I lay out the banana peel flat as a punch card.
I read the death sentence stenciled upon it.
I can decide whether to feed the banana to the reader
and let the machine carry out the inexorable command
or disobey them.
In the jungle,
villages appear and disappear overnight,
carried around on bundles on bent backs.
Communes vanish into the night.
Ancestral memories have called forth a monster
that stalks the nomad villagers.
Through-hikers disappear, their bodies discovered too late;
Even ghost hunters go missing.
Their electronics overheat, explode.
Bombs and car alarms.
Detective office in stone neoclassical plaza.
Three of us. Employed by a bank.
A chubby, bearded Doctor Challenger
With a face out of Conan Doyle
Our stalwart emotional bedrock.
A tall, bald African man, our intellect
Gifted with the supreme powers of deduction.
We’re the security for the bank’s investments
And learn the latest intel.
The boss has a cascade of black, curly hair
And a smile that says mischief.
She speaks for the villagers,
a token comrade.
Maybe her elders still roam the jungle, haunted.
She briefs us on the deep traditions of democracy
the villagers profess, their One Hundred Rules:
a codified hospitality shown even to enemies.
Pashtunwali of the jungle.
“But there is a misconception,” she says.
“There are no ghosts, no monsters,
only two sides in a criminal war
hacking devices, unlocking systems
to kill. They use legends to hide their activities.
Now you must make a choice.
We know who must die.
If you feed the banana to the computer
a hitman receives his orders.”
She gives me a round sticker
like a lump of mold, organic,
which I must
beside the victim’s profession (judge).
This will authorize the kill. This is our task.
The judge could be an inconvenience to the bank that employs us
or an obstacle to justice.
But I trust the manager implicitly; she smiles.
“Let’s toss a coin,” my coworkers say.
I can’t hack deception,
but I can read the code’s syntax:
there’s the firstname lastname of the hitman,
then the victim’s profession,
the rest of the information encoded in the organic
I can write banker, hacker, murderer instead of judge. Take a chance on that.
Would the machine notice the manipulation?
My charcoal pencil trembles
on the wet, rotting banana peel.
Matthew Rettino has written poetry for Scrivener Creative Review and The Veg literary magazine. His most recent publication was “The Goddess in Him” (NewMyths.com, 2020), a short story about a time-traveling Scythian refugee living in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood. A graduate of McGill University and the Odyssey Writing Workshop (’16), he currently works as a pedagogical councillor at Dawson College and teaches occasionally at the Thomas More Institute in Montreal.