On a winters night like so
When the ground is white with snow
There's plenty of light to show
What you two were doing.
Don't argue as though you might
Bring question onto my sight-
We both know that I'm right.
I saw what you were doing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kick emptied the contents of an old plastic pretzel barrel, which he had been using for years as a depository for loose change, onto his bed. The change fell unceremoniously into a clinking heap in the middle of his old dingy sheets. Two pennies and a dime remained stuck to the bottom of the barrel and wouldn’t shake free until he banged the bottom with the flat of his palm. Then he fished the little man out of his breast pocket, set him gently down in the bottom of the barrel, and secured the whole with a screw-on plastic lid.
The little man stared back at him through the scratched plastic of the pretzel barrel with an amused expression on his face. Kick produced a pocket knife from his sweatpants and roughly punched three slits in the lid. As the barrel lurched and shook the little man settled down onto his butt and watched as the knife slid through the plastic overhead with a ripping sound. Kick’s beefy face loomed on the other side of the plastic, staring at his tiny prisoner through squinty eyes. The little man mouthed a thank you for the air holes and leaned back against the wall of the pretzel barrel with forearms resting on his knees.
Kick placed the little man and his plastic prison squarely in the middle of the bed and turned to walk out of the room. As he did the little man called after him, “Kick, there’s something I need to tell you.” Kick paused and turned.
“I know more about you than you think I do, and I suspect rather strongly that you intend to go out that door and tell the world about me. You don’t want to do that because then I would be forced to tell the world what I know about you.”
“What do you mean?” Kick asked.
The little man’s statement had apparently arrested Kick’s attention for he turned and sat down on the edge of the bed. As he did the barrel tipped over and rolled off onto the floor before bouncing toward the closet. Kick scurried around the side of the bed and dropped to his knees before gingerly picking up the barrel. The little man seemed a little shaken up, but appeared otherwise undamaged.
“Sorry,” said Kick. The little man rubbed a sore spot on his head and grinned good naturedly back at him.
“What are you talking about? What do you mean?” Kick asked again.
“As luck would have it, you have been assigned to me for the past ten years or so. Well, actually you’ve been assigned to a young man named Chell and I oversee him. He’s my subordinate, one of a dozen that I oversee and coordinate. In turn, I am one of six who reports to a very demanding woman named Milthra. She’s my boss. We are all very familiar with your file. Its my job, and unfortunately for you I am very good at it.”
“You little people spy on us?”
“Spy? I guess that’s accurate. We call it surveillance. It’s a matter of national security. You see, it’s vitally important that we know who is doing what and where they are doing it at all times. It can literally save lives to know what you guys are up to. We also gather intelligence on all of you Dindi…”
“That’s our word for big people like yourself. We gather information about you Dindi so that if we are ever discovered we will have enough dirt on you to keep you quiet. Now you understand, don’t you? You understand why you can't tell people about me?
"And don’t think about killing me either. It's true that dead men tell no tales and you can still hand over a body for scientific study, but you’re being watched right now, and you would probably be dead before you see tomorrow." Kick's eyes darted around the room as the little man continued talking. "If my friends didn’t kill you they would make sure the news gets out about your activities over the years. In other words, if you're not dead you would wish you were.”
“You don’t know anything about me?”
“Do you want to bet on that? I’m not bluffing.”
“Go on then. Prove it!”
“I know about your drug sales and about the bag of weed under the counter in your shop. I know about your drug and alcohol abuse. I know about the fourteen pornographic films piled higgledy-piggledy in the bottom drawer of you dresser and the fifteenth which is currently in your VCR. I know that you ate three hot dogs, a ham and cheese hot-pocket, and a six pack of beer for dinner last night. I know that Tammy Ducharme left you because you beat her and forced her to get an abortion.
"That's not true," protested Kick. The little man sighed and continued without arguing.
"I know these things and much, much more, but I doubt any of that would keep you from telling folks about me, which is why I am very fortunate that it was you who discovered me. We estimate that approximately 65% of the Dindi population have nothing in their past, or present, that would cause them sufficient fear or shame to keep them from talking. Besides, fame and infamy are becoming horribly confused in your society…but you fall within the 35% that we are certain will never talk. We have you by the balls, Kick. We’ll make sure and certain that the whole world knows about her if you ever try and tell people about us."
Kick visibly recoiled as if he had been doused with acid.
The little man continued...“I know why you never drive down the Old North Road, even though it takes longer than the Farm Road. I know…”
“Shut up!” said Kick. “Just shut up!” The little man obediently fell silent as Kick raged outside his thin plastic prison.
Kick slumped down into a chair and, for a time they both sat in silence. Kick stared at a spot in the carpet as if he was trying to see through to China and the little man stretched out flat on his back and stared up at the knife slits in the top of the pretzel barrel. After a few minutes the little man said, “Check mate,” and Kick silently nodded his head in agreement.