Editor’s Note: This is actually an old post from my other blog. I should’ve put Tina Connolly’s Recalculating here as the reason I’m a robot-post short today is I am packing up to move back to St. Louis, but I haven’t yet come up with a proper introduction for her story. So look for Cautionary Tales Regarding Automatic Geopositioning Systems next week. Until then, pretend the reason for the windmill congregation is a sudden advancement in nano mimicking technology and something about robots that build other robots with an inexplicable desire to view the sea.
We should have listened to Don Quixote of La Mancha. For when they came, we saw only windmills as that is all we had ever seen. One, then two, then dozens cresting the hill with great flapping shirts of woven saplings. The birds would not go near, and we thought this was normal as birds never sit on windmills. Spinning arms could break the wings of a careless bird and the constant whumpssht, whumpsst of blades through too-high grasses would crack the mind of a conscientious one. No, birds like trees for sleeping, the attics of houses, or the comforting right angles of steeples.
So that the birds stayed far, far away, crossing provinces and parishes, did not bother us. The dogs too, howling in the night could be the sign of rapidly decreasing pressure systems and it often rains in summer. When a farmer said, ‘wasn’t there just the three of them the other day?’ we thought he’d been tipping the bottle a little earlier than usual.
It is a theory in some South American history circles that the Incas did not see the Spanish ships until Pizarro himself stood on the beach. Even then perhaps his armor was so much like a giant, burnished oyster shell that children passing thought to collect his feet from under him. If Pizarro had not moved irrevocably inland, perhaps the villagers would have continuously referred to the silver acacia washed up from the sea, advising young girls to press their hands to the lower branches to bring good luck in childbirth.
Many things are only dangerous when they move in unexpected ways. When a visiting Irishman noted that the windmills turned clockwise he wrote at once to his Prime Minister.
“Have you sent our windmills away? Have they fled the homeland to put down roots on barbaric shores? Have you insulted them? Has our whiskey turned sour? Why have they abandoned us?”
The minister dismissed it, assuming that the Irishman, like the farmer, like the ingenious Hidalgo, was tilting all too soon.
The windmills though, hearing this, corrected their movements but this gave them away. Even the cynics, the tourists, the international prosecutors on leave from the Hague, will notice when a great hulking structure slows down and begins to circle the other way. Each reacted differently. The tourists glanced from side to side, calculating the degree of astonishment or fear in the locals’ expressions and decided to mount their awkwardly painted bicycles and flee. Tourists, as much as we mock them, are often quite sensible in their decisions.
The farmer and the Irishmen and a few birds too old or stubborn to emigrate ordered whiskey and toasted their vindication.
The legally minded decided they had found an irresistible opportunity, though they did not yet know whether they possessed jurisdiction. It was a matter they relished investigating for years.
And the windmills, the real windmills, sensing an impossible change in their surprisingly complex pecking order, heaved a great sigh like waves lapping over a wooden bow.