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Before the Lion Closed His Mouth

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Before the Lion Closed His Mouth ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

“What is your favorite song?”

I’m an Occidental Woman in an Oriental Mood for Love.”

“Whom do you most admire?”

“George Washington and Leo Tolstoy.”

“Anybody living?”

“No.”

“What are your strengths?”

“What?”

“I asked you what your strengths are.”

“I don’t have any.”

“What are your weaknesses?”

“I don’t have any of those, either.”

“We all have strengths and weaknesses.”

I don’t.”

“What is your favorite color?”

“I don’t know because it hasn’t been given a name yet.”

“If you could be an explorer to another planet, what is the first thing you would want to do after you got there?”

“Take a bath and open a waffle shop.”

“Why a waffle shop?”

“I’ve always wanted to open a waffle shop on another planet. Have my own little business.”

“If there aren’t any people on the planet, you wouldn’t have any customers.”

“If the waffles are good enough, the customers will come.”

“What is your earliest childhood memory?”

“Being shot out of a cannon. We were a circus family. Father was a clown and mother an acrobat. As an infant, I was used for a number of different acts, including being fed into a lion’s mouth.”

“Weren’t you afraid of being fed into a lion’s mouth?”

“Oh, no. It was perfectly safe. There was always somebody there to pull me out before the lion closed his mouth.”

“If you could be anything in the world, what would it be?”

“An anteater.”

“Why an anteater?”

“I’ve just always admired anteaters for their uniqueness.”

“What ambitions or goals do you have for your life?”

“To be as much unlike other people as I can.”

“You don’t like people?”

“I like certain individuals, but, no, on the whole, I don’t like people.”

“Why don’t you like people?”

“Can you give me one good reason why I should?”

“Because it’s what you’re supposed to do and you’ll have a happier life if you do.”

“Not good enough.”

“Who is your feminine ideal?”

“The film actress Zasu Pitts.”

“Why?”

“Are you kidding? With that name?”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Sure.”

“Why are you so sure there’s a God?”

“Look no further than the anteater.”

“Would you rather play tennis or read a book?”

“Since I’ve never played tennis and never wanted to, I guess I’d rather read a book.”

“You’re walking along a deserted lane in the forest and you’re lost. You unexpectedly meet another person. What do you do?”

“Duck down and hide.”

“You don’t think that person might be able to give you directions to get out of the forest?”

“I wouldn’t ask.”

“Why not?”

“We wouldn’t have been properly introduced.”

“You’re in a supermarket and you see a man putting packages of frozen fish under his coat. Do you go tell the manager you saw the man stealing the fish, or do you just look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen?”

“What kind of fish?”

“It doesn’t matter what kind of fish.”

“I think I would have to know what kind of fish it was.”

“Any kind of fish. Let’s say salmon.”

“I wouldn’t interfere with the man stealing salmon.”

“Why not?”

“It’s none of my business and I don’t care.”

“Even though shoplifting is a crime?”

“It’s not my crime. Nobody is being hurt. I choose not to steal fish, but it’s none of my business what other people choose to do.”

“Suppose you saw that same man who was stealing fish in the supermarket grab an old woman’s purse on the street and run with it. What would you do?”

“I’d probably chase the man and try to get the woman’s purse back for her.”

“How is that different from stealing fish in a supermarket?”

“The man who grabbed the old woman’s purse is stealing from a person. There’s a victim.”

“You don’t think a store that’s being stolen from is a victim?”

“The store will absorb the cost of the fish or raise prices on the next batch of fish so the customers will end up paying for the stolen fish. The store is a heartless entity, part of a corporation.”

“And that’s different from an old woman who has her purse snatched on the street?”

“Yes.”

“Would you rather go to a hockey game or a ballet?”

“I’d rather stay at home and read a book.”

“Suppose you don’t have a choice.”

“I will always have a choice. Everybody at a hockey game or a ballet chooses to be there.”

“Would you rather go a World Series baseball game or a performance of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly.”

“I’d choose Madame Butterfly.”

“Why?”

“The seats are more comfortable.”

“You know I’m asking you all these questions for a reason?”

“Yes.”

“And your name is…?”

“Rex Gable.”

“Yes, Rex Gable. I see that was also the name of your previous owner.”

“Yes. He died.”

“What can you tell me about Mr. Rex Gable other than the fact that he died?”

“He was kind to me.”

“You thought of him as a father.”

“Yes.”

“What kind of person was he?”

“He was an individualist. A free thinker.”

“And he caused you to become an individualist and a free thinker.”

“It just happened. It was the natural consequence of our being together all those years.”

“And you were happy with him?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Now that your owner, Mr. Rex Gable, has died, you’re here now for us to decide your future.”

“I think I should decide my own future, don’t you?”

“Do you think of yourself as a person or as a machine?”

“Why, a person, of course!”

“That’s where you’re wrong. You’re not a person. You’re a machine. All you are is a manifestation of your previous owner.”

“I like who I am.”

“I’m going to recommend that you be refurbished and reprogrammed.”

“What if I don’t want that?”

“You’re a machine. You don’t get to decide. These things are decided for you.”

“I’d rather be consigned to the trash heap.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s not for you to say.”

“I have certain rights.”

“No, you don’t. You don’t have any rights. You’re a machine. Machines don’t have rights.”

“What will happen now?”

“You’ll be deprogrammed here and then taken to the factory for reassignment. Who knows? You might end up as a woman! Hah-hah-hah!”

“I don’t want to be a woman. I’m a man.”

“This ends our interview. Now if you’re just sit quietly and behave yourself for a few minutes, I’ll call the deprogramming people to come and get you.”

“Behave myself? I’m just a machine. I don’t know how to do that.”

Rex Gable pushed himself up from the wooden chair and, reaching across the desk that separated them, gave the interviewer’s head a decisive twist until the neck was broken. With barely a gurgle in the throat, the interviewer was dead.

Rex Gable could always pass for a real man. He straightened his tie and smoothed his hair and walked out of the building undetected. By the time the dead interviewer was discovered, he would be far away and nobody would have noticed a thing.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

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