by Russ Bickerstaff
“The first time the little guy came to me, I was kind of busy. And to be honest, I wasn’t paying all that much attention to him. So I let him have what he was asking for. It’s not like it was very much, or anything. And though I didn’t exactly check his paperwork, I figured there wasn’t really any reason why I should.
“Oddly enough, my logic had a lot to do with the fact that he knew exactly what he was asking for. I figured if he knew enough to know names and numbers and ordering protocol, he didn’t have any business not having it. That was my thinking, anyway.
“I realize it was a breach in protocol. I know that. How often does someone come in to requisition equipment who isn’t authorized for it? It’s not like there’s a huge precedent for unauthorized personnel coming in for harmless equipment. Everyone was way too busy with the war to ask for anything they didn’t need. If people needed to blow off steam, or whatever, they weren’t going to do it by requisitioning quantum agricultural equipment. That much is for certain. There was plenty of alcohol and recreational equipment for that. The entertainment value of a bunch of fruit seems marginal at best.
“And, in retrospect, I know that was faulty logic, but I figured it wasn’t really all that bad because, honestly, what he took could not have been all that dangerous. That’s what I was thinking. Although, strictly speaking, there’s really no reason why he would have been able to get any of that stuff without full credentials. And I understand that now. And I have learned my lesson. I should point out, however, that doing what I did was not in any way out of the ordinary.
“People processed requisitions like that all the time. My only mistake was not actually making visual recognition of the little guy in question. That was the big mistake. Had I, y’know, actually looked up, I would have seen what was going on and alerted somebody. Had I seen that he was only a couple of inches tall, I would never have agreed to give him the equipment. Of course, I would have notified the commanding officers, but I would hardly call one little organism like this an ‘infestation.’ I understand how others might see it, but I prefer to think of it as a casual trespass by a very short anomaly. It clearly meant no harm.
“Everyone here has worked the desk at the stockhouse. It’s basic duty. Everyone gets put there at one point or another. Your Honor, you’ve been there yourself, I’m sure.
“Honestly, you have to admit that when a requisition form is handed to you, you generally don’t pay that much attention to the person you’re filling out that requisition form for. I had been busy. I was reading over reports and things and I just hadn’t looked up when I was handed the requisition. That’s all I’m saying. And that much–not really paying attention is not at all out of the ordinary–is what I’m saying. I mean, I don’t know how much plainer I can make myself than that, under the circumstances.
“And it’s not like I didn’t actually see him the second time he came by. Understand that. It’s not like I wasn’t paying close enough attention to have seen that. I cannot stress that enough.
“At first, it came as something of a surprise to me. Imagine sitting there and watching the game and here comes this guy who is just a couple of inches tall, looking like a little plush toy lime with two eyes and a beard and little bumps for arms and legs. Yes, I believe that could be described as a Lime Gnome. I don’t see what that has to do with anything. I know that probably should have been something that I thought to question the second time it came around, but he had shown me the number and it had checked out, and I had already processed one requisition for him. So where’s the harm in that?
“Well, obviously, there was harm in it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here now answering for my actions.
“At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I can’t imagine what it might have been. I mean, it’s not like there were any lives lost because of the little guy’s actions. Quite the contrary. Our forces were unable to strike, and I understand that put us at a disadvantage. But what is far too easy to overlook in the utter strangeness of the incident is the fact that, while the incident itself put us at a distinct disadvantage, it’s not like it put the enemy units in any kind of corresponding advantage. It is easy to overlook the fact that both ourselves and the hostile units were equally disadvantaged by the activity on the part of the little plush lime with the beard. A sudden massive and inexplicable overabundance of fruit on the battlefield really aids no one.
“Was it a waste of the equipment in question? Sure it was. That massive explosion of vegetation could have been better used elsewhere. But, again, I feel the need to point out that no one was harmed and our supply lines are more than sufficient to maintain our stock, which was already, I might add, at a surplus.
“I guess my question here is, why is this even an issue given the fact that the war is coming to an end? If you look at the total scope of things, I think this was a decisive battle that was inadvertently won. I mean, isn’t that what we wanted? We’re at peace now. A sudden appearance of massive amounts of fruit for no explainable reason was just weird. And it was just weird enough to stop the battle altogether once everyone realized it would be too impractical to continue the combat. So everyone sat down and ate the vegetation. I like to think that something as whimsical as what that little green guy did might have sparked an end to the war.
“Yes. I’m perfectly capable of explaining the laughter coming from the lime-shaped bulge in my coat, but I’d prefer to remain silent on the matter while you arrive at a verdict.”
Russ Bickerstaff is a theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and two lovely daughters. For more information about his short fiction, visit his Internarrational Where Port.
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