The Coming of the Steppe Peoples
Greg Gerke

When they came we were sitting around throwing sticks at other sticks. We enjoyed our times and one of us, Peter the Pirate, would often remark, "Les jeux sont fait" as a Matins and Vespers for our days of utter pleasure. Peter kept a condor and a wife called Tina Marie. Tina Marie also had a wife called Mother Goose. Everybody understood this so no comment needed to pass. The condor might have a few bad days, might accidentally eat up a few packs of Hall's honey-lemon cough drops, but aside from that he flew haste post haste into the wind and never disturbed an ear of corn though he hovered extremely close.
First gazing at the Steppe Peoples I could tell they were in no mood for games. They had journeyed a long way, quashed gnats all over their cheeks and breastplates. They wanted soup (heavy on the salt) and hard, hard, hearty brown loaves of bread. We could help with the soup -- that much was written in our customs, but the bread would be difficult to come by. Our wives and daughters had tired of the process and the last electric breadmaker in the village had broken in late April. We did have popcorn though, and with our firm assembly of spices and seasonings guaranteed something bordering on ecstasy. But instead, since we couldn't put a stay against it because of our non-violent stance, we watched them round up all the cans of tuna we had and stuffed them in their dusty coats. There -- now can you please leave our one-horse town, you've come and gotten what you wanted. There will be no celebrations, no speech, no drum solos, no exchanging of mythologies.
The chief of the Steppe Peoples had a foul aspect on. One side of his upper lip had been bashed in, leaving one grimy, piss-stained fang hanging out, trumping all other aspects. When for a third time he requested a hootenanny, I offered as solace a short poem on trees and wind. A dashing, short limerick, it contained two minor jokes and one major one -- all being thoroughly entertaining. The chief said, "Yar, you jat my swelb with dar wreck of woits."
"Glad to serve and shiver me timbers," Peter the Pirate piped in.
The chief screwed his eyes up, "And bisquith is our ole pal, ole Peter Piper? Huh? Sat tell me. Sat tell me much you machenest with founslow or I'll gouge sem twoit dar eyesers dat Mother Goose."
Now Mother Goose, before becoming a wife, had been a raider and she'd seen and tasted blood from most every continent. And this chief of the Steppe Peoples, even though close to seven feet tall, didn't scare her in the least. She hurled a large stone at his kneecap, splitting it apart in a snap. On the ground the chief moaned, "Yard at Mother Goose gomf to bar fark my quang." This unfortunanence started the war between us and them. It went on for almost six minutes. Tina Marie and I were seriously injured. Our stashes of barely, toothpaste and camphor were dissolved and Peter's condor began to suffer crippling anxiety attacks and afterward lead a quite hermetic life in which only whole milk that we traded to get from the Poshetes, would assuage. Still we prevailed. The Steppe Peoples left before sundown. In lieu of a trumpeter an old man in a purple kashmir sweater sat on a stump and holding his graying, deformed tuba played their retreating march in C flat.
The incident has entered our lore. Many versions of this war exist. Peter the Pirate's affords one-hundred and fourteen pages for every minute of the battle. When asked Mother Goose holds her fist in the air -- even if her larynx might reappear, she need say not one word.
The air is ripe in our country. I can see a new tree growing. Life goes on. Since my legs were cut off Luke Malloy built me a cart to wheel myself from post to post, quinoa stash to quinoa stash. Under the moon, as we eat our gruel, someone inevitably brings up the Steppe Peoples. Our first impulse is to rise, rise, rise. Even me in my cart. Screw our eyes up to the east and howl for the Steppe Peoples to come and try to take us with their bastard codes. But then, sitting just off the beaten path, Peter's condor's wing twitches and we know better. The next could be the last. We invite no one else to our land and we die as one tribe.