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Ken Poyner

The Corruption of the Orikind Penning

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Every few years we corral a new crop of Orikinds. We head out to the lava glass fields and watch all the supplicant Orikinds strut. They preen, with fiercely pointed feathers, and pull full throated up to scream their lustful mating calls into the red river of air. The thunder of their hooves shakes into our legs as they line up for viewing, nudge each other at the shoulder, squirrel into their Sunday hats and lick flat the helots on their backs.

We praise ourselves for having the best penned herd of Orikinds there are. Others try, but we cite our rules for Orikind selection, our ways of discernment, our baskets of unending knowledge.

There are all feather of Orikind: the meek, the modest, the braggart, the shrill, the overblown, the reserved. Orikinds are not one species, but more of a genus. They come in varying shapes and sizes and colors and temperaments. They can at times be Sunday social pleasant, at other times randomly cruel and destructive. You can usually tell early on what sort of Orikind you have, but you need to look closely: watch the feints and subtle moves of the Orikind, not be fooled when he drops his head to the side and coos, or rears on back legs, spreads his wings, and shouts his allegiance. An Orikind in a tie is not necessarily any smarter or well behaved than an Orikind wearing knee socks. Every Orikind has both its public and its private face, and you want to know what it will do when nudged or when left alone to dig its warren or when expected to supply the final notes of the journeyman's orison.

All the town is allowed, but not mandated, to gather to select the Orikinds for any scheduled measure's collection. Nearly everyone is enfranchised, no matter their knowledge of Orikinds or understanding of why we keep such a quarrelsome and large breasted congress of them. We select our herd from the wild by a show of hands. Some years, together we name a model Orikind: one that will be, ostensibly, the leader of our penned pack; that will have the most strutting space and be allowed to make the loudest sounds; who will decide where the new warrens will be; and represent to us, when we prefer to be simple minded, the entire Orikind pack.

The years of those special elections, the townspeople fall out in wagon loads, lining up like elfin armor against troll poetry, to opt for the biggest, most beautiful, most authoritative Orikind. In those years, the salted selection process is quite different than in the drab others. The banners are higher, the sound of the butte horns is louder. Advocates roam the streets. More townspeople are interested, more townspeople shake themselves out of their day-to-day ennui and come out to the plains to watch the Orikinds mill aimlessly about, pick at small items, squawk their horrible songs at one another. Every year the crowd is bombastically ill-informed, but in those special years the electorate is more speckled with the well meaning, with an honesty of public purpose. What they know about Orikinds can be held in a thimble, but there are more amongst this choosing mass without predisposition.

Years that we do not seek that emblematic Orikind are different. With those commissions, only the townspeople who have some fiery strange love of Orikinds come out. They have particular, often unpopular and angry, ideas about how our Orikind herd should be composed. Too many of these townsfolk have the feral drive of their wickedness propelling them. Some have a horror in their hearts that herds them slack jawed to the selection process: a need in their own dark, inner Orikind that knows release only in the twisting of the public herd. Those years the loudest squawkers are in vogue; those that are most ready to use their hind claws for minor offense; those with the most redolent plumage; and with the most irregular stones in their inelegant gizzards. The Orikinds that will bully themselves to the head of the viewing stand, even if they offer nothing unusual to view, will get the elaborately constructed favor of the small glass-eyed and disrepresentative crowd.

The presence of those who come out in more widely enfranchised selections, with the hope of naming one primary Orikind, is missed at these times, and the character of the herd swerves to the template favored by those whose lives seem wrapped up in Orikinds, or in the senseless things that Orikinds can do. No one knows why the great mass of townspeople will not come out when there is no single unifying Orikind supremacy to establish. They do the town and the herd no favor by standing back. All the years between chief Orikind selections they harbor their doubts and worries, but they do not come out, and smaller, more driven revenge seeking minds prevail.

With these off year herds, it is hard not to blame the herd itself for its volume of shed feathers, its plenitude of circular warrens, its endless braying and chest basting. I have no sympathy as they sometimes pluck each other's eyes out, wrap their hind tentacles around each other's throats and make the sound of children bested by wild dogs. But I try to remember, it is our inability to select, to understand Orikind biology and take the interest necessary to keep it in check, to come to each and every selection process and apply the hand of moderation, that creates this enflamed circus of Orikind cross purpose.

Thank Ezra we keep them penned.

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