Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Buffalo: An Explanatory Fable

This is a story about Coyote.

One day, Coyote was walking down the road. He came to a river. In the middle was a buffalo.

This was not an unusual thing for rivers, especially in those days. So Coyote paid the buffalo no mind at first, walking up to him without paying any great deal of attention - and then he stopped. He looked at the buffalo. The buffalo looked at the sky.

"How curious," Coyote thought to himself. "Most buffalo look at the ground, to see their food; or at the water, to see what they drink; or, at a stretch, at the creatures around them. But this one looks in the air. What is it looking at? I will ask, for my keen nose scents great opportunity here."

"Noble Buffalo," Coyote began, "I see that your head is pointed upwards, and your eyes are similarly, unlike the usual manner of your kind. Wherefore sources this behavior?"

The Buffalo considered this. "I am looking upwards to see the island on which I once lived," he said, "for my owners, in those days, were kind, and treated me well; therefore my memories of it are fond."

"An island?" Coyote asked, suprised. He yapped in amusement. "Silly Buffalo, islands are in the water, not in the sky. Your gaze is misplaced!"

"So most islands are, and so this one was, when I lived there," the Buffalo sighed. "But it is so no longer, nor has it been for many years."

Now Coyote was curious. He looked up. And there, far in the distance, so far he could barely see it, was an island; a rather large chunk of rock and dirt, hovering in the sky.

"That is very strange," Coyote said. "How did that get there?"

"I do not know," Buffalo said sadly, "but I miss it. The beautiful woman who kept me there was very kind, and always fed me with the finest food and adorned me with magnificent trinkets. But that is all gone now," Buffalo sighed, "all gone with the island itself."

Coyote's eyes glowed with greed. Fine food? Magnificent trinkets? Beautiful women? This sounded like Coyote's kind of place!

He hatched a plan.

Leaving Buffalo, Coyote raced off at high speeds. In a tree, he saw a blue-coated swallow, cooing to its egglets. "Come down!" Coyote cried, "and look at these delicious worms I have found, in the grass!" He grinned widely. The swallow, cautiously, spread its wings and glided down. Coyote broke its neck, pulled off its feathers and ate it. "That was delicious!" he cried, spitting out a bone.

He raced off again, finding a pig rooting in a field. "Stay away!" the pig said. "I have found delicious spices, and I want them all for myself! I am not sharing with anyone, Coyote or otherwise!"

"Don't worry, little pig!" Coyote cried cajolingly. "Look at me! I am just a plain old Coyote. I do not need spices to enjoy my meals!"

"Oh, all right," the pig said. Coyote walked over to him. Then Coyote killed and ate him!

"I don't need spices to enjoy my meals," Coyote said, pulling the pig's curly tail out of his teeth, "but they certainly help! That was a very delicious pig." On a whim, he pulled up the spices and took them with him as he raced back to the river.

Once he was there, Coyote looked at Buffalo cautiously. "He is much too big for me to kill easily, and eating him would give me a stomache-ache!" Coyote said. "Especially after I ate those other animals. I will let him live."

"Thank you," Buffalo said. Coyote was embarrassed! He had not meant to say that so loudly.

"Buffalo!" he said, brazening past his embarrassment. "I want to go to that island in the sky. Would you mind giving me some of your hair, so that I can get there?"

"I do not see how that makes any sense," Buffalo mused, "but I do miss that island, after all, and I do not see how it can hurt. Very well: you may take your hairs. Just do not take too many, for there is no person who may love a hairless buffalo."

Carefully, Coyote plucked many strands of buffalo-hair, Buffalo standing patiently and stolidly to allow him. When he was satisfied he had gotten enough, Coyote wadded them into a ball, stuck them behind his ear, and raced away. "I must practice secret Coyote magic to get to the island in the sky!" he explained over his shoulder. "Later!"

When he had concealed himself behind a convenient tree, Coyote pulled out the swallow-feathers he had been saving. He placed them all about his body. Then he stepped out from his place of hiding. "Look!" he cried to the wind. "I am a bird! And a blue-bird, too - your favourite colour! Carry me!"

The wind looked him over carefully, but saw no flaw in this argument. "Very well," it agreed. "Where to?"

"The isle in the sky!" Coyote cried dramatically, pointing upwards - and at once he was carried off through the air.

"That is most peculiar," Buffalo observed.

The wind dropped Coyote on the island rear-first, causing him to roll in an undignified manner for some distance. "Dropping me like that was very rude!" Coyote cried.

"What?" the wind asked. "Any bird could have made that landing easily. I do the same thing to them all the time, and they never complained." The wind peered closely at Coyote. "You are a bird, aren't you?"

"Of course," Coyote said. "Totally a bird. No question about it. Just a bad landing, that's all." He looked around. "Hey, a castle! I will go inside."

He went inside. "Grumble grumble," he complained.

Then he looked around. "Huh," he said. "This must be where the people of the island lived, before it went into the sky. But I do not see any grand treasures or rich food! All I see are a lot of cobwebs."

Coyote considered. "I will investigate," he said.

He wandered deeper and deeper into the old castle. It grew darker and darker, and spider-webs were everywhere. Coyote tripped and fell in one! "Ew!" he said. "Yuck, yuck, yuck!" He thrashed to get free. "That was nasty!" he said, standing up and brushing himself off. Feathers and bits of cobweb drifted gently downwards. "Why are there so many webs around here, anyway? And why did it get so dark just now?"

"I would be the answer to both," a cold voice intoned from above Coyote.

Coyote looked up. He gulped.

Directly above him hung a spider much larger than Coyote himself. It filled the entire room, even bumping against the chandelier hanging from the ceiling above. It did not look very nice - but it did look rather hungry.

"Hello, Spider!" Coyote said with forced cheer.

"Hello, Prey," Spider said, venom dripping from its fangs. "You should not have come here."

Coyote thought quickly. "Wait! You shouldn't eat me yet!"

"Whyever not?" Spider asked, leaning back and forth. "I am very hungry." Its voice was filled with cold menace.

"That is exactly why you should not eat me!" Coyote exclaimed. "If you eat me right now, straight up, your body won't be used to it. You'll get a nasty tummy-ache! It'll last for days and days. Trust me," Coyote said, rubbing his own belly. "I know!"

"I am willing to take the risk," Spider said.

"But you don't have to!" Coyote said. "Just eat something else first - a few small things - and your stomach will be all warmed up. Then you can eat me without worry!"

"What would I eat?" Spider asked. "I would not be so very hungry were there anything else to eat around here."

"But that's just the thing!" Coyote cried, improvising. "I am a - ah - pig, granted with the gift of making all things delicious! Surely you've heard of that?"

"I have heard that pigs are delicious," Spider said, venom dripping. "I ate some, once, when I first came to this island. But it has been a very long time. I will enjoy this, I think."

"Wait!" Coyote said. "First, I will make this - " he looked around - "This big strand of web - delicious. You will eat it. You will say, 'how wonderful!' I will do this for one or two more. Then you will be able to eat me!"

Spider thought, and then gave a great shrug, setting the chandelier to rocking. "Very well," it said. "But I reserve the right to change this agreement at any time."

"Don't worry!" Coyote said, grinning. "You won't want to!" Quickly, he ran over to the strand of web he'd selected, and carefully - keeping his body between the web and Spider - rubbed some of the spices he'd stolen from the pig into the web. "Here!" he said, backing away. "Have a bite!"

Cautiously, Spider bent down, keeping several eyes on Coyote. It bit. It chewed.

"Not bad," it said, its voice devoid of inflection.

"Ha!" Coyote laughed, yipping a little before he caught himself. He ran over to another strand of web and rubbed more spices into it. "Try this!"

"You're quite certain you're a pig?" Spider said, looking at Coyote.

"Of course I am!" Coyote cried. He waggled the twisty tail of the pig he'd eaten. "See?"

Spider seemed skeptical, but took another bite.

"Now, I will eat you," he said, leaning downwards.

"No!" Coyote cried. "I mean, wait. Look up there," he said, gesturing to the chandelier in the ceiling. "See that?"

"The big, rusty, iron chandelier?" Spider asked.

"Yes," Coyote said. "I will work my secret arts on that and make it even more delicious. You will never taste anything more delicious! Never never. Then you will be ready to eat me! But I will be a pale disappointment afterwards, let me assure you."

Spider thought about this. "Why are you going to all this trouble for me?" it asked. "I am going to eat you, after all."

"I'm a pig!" Coyote cried. "Making things delicious is what I do!" This did not seem to impress Spider. "Plus, I'm going to die anyway," Coyote said. "So, why not?"

The spider shrugged again. Then with one great arm it reached over, and lifted Coyote to the chandelier. "Do your work quickly," it advised. "I am very hungry now."

"Will do!" Coyote said, grinning. "Duck low, and get ready. This one will be so delicious, it'll flatten you!"

Spider ducked downwards obligingly.

Coyote, still grinning, ripped the ancient, rotten rope holding the chandelier to the ceiling in two. One part remained attached to the ceiling, and to this Coyote kept hold. The other followed the very old, very rusted, very heavy iron chandelier downwards in its swift path into Spider's carapace.

"Gurgle," Spider said, and promptly expired.

"Yip yip yip yip yip!" Coyote laughed uproariously. "Stupid Spider! That showed it! Now, how am I going to get down?"

The rotten rope tore again.

"Ow," Coyote observed.

Some minutes later, still bruised from his rough landing, Coyote came upon a door with a lock. "What's this?" Coyote asked. He poked the door. It fell apart. "Hm!" he exclaimed. "Shoddy worksmanship. But - what's inside?"

He looked.

"Yip yip yip yip yip!" he laughed. "All the treasure I could ask for! Now I'll wrap it in a bag of cobwebs, cover myself in buffalo hair, and make off with it. If its owners ever come looking, they'll think dumb old Buffalo took the treasure! I'm scot free! Yip yip yip yip!"

Outside the castle, Coyote paused at the edge of the island. He placed his few remaining feather strategically. "Wind!" he cried. "Carry me back to the land!"

"Are you quite sure you're a bird?" the wind asked, looking Coyote over skeptically.

"Of course I am!" Coyote cried. "You carried me earlier, remember? Would you carry anyone who's not a bird?"

"I suppose not," the wind agreed, and carried him off. But Coyote found the ride unexpectedly turbulent.

"This is rather bumpy!" he complained. "You gave much better service last time. Do it better!"

"I am only having such a hard time since you are so very heavy," the wind said. "Much heavier than a bird should be."

Coyote looked guiltily at his big bag of treasure. He said nothing.

"And look - you've got hardly any feathers!" the wind exclaimed. "And is that buffalo hair in your - fur? Why do you even have fur?"

Coyote tugged frantically at the buffalo hair. But no matter what he did, he couldn't pull it out!"

"You aren't a bird at all!" the wind decided, and dropped Coyote. He plummeted.

"Eeee!" he screamed.

"Kerplunk," he splashed.

"Gurgle," he gurgled.

He was a very damp Coyote indeed when he finally crawled back onto land, and was in a foul temper for days. But even worse, he never could get that buffalo hair out of his fur.

And that's why every Feinberg's beard has two colours. It's the buffalo hair, you see, still there - it never would come out!


1 comment:

Calvacadeofcats said...