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Robot Pitchfork

Scalzi Story

Wherein I take a band name from Scalzi’s Next Band Name list, and spend no more than 20 minutes writing the story with the band name as a title. Current one is Robot Pitchfork and the full story archive.

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"You have to shut it down!" The old guy stood at the front of the sheriff's desk. He was dressed in a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, and a red, faded baseball hat. He leaned forward onto the desk, slamming both his hands on the top. "I don't care how, Robertson, you have to shut it down!"

The sheriff sitting behind his desk, leaned back in his chair to look around his office. The crowd had grown in the last hour. He wasn't sure if he should laugh or cry at the whole situation. Bill's red face in front of him nearly matched his baseball hat, he noted.

"Now, Bill," Robertson started, "it can't be that bad. Morrell is a good guy. He wouldn't do any of the things you're saying he's doing. Let's all just calm down, and ..."

"Calm down!" the woman next to Bill screamed at him. "It hit me with a crow!"

Sheriff Robertson clearly struggled not to laugh. "Now, Betty, I'm not sure it was aiming at you..." he started.

"It was!" she yelled. "It was trying to hit me!"

"And me, too!" another older woman behind her echoed. Robertson leaned forward, and pulled his hand up to his face, unable to suppress the smile any longer.

"It just left the crows on my porch!" another woman from the other side of the room continued. Robertson recognized her voice, Mrs. Rigsby from the farm two east of Morrell's place. She might have a legitimate complaint.

Robertson stood up. "On your porch, Mrs. Rigsby?" he asked.

"Yes. They're dead. On my porch. A dozen every morning! If I don't clean them off, they just rot!"

"Well, clean them off." That was from Leigh. Robertson had to agree with him.

The crowd erupted with complaining. Robertson let them go on for a bit, they clearly needed to vent. Crows and pitchforks. Who would have thought they'd be such a problem? Eventually the crowd started to calm down. How did all of them fit in his office? Robertson wondered, looking around at of them. He hadn't seen half of them for over a year.

Robertson stood there, letting them calm down, looking at each of them in turn until they quieted.

"Okay, so you're saying that Morrell's scarecrow is stabbing crows from the fields," he started. Nearly all of the heads nodded.

"And you're saying that it's leaving some of the dead crows on your porches, for those of you who live near the Morrell farm." Fewer heads nodded, but a still large number.

"And it's flinging some other crows at people who walk or ride by the farm." Even fewer heads nodded, but enough that Robertson couldn't dismiss the accusations. "Any crows being flung at cars?" he asked. Most of the crowd looked at each other, but none of them nodded. "Okay, just exposed persons."

He stood there, looking at them, then asked, "His scarecrow, right?" The whole crowd nodded.

Robertson slowly looked around the room. "Let me ask you, before I head out to Morrell's farm, how are the bird problems in your fields this year?"

Again, Robertson struggled to keep the smile off his face, as to a one, the crowd leaned back somewhat aghast. Some of the crowd looked down, others put their hands to their faces in obvious thought. Robertson waited for the murmurs to die down before continuing. "Yeah, we all know Morrell is a tinkerer, always having some gadget or other running on his farm. Some of them have really helped you all, though. Wilson, didn't that thingy with the hay bales help you out last harvest?" He saw Wilson nod vigorously. "And, Munn, you were struggling with the irrigation on the far side of your fields, if I recall correctly. Morrell fixed that, didn't he?" Munn's bald head joined Wilson's in nodding in agreement. "Now, looking around here, I can't see no one whose farm isn't better because Morrell has some crazy contraption going on." The crowd looked around at each other again before turning back to Robertson. "So, if you still want me to go talk to Morrell about some crazy robot pitchfork thing he has going on at his farm, because you don't want to help clean up the debris or something like that, I'll do it." The farmers and neighbors around him were quiet, most of them looking down.

"What do you say?" he asked them all.

The muttering began.

"Well, I guess the crow never actually hit me, just landed in my bike basket."

"The porch ain't that hard to clean up. Those coyotes get most of them."

"Crow didn't hit me, either. Landed at my feet."

"I usually find those dead things in my trash bin, if I leave it uncovered."

Robertson smiled. Those in the back of the room started filing out the door. Robertson waited.

Eventually there was just him and Bill. Bill looked at him frowning, hands on hips leaning forward aggressively until the last other person but the two of them left the office. When the door swung shut, he relaxed. "How'd I do?" he asked.

Robertson smiled even bigger at Bill. "You did great, Bill. Morrell will be happy to know you have his back."

"He's a good guy, just doesn't always think through his inventions very well."

"Tell me about it. That robot scarecrow?" He shook his head.

Bill nodded. "At least it has good aim."