short one this time, a little tale I found on Project Gutenberg’s western section (though it was originally published in a sci-fi mag back in the early sixties). It’s a funny little piece of a district in Texas which is trying to drive it’s census numbers up, and calls upon a lazy local named Manuel to wander the simmering lavaflows (Sodom, don’t you know) and count as many people as he can. “Even the little ones?” he asks with shaky English. The supervisor tells him that, yes, children are to be included. But we, the reader, get an impression that Manuel is not talking about pre-teens.
No, he’s not.
As a wanderer of the hard-rock plains, Manuel knows things that the gringos don’t. And when Manuel comes back three days later, he’s a three-foot tall wizened old man, his burro is a strange polymorph that dies on its cracked hooves, and he’s got a million names, written in tiny little script.
Curious? You’d have to be dead if you weren’t.
I have to admit that even my pal Greg, late of the Census Department and now a gentleman of leisure, would like this one (it’s only a dozen pages and you can pull it down as a TXT file, for goodness sake!). So if you are looking for something short and lighthearted and you can read in a single setting, pull it down HERE for free.
I’m still laughing.