The Unorthodox Ox (published in 2014)

A Novel

A dystopian novel that examines the issue of environmental destruction: the collapse of the natural world.

There is the protagonist, the anti-hero, who has married the wrong person. The spouse, the antagonist, is a difficult and habitual fault-finder. She has been undermining his and her own sanity for years.

The protagonist has a job to oversee, monitor, and manage environmental destruction that seems to be leading to catastrophe, to a cataclysm; so it is evident that his work has been dragging him down for some time.

Then the dilemma that the story relates is that of an anti-hero who gets on with life as anyone might when backed up against the wall and with no reasonable way out. But there is a romantic interest that he comes across. She is someone who hopes to improve her lot as well.

The story in†The Unorthodox Ox†deals with the untangling of a personal and professional situation which when resolved will allow different parties to move on and live a little better.

Excerpt

What happened was an interruption of the routine kind. In his office doorway there was standing a woman. He saw why she was there. He invited her to come in. She was unsure and crossed what was an unfamiliar space. He further welcomed her, and he commented on what was the evident reason for the interruption.

ó That looks like itís a Pickerel, and not a Northern Leopard. I canít tell which. Iím not convinced either way, which is what it means when we donít know what to think. Who would disagree if we donít know what to think? he asked.

The woman was holding in her hand a stuffed frog that was not identifiable as either a Pickerel or a Northern Leopard. That explained his confusion. She offered for him to take the stuffed frog. But he saved himself the trouble of taking it from her and having to give it back, though he had a closer look at it, inclining himself forward in his chair. She gave it a squeeze. It let out the sound of a small electronic croak which might have amused someone other than himself. She understood that she would not squeeze it a second time.

Then the stuffed frog was scaled to be a quarter larger in size than what would have been an average adult specimen. It had human qualities. Over half closed eyes eyelashes curled upward. The tip of a red velvet tongue was hanging from its open mouth. A nylon material for the skin was shiny.

ó Youíre Gwendolyn Llewellyn, from the Darwin Foundation, a survivor?

ó I am.

ó But someday none of us will survive. I hope I am not right. I might be. You were to show that frog to me?

ó And I was asked to introduce myself, then Iíve a message to pass on, she gave him the message.

ó So would anyone have told you why? But perhaps youíve made an educated guess or an uneducated one. It would have to be an educated one.

She confirmed that she had been targeted for not being as informed as she might have been.

ó And the cruel joke at your expense was to have to bring a stuffed frog to me.

ó I believe so. She smiled for being the victim. The head of a lamp on his desk he aimed to shed more light on the specimen.

ó It has sleepy eyes to suggest the long winter of their hibernation. Or the eyes are like that because it was cheaper than to have sewn on eyes. Then no one has told you what you will need to know, which is the standard practice in most work environments.

ó I have written materials to read, sir.

ó Thatís a start to begin with.

He leaned back in his chair assuming an accommodating position, clasped his hands behind his head, stretched his elbows backwards, pointed one elbow upwards. She made her own adjustments.

ó I might save you the trouble of having to figure out what is or isnít obvious or relevant in some cases, for what we ought to know but what we donít. A background because the foreground isnít staring us in the face. A summing up, itís no trouble. I hope not. I prefer not to go to the trouble if it is too much trouble. Think of this as being necessary or unnecessary if it is not.

So he gave the new intern an overview of The Frogwatch Program, and he went over the guidelines, for what they were; he explained how volunteers had been going out into wetland areas and following the guidelines and that tens of thousands of volunteers from the general public were recording variations in the changing sound-scape of frog croakings.

He outlined the organizational workings, he spoke about those involved. He explained how the data was being analyzed that they were interpreting and what the conclusions would mean and what was going to happen. What the research would accomplish, he underscored. He concluded then, in the final point that he made, that a last call would go out, and environmentalists, botanists, biologists, field naturalists, pollution experts, park rangers, government officials, and a passel of committed individuals would make a petition for humankind to step back from the brink.

ó There will be survivors, he laughed.

He evaluated administrative concerns, accounting for difficulties that come up when interests are working at cross-purposes. On that subject he spoke about how success can be compromised with the introduction of new procedures in the middle of a process that is better to do early on when considering other facets in order to guarantee how things will work smoothly throughout, rather than improvising on the fly and throwing a wrench into the works in the middle of it. And he said to the intern that many were wrong in their thinking, that the worldís problems were not of their making and of others.

ó Itís a singularly unhealthy view to subscribe to. It does not help anyone to believe that, he said.

But he agreed in part with the idea, that is to say, of hoping for the best, like so many, but he was then the one in his position who would have to take on more than any one manís fair share of the overall responsibility and everyone elseís, as for what was being inexpertly executed and poorly realized, which is when he, as one of the last responsible individuals, would have to attend to problems after it was too late, and that is when a man responsible is burdened beyond the limits of what a person is able to humanely withstand.