“A Nonsense on Stilts,” by Alexei Kalinchuk

Feb 23rd, 2022 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

A tin-plated nonsense came up over the hill on spindly legs and entered our village at a stately pace.  Our village, having never seen such a thing, crowded the visitor, eager for a chance to benefit from its peculiar form of smarts.  Presently, the crowd around the figure thickened so that its stilts now acted as posts sunk into the earth.  Its immobility was all the better for the onlookers to worship it, and although skeptics existed, they were shouted down by the others.  The nonsense itself, now robbed of the ability to execute its gawky walk, it preferred, I thought, not to make itself a target of ridicule.  It stayed in our village thereafter.

I should admit that I have a long history of mockery against the village, and it was only their forbearing nature that allowed me to stay on after these acts of mine.

But it didn’t stop me from smirking at the visitor.

And now twice a day a bucket on a rope entered or exited through the belly of the nonsense.  One bucket carried the food up, the other carried down what looked and smelled like human waste.  The nonsense had a voice that shouted down for the villagers not to touch the waste bucket and to bury its contents in a field and in twenty years, why, you might find precious stones.  So you better mark the burial sites, this voice said, so that your children can inherit this great wealth.  The adulators nodded so much at these words, it was a wonder they didn’t all break their necks.  Meanwhile skeptics tutted and shook their heads and said shit was just shit.  Their necks also, somehow, didn’t break.

While both sides disliked me, I thought that each held out a hope that I would one day join their ranks.

Instead, as a prank one morning when no one was awake, I used glue to plug the lock in the belly of the nonsense.  I worked by light of the moon, stifling my giggles, then climbing down my ladder and taking it with me as I fled the scene.  By the time I reached my hut, but after disposing of my ladder in a ravine, I was so tired I could do nothing but sleep.

A banging in my head woke me later from an exciting dream of combing a small red horse’s mane.  But it wasn’t part of the dream, because I woke up and detected that the noise came from the village square, from the site of the nonsense.

I brought a pot of glue remover with me, but when I saw the murderous look in all of those eyes, I discreetly threw it into a bush.  I did not want to die at the villagers’ hands.

Already they scrutinized me, so I shrugged and smiled as innocently as I could at them.

There’s more to the story, but I don’t want you to believe I’m a terrible person when all that day and all the others afterward I tried to find ways of getting to the nonsense to remove the glue.  But now the adulators suspected the skeptics and the skeptics suspected the adulators.  And they all guarded the nonsense as a hollering resounded from inside its tin-plated prison.  They’d come to an agreement, incredibly, that if the nonsense was a god it would need no help from humans.

I wondered why the nonsense didn’t just leave in its clumsy way when I noticed that concrete had been poured and hardened around each of its legs.  This must have been part of the test of its godliness.  But would gods really whimper like that?

Eventually the noise stopped and flies hovered outside the nonsense’s chassis.  Their buzzing above us made me think of angels as some kind of insects.  Weeks later, a strong night wind brought the nonsense crashing down, breaking its stilts and the door sprung open and a stained skin-covered skeleton hung out of its tin housing in the light of morning.  Nobody discussed this, but I made myself bury the remains without anyone’s help and then I left the village forever.

In the port city I adopted after this incident, I became a more serious person.


A disgraced clown turned out of a prestigious circus, Alexei Kalinchuk turned to the forbidden art of Ukrainian massage.  OH, and he also writes stories and one novel (It’s Not My Cult!).

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