The Porcupine Who Rode the Bus


There once was a porcupine who rode the bus. He was a bright, happy guy, and a good citizen who commuted to and from work every day just like all the other animals. He was perfectly ordinary except for one minor detail that had an unfortunate consequence.

Whenever he rode the bus, the poor fella had to sit all by himself. What with all those pointy quills and all, you can be sure, and perhaps not surprised, that none of the other animals ever wanted to sit beside him. So he sat all alone, sad and lonely.

Whenever he would try to make friends, the other animals would simply shoo him away to go sit by himself, and he did, day after day, wondering all the time whatever the matter was.

One day, during his lonely commute, the bus stopped and another porcupine climbed aboard. All the other animals gasped and cringed at the sight of him because, by then, there were only a scarce few empty seats left on the bus. And the ones that were empty bordered some rather frightened-looking animals who did not like the looks of the new arrival, not one bit.

But the two porcupines’ eyes met, and they happily sat beside each other. They enjoyed each other’s company that day and sat together every day after.

Soon, the subject came up of their unusual predicament and they wondered to each other what the matter might be. They decided it was very unfair and, egging each other on as such, soon became angry at all the other animals for not wanting to sit beside them and for sending them away.

Soon, other porcupines would ride the bus and, like the first two, a similar arrangement was forced upon them as well, and quite against their will.

So as the bus full of animals went about its travels each day, many animals sat beside many other animals (often strangers even!) but the poor porcupines always had it the same, having to pair up and sit beside one another, or not sit at all.

Finally, one day, by luck or by chance, there happened to be so many porcupines on one particular bus that one could not find a seat. He stood with the eyes of every other animal upon him. But even standing near him was too much for some. One animal said, “I don’t want any prickly, pointy, porcupine standing near me!”

But, instead of being insulted, the porcupine raised his eyebrows in surprise. He looked around the bus at everyone, especially the other porcupines. All the porcupines exchange glances in great surprise, and the standing one finally leaned toward his offender and said, (but loud enough for the whole bus to hear) “We are not porcupines.”

The other animals all looked very shocked.

And then, firmly and politely, he informed everyone, “We’re hedgehogs.”

Surprised as the other animals where, the distinction was lost on them, so the porcu… ah… hedgehog demonstrated for all the passengers to see. “Touch me. See! I’m as soft as you.” The hedgehog let the other animals touch him. As many as were willing, and the hedgehog stood patiently and allowed them to touch his soft (albeit sinister looking) fur.

After that, the other animals felt rather badly about the way they’d treated the hedgehogs. All the animals agreed that they had treated them most poorly, indeed.

But things were still not well. Even though some animals were willing to sit beside hedgehogs, for the most part, things did not change. Hedgehogs still sat beside hedgehogs and other “soft” animals still sat beside other “soft” animals and tended to avoid sitting beside hedgehogs at all.

Some made an effort to make friends and sit by the hedgehogs.

Some kept to the old ways — out of old habits that they refused to break or because they still didn’t like hedgehogs even though there was no reason at all that made any sense at all.

Hedgehogs still mostly sat together, too, mostly because they were still very-much angry and didn’t like the other animals because they had behaved so badly, and because of the stubborn few who still did. But partly because they were used to only sitting beside each other and that habit, too, was a hard one to break.

Some of the animals who had felt badly, now saw that the hedgehogs didn’t like them still, and started not liking them back all over again because of that.

Some soft-furry animals, it turns out, felt particularly bad and guilty about their behavior and hoped things would be better but, even-still, did not sit beside hedgehogs because they felt sheepish, self-conscious and didn’t know how to act around hedgehogs after all that had transpired. They did not know how to talk to a hedgehog — they knew not what to say.

For a disappointing amount of time, the hedgehogs always sat by other hedgehogs exchanging angry glances with all the other animals who did the same, though there was no good reason for any of it anymore.

One day, a skunk got on the bus.  An animal who stood, immediately exchanged worried glances with a hedgehog and then quickly sat down beside him.

And, at last, the two of them sat together, became friends… and worried about the skunk.

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The Green Birds and the Red Birds


Once, on a tiny island, lived a flock of unusual birds called the Yesno birds. They were unusual because they could change color and shape depending on their mood. If they were feeling positive and thought, “Yes,” they would become green and square. If they were feeling pessimistic and thought, “No,” they would become red and round.

For birds who had only two predominant thoughts, they had strong feelings about diversity. They were the rebellious sort, and never joiners. They simply could not stand to be around too many birds of the same shape and color.

Otherwise, they were ordinary birds and lived ordinary bird lives. They wandered about in the sunshine, pecking at the ground and pulling up worms.

Good natured as they were, they occasionally found themselves in a small group of Yesnos who had a particularly positive outlook. The good cheer would quickly spread and, before you knew it, everyone in the small gathering would be green and square, but only for a short time because, like I said, they hated to be joiners and, once seeing that everyone was alike, a few of them would become surly over it, and turn red again. Yesno culture guaranteed that at no time would too many birds ever be red or green, round or square at the same time.

But one day the weather became rather awful and it began to rain. Because of the dreariness of it all, one bird began to think, “No!,” and so did a few others. And, as the rain came down, one bird and then another and another thought, “No, no, no!” They each turned round and red.

The remaining, green birds, looked around at the dreary awfulness of the weather and at the other red birds, and turned quite red themselves. The entire gang of them became soggy, red and round. There was nothing to do. They did not like all being the same shape and color — not one bit. But that only brought more negative thoughts and there was no way for any of them to turn square. No way to be green. They just stood there, the horrible lot of them, sulking.

Elsewhere on the island, other birds, who had not been so ill effected by the inclement weather, still went about their business. But, when any of them came upon the red group, so horrid was the sight of all those red, soggy, sulking round birds, they immediately turned red as well.

Soon, the group grew so large it could be seen from afar. After that, like a magnet, it sucked in green birds from around the island, turned them red, and turned them round. By the end of the day, every single Yesno bird on the island had gone red.

And there they stood. All of them. Red and round. And there was nothing to do but stand there and sulk in spite of themselves. All of them thinking, “No!”

After the sun came out, they were still so unhappy to all be the same, that they all thought, “No” and remained red and round.

The Yesno birds soon came to be known merely as the “No” birds.

————-

And then something happened!

One day, a young No bird became so very tired of sulking, of being red and round. And, from his heart he summoned something. The young one began to imagine and daydream. He thought of a time when all birds might not be red and round anymore. He daydreamed of a time when things could be different. He daydreamed of green birds and red birds coexisting again, popping back and forth… the excitement of one minute being red and the next minute being green. The daydream excited him so much that the little bird began to have…

hope…

and then he smiled.

Suddenly, in an explosion, like the first kernel of popcorn to pop in a pot upon a stove, that very bird changed green and square within a sea of round red birds!

For an instant, he was the only green and square bird on the island. He was proud and full of hope!

But then, the bird beside him was so surprised and happy to see him that it turned green and square as well! And then the next bird, and the next bird and the next. In a matter of moments, every bird on the island was so excited to see green birds that they all turned green themselves.

Of course, being the rebellious sort that they were, before long, a few of them no longer enjoyed being among birds that were all green, and a few of them turned red.

And, just like that, the Yesno birds went back to normal. They went back to their ordinary lives again of sometimes being green and sometimes being red.

But, from that day forward, something was just a little bit different than it ever was before. From then on, it seemed like, mostly, mostly… the birds were usually green.

And, sometimes, just for a moment… if you watched very carefully, occasionally, sometimes, absolutely every single one of them would be green.

The Aardvark and the Rhinoceros


An aardvark and a rhinoceros happened upon each other one day in a place where the dry and sparse wilderness bumped up against a green and lush acre of tall grass that was spotted everywhere with strange mounds of dirt.

They took each other by surprise and were both horribly frightened by the very appearance of one another.

The aardvark was frightened because the rhinoceros was quite large and had a sword-like protrusion for a nose which looked rather dangerous and menacing.

The rhinoceros was frightened because he had never seen an aardvark before and was rather stricken by its appearance. After all, the aardvark hobbled around down low, was nearly bare of hair and was shockingly wrinkly while he was at that. The aardvark had a great whip of a tail that was nearly as long as the rest of him and the other end was equally grotesque. He had a great cone-shaped head that ended in a nose that… well… it simply kept going and had no end at all. And when he talked a long shiny tongue came out of the end of all of that, and just gave the rhino the willies.

The aardvark hid behind one of the dirt mounds and peered at the rhino from around the side.

The rhino kept his distance and yelled to the aardvark, “What are you, old boy?” (The rhino assumed aardvark was old, what with the wrinkly skin and all.)

“I’m an aardvark, don’t ya know?” he yelled out, “Do you mean me any harm with that great sword of yours?”

The rhino laughed and felt a little at ease but came no closer, “Certainly not; I don’t mean you any harm at all!”

So, the aardvark came out from behind the mound and they stood face-to-face, but at a distance of many yards.

“This doesn’t make for a very good sword anyway,” said the rhino, “besides … I mean … it’s good for show. It scares the other animals away, but it’s just made of…” The rhino had been mid-complaint but now looked sheepish, “…hair. It’s made of hair.” The rhino blushed. “Mostly, it’s just used for dating.”

“Wow!” exclaimed the aardvark. “I imagine that thing is quite effective at attracting the girls.” and then hung his head, “Mine is no good for dating at all.”

“No, I don’t imagine it would be,” agreed the rhino.

“But it does make one heck of a weapon!” the aardvark perked up as he refound his self esteem.

“Does it now?” The rhino was suspicious.

“Yes! I devour termites by the millions with it!”

“Is that so?” Now the rhino was impressed beyond concealment.

“That’s right!” Having impressed a mighty rhino, the aardvark pressed his case, “In fact, I can clean out one of these termite mountains in a matter of minutes!”

“Oh, is that what you use it for?” mused the rhino, “I don’t like termites. Can’t stand ‘em. I don’t like ‘em one bit.”

The aardvark was perplexed, “What do you have against termites? And, by the way, why are you standing way over there?”

The rhino hung his head and explained, “The grass grows full and green over there beside those termite hills. But anytime I go near there, they go up my legs, crawl all over me and give me the willies.” The rhino let out a great sigh and shook his head. “Have you ever had the willies?” (The aardvark scoffed that he had absolutely, most certainly, never ever had the willies in his life!) “You don’t want the willies!” the rhino concluded and closed his eyes.

“Perhaps we can work something out!” piped the aardvark. “Most animals of the wilderness are not much good for an aardvark at all. And you don’t know my business, but once I shove my funny-shaped gourd into one of those termite mounds, I’m quite exposed and vulnerable to anything with teeth that might come around. Why don’t you stand guard with your big sword-face while I clear out the termites, and then you can have at it at the grass?”

And just like that, a friendship was made.

The aardvark poked his noggen into the nearest termite mound, and in a matter of moments, had cleared the area of all the little pests. Then, the rhino went to work on all the green and lush grasses.

After that, the aardvark and the rhinoceros put their noses to work for each other.

The aardvark never had to worry about being snuck up on by things that had big teeth while he had his head stuck in a hole.

And the rhinoceros never again had to worry about the willies.

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The Possum and the Bullfrog


In a land that was south enough to be hot and west enough to be dry, a single river ran between wide muddy beaches. Among the twists and turns of the river, the land was mostly barren. Only small trees and dry grasses ever grew there. And, in this land, a sparse community struggled to survive.

Everyone in the community was employed by a single bullfrog who was so large and ferocious, with his great gaping maw, that everyone was afraid of him. And he owned the river and all its muddy banks.

At first the animals of the community prospered. They were paid well for their work of collecting things for the great frog, especially branches and cones from the piñon pines that grew in the area. From these, the frog had workers strip the piñon nuts and place them in a pile which the frog guarded jealously. From this pile he would pay his workers a reasonable sum of piñon nuts, and these served as the currency of the community. The animals would take these piñon nuts and purchase, from the frog, supplies for their lives, such as mud bricks to build their homes, water and food, which was plentiful alongside the river which the bullfrog owned.

The animals worked hard and earned a fair amount of piñon. They gladly traded piñon for items to improve their lives. They built-up their community, built homes and raised healthy families with the piñon they earned. All was well. The community prospered and thrived.

But the bullfrog was not happy. He had in his employ a possum who followed orders well but also annoyed the frog with a great many questions all the time. But mostly the possum was tasked with delivering whatever bad news was ever needed to be told to the animals of the community.

One day the frog came to the possum and said, “I think we’re paying everyone too much for their work. I want you to start paying them less, and once they get used to that, pay them less again.”

The possum thought he had a problem with that, but did as he was told. And when the workers came to receive their pay of piñon that week, they received less. The workers grumbled and groaned, but not too much, as they needed their jobs and needed piñon to purchase goods from the frog which they needed to live their lives and provide for their families.

After that, the frog’s pile of piñon began to grow a little. The frog loved his pile very much. He kept it resting upon the muddy beach, and always stood nearby to keep close watch over it. Always.

One day the bullfrog came to the possum and said, “I don’t think the animals are paying enough for their mud bricks, their food and their water. I want you to charge them more. And, when they get used to that, charge them more again.”

The possum was perplexed. “But your people already pay plenty piñon for your products. How could you?” he pleaded with the frog.

But the possum did as he was told. And the next time the animals came to purchase mud bricks to build their homes, or to purchase water or food, they were charged more. The animals grumbled and groaned, but it did no good as the animals had nowhere else to purchase things.

And the frog’s pile of piñon grew. The frog often gazed at his pile. It made him feel grand, and he admired himself for having it.

When the pile reached his chin and would grow no higher, the frog went to the possum and said, “We are still paying our workers too much piñon. I  want you to give them less, and when they get used to that, give them less again.”

The possum was perturbed. “But you already pay your people a pittance in piñon! They’re paid disproportionately to the profits produced by their labor.”

The frog didn’t care, and the possum followed orders as he wanted to impress the frog in hopes of procuring a promotion in the future. And when the animals came to receive their pay, they received less. The animals grumbled and groaned but only as much as would allow them to still keep their jobs because there were no others to be found.

And the frog’s pile of piñon grew and grew. It grew to the top of his head and then grew some more. The frog’s pile of piñon was now much larger than himself, and he could not quite see around it. The great frog was awestruck with his pile and quite pleased with himself.

Once then, a little bat from the desert flew high overhead, high enough to remain out of sight, and taunted the frog about his pile. “You’re a greedy old frog and you do us no good at all!”

The frog yelled at the sky, shook his fist and shouted his argument that, since piñon was the currency of the community, and since he was the provider of piñon, that he was, in fact, the source of any good that ever came to anyone.

But the frog was also very angry at the bat and insulted at the accusation, so he decided to take it out on all the animals of the community.

The frog called the possum up beside the pile. “The animals are receiving too much in return for their piñon when they purchase products. I want you to provide less for the price of their purchase.”

This provoked the possum to pugnaciousness. “You petty, pinchpenny polliwog! Your people already pay a premium for sub-par products; now you want them to purchase paltry provisions?”

The bullfrog grew very angry at this petulance and opened his great maw to take a bite of the possum, but the possum was repentant. The possum suddenly remembered that he had aspirations and goals of his own — that he pursued a promotion and a pile of piñon of his own, and promptly apologized.

And when the next time came that the animals purchased, they received less than they did before.

And the great frog’s pile of piñon began to grow again, but only for a little while before it stopped growing and began shrink a little.

The great frog panicked and called the possum before him, “Why?” cried the frog, “Why is my pile no longer growing, but going down instead?”

The possum had previously prepared for this probe and was primed to pronounce a prognosis. “You see, great frog, the people no longer possess enough piñon to purchase your products. They’re poor and oppressed. They have no more piñon to put on your pile.”

The fiendish frog dismissed the possum from his company and paced around his pile. The pile was, indeed, considerably taller than he, where it rested on the muddy river bank, but he knew it would grow no more.

Then the frog had an idea, and called the possum up beside the pile to proclaim his plan, “Mr. Possum, we will lend people piñon from the pile.”

The possum was perplexed, and puzz… but… also, immediately suspicious and worried. He decided to be careful and ask some questions on behalf of the animal community for fear of the ramifications and unexpected harm that might befall upon any animal who might agree to this new lending system. “Mr. Frog,” this middle-management marsupial managed, “If I may ask, what happens after animals borrow piñon from you?”

“Why, they pay it back with interest, of course!” laughed the frog. “For every 10 pieces of piñon an animal borrows, they must pay back twelve!” The frog laughed and laughed.

The obedient possum, with a mind full of his own ambitions, could think of nothing other than to implement the frog’s plan.

And the animals borrowed. Each of them borrowed a great deal from the frog so they could purchase mud bricks to make their homes and so they could buy food and water to live. For a while they lived a little better than they had been, but it soon became time to pay their loans back to the frog. They didn’t have the money to pay it back, so the bullfrog subtracted it from their pay.

And the bullfrog’s pile of piñon grew and grew. The giant pile of piñon, which stood upon the muddy, muddy river bank grew so large that the frog could not see its top.

But now the animals of the community were not only poor, but were also frighteningly in debt to the frog. And the frog’s pile of piñon was so large and tall that it could be seen, so obviously, from anywhere in the community.

Eventually, the animals of the community became so angry that they decided to organize and march against… who else, but the possum who was always the bearer of bad news.

So the animals gathered together, locked arms and marched toward the river. When they reached the possum, the possum played dead so there was no messenger to march against, but still they marched.

Arms-locked, desperate and angry, the animals marched up and down the river banks. They were so angry, and their numbers so large, that their marching feet shook the land like an earthquake.

The great bullfrog watched on in horror as his messenger, the possum, lay seemingly dead, and the earth shook and shook with the angry feet of all the animals.

The bullfrog ran to his pile of piñon to watch over it. But as the ground shook, the pile began to sink into the river bank’s soft mud. And as the animals marched, and the ground shook, his great pile of piñon began to sink down, down, into the mud.

Desperate, the frog leapt upon his pile and wrapped his arms around it. And as the marchers came, and as the ground shook ever more, the pile of piñon sunk down, down, down, into the muddy ground.

“Nooooooo!” Yelled the frog, but it was no use. And the frog sunk down into the mud along with his pile of piñon, until both were buried beneath the mud, never to be seen again.

The Gull and the Bear


There was once a gull and a bear who fished in the ocean where the tide washed upon a beach. The gull fished for little fish and the bear fished for big fish.

The bear was very large and powerful but was no match for the natural ups and downs of the ocean as it swelled and ebbed from one moment to the next, and always had much difficulty whenever he was in the ocean.

The bear always walked out into the ocean as far as he could manage with his feet still touching the sand beneath the powerful tide. He kept a close eye out always, and when a big fish would swim by, he would duck his head beneath the surface and snatch it from where it swam with his powerful jaws and teeth.

The gull floated upon the waves, and kept a close eye out always, and when a little fish would swim by, he would duck his head beneath the surface and snatch it from where it swam with his sharp little beak.

The great bear had an awful time of it, always. Every time a new swell came, it would wash over the bear and cover him up until his head poked up on the other side, where he choked and coughed on the ocean water until he regained his footing with his clawed feet again on the sandy ocean floor, and just generally had a very hard time of it all.

Meanwhile, the gull always fished in relative peace.

After many days of watching the bear nearly drown every time a new swell raised the waters around him, the gull decided to try to advise the bear.

“Mr. Bear,” said the gull, “why do you have so much trouble in the ocean?”

“Can’t you see, these swells are too much for even an animal as great and powerful as I,” said the saddened and tired bear. “Each swell nearly kills me every time. Each one rips my claws from the sand! It washes over me with a force that is just too great for any strength I can ever summon, and almost does me in every time. I simply cannot overcome it every time!”

“Lift your feet,” said the gull.

“Whatever do you mean?” asked the bear. “Without my grasp on the ground beneath the waves, I will surely die!”

“But the waves lift your feet anyway,” the gull pointed out. “Look at me.”

The bear stood upon the beach and watched the gull during several swells. He observed that the gull sat upon the ocean with his feet tucked up beneath him and, whenever another swell came, the gull would rise and fall with each wave, effortlessly, and without fear or threat from the ever-changing ocean.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” worried the bear, “I simply must try to keep my claws embedded in the sand where it is still and stable.”

“The sand may stay still,” said the gull, “if you can still reach it after all the ocean has to say. Try as you might, but the ocean will have its way with you.”

And the bear tried again. But each time the bear had his head above the water and thought everything would be OK, another swell came and washed over the bear, covered him up for a while and left him coughing and struggling for breath when he eventually came out on the other side.”

“See?” teased the gull, as he delicately rose and fell on the surface of the waves as each swell came, lifted him, and then passed him by.

So, the bear tried. The great bear let go his hold on the sand, lifted his feet up beneath him, and he floated upon the surface of the water. When the next swell came, instead of washing over the bear, he rose up, bobbed up upon the wave and was safe.

When the next swell came, he rose up upon it, and then sunk down again to the peaceful side behind it with hardly a worry, and for a while, fished in peace as he was not tired, and struggled not.

And, from then on, the great and powerful bear and the tiny but very-wise gull fished beside each other in peace, and rose and fell upon the surface of the ocean without worry.

The Tree and the Giraffe


An African tree once watched over all the animals who ate from its branches. The tree was happy and never became angry at the animals because so many of its branches reached far above the ground, far out of reach of most animals, and it had many, many leaves to spare. It was a very generous and sharing tree.

Among the animals who ate from the tree were the little giraffes. Oh, yes, they were only little giraffes, for this was a long, long, long time ago, before giraffes ever had long necks. Back then, the giraffes were short, much like the other animals, such as zebras and gazelles.

One day, there was one particular giraffe who was just a little bit taller — whose neck was just a little longer than all the other giraffes — and he, not wanting to appear strange or out of place, kept his head down low, and ate with all of the other giraffes. Food was scarce on the African plain, and keeping one’s head down had its drawbacks.

One day, while eating with the other giraffes, a leaf-filled branch just above his head whispered in his ear. “Psst. Hey, look up here! All you have to do is reach up just a little higher and you can eat all these fresh leaves that all the other animals cannot reach!”

The giraffe did, and he ate heartily from the branches just above the heads of all the other, slightly-shorter giraffes, but wondered, as he ate, what the others might think of him, and worried that he might lose his friends.

The next day, while eating from the tree, he heard the tree speak again, “Psst. Hey, look up here. All you have to do is reach up just a little higher and you can eat all these fresh leaves all the other animals cannot reach.” But this time the tree wasn’t speaking to him. The voice had came from the other side of the tree.

He looked across and saw another giraffe’s head rise up and begin eat from the higher leaves just like he did. It was a lady giraffe, and the male giraffe smiled sheepishly at her from the other side of the tree. She returned his smile.

The next day, when the two giraffes went over to eat from the tree, they recognized each other and decided to eat near each other and have a chat. Being just a little bit taller than all the others, they found they were able to eat and chat together, undisturbed, and got to know each other quite well. After a time, a little romance sparked between them. And being able to find food much more easily than the others meant having some spare time on their hands. And, in that spare time, they snuck off behind some rocks to kindle their romance. And, behind those rocks, they did things. Naughty things, some would consider. They did things they might have been embarrassed of if the other giraffes saw.

And, not long after that, babies were born of those two giraffes who had sparked their romance with their heads stuck up in the tree slightly higher than all the others.

And, because those little giraffes were born of parents who were both just a little bit taller than the rest, the babies seemed to be just a little bit extra tall. They looked, in fact, like they just might grow up to have even longer necks — to be even taller than their parents!

But they weren’t alone.

Truth be told, that day way back when, other trees had been busy speaking to other giraffes who were also just a little bit taller than all the rest.

Giraffe and Tree assembly

And those giraffes, too, it turns out, had sparked romances with other tallish giraffes who had their heads stuck up in the leaves and who also had much spare time on their hands. And those giraffes had snuck off behind some rocks to do naughty things. Naughty, naughty things. Things that made funny noises and scared the birds away.

After a time, there were quite a few offspring of those giraffes who were a just little bit taller than all the rest. And this new generation of giraffes ate among the higher leaves and met each other in the exact same way as those who came before. And, while the shorter giraffes struggled and foraged with much effort among the lower branches with all the other short animals, and had no time left for romance at all, these taller giraffes enjoyed the spare time and luxury of romance that came with.

Soon, the many couples made up of these taller giraffes made off to kindle their various romances. Some hid behind rocks, and some did it quite out in the open. (Oh, my!) And scandal rang through the African plain. The shorter giraffes were weary of it all and pretended not to see the naughty, naughty things the taller giraffes did to one another. But there was much naughtiness, indeed.

Before long, young giraffes were born to these gangs of taller-than-usual giraffes who ate from the higher leaves and, because all these young giraffes were born from parents who were uncommonly tall, then they, in fact, grew to become taller than all the rest. And these even-taller giraffes found that they were able to eat from even higher branches, still.

Undisturbed and unencumbered by the worries beset by the smaller animals or even shorter giraffes (who were now becoming in short supply), they found that they had very easy lives, eating from higher leaves than anyone else and, as a consequence, also had much spare time on their hands. Romances grew all around, and those giraffes, once having their fill of leaves, set off to kindle and consummate their relationships.

But now, there were not nearly enough rocks to hide behind and, by then, there was not much shame to be found. The giraffes did their bit all over town. What a scene it was, giraffes grappling like wrestlers — these funny-shaped animals struggling to get a hold, and they worked to do the things their animal minds told them to do…  all hooves and necks, kicking up dust. Many animals of the African plain simply couldn’t bear to watch. Others couldn’t bear not to.

And, in the Spring, there were more giraffes. Many more. And, though they were young, they had exceptionally long necks — longer than any giraffe had seen yet, because, as before, their parents, both, were uncommonly tall, and possessed very long necks themselves.

And, after that, the tall-giraffe dating scene became a thing of legend. The tallest giraffes were able to find food quite easily, and had an abundance of time. Many met and fell in love, and the African plain became awash with romance, and all the naughtiness that came with it. And all the time, when they were done eating from the tall trees who never complained but merely smiled down upon them, all the giraffes ran from the trees, and everyone knew what was to come next. All the other animals turned their heads. And the mamma and pappa animals of all sorts covered the eyes of their young ones. There were animal noises and clouds of dust, and much grappling and grunting (with occasional breaks down by the water hole to rehydrate). It was a big mess of… ah… romance, in all different places, and as much and as often as the tall giraffes could manage. And the sights and sounds of giraffe love making echoed through the African plain.

And it all went on and on. For eons, as the generations of trees rolled by — as they grew from seeds into seedlings, and those seedlings grew into adult trees, became ancient and died, each of them watched and encouraged many generations of giraffes to go about their way of eating leaves just a little bit higher, meeting their mates and running off to be naughty. And when the trees that grew the very oldest had grandchildren and great grandchildren who did the same, the giraffes finally became the long-necked, beautiful, animals we see today.

God didn’t give giraffes their long necks, you idiot; this is how evolution works!

The Ground Squirrel and the Crow


There was once a Ground Squirrel and a Crow who lived in a long-forgotten sunflower plot in a remote corner of an abandoned old farm. The sunflowers were no longer tended to by humans but grew, year after year, seemingly on their own.

One day, the crow watched as the ground squirrel gathered sunflower seeds from where they lay upon the ground, snacking on half and saving the rest. The crow decided to hop up beside the squirrel to discuss the issue, “Say there, Mr. Squirrel, might I have a word with you?” and then he spoke again before the squirrel had even acquiesced to having his lunch interrupted, “I see that you only eat half the sunflower seeds you collect and save the rest in those-there pouches you have in your cheeks. Would you care to explain yourself?”

“No, I would not.” The squirrel curtly replied, “What business is it of yours?”

“Well, as you know, hard times are upon us.” The crow bobbed his head up and down and began to slowly pace back and forth with his wingtips crossed behind him, “Food is scarce these days and one has a right to know what’s happening to the food you’re taking if you’re not eating everything you find as us crows do.” He gestured behind him with his beak at the murder of crows who always seemed to be within a few hops of their leader.

“Us ground squirrels,” the squirrel said, simultaneously pointing with a stubby arm and a stubby tail at the gathering of squirrels foraging nearby, “have been here collecting and managing sunflower seeds just fine on our own long before before you greedy crows moved into the neighborhood and started gobbling up everything you can.”

“Well, we’re here now.” managed the crow, “Neighborhoods are bound to grow. I’m just concerned about our resources, you see. That’s all.”

“Pardon me,” the ground squirrel feigned politeness, “but when, exactly, did you become concerned about our resources, as you say?”

“When I noticed that you ground squirrels have more than you need to survive. That’s absolutely clear by the way you only eat part of what you harvest and put away the rest. I’m, frankly, quite concerned about your greed.” The crow spread his wings.

The ground squirrel was aghast, “But we collect the same number of seeds you crows do! Only you eat all of yours and we save some of ours.”

“Yes, but since we also depend on this plot, I think we have every right to know where those seeds are going. We need to manage all these seeds in a way that’s beneficial to all of us.”

“In that case, you should be saving half of your seeds as well!” And, with that, a great cheer erupted from the gathering of ground squirrels who stood behind their leader.

“Heavens, no! Why would we do such a ridiculous thing?” laughed the crow, “Not only are we absolutely, positively, not ever going to even dignify such nonsense, but what I think is required is an immediate and thorough investigation into your methods and motivations if you’re going to continue to partake in such deviousness… such foolishness!”

The ground squirrel was indignant. “Really? Well, if you must know, managing our resources is precisely what I’m doing. You see, we save half these seeds for the benefit of the community — for all who occupy the sunflower patch. The seeds we collect are used to raise sunflowers for the next season. Without them, these sunflowers won’t grow next year. How do you think these sunflowers keep coming back year after year, anyway? It’s because we plant them… with the seeds that we save.”

I see, said the crow, “I think it is wrong. It is very, very wrong of you. These seeds are here, as food, to be eaten.” The crow pointed his beak skyward and puffed out his great feathery black breast in pride. “Mind you, these seeds were put here for us to eat.”

“Put here? Put here by whom?” Mr. Squirrel was incredulous.

“Nevermind that now,” waved a dismissive crow with one open wing and quickly said, “I think we ought to rethink what you’re doing with your seeds.”

“And by what logic do you get to decide what we do with the seeds we’re saving?” inquired the ground squirrel.

The crow thought and thought, and then dismissed himself from the conversation, “One moment, please.” He went and conferred with all the other crows for quite some time. When he came back, the crow recited (and sounding rehearsed), “You said those seeds are intended for the good of us all, did you not?”

The squirrel agreed.

“And the outcome of what happens to those seeds affects us all — wouldn’t you say?” The crow tilted his head.

Again, the squirrel reluctantly agreed.

“Well, if you’re saving some seeds, and those seeds are intended to benefit all of us, and since we crows make up half the population of this sunflower plot, then it stands to reason that we crows have every right to decide what to do with our share of those saved seeds.”

The squirrel suddenly felt very worried about his place as a leader. Despite his previous wit and confidence, he could now think of no new persuasion on his own to dispute this cleverly-prepared argument, and he stumbled in his reply, “You don’t get to… these sunflowers aren’t… don’t forget they won’t be here forever… you know.”

The ground squirrels who were foraging nearby had overheard all of this and now gathered behind him to egg him on. “Tell the crows they need to save half their seeds! Tell them…”

“Hush! I’ve got this!” insisted their leader. And the gathering grew quiet, save for a low rumble of complaint. “Well, what do you suggest?” asked the lead squirrel of the crow, hoping to sound reasonable.

“Well, Mr. Squirrel, I think it’s simply obvious that we should divide up all the saved seeds and let everyone decide for themselves what to do with them.”

“Well, I suppose that sounds reasonable.” admitted the squirrel, wanting to meet him halfway. “And, what would you do with your share?”

“Well, that would be our business!” The crow spread his wings and turned to face the other crows, proudly proclaiming, “They are our seeds, after all!”

The gathering of ground squirrels, behind their leader, could no longer remain silent and raised a ruckus. They pleaded with the head squirrel to make a better deal.

“Hush! I’ve got this!” insisted the lead squirrel.Sunflowers with background

“Is there a problem?” inquired the crow. “Are you not the leader of the ground squirrels?”

“There’s no problem,” insisted the squirrel, feeling confident in the deal he was about to make, and then, after a moment of consideration of how he might appear to the others, demanded, absolutely demanded, resolutely demanded, one more condition be met as a demonstration of his authority and ability as a leader and negotiator, “If we give you half the seeds we collect, you must, then, leave us alone to do with our remaining half whatever we choose!”

“Indeed we will,” promised a satisfied crow.

And the deal was made.

So, the ground squirrels gave the crows half the seeds they had saved and the crows promptly ate them all.

And, from then on, the crows ate all the seeds they found, and the ground squirrels ate half the seeds they found and saved the rest. And half of what the ground squirrels saved, they gave to the crows who immediately ate all of those as well.

At the end of that year, the ground squirrels planted the seeds they had saved, which were only half of what they once planted because the crows received the other half and had eaten all of those.

The following year, only half as many sunflowers grew in that long-forgotten sunflower plot in a remote corner of an abandoned old farm that was no longer tended by humans.

The ground squirrel was worried about the harvest of seeds and approached the crow to renegotiate their deal. “Mister Crow, can you see, now, why we have to save so many seeds? Can we, please, renegotiate our agreement and plant more seeds next year instead?”

“Whatever do you mean?” said the crow. “The crows are doing very well. They are happy, strong and well nourished from all the seeds they consumed last year. Surely, you don’t mean to take that away from them? We simply won’t tolerate it!”

And that year it was the same, with the crows eating all they found, and the squirrels eating half what they found and saving the rest, and then giving half of that to the crows who immediately ate all of it.

The following year, only half as many sunflowers grew as the previous year, and only a quarter as much as the year before that, and there was only a quarter as many sunflower seeds to gather and eat as when it all began.

The crows gobbled up what they found, and the ground squirrels, staying true to their way, always ate half what they found and saved the rest, but still giving half of that to the hungry crows who quickly gobbled all of them down.

The ground squirrels began to starve. Many grew skinny, unhealthy or ill.

The lead ground squirrel, again, went to the lead crow, “Mr. Crow, do you not see what our arrangement has done to the community? And what it will do to our future? Can we, please, please, renegotiate our deal?”

“Times are, indeed, hard,” admitted the crow, “and, us crows get a bit hungry as well. As hungry as we are, surely, you don’t expect us to renegotiate our deal with you, as hungry as we are?”

And that year, again, half as many seeds were planted as the previous year and, again, half as many sunflowers grew.

The next year, so few sunflowers grew that there was not enough seeds to eat for anyone. The ground squirrels perished and the crows flew away to find another sunflower plot.

When one side is completely wrong, you compromise at your peril.

The Tortoise and the Mole


There was once a tortoise and a mole who lived in a strawberry patch in the middle of a great garden. One day, while cleaning up a mess the elephants left behind, the two began to argue.

“We simply must do something about these elephants continually coming into our garden and stomping everything to bits.” said the mole, “We should really consider just getting rid of these pesky elephants altogether.”

“I think we ought to get some elephants of our own to guard our strawberry patch.” the tortoise considered.

The mole was skeptical. “But then what’s to prevent our own elephants from accidentally ruining our patch or even stepping on the two of us?” inquired the mole sarcastically and unquestionably rhetorically, “You know your shell can’t withstand an elephant stomp, and neither can my tunnels. Wouldn’t it just be better to have no elephants at all?”

“Oh, don’t be such a wimp!” the tortoise quipped as he became angry, confidently bullying the mole from the confines of his tough keratin shell, “What we need is an army of elephants who answer to us!”

“What we need,” stubbornly insisted the mole, “is no more elephants at all! We just don’t need them. There’s no purpose for them. There should be none whatsoever. What we need is to not have any elephants. They should be gone forever!”TM-BG-assembly_2

Now at an impasse, and making no progress at all, the tortoise and the mole paced up and down, making the same arguments over and over. They strode farther and faster in hopes of making their point better despite having no new words. Before they knew it, they were striding through the garden, shouting and waving their arms, occasionally stopping to gesture and point for emphasis. They rehashed old rants at various places throughout the garden in spite of each other, not caring one bit that the other had already heard it. Each thought that somehow, if stated whilst standing on a different hill or corner, it would re-energize an already thread-worn argument.
Along their walk they passed a pond where some ducks and muskrats carried on their regular business of dunking their heads and dragging sticks around. The ducks and the muskrats, seeing that something was very much afoot, promptly asked the tortoise and the mole what the matter was. The mole was happy to oblige. He reminded them of the recent difficulties with elephants and declared that everyone must, quickly and without haste, rid the garden entirely of all elephants, for elephants were so very powerful and only capable of doing harm.
The fed-up tortoise quickly countered that everyone in the garden, once and for all, must assemble an army of elephants to guard against the unruly sort of elephants that always seemed to be around causing trouble.

Well, the ducks took the mole’s side and the muskrats took the tortoise’s side, and they began to argue as well. And they continued to argue long after the tortoise and the mole were gone.

The tortoise and the mole passed a field of deer and pheasants who were gently grazing and picking at the ground as deer and pheasants are wont to do. But after hearing each of the two sides of this traveling debate, they then stopped their activities altogether and began shouting at one another, leaving their digging and picking for some later date.

And, as they went, the tortoise and the mole spread their argument to whoever would listen, and some who were merely within earshot. Every animal took a side. And each time the tortoise and the mole walked on, they would leave behind more and more animals arguing about elephants.

And, just like that, they left a ruckus everywhere they went. Where ever they tread, they left a mess behind.

And on and on they went, past the blueberry patch where the monkeys and the squirrels hung out, and who soon had a quarrel.

They went past the sunflower plot with the mice and the crows, leaving them to bicker and grouse.

They went past the ditch with the racoons and the flies who had existed peacefully for eons before but could simply stand each other no more.

And down the trail they went, setting neighbor against neighbor. Some animals stopped being friends. Some stopped carrying on business together. Some even picked up and moved to different parts of the garden.

Finally, a skunk stepped out onto the trail, blocking the way and holding up his big stinky tail as a warning. The skunk huffed, crossed his arms in front of him and his face turned pink with anger. “I am disgusted with the two of you!” shouted the skunk as loud as his voice would go. It carried over the sound of the wind and running brooks. He could be heard from every corner of the garden and a hush finally descended over the arguing animals everywhere. “Can’t you two see yourselves? You see everything in black and white! Even I know it isn’t right. Look at the chaos you make. Look at the mess you leave in your wake. You two are a fright. You’re only doing us harm. I’m telling you now, I’m telling you, you two, you, you… you stink!”

The skunk held them there with his threatening tail until they agreed to bring their debate before the wise old owl who lived in a giant oak tree in the middle of the garden.

So they went to the owl.

The owl, though he lived quite high up in the tree with a commanding view of the whole garden, was still a quite humble creature and not one to feel right talking down to all those around, so he flew down to the ground and invited animals from all around to join in.

And the animals came. From all corners of the great garden, the animals showed up for this important, yet impromptu, meeting: There came big hairy animals such as buffalo and bears, and the four-legged skittish things with horns of all sizes and twists. There came the moody, temperamental, sorts such as wolves and tigers and other things with teeth and claws. And, of course, there were the regulars — like a million different kinds of insects and birds of every shape and color (and who everyone thought made a quantity of noise far out of proportion to their size). There were tiny little fuzzy things who scurried about and whose names nobody knew. And there were reptiles and other things without hair, such as the fish who nobody asked how they got there.

The owl stood on the ground among all the other animals and spoke. “Indeed, the elephants are a great problem. Each of them much more powerful than any one of us” the owl mused, “but, look around you. We do not live each on our own. Do you not see our diverse community?”

The tortoise and the mole each agreed with the owl and so did many other animals who nodded in agreement and murmured amongst themselves.

“Are we in this together?” asked the owl.

Wholeheartedly, the animals agreed. Despite their newfound differences, each felt they were part of a community and, agree or not, for that community, they felt strong responsibility.

“Mr. Hawk,” the owl drew attention to a majestic hawk perched on a fencepost at the edge of the group (All the animals were quite familiar with the hawk as he flew overhead all day where everyone could see), “what is your greatest strength?”

“Well, I’m only a bird after all,” said the hawk, “and birds aren’t known for their strength — especially against elephants!” The hawk drew a laugh from the crowd. “But I see quite well. In fact, from a mile in the air, I can see a field mouse scratch his nose.” He fixed his gaze on one particular field mouse who looked sheepish and the tiny little fuzzy things who scurried about were decidedly less comfortable to be there.

“Exactly,” pondered the owl. “And, Mr. Fox, tell us of a particular skill of yours.”

“Well, I have many skills.” The fox snickered. He looked from side to side, then snickered again. “But I will tell of one. My ears are so good, I can hear a field mouse scratch his nose from beneath two feet of snow and a foot of dirt.” And the small fuzzy things who scurried about considered going home but stayed just the same.

“Exactly,” pondered the owl again, and then spoke to the crowd at large, “Do not all of you each possess unique skills, attributes and qualities of your own?” asked the owl.

Some animals nodded. Others shrugged. The tortoise and the mole agreed with the owl, each having the ability to retreat into a shell and to see in complete darkness, respectively, and knew that what the owl was saying was true.

“If you were free to be what you choose to be, to help the community, what would you do? What would you be?” the owl posed his riddle for the gathering to consider. And, just then, the owl’s soliloquy turned into a community meeting. The owl proposed to the animals what they might do and the animals had ideas of their own. They discussed and exchanged suggestions, but mostly just thought of how to administer their strengths and what they already do. And the animals decided, together, to do what they each could do best.

—————————————————

After that, the animals worked together, but by doing their own thing.

The hawk set about his days as he usually did up in the tall trees and flying about, but always keep a watchful eye out.

And the fox went about his normal course of business but occasionally put his ear to the ground to listen.

And all the deer, wary as they always were, always kept a lookout. Always.

And the furry little things, who mostly stayed in their holes, were mindful of any shudder underground.

Even the flies of the dirty old ditch did their job, looking with their multitude of eyes, zipping about and landing on things, tasting with their feet (as disgusting as it was).

Each and every animal had a skill and a job. Porcupines and pigs and animals of all sorts — they paid attention and kept in communication, to warn each other. They were all vigilant and kept an eye, or an ear or a… tentacle out for danger. And if anyone sensed anything afoot, they raised the alarm that trouble might be coming and everyone could prepare.

They even had a small number of elephants of their own that were watched over by some lions who were wise and knew-well all the ways of elephants.

And the garden was mostly peaceful again. But sometimes not so peaceful. There were bad times, but they were not so bad as before, for often having been forewarned, and always benefiting from a community that cooperated.

So the deer and the pheasants went back to their picking.

And the ducks and the muskrats dunked their heads and dragged at their sticks again.

The racoons and the flies became friends again and the crows and the mice bickered no more.

The strawberries grew again and all the other animals forgave the tortoise and the mole for the great mess they had made of the garden.

The Volcano and the Sea


A cold and obnoxious sea brooded and worried under the wind and the rain. It boiled and toiled all on its own, its waters being dark and deep and inhospitable to life. Troubled, the sea tossed and tumbled in a torment of tidal ebb and flow with only the sun and the moon to watch over it. These wretched hecklers served as neither comfort, nor company, but only tugged and shoved at it which only annoyed the great sea even more.

One day there came a tiny spark, deep, deep within the sea, and up from the sea floor bubbled a tiny blob of red hot lava.

The sea instantly snuffed it out.

Again, a blob of glowing red lava glubbed up from the sand in the same place.

The sea became angry and said, “What is this?”

“I am a volcano.” said the blob.

The sea laughed heartily. “You are no volcano! Volcanos are mighty and live upon the land. What kind of volcano — especially one as tiny as you — thinks it can live at the bottom of such a ferocious sea as I?” And the sea immediately put out the small fire with its coldness and massive weight with hardly any effort at all.

But again, the lava oozed from where it had oozed before. Just a little bigger than it had been before. “But I will grow!” said the little volcano in defiance of the sea.

“That’s impossible!” said the sea. “What force have you against my enomority? You will be only what I say you will be, and no more.” and the sea cooled the lava to stone.

The tiny volcano, which was only a tiny bump at the bottom of the sea, spat “I will be what I will be. I will defeat you.” and sprouted red again.

“That is preposterous!” insisted the insulted sea “I will not allow it.” and the sea quickly drowned the little mound.

And each time the sea did its awful deed, the spot would jump, shudder and pop, wrinkle, sputter and hop, and a new lump of searing hot, bright red lava would emerge again and again, if only briefly, before being turned again to stone, each time in turn, by the very stubborn sea.

The volcano, now an imposing hill on the floor which belonged to the sea, spit forth another sprout and taunted its oppressor—“You see, I am still here. I am growing.”

“Nonsense!” the sea exclaimed, “You are silly!” and put it out again.

The persistent little volcano went on and on. Fueled by a fire whose source nobody knew, upheavals and shoots ever came. And no sooner could the sea douse one than another and another would spring forth. For a quantity of time that only the sun and the moon can comprehend, the growing volcano smoldered and struggled, without end, against the sea. Back and forth. Hot and cold. From dawn until dawn. Lava, then stone.

After much time, the little volcano grew into an undersea mountain so large and tall that it could see and feel the light coming from the sea’s surface. And despite the sea working against it from all sides, the volcano aimed for the light with all its might, belching fire and liquid stone as it yearned for the air above.

Finally, one day, like a whale breaching the waves with a great exhale, the volcano’s top reached the surface and its fiery eruption lept into the air.

“Victory!” cried the volcano.

“Not so fast,” cried the sea, “for I am merely at low tide and I have tricks you have not seen!” and the sea set upon it with all the tides and typhoons it could conjure.

Undeterred, and no longer confined to the sea’s envelope, the volcano spit as far into the air as it wanted. And it did, and did without rest. Unrestrained, it grew more rapidly until even the highest waves did not reach its top.

Soon, even the strongest typhoon could only hope to moisten the volcano, and barely cool it, never dousing its fire.

The volcano, which wasn’t so little anymore but a majestic fiery mountain, said, “Can you see me, old sea? I am free of you!”Volcano and sea buildwash top

The sea was obstinate—“I’ll show you who’s boss!”—and sent more storms. But the rains only washed soot and sand off the volcano, which ran down the mountain’s slopes into crevices and ravines and became soil. The sea sent great winds to blow against the volcano, but those winds brought seeds from other lands, which took root and began to grow.

Now free from the contrary sea, the volcano became a beautiful island with sandy beaches, waterfalls and trees. Birds and other animals began to thrive on the island. Flowers sprouted from every crevice and bloomed year round.

The island made a home for undersea creatures as well. It gave birth to great coral reefs which surrounded the island and extended far into the sea. There came a multitude of sharks, rays and fishes, and the once-desolate sea was filled with wealth, and teemed with life.

After that, the sea was not so troubled, for it was no longer alone or lifeless, and the sun and the moon smiled down upon them both. The volcano was happy and the sea was content, and they lived in peace and harmony until their struggle was forgotten.

The fire that burns from within can never be extinguished.