The tallest spire was nestled in the middle of a welcoming forest. It was at the epicenter of a vast network of tree dwellings, each covered in stained glass windows of varying shapes and sizes. Wary eyes peeked out from each building at the dense underbrush, and a collective fear was felt amongst them. A menacing figure was in their midst, one unlike anything they had ever seen. A hairy, ineffectual beast that brought with it a giant weapon of motorized destruction.
The smoke that emitted from its weapon made the tree-people’s noses scrunch up and tickled their throats. Its loud noises filled their ears with pain, and their hearts with dismay. But these weren’t even the worst of its offenses against their community. It used this weapon to shear the grass that they used to weave their clothing and stuff their pillows — collecting it for some nefarious purpose unknown to them.
Ike, the sheriff and resident protector of the woodland community, was the first to speak out. He left the safety of his spire and yelled to the beast from its wooden drawbridge. “Who are you, interloper? And how dare you disrupt our Sunday gathering?”
The beast lumbered on, a combination of scraggly hair and earth-stained metal tearing through their most precious resource. It obviously hadn’t heard Ike’s voice, though not for his lack of trying. He spoke louder on his second attempt: “I said, who are you, interloper?”
The beast briefly acknowledged Ike on this attempt, but made no move to stop his destruction of their beloved lands. Ike reentered the spire and looked at his cowering countrymen. “Brothers, sisters, I promise you, I will vanquish this interloper. Does anyone care to join me?”
Apprehensive looks were all that met Ike’s challenge. He left the spire again and descended to the forest floor and the beast before him. Looking at its back, Ike raised his loaded slingshot, armed with the largest rock he could find. He demanded, “If you do not stop destroying our forest, interloper, I will be forced to kill you!”
Gregory was a quiet, sensitive man who preferred to keep to himself. Little brought him more pleasure on a Saturday than doing that week’s yard work. Today’s chore was mowing and edging the lawn. He donned his giant noise-canceling headphones, turned on a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, and basked in the warm afternoon sun. He used his lawn mower to create calculated lines up and down his front yard. The smell of freshly cut grass filled his nose, and he couldn’t help but smile — nothing satisfied him more than tending to overlong grass with a focused precision that no one else in his family quite understood.
By the time the front was finished and it was time to tend to the back, Gregory’s body was covered in sweat. In the privacy of his fenced-in yard, he tossed his shirt onto the deck and continued topless and free. He was vaguely aware of his stepson Isaac’s presence in the treehouse the boy’s father had built for him before dying, but decided to leave him be. He knew that if he gave the boy enough space, and left a small ring of overgrown grass at the tree line, the two would have no issue.
Unlike the front yard, Gregory made a perimeter around his backyard while mowing, happiest as the square shrank with each passing lap. Everything was going smoothly until the mower ran over a large stick that jammed its blades. As he turned it off, his headphones blared louder than he was ready for, and he scrambled to unplug them from the device in his pocket. In the same moment, a rock caught him on the back of the neck. He let out an exasperated yelp and turned around to find its source. When he did, he was met face to face with his young stepson. “Isaac, what the hell?”
The boy stared at him indignantly and shouted, “I said die, interloper!”
Ike readied his slingshot for a second attack. The beast acknowledged him now, and while it didn’t entirely back down, it did briefly pause its attack on the woodland community’s precious grass. “Interloper, I banish you from these lands, cultivated by my father and his father before him. Back away now and leave with your life, but continue your destruction and face my wrath!”
The beast grumbled angrily at Ike, but surrendered. It lumbered off to a cave in the distance, with a look of obvious defeat as it skulked away. In leaving, it abandoned its weapon of mass destruction and the grass had gathered in the time before Ike’s brave resistance. As soon as he was sure the beast was gone, Ike tore into innards of its weapon and ran his fingers through the destroyed grass. He may not have been able to save it all, but he prevented total devastation.
Ike stood and faced the onlookers cowering in his woodland community. He rubbed the mulch from the destroyed grass on his cheeks like a warrior’s face paint, and raised his fists high above him in a victorious salute. Their community would live to see the light of another day.