Of course, the trickster gods have always been around. Sometimes you read stories about how they were born, but they’re just that, stories. The moment there was a world, there were gods in it whose sole purpose was to make it even more confusing. There are some who say that the world is like a safe with a combination, but the combination is locked in the safe. Well, I don’t know. All I’m sure of is that the gods aren’t helping the situation.
What’s funny is that, you know all those origin myths? The stories about how people and fire and monsters were created? It’s always the gods that did it. And, inexplicably, people think that all that has stopped, that the world has stopped being created and has reached a point of stability. Lies. The gods get bored, and then they come down again to poke at their earth, changing it just a little bit.
On March 23, 1954, the trickster gods sat together in a café not ordering coffee because they had become bored of it a long time ago. Wisakedjak built a tower out of red-backed cards, Anansi made up stories to send to the National Enquirer, and the kitsunes chattered over the mysterious little pouches they always carried with them. The waitress came over three times to ask if they were ready to order before Wisakedjak slapped his smooth hands against the table and said, “I think we should have a competition.”
Anansi waved the saltshaker at him. “First one to wreck Elvis Presley’s hair wins bragging rights for a week.”
“Boring,” said the snub-nosed kitsune. “The one who can create the worst smell in the most public place.” The fat kitsune and the one with the big ears nodded emphatically.
“Or,” said Wisakedjak. “The one to convince a human to pass the most ridiculous law.”
“Any country?” asked Anansi.
“United States only,” Wisakedjak decided. “Time limit six months.”
“Done,” replied the kitsunes in unison. “Loser spends two weeks in the form of a cricket.”
“See you in six months.”
They walked casually out of the café and went their separate ways.
Somewhere in Wyoming
Early morning sunlight warmed a small lake as the first fishermen of the day rowed out. A young Japanese man with slanted eyes and big ears stood on the dock, watching a man fighting with the thick rope that tethered his boat.
“New to fishing?” the Japanese man asked.
“Yessir,” said the Wyoming man. “That easy to tell?”
“Let me help.” He undid the knots and helped the man load his gear into the boat. “Be careful. You hear crazy things sometimes.”
The Japanese man pushed orange hair off his face and shrugged. “Like last week, someone was out here hunting fish with a shotgun. A shotgun. He could have put a hole in his boat, or in his foot, or in my boat and my foot. Some people.”
“Isn’t that illegal?” asked the man worriedly.
“If it’s not, it should be,” said the kitsune, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.
Key West, Florida
Anansi stretched his arms in the heavy sunshine and congratulated himself on choosing such a nice state. He looked around for the fattest woman he could find. Not until he wandered across a newly-opened Kentucky Fried Chicken did he find a suitable target.
“May I sit here, ma’am?” he asked, pulling out the chair at the next table over before she answered.
The jolly blonde woman nodded and wiped her greasy fingertips on a napkin.
“Good day for chicken,” Anansi said.
He tried to look thoughtful. “You know, now that I think of it, I haven’t seen a live chicken since I was a kid. Plenty of pigeons and seagulls around, but no chickens in the trees.”
“You know,” said the woman seriously, “you’re right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live chicken. Where do they keep them all?”
Anansi folded his hands on the table and leaned in conspiratorially. “Maybe they don’t keep them at all. Maybe, now that places like this have started opening up, maybe we’re running out of chickens.”
“Do you really think so?” asked the woman. She shot her meal a guilty glance.
“Yeah, maybe they’re becoming endangered, and pretty soon there won’t be anymore. You know what we need?”
The woman shook her head.
“We need to protect the chickens.”
A small town in Kentucky
The fat kitsune walked up to the lakeshore, pulled the bow off his back, nocked an arrow, and shot it straight into the lake. He managed to shoot ten more before a group of old men saw him and ran over, yelling at him and waving their arms.
“Whattaya doing? You can’t just shoot arrows into the lake! We’re fishing here!”
“So am I,” said the kitsune. “Can shoot arrows all day, if I like. Got at least ten dozen more in my quiver.” He nocked another arrow.
“Aren’t there laws against this kind of thing?” asked one of the men.
“Nope,” said the kitsune. He smiled as another arrow arced into the clear water.
Wisakedjak had to wait three months until a fire broke out in someone’s home. He could have started it himself, but it didn’t sit right with him. Besides, waiting for it to happen on its own meant he was ready to stand outside the house and wait for rubberneckers to pass by.
The first man came within three minutes and whistled low at the sight of the leaping flames. The firemen crawled all over the house, their hoses ineffectual against the dry heat.
“Have you ever stopped to think,” started Wisakedjak, “what would happen if that fire hydrant hadn’t been ready for just this situation? Stopped to think for even a moment what that poor family would be doing if there was no fire hydrant?”
“Burning, I guess. Why wouldn’t there be a fire hydrant? Ain’t going nowhere.”
“No,” Wisakedjak agreed. “But someone could take it.”
The man turned and looked him in the face. “Who would do that?”
Wisakedjak opened his mouth, closed it, and shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably I’m just crazy. I don’t want you thinking I’m crazy.”
“Look here, I’m good friends with the sheriff in this town. You got something that needs reporting, well, you better just tell me right now.”
Wisakedjak looked at him and then at the ground. “It’s just old Miller’s horse. You know, from down the street? I’ve seen that horse sniffing around this exact fire hydrant, just sniffing. It’s suspicious. Some days I think he’s just going to eat it and continue on his way. And then what? Then nice houses like this one would be burned to the ground. Imagine if all the horses around here just started eating fire hydrants, and us with nothing to do to stop it.”
“You make a good point,” said the man.
Somewhere in Tennessee
The kitsune with the snub nose was very patient. He sat at the lake every day for two months, waiting. The days grew hotter, and the teenagers in the area came out to swim in the afternoons, splashing around while the older generation sat under the trees with lemonade in their hands. Finally, someone sat by the kitsune and said, “Hope I’m not disturbing you.”
The Japanese man didn’t respond for a long time. Then, he said, “Have you heard about that shark wrangling that’s going on out west?”
“Yeah. I was out in California last year, and the kids are all on about it. Shark wrangling. They call it the manliest sport. These kids all pile in a boat and try to lasso a shark, and half the time get themselves killed doing it.”
“I never heard anything like that, but I tell you, I’m glad we’ve got no sharks in our lake.”
“Yeah,” the kitsune said, making sure the uncertainty in his voice was clear. “But. But what if they pick up the idea? And try to do it with the fish? What then?”
“Lasso a fish?”
“There are some big fish in this lake that could easily pull down a skinny boy if they were lassoed. It makes you think.”
“Sure does,” said the man, squinting.
At the end of six months, they gathered again at the café.
“I convinced Marshalltown that horses need to be forbidden from eating fire hydrants,” said Wisakedjak.
“Chickens are now a protected species in Key West, Florida,” said Anansi proudly.
The three kitsunes exchanged a glance. The snub-nosed one said, “We convinced three entire states to revise their fishing laws to prohibit firearms, bows and arrows, and lassos from being used as fishing equipment.”
Anansi shrugged and raised his hands in defeat. “The whole state? Every time? I had trouble with just the city.”
“Yeah, I concede,” said Wisakedjak. “A cricket, was it?”
“For two weeks,” said the fat kitsune with a smug smile.
“Before I forget,” said Anansi. “Who made the law in Arizona prohibiting donkeys from sleeping in bathtubs? How’d you pull that off?”
The other four exchanged looks. “Wasn’t me,” they all chorused.
“How about the one about elephants in San Francisco? No walking them down Market Street without a leash? That had to be one of us.”
Denials echoed all around. Wisakedjak dropped his head on the table. “This is gonna be just like that time we thought it would be funny to trick people into wearing zoot suits, isn’t it? Why do they actually go along with these things?”
The others shrugged uncomfortably.
“At least this time we managed to protect both chickens and fish in the mix,” offered Anansi. All three kitsunes punched him in the shoulder.
Kali sighed after Wisakedjak finished explaining their problem to her.
“You can fix it, right?” he asked her.
“Of course I can fix it,” said the destroyer of ignorance, the goddess who was like a mother to them all, always ready to clean up their messes. “But I wish you wouldn’t be giving me more work all the time. The only way I can see to restore order is to give them an information bank where they can all see how ridiculous these laws are.”
Somewhere in the United States, a government official sat up in bed and realized that what their military needed was a system of distributed computer networks to enhance communications and really gain a lead on the Russians.
“Done,” said Kali. “It might not work, but it’s all I’ve got. Try not to make it worse.”
Wisakedjak thanked her profusely and went on his way.
Forty years later, the trickster gods found themselves bored and in another café. This time they were drinking coffee, because not drinking it for forty years had made it interesting again.
“So what are we doing, huh?” asked Anansi.
“Most pointless use of the internet ever,” suggested the big-eared kitsune.
Wisakedjak drummed his fingers against his cheek and smiled. “I like that. I’m going to call mine the MMORPG.”