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art by Junior McLean

P is for Parade

b>Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places. He's won a Hugo for his short fiction (and lost Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, and Nebula Awards). He lives in Berkeley CA with his wife and son. Find him online at timpratt.org

Jenn Reese lives in Los Angeles and is currently writing a middle-grade adventure series for Candlewick Press. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons and the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, among others. Follow her adventures at jennreese.com.

Heather Shaw is a writer, editor, gardener and aikidoka living in Berkeley, California with her husband and son. She's had fiction in Strange Horizons, Polyphony, The Year's Best Fantasy, Escape Pod and other nice places. She just finished her first middle-grade novel, "Keaton T., Junior Gene Hacker" and is looking for representation. For more, visit heathershaw.org

Greg van Eekhout's fiction for adults and children includes the novels Norse Code and Kid vs. Squid and stories published in Asimov's, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and other places. He lives in San Diego, CA. For more information, visit writingandsnacks.com.

A parade is still the very best thing. Mother and Father bring all us children out, the youngest infants still umbilicaled, and stand us in front of the shops of Main Street to watch the parade go by. It begins with the riders on horses trotting and dancing and bright ribbons flying. Then come the marching bands, their great, elephantine bodies blowing stomach gas from their tuned chrome pipes. Blorf! Fwoot! Tweet! The fire engines, polished to brilliant red, trail behind in case a stray spark should ignite a cloud of bass notes.
Next come the old veterans, marching in smart precision despite their age. Their uniforms are threadbare, their boots worn, their eyebeams cooled by time to benign red wavelengths. The mayor stands in the back of a car, smiling and waving, his udder swollen with milk, which he squirts into the mouths of our poorest citizens.
Afterwards come floats and cars sponsored by all the guilds and societies of our town -- the bakers with their rolling pins and the plumbers with their wrenches, and the splitters with their wet talons. The cop-eyes roll past, and then come the ladies of the smothering houses, and the Scout troops, their mouths sewn shut to demonstrate superior moral fiber. And finally, as a treat for us patient children, a flood-puddle of congealed leavings from the vat-farms, clacking patriotic rhythms with its many partially formed mouths. We suck at it greedily with our tongueholes.
The United States of America is still the greatest archipelago on Earth, and we continue to celebrate our oldest and finest traditions. After the parade will be a picnic, and after that, we will ignite half the infants. Oh, I cannot wait for the screams of the 4th of July!
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
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