Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's a Jungle out There

 This was a fun little story that's been floating in my head all week.  It's written almost like a children's book, but is NOT a children's story.  The "moral" at the end is meant to be purely sarcastic and amusing to those who have read their fair share of children's wholesome stories.

It almost fits into this week's flash fiction, but is too long.  So I'm not "officially" entering it for that.  But it's here for fun reading in any case.

Anyway!  Enjoy it for what it is...  a sarcastic little glimpse into the mind of a person with too many thoughts floating about in a single head.  Without further ado...

It's a Jungle out There

Once upon a time, there was a koala named Betsy who traveled from zoo to zoo. People would come to see her and marvel at her cuteness, the way she carried one baby koala upon her back and another in her arms. George and Maribelle had to take turns in their mother’s pouch now that they were getting older, but they were beginning to like riding on her back just as much.

The animals from each zoo would visit every night, coming to see the strange and exotic beast, and wonder why the humans were so excited by the new things come to visit. The animals all come out at night, you see, as they can leave their cages if they really want to. The humans think they are in charge, but the animals are not as stupid as they think.
Betsy liked to watch the humans right back, as every grouping was different from the last, but her favorite thing to do was observe the animals in each zoo. Some places, the animals ignored her after they looked her over the first time. Sometimes, they wanted to be her friends, but Betsy preferred to sit on her high tree branches, eyes wide, and just watch the world go by. Her little ones just liked to climb, find sweet leaves to chew, and fight one another.
At one of the zoos, one day in the dead of winter, Betsy was being observed by the zoo animals once she was set free in her exhibit space for the night. But she soon bored them, and they went on about their business.
At that zoo, somewhere in the mountains, she was pleased to note a Silverback Gorilla was in charge. He was fierce, and gave the other creatures no pardons for their wrongdoings. He broke up fights, settled scores, and talked some out of hurting another. That first night, Betsy heard him talking to a large Peacock with a huge fan of feathers. She heard him telling Peacock he could not speak in rude ways about the girl peacocks, and he needed to calm himself down. Peacock left in a huff, not bothering to hide his anger.
Later that same evening, as he held court before her pen, Betsy listened as a large cat called Lioness begged for Peacock’s feathers to wear as a lovely hat, and as Silverback scolded her for even asking. Lioness left, head hanging low, but once she rounded the corner, she began to pace and mutter to herself. The lioness thought she was alone, but Betsy saw. Betsy always saw.
The next night, after the last of the small children finished their gawking and Betsy lulled her little ones to sleep, more visitors came by. She leaned out on her branch to listen, and quickly grew bored.
Panda, who was delicate with cub, wandered by and chatted briefly with a handful of other creatures before retiring for the night. Young Wolf crept around, quiet and observant, only snapping occasionally when teased. Kangaroo kicked him and he yelped, but he didn’t run off. At first, Betsy thought she’d see a fight break out between them, but the two were friends and liked to play tricks on each other.
Polar Bear left his water for a short time, glanced at Betsy once and huffed, “Koalas aren’t even a real bear. They shouldn’t be called koala bears,” and he dismissed her entirely. He stood, ignoring her, and made conversation with Kangaroo and Wolf about the seals and their water sports, but quickly bored with the dry land and green grass, and disappeared back into his pen to swim the night away. Only when he disappeared did a pair of penguins join the group, looking relieved their natural enemy was gone. Polar Bear was well fed, of course, but he couldn’t help it if he saw food when the penguins wandered past, so Gentoo and Little Blue kept their careful distance.
Through all of this, Betsy noticed, Peacock wandered the edges of the group, wanting to join in, but never adding much to the conversation. Silverback lazed in the moonlight, ignoring his subjects as they did not need his attention, and Lioness prowled around the corner, looking for an opportunity to snatch the colorful bird and sneak him away. Much to her dismay, however, Peacock was not stupid, and never left the sight of the wise old gorilla. He had heard of her request, and was not about to give her the chance to make a meal of him.
A few nights into her stay, Gorilla was otherwise occupied in a meeting with the other heads of staff, so Lioness, Alpha Wolf, Salamander, and Snow Owl disappeared for the evening, leaving the underlings to play their games unchecked. Betsy could feel tension rising as Peacock strutted up to Kangaroo, who was reclining on his tail and laughing, and Peacock snarled at him.
“I bet I could take you down. You’re just a big stupid ‘roo, and I’m the king of the peacock fights. Just last night, I tore another bird to bits and fed him to the pigs,” he boasted. “Not that you mammals would notice the difference between us birds. Isn’t that right, penguins?” He raised a feathery brow at the pair of penguins that stood nearby, but the two backed away.
“We don’t want any trouble,” Gentoo said while his brother, Little Blue, remained quiet.
Kangaroo bounced forward, stepping between the penguins and the great green bird, “You want to fight? You have no idea what you just brought down upon yourself,” he laughed heartily. “I could take you down right here, right now.”
Young Wolf threw back his head and howled as the two stepped toward each other, and when they looked at him he showed them his teeth. Betsy wasn’t sure if it was a smile or a snarl. “Not here. The empty field over there,” he nodded to the area below the paved pathway. “The one that is being made into a savanna in the spring, for the antelope and the giraffes. It is quiet and the ground is softer. We don’t need Zookeeper to pick us over and double check our locks later, if you all hurt yourselves too badly…” He trailed off as he saw his friend the kangaroo roll his eyes.
“I don’t mean to be hurt, but the grass is softer beneath my feet and I am sure Peacock here would like a softer place to land,” Kangaroo grinned and hopped from foot to foot, front paws raised before him.
Peacock nodded and the group set off down the hill. Bets were being placed, Panda and Polar Bear heard the noise and came running quickly to see what was happening. Betsy debated following them, but decided to climb higher in her tree instead. From up there in the tallest branches, as she munched on eucalyptus, she could see everything. Everyone gathered in a circle around the two creatures, and bets were placed quickly before the fight began.
The two of them walked in slow circles around each other, both waiting for the other to strike first. Kangaroo jabbed the air just over Peacock’s head, and Peacock took the bait. He lashed out, quick as a viper, and tried to peck at Kangaroo’s arm. He missed. They repeated the game, one dodging, the other striking, and for a moment, it didn’t seem like either would land a blow.
But then Peacock twisted his neck to the side and lunged at Kangaroo, pecking once, then biting down hard at Kangaroo’s flank with his beak. Kangaroo doubled up in pain, screaming, and hit Peacock wildly with his paw. Peacock released his grip and backed off, dancing around, and he raised his tail feathers in an impressive display.
Kangaroo lunged, though, and Peacock darted backward, clearly intimidated despite the small victory he won by striking first. Kangaroo leaned back on his tail casually. “If you want to give up now, I suppose I could allow that,” he said with a grin.
Peacock did not reply, but lowered his tail feathers and narrowed his eyes, watching for an opportunity to present itself. Kangaroo just lounged on his tail, ignoring the place where he was bitten, pretending not to feel the blood seeping from the wound. Peacock smiled to himself, sure he was close to winning. He flapped his wings hard and flew at Kangaroo, jabbing at his chest, but Kangaroo was ready for him, and kicked only once. The strong foot caught Peacock in the neck and sent him flying backward, and down the hill.
Betsy watched intently, waiting for the end to the battle, but Peacock did not return. Kangaroo nodded only once, then left the field, his pride intact. It was then that Betsy noticed a small grey mound next to her on the branch. Her little one, George, sat next to her.
“Mama, what’s going on? Why were they fighting?” he asked groggily, and she pulled him in for a snuggle, tucking his bum into her pouch. He didn’t really fit anymore, but it was easier to hold him like that.
“Well,” she began, and slowly meandered down the tree toward his sister, who slept happily in a deep crook of the tree, “Peacock wanted to fight. It was not a wise decision. He got what he deserved by picking on Kangaroo. He should have known better than to fight like that,” She settled into the crook next to Maribelle, and snuggled them both.
“But, fighting is bad unless you are playing,” he yawned. “Won’t the Silverback be cross with them when he finds out?”
Betsy nodded to him, “Perhaps, my bug, but there are a few things we can learn from this. First, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Second, violence can be the answer, sometimes. And third, don’t be an ass.”
George’s fuzzy head shifted at that and he mumbled, “But Mama, it was Peacock, not Ass…”
Betsy chuckled at that, she patted his head twice, and he fell asleep before she could answer him.

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