“The Sloth Girl,” a new fable by Ted Pelton

Fiction: Ted Pelton

The Sloth Girl

Sloth Girl lived at the top of a very tall tree in a great forest.

Upon Sloth Girl lived Moth and his Wife as well as Beetle and his village and Algae who was many at the same time.

Sloth Girl was hanging upside down in the top of the tree one day when Moth’s Wife said to her Hey Sloth Girl I need to go down to the forest floor and lay my eggs.

Sloth Girl went down to the ground when she had eaten her fill of leaves roughly once a month.

Sloth Girl said very slowly It is not time yet.

You want to find a partner too said Moth’s Wife.

You can’t do that up in the tree.

There are some nice sloth men down on the forest floor waiting for you I’m certain.

Sloth Girl kept chewing leaves.

When at length she had finished eating all the young leaves off one branch she moved a short distance to a new branch.

In the very top of the tree light shone in from above as well as occasional warm mists.

Hey Sloth Girl said Moth Any time now.

My Wife must lay her eggs.

You can’t stay up here forever.

Hey Beetle said Moth to his friend What does your village say?

Should we go down to the forest floor?

Please say something to convince Sloth Girl.

Beetle went to his village and they discussed the matter.

He came back to Moth.

The village says we prefer it neither one way nor the other.

It is good to be up and it is good to be down.

Moth and his wife didn’t live for as long as Sloth Girl or Beetle so it seemed like a lifetime since they had seen the ground.

Anyone can see that we have been up in the tree for far too long said Moth’s Wife.

I try to speak reason to them but Sloth Girl won’t budge said Moth.

Sloth Girl kept chewing her leaves.

Finally one day her gut about to explode she relented.

She reached downward to begin her descent.

Slowly she dug her claws into the tree bark and lowered herself down step by slow step.

Can we get a move on here? said Moth’s Wife.

Sloth Girl was going as fast as she could.

She badly wanted to get down to the ground to defecate.

Her belly and underneath was so heavy that it seemed to fall into her lungs as she made her way downward making it difficult to breathe.

At the end of a day’s descent they finally they reached the ground.

Sloth Girl began to take a long slow dump.

She felt an overwhelming sense of relief.

She knew her shit might draw over a nice man someday too.

Moth’s Wife rolled off of Sloth Girl and onto her growing pile of offal and laid her eggs.

Hey Sloth Girl said Algae.

It’s too dark down here for us.

Can’t you hurry up with that shitting and get us back up into the sunlight?

We need the sun to live.

Sloth Girl kept defecating.

She still had a lot to go.

Moth’s wife and Moth by this time were feeling very fulfilled and Algae knew they would not have an ally there so Algae went to the Beetle village and sought their support for a move back up the tree.

Beetle went to his village and again they discussed the matter and then reported to Algae.

The village says we prefer it neither one way nor the other.

It is good to be up and it is good to be down.

Sloth Girl continued to defecate.

We are dying here said Algae.

It was to some extent true.

The healthy green color that Algae gave to Sloth Girl was now starting ever so slightly to dry and brown as Sloth Girl still squatted on the shady forest floor squeezing out the remainder of her load.

The tree was happy.

The offal would slowly decompose and feed the tree through its extensive underground roots.

At last Sloth Girl had excreted everything.

She did not meet anyone to have sex with but she was young and felt she would come back some other time and it would happen.

The climb back up the tree was much easier having dumped her huge load.

At last said Algae.

Now we can live.

This story continued until all of them had passed away and into the earth.

Then it kept repeating.

Ted Pelton is the author of four fiction titles, including the novel Malcolm & Jack and the novella Bartleby, the Sportscaster. He founded and published Starcherone Books for fifteen years, 2000-2014. A National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipient, his fiction has appeared in BOMB, Brooklyn Rail, Fiction International, Rain Taxi, and numerous other mags. He lives outside Nashville and teaches at Tennessee Tech University.

Image: pri.org

Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram and YouTube.