have you know that I’ve published over 2,000 poems in magazines and anthologies around the English speaking world.”

“That’s quite a feat!” the bug replied. “But does anyone ever remember one of your poems after they’ve read it?”

As this was a question that definitely touched a nerve, bringing me back to the same old insecurity, I responded rather sullenly, “That is a question to which I’ve never had an answer!”

After apologizing to the bug for being so insensitive, I continued through the ruins of the once great City.

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher, and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance glasses and rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, flash fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies — more recently in Former Cactus, Bye Bye Nite, The Disappointed Housewife, Third Wednesday, Corvus, After The Pause and many others.

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