THE RINGMAN'S SQUIRREL
Dreamed 1982/9/17 by Chris Wayan
One day, generations from now, after nuke-spread, terrorism, war, plague, collapse, famine, barbarism, and a slow stabilization into a medieval society... one day, in the ruins of an American city whose name has been lost... one day, I meet a ringman having lunch under an oak. We talk a bit. His guild specializes in mining precious metals. They train ground-squirrels to dig down into our ruins, find the bones of our dead, and like a trained cormorant bringing up fish, gnaw the wedding rings off our lost fingers, and bring them up to sell.
The idea fills me with a slow horror; but to him it's just a way of life, that of his whole guild's. He knows it can't go on forever, but so what? There are millions of us down there, and only a few ringmen. Our dead won't run out in his time, or his grandchildren's.
That many of us, and that few grandchildren.
And after all, it's not his fault. It's ours.
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