The Zebra and the Lions
Hector the Zebra Discovers the Benefits of Herd Membership
[I am starting a new section on this substack for a series called “Tall Tales and Absurd Allegories.” This strange story, “The Zebra and the Lions,” is the first installment. Hope you like it. It’s an experiment — just trying new things to “get unstuck” creatively . . .]
“Oh shit, there’s a lion coming our way!” said Hector to the other zebras.
“The grass is good,” said Jimmy, the fat zebra next to him.
“What?!” cried Hector. “Did you not hear what I said? I said, ‘There’s a lion coming our way!’ No, make that two — er, no, three lions. I see three lions, and the way lions hunt, there are bound to be even more that we can’t see. They’re definitely coming our way.”
“Whose way?” asked JoAnn.
“Our way!” exclaimed Hector.
“You mean yours and Jimmy’s or mine and Sylvia’s?” asked JoAnn.
Hector shook his head and snorted before replying, “All of the above. Can we move towards the trees? Maybe the lions will go for the gazelle over there if we move away from them.'“
“The grass is not good over by the trees,” said Jimmy.
““Look, it’s not about the grass,” said Hector. “We can always come back and eat after the lions have gone.”
“He’s right,” added Joey.
“Thanks, Joey,” said Hector. “See, Joey agrees with me. We should move towards the trees and come back after the lions have gone.”
“No,” said Joey. “I wasn’t agreeing with you; I was agreeing with Jimmy. The grass over by the trees is terrible.”
“There is no grass over by the trees,” said Sylvia. “It’s mostly just briars and dirt.”
Hector stamped his forelegs. “Guys, one of us is going to get eaten if we don’t start moving, as a group, towards the treeline. If we do that, it’s possible the lions will go for the gazelle rather than following us.”
“What makes you think the lions are trying to eat us?” asked Jimmy.
“Because lions eat zebras,” said Hector.
“Oh yeah?” retorted Jimmy. “Well, I’m a zebra, and the lions have never eaten me!”
Hector rolled his eyes. “Right. And if you want to keep it that way, then you, and the rest of us, should avoid being here when the lions arrive.”
“You go ahead,” said Joey. “The rest of us don’t want to eat the grass over by the trees.”
“It’s not about the grass by the trees,” said Hector. “It’s —”
“There is no grass over by the trees!” blurted Sylvia.
“I didn’t say there was,” said Hector. “It’s just, if they see one or two zebras walking by themselves, they will target them. But if all of us walk together, in a tight formation, they are less likely to target us, and maybe they’ll go for the gazelle.”
“I don’t want to go over to the trees,” said Joey. “The grass is not good over there.”
“There is no grass over there,” said Sylvia.
“Exactly!” agreed Joey, before adding, “And on top of that, the grass that is over there is not good, like the grass over here is!”
Hector ignored their comments and surveyed the scene. The lions were still coming towards them, but instead of doing so openly, they were crouching and slinking stealthily. They were clearly on the hunt. Everywhere Hector looked, he saw cold, yellow eyes gleaming back at him.
“Look, guys, we don’t have much time,” said Hector. “If we move now, then we can be out of the area when the lions are ready to launch their attack. They’ll hopefully go for the gazelles, who don’t seem to notice the lions yet.”
“Why are you so worried about lions, Hector?” asked Jimmy.
“Because he’s paranoid,” said Joey.
“Oh, are you one of those conspiracy theorists?” asked Jimmy.
“He thinks lions are part of an anti-zebra conspiracy,” said Joey.
“Look at me, Hector,” said Jimmy. “I’m a zebra, and lions have never hunted me before.”
“No?” replied Hector. “But haven’t they hunted other zebras? Haven’t we seen zebras disappear when the lions show up, slinking around like they’re slinking around now?”
“That’s just a conspiracy theory,” said Joey. “You don’t have any proof that lions kill zebras.”
“Yeah, what’s your source?” demanded Jimmy. “Has it been fact-checked?”
“If the lions don’t kill zebras, then what happens to the zebra that disappear every time the lions show up?” demanded Hector.
“I don’t know,” said Joey. “Maybe they all caught Ebola.”
“I can prove lions don’t hunt zebras,” said Jimmy. “Because I am a zebra. And guess what?”
“No lions have ever hunted you?” said Hector, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
“Exactly!” said Jimmy. “That proves there is no conspiracy against zebras.”
“How?” asked Hector.
“The exception proves the rule,” replied Jimmy, with a proud smile. “You don’t remember that from school? Because I sure do.”
“That makes no sense,” said Hector. “Look, can we stop talking and just walk quickly, without running, towards the treeline?”
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