the pachyderm and the ass

October 19, 2012

when real life is too much
write about something else altogether

there was a pachyderm and an ass

there was also a polar bear and possibly a dragon
but as the bear was far away
no one really thought much about him
and the dragon?
well, though everyone had a story about it
no one had actually seen it 
so they didn’t talk much about it either.

the pachyderm and the ass
lived in a wood with many wonderous things
and many creatures of all shapes & sizes
terrible, typical, beautiful.

deep in this forest
were two magnificent trees
what remained of a once abundant grove
many small animals lived below the spreading limbs
protected beneath the branches
playing in the cool shadows
and making their burrows among the roots
in this way they aerated and fertilized the soil around the trees
serving a vital function for the trees’ health and survival.

these trees produced a wonderful fruit
precious to every animal in the wood
yet inaccessible to all but the biggest and strongest animals.
the big ones would come
reach up and pluck a juicy ripe fruit
or shake a branch causing a few fruits to fall
and take what they pleased
this in turn created turmoil and excitement
as the lesser beasts squabbled over the leftovers

mostly the little animals just had to sit and wait
hoping that a fruit might ripen and come unattached of its own
or be blown by some sudden shift of weather,
then they would work hard to get their share
and try to be satisfied with it
still many of the animals had never even tasted the fruit;
they imagined it as juicy and delicious and desired it all the more.
certainly a few did covet and scheme
causing the larger beasts to think
that they were being endlessly pestered (by all living things) to share

now the pachyderm resented all of these little animals
and their perceived clamorous demands
having been born a giant
he had no way to empathize with the smaller forest dwellers
and hadn’t been taught to do so,
he thought it enough that he didn’t purposefully trod upon them
as he lumbered about lecturing on how hard it was to grow so big.
born on a mountain top
he liked to talk about how hard he had had to climb to reach the peak

and the ass? well he was often just that.
he really thought he knew what was going on
which made him wonderfully indecisive.
the other animals knew to avoid his haunches
for he was liable to kick out if he got excited.
he wandered about the forest heeing and hawing
wondering what these little creatures were
but then getting caught up in his own things
or the concerns of the even bigger animals
whom both he and the pachyderm were eager to please

this shared concern (as well as many other things)
caused the woodland creatures to wonder
if these two were not, in fact, the same animal
parading around in different skin.
funny that it simultaneously seemed to be true
that these two couldn’t get along
or agree with each other about anything
filling the forest with the noise of their arguing and insults
scaring some of the smallest beasts into taking sides
and exhausting the other animals into confusion or apathy

one day the pachyderm was coming home
peckish and grumpy after a long day of thundering through the forest.
he passed the two trees just as he was thinking about
what he wanted for dinner that evening.
seeing the sweet swollen fruit in the highest branches
the immediacy of his need became overwhelming.
he grabbed hold of the nearest tree
tore it from the ground
and began to drag it home to be consumed at his leisure,
as he walked along he noticed that some of the fruit
was coming loose from the jouncing branches
and trickling down the sides of the path
accumulating in the ditches
free for whomever was quick or clever enough to follow and get it.
he was initially frustrated by this
thinking that others should not benefit
from the literal fruit of his labor
but then realized that he was performing a great service
to the entire forest
that through his innovation of ripping up the tree
he was providing great wealth and improvement for so many
and he glowed with his own magnanimity.

the ass saw all of this,
he had also been considering his dinner at the time
but being distracted by his own appetites
and so frightened by the power of the pachyderm
he was not able to get to any of the fallen fruit.
this now seemed unbearable and incredibly unfair
braying loudly, he began kicking in his anger and excitement.
it was so satisfying when his hooves struck something solid
and the fruit began to rain down around him
the other animals who had yet been unable to acquire fruit
rushed out to gather some of what was falling
he saw them and swelled with the strength of self-righteousness
and he knew he could, neigh that he must, feed them all
it was all so altruistic – he would be a hero!
he began kicking the second tree repeatedly
smashing the bark, splintering the trunk
and causing every fruit of the tree to come pouring down
leaving nothing on the branches to provide for later
and still he kicked while in his mind he projected;
predicting that though the tree was very damaged
the fruit would eventually, someday (maybe) grow back
therefore, according to his own certainly unbiased forecasting
he had found an intangibly sustainable way to satisfy his craving
while humbly bestowing equality upon them all.

both of the beasts went away feeling righteous, convicted and satisfied
the pachyderm was certain that he was right
and the ass knew that he had taken care of what was left

but really the other animals just wanted to throw
both the pachyderm and the ass out of the forest completely
and find a different way, a new way
to bring the fruit down responsibly with
conversation collaboration cooperation and intelligent compromise
that could better serve the health and future
of what remained of all that is
their beautiful woodland home.


11 Responses to “the pachyderm and the ass”

  1. pickleloaf Says:

    love what you’ve done with this since beers/ciders. great work.

  2. Jesse Baker Says:

    Masterfully done! You mind if I “reblog” this?

  3. Ryan Roling Says:


    This has to be one of your most clever, yet most straightforward entries. I’m impressed. This one could get some hits!

    Love it.

  4. Shawn, a marvelously insightful political post. I will admit freely that I am often considered an ass, but that’s part of being an activist – the trick is, you don’t do it for the glory but out of a sense of duty. Yet simply recounting some of these deeds does probably seem quite ass-worthy! You’ve given me lots to think about…

  5. Jeff Gill Says:

    Brilliant stuff. In American two party politics, like in so much of life, it’s the thing behind the obvious thing that really really matters.

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