Ken Poyner

Cash Crop

Traditional wall painting near Katni, India (© Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA)

When we came to harvest our villagers, we found them to all be cardboard.  Expertly cut, and painted so well that, full on, one would not expect them to be other than flesh.  Each stood or sat or toiled in an appropriate theme – some outside of cardboard houses, some within. Cardboard children, cardboard pets, cardboard livestock.  With closer inspection, they appeared to be shellacked, so that even a moderate rain would not destroy them – though the water beading would show them as representations, not true subjects.  Such fine work, and no living villagers to be seen.After our initial amazement and honor of the workmanship, we thought: cardboard villagers – less effort to harvest, lower maintenance, unprecedented docility, even if those gains for us are serendipitous.  No one can blame us for not then racing off through the surrounding lands to find villagers to harvest.  No one can blame us for locking onto this new, easier cardboard catch.  So we took our quota in cardboard: every fifth finely crafted cardboard villager.  It was so much easier than corralling live ones:  these prey did not complain or barter or fight or run for the hiding places each harvest we already had planned they would likely go.  These stacked well, fit more cleanly into the conveyance, had no special requirements in order to survive the journey.  For the cycle, we – and possibly the flesh villagers – were happier.  Who knows how the market would see it?  A day’s harvest done in an hour?  We will project fantastic-supposed buyer advantages, parade proudly our own new cardboard purchases.  What are the many ways a cardboard villager is better than a live villager?  How much more service can a new owner imagine?  We will be convincing.The market will adapt – it always does.  And the villagers, seeing from afar the success of their ruse, will spend the time between harvests building new cardboard villagers, slaving over the shellac and paints and the pliant board. So much work, so much to collect.


About the writer:
After years of impersonating a Systems Engineer, Ken Poyner has retired to watch his wife continue to break national and world raw powerlifting records. Poyner’s two current poetry and three short fiction collections are available from Amazon and elsewhere. Individual work has come out of late in Café Irreal, Analog, Rune Bear, Misery Tourism, elsewhere.

Image: Traditional wall painting by villagers near Katni, India © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA. By free license.