(A Legendary Tale of India.)
Into The Quicksand Patch.
Kalima was not always a snake.
In the beginning he was as honest
and hard working a fellow
as every fellow ought to be.
His full name was Kalima Limaluma,
although in his village he was called Kalima
for short, as he was never of any
particularly great stature
there (as well as to avoid confusion with
all the other Kalima Limalumas).
Like everybody else in India
Kalima helped others whenever he could
and always followed all the rules
good people should follow.
He was a considerate and moral person (whenever
he could be, just like everybody else).
Now as the Limalumalay legend tells it,
where Kalima went wrong
was when, cutting across the forest one day,
he decided to take an unfamiliar shortcut
to the neighboring village where he was going
on some business or another...
And it was all due to the fact that Kalima had
a great deal of difficulty keeping that empty head of his
on whatever he was doing while he was doing it, so
as he went walking along that shortcut
he turned his eyes upward to admire
the splendid birds that were singing above him
in the very lush tree canopy.
Well, before he knew what was what,
Kalima found himself stuck
right in the middle of (and being sucked down
more and more into) a large patch of quicksand
he had wandered into just like that
(almost certainly by mistake).
"Oh, my goodness gracious," cried he:
"Now you are really stuck in it, I dare say!"
From where he was Kalima searched
and searched for a way out
of this pressing predicament. But
there appeared to be none--
Standing in the middle of that quicksand
like a big dope, Kalima quickly took note of
the fact that the longer he stayed there
the more unfortunately it would be for him, as
he seemed to be constantly sinking deeper
and deeper the longer he stood there:
Even this early his skinny old ankles were already
beginning to dip under the slippery quicksand.
"Ah," Kalima told himself, satisfied
that there was no possible way for him
to reach the edge of the quicksand patch
from where he was stuck in: "Ah, Kalima,
now you are in it for sure!" And,
"What are you going to do, if you
do not mind my asking?!"
One thing he discovered right away was that
whenever he jumped about like some
totally irresponsible fool
and wiggled and squirmed about half scared to death
... all that happened was that he merely worked himself
deeper still into the quicksand (a lot faster
than if he didn't move at all).
It led him to the decision that, for the time being,
the best course of action for him would be
to simply stand where he was
at attention, without moving a muscle
or even twitching a hair on his head (as he sank
deeper and deeper) and try to exercise his brain alone
over how best to get himself out of the mess
his legs had gotten him into.
Kalima searched high above him
for any low-hanging tree branch or lianas
dangling from the forest canopy close enough
for him to grab on to and pull himself free,
but there were none, unfortunately:
For a long stretch of ground around
the quicksand patch
the trees were simply too high above him
to permit him to go around doing any grabbing
at them from where he was.
He could expect no help from other villagers
either, because not only had no one from his village
ever taken the particular shortcut
which had led him to the quicksand, but
no one so much as knew that he had suddenly
gotten it into his empty head
to take it himself that particular morning either.
It was certainly enough to sink a fellow's heart
down into the quicksand
even before the rest of him!
About the only thing left for him to do
was to holler and scream for help
like his life was depending on it!
And, what a terrible racket he made,
all right! Such a one that it cleared the forest
for a long distance around the quicksand patch
with Kalima in it:
Everything with ears on it that heard
his horrible screaming and hollering
imagined there must have been
something monstrous going on there, and
reasoning from this that the best thing for them to do
was to get themselves as far away from it
as possible, they all immediately did so
... leaving the whole place as still as a graveyard.
As soon as it got as quiet around him
as it was going to get (and Kalima had sunk
almost half way to his knees), the poor fellow came to
the conclusion that scaring away everybody
was probably not going to help him one bit, so
he shut his mouth up then,
hoping that if he remained perfectly still and
without making a sound
somebody might happen by and rescue him
... if that somebody wouldn't mind doing it.
For what seemed like much too long a time,
Kalima stood there sinking slowly into the quicksand
without uttering a single word
or moving a muscle
while he patiently waited for somebody, anybody
at all really, to come close enough
for him to ask
whether he would not mind pulling him free of it...
The Water Buffalo.
The first anyone to happened by the quicksand patch
with Kalima stuck in it
was the Water Buffalo, who, unlike all the other animals
that had been chased away
by all the hollering and screaming that Kalima did
before he got some sense and shut his mouth up
... the Water Buffalo was not the sort
to be spooked by anyone or anything, hollering
or standing around still and quiet enough:
"Well, now," commented the Water Buffalo
when he spotted Kalima in the middle of the quicksand patch:
"What was all that hollering about,
I should like you to tell me!?" (Being
exceedingly curt with the poor fellow.) And, "Was that you
doing all that hollering just now, I ask you?!"
"Yes," Kalima Limaluma apologized.
"Well," added the Water Buffalo, still quite upset with him:
"I should hope you had a very good reason
for doing it, for I must tell you truthfully: you
have caused a great deal of discomfort
to everybody and his cow, I hope you know!"
"I had a very good reason," Kalima
humbly assured the Water Buffalo.
"I should hope so!"
The Water Buffalo fumed impatiently.
Then the Water Buffalo waited with a great
deal of irritation for Kalima to go ahead and tell him
exactly what his good reason was (even as
Kalima himself waited politely for the Water Buffalo himself
to realize that he, Kalima, was up to his knees now
in the quicksand and sinking
even as they both waited each other out).
"I am stuck in this quicksand, if you will permit me
to point this out," Kalima finally broke down and confessed
to the Water Buffalo (who only then noticed it),
"and I am afraid that I may be forced to go down into it
even more if... somebody strong enough to pull me out
doesn't do so immediately!"
"Well!" Blurted out the Water Buffalo,
raising his great hairy eyebrows
(like a couple of tufts of grass they were), and
staring down on Kalima sinking there
slowly in front of him:
"Well, who told you to step into it,
anyway!?" The Water Buffalo angrily admonished Kalima
as soon as he had satisfied himself
that he knew exactly what it was
that was taking place there:
"I shall be glad to give that question
all the attention it deserves," Kalima replied to
the Water Buffalo, "as soon as I am free
from my present (and most distressing) situation."
"Ah!" And here the Water Buffalo seemed to hesitate.
But he did, rather reluctantly, agree
to study the situation from every angle.
Although he had no stomach for going about
rescuing fools from the foolish things
fools normally get themselves mixed up in (and
he made sure Kalima understood this),
the Water Buffalo walked around the four corners
of the quicksand patch slowly,
chiding Kalima at every step
for not keeping an eye on where he stepped.
"I am most eternally grateful to you, O
great and powerful Water Buffalo,"
Kalima echoed all the heavy chiding... his
potential rescuer was heaping on his head.
"I myself am a Water Buffalo with
four legs to my name no less; but do you see me
walking into every patch of quicksand I walk into,
I ask you?! No, I assure you of it!"
"I do not wish to appear as if I am rushing you,"
Kalima humbly mentioned to the reproving Water Buffalo,
a tiny bit impatiently... for his knees had already
begun plopping below the quicksand:
"Do not trouble yourself,"
the Water Buffalo interrupted: "You will most certainly
NOT rush me in any manner, I can tell you!"
Kalima could see that the Water Buffalo would not be
rushed, so he just stood there smiling graciously at it
and waiting to see if the great animal
would finally help him out of the quicksand.
With time the Water Buffalo finished studying the situation
from every possible angle it was possible
for a Water Buffalo
to study it from... and his conclusion was
that, in his most expert opinion:
"There is no possible way for a Water Buffalo like myself
to come anywhere close enough to get you out
of that quicksand patch... without also getting myself
all mixed up in it, you can rest assured! And
not even if I swing my tail out for you
to try to grab a hold of it."
And, "So?" Kalima asked with sad, expectant eyes
... almost refusing to believe the words
his ears were hearing coming out of that Water Buffalo.
"So, as you see, you unfortunate Kalima you,"
the Water Buffalo apologized: "You will simply have to
content yourself with settling down for good and all
in that quicksand," yawning so wide a yawn then
that it seemed as if he could have swallowed himself into it:
If Kalima could have fainted
he most assuredly would have done so, for
this was a most negative bit of news
the Water Buffalo was handing him.
However, it was important that Kalima remain
as unmoved as he could managed it (so he would not
work himself deeper into the quicksand
than he already was)...
"Make the best of it," the Water Buffalo continued
with his advice (while remaining as unruffled
as if he had been making a comment
about the fragrance of some nearby flower):
"As you go down," the Water Buffalo told Kalima,
"hum a beloved tune, perhaps. Or
look back over your unworthy life
and count your blessings," and many other such
fine and inspiring things did the Water Buffalo suggest
that Kalima do while he slowly plunged under
the quicksand for good and all...
Only, to be perfectly truthful, the only thing
Kalima himself could think of doing just then
was to holler for help again (and even louder
than ever) hoping anybody (other than
perhaps another Water Buffalo) might
follow his screams to the quicksand patch
... in time to rescue him.
"My goodness," said the Water Buffalo,
his ears rippling in discomfort
with every one of Kalima's high-pitched screams:
"I am telling you, if you are going to be insisting
on behaving yourself so vulgarly, I will have to be
moving along: Your rude behavior is certainly
dragging every one of my good spirits down
with you, that's for sure!" And, saying this,
the Water Buffalo quickly moved on.
The quick departure of the Water Buffalo
then made it possible for the animal
that had been hiding in the heavy bushes nearby
to finally come out into the clearing.
This was the Tiger,
who had remained in hiding
while the Water Buffalo was speaking to Kalima
because he was sneaking after that very same Water Buffalo
trying to catch him unawares.
Kalima was extremely afraid of the Tiger, of course.
But at the moment he had no choice other than
to stand there, still and quiet as never before,
listening to the Tiger's stomach growling
extremely close to him (at him)
like it was bone empty:
The Tiger seemed to glide over all his
well-oiled muscles around the quicksand patch
(which suddenly didn't seem nearly as large
as it had seemed to Kalima just seconds before)
... trying to weigh Kalima Limaluma's situation,
as well as Kalima himself, perhaps.
Naturally, Kalima tried to behave towards the Tiger
with the greatest courtesy:
"Hello, Tiger!" Kalima called out politely, "Is this not
a beautiful day to be out in the forest, I ask you!"
Smiling the broadest, widest smile
he had ever smiled at anybody in his entire life.
The Tiger merely continued swimming along
in his own muscles as he paced back and forth,
around and around the quicksand patch
trying to find a way to get at the poor fellow
stuck right in the middle of it.
Finally the Tiger stopped at the edge
of the quicksand patch which was closest to Kalima:
"What is your name?" The Tiger asked,
not at all politely.
In spite of this Kalima answered the Tiger quite charitably
and... as the great beast continued to inspect him
from the edge of the quicksand
with his very hungry-moving eyes.
Then the Tiger suddenly took a calculated swipe at him
with one of his claws-dripping paws
(which came just... inches
short of ripping the petrified Kalima to bits).
"What a shame that exceedingly stupid Water Buffalo
did not get himself stuck in there
trying to get you out!" The Tiger said casually,
satisfied that there was no way for him to get at Kalima
even from the closest edge of the quicksand:
And, "My goodness, Kalima," the Tiger growled next,
almost playfully: "You appear to be caught
in a conundrum!"
"The heavens protect me," Kalima cried back:
"And here I had thought it only an everyday
run-of-the-mill patch of quicksand!
Goodness me! What am I going to do?"
"Well," said the Tiger, trying to appear helpful:
"Not chatter about so much for one:
Every time you get excited like that
... it drives you deeper into the quicksand."
"O unfortunate me!" cried Kalima,
trying to control his nerves.
"A real shame, too," mused the Tiger
while he checked his claws for sharpness,
"I have been chasing that horribly stupid Water Buffalo
for days now without anything to eat all this time.
And I could have really used you for a snack,
Kalima. Yet here that stomach-less quicksand patch is
going to have you for lunch
--There's irony for you!"
"Oh yes, indeed," Kalima agreed with the Tiger
(as he was inclined to agree with anything the Tiger said,
really): "I am most appreciative
of your praise for this exceedingly unworthy..."
"Well," the Tiger interrupted Kalima abruptly:
"I must leave you to your quicksand now,
as I have no stomach to stand here
and witness good food going to waste!"
The Tiger then sniffed the air for the Water Buffalo's trail
and silently rippled over his muscles back into
the dense growth beyond the clearing
... vanishing without leaving so much as a trace
of his ever having been there!
"Whew!" Kalima sighed in relief: "Thank the heavens
I was lucky enough to get himself stuck
precisely in the middle
of a wide enough patch of quicksand!"
Feeling almost like jumping for joy,
even though he couldn't have, really (or
he certainly would have): "Gracious me,"
Kalima was finally able to laugh:
"Had I been standing one little inch more to either side
that Tiger would have certainly had me for a snack
instead of the quicksand that has got me now!"
It was the first time all day Kalima had
had any reason to laugh. Only, his laughter
did not last very long, for by now
the quicksand was already half way between his knees
and his waist... and rising
quicker than he would have preferred.
"Help! Help! Help! You hear me?" Kalima cried
again: "Help! Help! Help! Help!"
The Leaping Little Animal.
Suddenly Kalima winced and ducked
as a strange creature leapt clear over him,
over the quicksand patch, and
even across the whole length of the clearing
in which the quicksand with Kalima stuck in it was.
"What beast is this!?" Kalima asked himself,
almost half hopefully and the other half quite fearfully...
No sooner did he speak
than the strange leaping creature again hurled itself
out of the opposite side of the forest
and leaped again right over the whole clearing
from one side to the other.
After its flight it landed somewhere deep in the bushes
on the opposite side--only, as it passed over him,
Kalima could see that it didn't have any wings on it at all!
"Goodness me!" Kalima told himself full of dread.
That's when a small head resembling that of a deer
popped out of the heavy growth at the edge of the clearing.
"If you will excuse me, please," said the little deer,
"but, what are you doing standing in that quicksand?
If you do not mind my asking it..."
Before Kalima could reply
the strange little leaping animal again leapt
over to the opposite end of the clearing,
leaving Kalima all tongue-tied with awe!
"Well?" The leaping little wonder asked him again,
popping out its tiny deer head (now out of
the bushes on that side of the clearing):
"Why do you not answer?
Are you horrifically witless perhaps or something?
If you do not mind my asking this..."
"I am not that horrifically witless,
I assure you," Kalima sputtered in reply--
"In that case," the leaping little animal told him:
"You should stop going around acting horrifically witlessly
or, at the least, you should not be surprised
when people take you to be so."
"It comes from my mother," Kalima tried to explain
his acting horrifically witlessly: "And my father,
now I think about it. For, in many respects,
both my father and my mother were horrifically similar
(to be truthful about this), except that
one was a male and the other one was a female."
The leaping animal shook his head.
"You have not yet told me what you are doing
standing in that quicksand like some atrocious fool. Now,
if you would not mind telling me, has not anyone
ever told you that you could sink
down to the bottom of the world
and never be heard from again
by standing on quicksand like that?"
"Not exactly, well... maybe," said Kalima,
trying to remember whether anybody had
ever told him such a thing.
However, "I am stuck in it now," Kalima added,
just to be sure that the leaping little deer understood
where he stood (and not wishing to point out
to anyone who might possibly be in a position to rescue him
that it was horribly stupid of him
not to have seen the obvious)...
"Might you... possibly... think of some way by which
I could be helped off this quicksand... quickly?"
Kalima humbly asked the leaping little deer.
"'Quickly?'" Echoed the little leaper:
"Hold a moment there, if you please." And
again Kalima had to wince and duck
(driving himself still deeper into the quicksand)
as the jumpy little deer again leapt
from one side of the clearing all the way to the other
in a single bounce.
Then, "I am very, very sorry about this,
I can assure you," said the leaping little deer
as soon as he had popped his head out of the bushes
on the side of the clearing to which he had just leapt:
"But I can only leap so far--And no farther."
"Oh dear," Kalima muttered in disappointment.
And, "Gazelle!" the Gazelle immediately corrected him.
Although we shall not go into
all the 'God-Bless-Yous' that followed this.
"As long as you are leaping over me like that,"
Kalima urgently begged the Gazelle now, "could you
maybe... see your way clear to
dropping a tree branch or a long stick near me
--so I may grab on to it and pull myself free...?"
"Goodness me--Of course... Not!"
Said the Gazelle: "I am most sorry about this."
Quickly pointing out: "If you would not
mind telling me, how high do you think
I would be able to go leaping about
if every time I did so
I took along with me a tree or something!?"
"Not very," Kalima was forced to acknowledge.
The Gazelle did promise Kalima that after he left
(for he was already getting pretty jumpy
hanging around on one spot for such a long time)
... he promised Kalima that he would leap about
for a while and try to spot somebody who
might wish to come by the quicksand patch later
and rescue him.
"That is the best I can do," the Gazelle said
curtly: "Take it or leave it," (for
he was very keen to move on).
And, saying this... the leaping little animal
immediately leapt out of the picture, so high
that it shot right through the tree canopy above
like a solid bolt of lightning
through a ripping cloth of clouds,
making it possible for Kalima to see (through the hole
he left up there) how the little creature
almost seemed to leap over the sun itself
... although it only looked this way
because the sun was so low in the horizon by now.
It only served to remind Kalima
how quickly he was going down himself.
"Oh well," Kalima tried to comfort himself
(for he always tried to look on the bright side
of things, regardless how dark
things got around him): "The Gazelle might yet leap
into somebody who might later come and rescue me
(if he does not leap into the Tiger's stomach first):
The heavens protect him!"
He struggled to listen as the Gazelle kept leaping
further and further away with every one of his bounces
... until he could hear neither a bound of him
nor any possible pounce of the Tiger's:
"Thank Goodness for that!" He told himself
then, overjoyed that the little Gazelle had got away
safely (without dropping into that hungry Tiger)
... just as he started to feel the cool
quicksand reaching up almost to his very waist.
The Two Monkeys.
Other creatures came by to visit with Kalima
at the quicksand patch after that,
most of them simply curious to find out
what could possibly be going through this odd fellow's head
(to keep standing there like some fool
out in the middle of that quicksand
... so far removed from his village):
First two monkeys showed up out of nowhere
and started laughing themselves silly
about Kalima's so embarrassing condition,
I am sorry to say... slapping each other on the back
and rolling around near the edge of the quicksand
as if they might fall into it themselves.
Then, out of the blue, they got themselves into
a most heated argument over whether they had ever
or had never met Kalima Limaluma somewhere else before
(although the one monkey of the two
who was certain they had met him elsewhere before
was just as convinced that Kalima was also
a distant relative of theirs,
so his whole credibility with the other monkey
went up in smoke right there):
"I am telling you we have met this Kalima fellow
somewhere before, if I am not mistaken!"
The one monkey insisted to the other one.
And, "You are most certainly mistaken,"
the other monkey argued back, "of this
I am definitely convinced: Oh, I will grant you
we have met Kalimas by the bunches before; but,
for certain now, I can assure you
not this one particular Kalima
sinking into that quicksand here in front of us,
that is absolutely for sure!"
After which, the monkeys' arguing
took on somewhat of a more personal bent to it:
"Your problem, if you do not mind my
pointing this out to you," one monkey told
the other one, "is that all these Kalimas
look exactly alike to you, that
is certainly where the problem is,
I am sorry to have to tell you!"
On and on went their arguing, becoming
so horrifically heated as it went
that in no time at all the two monkeys were rolling around
the ground like a couple of very vulgar people
wrestling and trading punches
in an unacceptably rude fashion
and for quite some time, too
(even going so far as to actually insult each other's
families for generations previous to theirs
in a most impolite manner let me tell you)...
This crude brawl continued like that
as if it would never end; until
at last the two monkeys were scared off
by a very itchy (and an ever scratching) Sloth Bear
who slowly wandered into the clearing
with the quicksand patch in it
--something which I don't know how or why
he happen to do so, nor did the itchy
and scratching Sloth Bear himself, I'll venture to guess
--just as the quicksand was
starting to reach as high as Kalima's belly button.
The Sloth Bear.
At first the very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear
couldn't make heads or tails of anything
he saw in front of him (which was
mostly the upper half of Kalima's body
sticking out of the quicksand patch
like a legless tree trunk).
The very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear
stared at Kalima for the longest time
... perhaps while he was trying to
figure out what progress Kalima could possibly
be making atop tiny little ant-size legs upon which
that very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear assumed
Kalima was walking... for, like Kalima himself,
the very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear
at first completely failed to notice that there was
any quicksand around there at all (and especially
under Kalima's upper half of his body)...
"Please, if you do not mind, can you help me?"
Kalima finally decided to ask the very
itchy and scratching Sloth Bear.
And, "Nawwwwwh!" The very itchy
and scratching Sloth Bear told Kalima
with a long gruffly growl: "I do not think so!"
"But," the very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear did
add, "if it's any comfort to you, I'll have you know that
it is always better for every person to learn to walk
on his own two... little legs, I am sure of it."
A principle which Kalima completely failed to understand,
in the situation he found himself in at the moment.
Then the very itchy and scratching Sloth Bear
excused himself and left, telling Kalima,
as he was going, how much he admired
the poor fellow's refusal to quit walking
even in the face of the fact that, in
the Sloth Bear's own humble opinion,
it was not getting him very far.
"O my goodness," Kalima marvelled:
"What a problematical itchy and scratching Sloth Bear
that was, to be certain!" And, "Help! Help!"
He contented himself with hollering again
at the top of his voice.
The Song Bird.
Quite unexpectedly a Songbird
perched upon a nearby twig (which
unfortunately was not near enough to him
for Kalima to grab hold of), and there clutched at his breast
like he was about to have a fainting spell or something:
"You... scared... me!" The Songbird chided Kalima
(all the time he was desperately trying to catch his breath).
"Oh, a thousand pardons, Songbird,"
Kalima apologized to the heart-clutching Songbird,
"but, I can assure you, I had a most pressing need
to holler like that, I hope you know!"
"It was nevertheless inconsiderate and rude of you,"
the Songbird insisted: "You could have
just as easily sung in one or two octaves higher
than usual, I must tell you!"
Then, after calming himself, the Songbird
volunteered to teach Kalima all the techniques
by which singing for help could readily be put into practice,
if only Kalima applied himself with any sense of duty
and some half-way decent dedication.
Well, for the length of time it took Kalima to sink
into the quicksand all the way to his armpits
that Songbird sang out songs after songs,
every one of them a perfect illustration
of different singing techniques
Kalima might possibly use to sing for help...
And it wouldn't stop singing, either
... no matter how emphatically poor Kalima tried
to point out to the Songbird
how little time he had
to learn them all (not to mention the fact that
the Songbird's performance was drowning out
any attempts Kalima himself might have made
to sing out for help).
Finally, after the longest concert (and
the most unconscionable number of encores),
at last the Songbird bowed with satisfaction
--as if he might even be expecting Kalima to
give him an ovation.
It made Kalima suspect that the Songbird had been
much more interested in performing
than he had ever been interested in
trying to teach him anything:
"But," Kalima yet humbly asked the bowing Songbird:
"Aren't you going to... give me a hand?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" The Songbird shot back at him
with a frightful temper: "What trick's there to
standing on that quicksand like some
astonishing imbecile exercising one's ears!?"
"But, but, but..." Kalima tried to interject unsuccessfully:
"But nothing!" Said the Songbird:
"I dare say I sang you half the songs of Paradise
here under your very nose. And
did you give me a hand, I ask you. No!
Not even a little hand!"
Then, without waiting for an answer from Kalima,
the angry Songbird flew away just like that,
without saying (or even singing) another note...
Then there was the Peacock...
Oh, what a beautiful Peacock that Peacock was,
too: Every move he made seemed to be
framed in an everywhere-spreading fan-like rainbow
of jeweled eyes watching his every step, all of it
brilliantly set upon a stunningly gorgeous
starry blue night of feathers!
"Oh, goodness me," said the Peacock
strutting back and forth
in front of the rapidly sinking Kalima:
"You are almost in it up to your neck,
are you not? I had better hurry then!"
Hearing this, Kalima joyfully asked the Peacock
whether he meant that he was going to
rush off to get some help.
"Oh no," said the Peacock, as incredulously
as if Kalima had asked him
whether he was going to fling himself
into the throat of the first Woolly Wolf
he ran into: "That would not be of much help:
I dance much better alone, let me assure you!"
And, without a further how-do, the Peacock
picked up his stunningly beautiful dance
where he had trailed off at Kalima's interruption
(only now all the faster for it).
Boy, did that peacock dance, too!
Kalima could not have enjoyed it more
had he been out of the quicksand
... and not sinking deeper into it
with every step of the Peacock's!
But the Peacock pranced on and on,
first one way, then the other way
... absolutely dancing heads above
anything Kalima had ever seen before
right there in front of his own wide-eyed round head
(just barely sticking out of the quicksand now).
Unfortunately, the only thing Kalima gained
from all that feathery dancing was the knowledge
that this self-centered Peacock was not much more
than a handful of pompous feathers, and, alas,
such a lightweight beast that he could have
never been able to pull him out of the quicksand
(even if the feathered-brained bird had
had a mind to try to do so, naturally).
"Excuse me kindly, please," Kalima finally asked
the Peacock, when he started to feel the quicksand
tickling at his chin, "but, is this helping me,
if you do not mind my asking it?!"
The Peacock immediately stopped dancing,
closed his tail angrily (like a fan), and
gave Kalima a very dirty look:
"Is it not helping you then!?"
The Peacock asked the poor fellow
haughtily: "Is that what you are telling me?!"
"Well, if you will be kind enough to forgive me
for saying so," Kalima humbly tried to explain his situation
to the Peacock as delicately as he could: "No!"
Adding a sorrowful shrug of his shoulders (mostly
because by then both his arms had gone under
the quicksand, and he figured
he might as well use his shoulders before they too
plopped under completely and
were no longer of any use to him).
"Well, I like that!" Said the huffing Peacock,
offended by Kalima's insensitive remark:
"I like that very much!" Pacing back and forth
before the quicksand patch like an irked Spanish dancer:
"Here I am pouring out all my artistic genius
over this ignorant villager, and
do I get any appreciation, I ask you?!"
Well, the answer was that the Peacock then
went away just like everyone else
who had been by the quicksand patch that day
visiting with Kalima.
The Peacock not only left in a most frightful huff,
he also left Kalima settled down into the quicksand
(almost all the way to his ears and nose now),
as well as... a bunch of gorgeous feathers
strewn everywhere he had huffed.
Poor Kalima Limaluma then!
By now it was apparent to Kalima
that even if there had been giraffes in India
not a one of them would have risked its neck
to rescue him from that quicksand patch!
Even the mighty Elephant... who did live
in India, and who also happened by
the quicksand patch while Kalima was sinking
deeper and deeper into it, even
the noble Elephant
told him right to his face, no less, and
in so many words, that he would not
stick his nose in it for the world--And then left!
Now Kalima had settled so low
in the quicksand
that he couldn't even call out for help
any more (because every time he opened his mouth
the quicksand immediately poured into it)...
In order to draw attention to himself,
all that was left for the poor fellow to do was
to stick out his tongue and wave it about at anyone
who might happen by (carefully squeezing it out
through his very tightly closed lips
so as not to let in the quicksand).
That, along with googling his eyes around
like a madman while also wiggling his ears and
raising and lowering his two eyebrows independently
of one another (as if he had been
pumping weights with them)...
"Ah, Kalima, you certainly have made a mess of it!"
He thought, going down
with almost every breath he took now.
The Rat Snake.
But was that really the end of Kalima Limaluma, now?
Well... perhaps so, and then again perhaps not so:
Certain people, especially those who thought
Kalima had finally learned his lesson (even if
it was the hard way), certain people
thought that yes, indeed, that
had been the last the world ever saw of him...
But there are others, now, especially those
other persons who were convinced
that he was the sort of fellow who
never learns anything from his mistakes
(and never would), and these
other persons see it all very differently...
They insist that what really took place was
that just as Kalima was about to plop out of sight
into the quicksand for good and everything
... a very lowly but very fat Rat Snake (which
was just then coming back from a full meal
in one gulp) a fat Rat Snake happened by and
spotted the wretched Kalima's awfully weird
waving of everything the gods had put on
those portions of his head still sticking out
of the quicksand (including even his hair
standing on end by then).
And, "Goodness, what is this we have here?"
The Rat Snake asked himself, stroking
his chinless chin with... his belly. While
Kalima, noticing that the Rat Snake was staring his way,
at once directed all his wild tongue waving and googling
and the rest of it at the Rat Snake,
hoping to get its attention--which it did:
The Rat Snake slithered over
to the edge of the quicksand
hoping to get a better look at all the crazy
commotion, for he was quite near-sighted.
Well, for a good long time the Rat Snake squinted
at Kalima's head making faces at him
while he waited for Kalima to have the courtesy
to explain in so many words exactly what it was
he was going on about there
like some unfortunate lunkhead.
But, of course, Kalima could not utter a word
in return because as soon as he opened his mouth
he choked on the quicksand which poured into it.
"What sort of a snake are you,
if you do not mind my asking?"
The Rat Snake finally decided to ask
the slowly-sinking bug-eyed head of Kalima.
Being unable to reply, but also not wanting
the Rat Snake to think he was ignoring him
and wander away, Kalima desperately
stuck his tongue out at the Rat Snake and
waved it about as hard and as much as he could
... on the outside chance that perhaps
the Rat Snake might be able to help him
in some fashion or another.
Well, the Rat Snake looked at Kalima's head
sticking his tongue out at him
and finally came around to the opinion
that the ugly-looking head in the quicksand
probably belonged to some horribly feeble-minded
fellow snake. (And from
where the Rat Snake was standing
Kalima certainly looked very feeble-minded, indeed.)
"If you would permit me to tell you,"
the Rat Snake pointed out to Kalima:
"It is my opinion that you are stuck
in that quicksand." And, "Hello! Hello!
I am talking to you!" The Rat Snake called to
Kalima's head without getting any answer.
It certainly looked bad for Kalima. But
the Rat Snake was thinking that perhaps
the lack of manners of the strange fellow-snake
stuck in the quicksand was because he had fallen
out of the tree canopy and stunned himself (as
muddleheaded as he was acting there)
... after which he might have somehow
gotten himself stuck into the quicksand
straight up and down like a spear or something
(the way it looked to him).
"Don't worry," the Rat Snake tried to lift
the spirits of the sinking Kalima (believing
it was an unfortunate fellow snake
he was comforting): "I have done the same
stupid thing many times myself.
If you will permit me..."
The Rat Snake then wrapped one end of himself
around a tree and carefully slithered
over the treacherous quicksand
to where Kalima's head was (his forehead
and eyes barely sticking out of it now).
There he wrapped the other end of his body
around the cowlick of hair standing straight up
atop Kalima's head (with sheer terror by then)
... immediately after which he popped Kalima
out of the quicksand as easily as a banana pops out
of a crushed peel (just as Kalima was about
to go under and vanish from the world
for good and all).
Oh what joy did Kalima Limaluma feel then
after being freed from that quicksand!
Never in all the history of joy did
anybody ever feel joy like the one
Kalima felt then: He thanked Vishnu
and almost one percent of all the gods in India.
And he was on his way to thanking the next percent
of them when he suddenly realized
that the most important person he owed thanks to
was lying right there in front of him.
Yes, that lowly Rat Snake scratching its chinless
chin with its... belly there in front of him:
"Oh, Rat Snake, Rat Snake!" Cried out Kalima,
tears streaming down his cheeks:
"How can I ever hope to thank you?
I owe you everything, my life and the rest of it,
besides! For which never will I be able to
repay you, O Rat Snake!" And so forth and so on.
For what seemed like forever (to
the Rat Snake) Kalima went on thanking him
until finally the Rat Snake could take no more
and began fidgeting, squirming, and looking around
for some way to get away
from the gushingly grateful villager (after all,
he was coming off a full meal, and
Kalima's bubbling gush of thanks
was beginning to make his stomach feel queasy).
"You do not know what I have been through
stuck in that quicksand," Kalima told the Rat Snake
(who really rather it should remain unknown), "And,
oh, the animals that came along and did nothing
for me but simply hang about jabbering
and yapping (you know the sort, I am certain),"
tears in his eyes as he continued thanking the Rat Snake
like he would never tire of doing it!
"Why, even the great and noble elephant
did not a thing for me, I am telling you,"
Kalima talked and talked like a runaway fountain:
And, "I had a bird here that danced a complete ballet
even while I was sinking up to my eyeballs
into that quicksand you are seeing here before you," he swore.
"Still another one sang me three tragic operas or more
one after the other one even while I was perishing
in front of him," he told the Rat Snake:
"If it had not been for you, O righteous Rat Snake,
never again would the world have heard
of Kalima Limaluma!"
Well! The Rat Snake yawned politely
and then tried every whichway to excuse himself
(and about three quarters of him even tried to
sneak away out of reach of Kalima's gratitude)
... sorry now and even a bit embarrassed
that he had mistaken the poor
empty-headed villager for a fellow snake.
Although, naturally, the Rat Snake was too polite
to tell Kalima that, in so many words.
Kalima The Rat Snake!
Still, it was true that of all the creatures
in the world that had happened by
the quicksand patch while Kalima was
being swallowed alive by it
only the lowly Rat Snake had been good enough
to risk life and... limb to save him!
So the poor villager was somewhat justified
in feeling grateful, and now, so overwhelmed
did Kalima become by the realization of
the Rat Snake having done such a selfless deed
that he was suddenly gripped by the idea that
the Rat Snake had to be the best
and noblest creature on earth.
"It is true," Kalima suddenly told the Rat Snake,
so excitedly and breathlessly
that the Rat Snake did not dare contradict him:
"You are indeed the noblest creature on earth,
O Rat Snake!"
Perhaps it was divine revelation, thought Kalima
(out loud), although the Rat Snake protested
most humbly that it probably was not.
"Oh yes, you are, you most certainly are,
O Rat Snake!" Kalima insisted, his eyes growing big
and round and his whole face flushed
with so much enthusiasm that it began to look
to the very concerned Rat Snake
as if he might be getting ready to explode
(for although the Rat Snake was of a
cold-blooded nature himself, he had heard
that villagers were hot-blooded and prone to
exploding unexpectedly)... and now here
was this Kalima fellow in front of him
looking very much as if
he was getting ready to go off at any moment!
"I am telling you, O Rat Snake, you are indeed
the noblest creature of them all! And
to prove how serious I am about this,"
Kalima insisted feverishly, "from this moment on
I, Kalima Limaluma, shall follow you
like the humblest disciple follows
in the greatest Master's every... step
... for as long as it takes me to learn from you
how to become as righteous and noble a Rat Snake
as yourself! Oh great and noble Master Rat Snake!"
Saying this, much to the Rat Snake's amazement
(and concern) Kalima suddenly flung himself
violently to the ground before the Rat Snake, and,
holding his arms tightly against his body,
he began to slither about everywhere
trying to find the most comfortable position in which
a person could go about all over the ground
like a Rat Snake!
Finally: "There!" Kalima said to the Rat Snake,
once he had found a position that suited him:
"Now I too am a Rat Snake!" Slithering here and there
all over the place like some holy man gone stark raving mad
and, "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" Ignoring all the cuts
and scrapes he was getting all over his body:
"Now I am a Rat Snake I tell you!" Kalima yelled:
"And I shall follow after you to the ends of the earth,
O Master Rat Snake (or however long it takes me
to learn how to become as good a Rat Snake as yourself)."
Well, the Rat Snake didn't know what to make of all this
craziness, really. He just scratched his forehead with... his belly,
and hoped the poor crazy villager didn't
get it into his head to do him a mischief.
"I am yours to teach, O Rat Snake," Kalima
told the Rat Snake while he slithered back
and forth in front of him like an unimaginable imbecile!
But, madman or imbecile, the Rat Snake
(having already been chased by enough mad villagers
in his day), the Rat Snake decided that the best course
of action for the time being was to humor
this one particularly peculiar villager...
"Pray tell me, O Master Rat Snake," Kalima then asked
his new Master the Rat Snake: "What laudable
and... upstanding daring-do shall we undergo first?
What noble fare shall we delight in afterwards?"
"First, I eat rats," said the Rat Snake, skeptically,
hoping to discourage the crazed villager:
"Fat rats preferably, although a scrawny mouse
now and again will do (in a pinch)."
But Kalima was too far gone to be discouraged
that easily (disgusted a little maybe, but
certainly not enough to be discouraged by it):
"Rats?" Kalima tossed the thought around
in his head: "Master, how shall we cook them?"
"Bite your tongue!" The Rat Snake
corrected his pupil: "If you are going to be a Rat Snake,
whether a good one or a bad one,
the first thing you will have to learn is
to show the proper respect for your food now!"
The chastised Kalima agreed, of course,
for he sincerely wanted to become
the best possible Rat Snake it was
at all possible for him to become.
"From this moment on," he solemnly pledged
his new Master the Rat Snake, "O, Rat Snake,
you are my one and only true friend, forever
brother, father, mother, teacher, and the rest of it!"
And so it was, too, because from that moment on
Kalima slithered about faithfully all over the place
after his master the Rat Snake, and
no matter how hard the Rat Snake tried
to lose him (something which Kalima assumed
was merely tests his new master the Rat Snake
was putting him through):
But Kalima did learn a great deal
about being a right and proper Rat Snake,
I must be truthful about that, now:
He became lean and mean, just like a Rat Snake
(even if more lean than mean, to be sure):
He learned to flick his tongue out at people
(and mostly without offending anybody), and
before one could have said 'Robert is your uncle'
it became almost impossible to tell the new Kalima from
any of the other Rat Snakes running around after every rat
in the world--I am telling you the truth on this.
Kalima even began looking a lot like a snake;
and feeling quite a lot like one, as well:
He listened for sounds like a snake, with
his whole body instead of his ears (which
in a snake are almost not even there at all,
making them all quite very deaf indeed).
He even started smelling like a snake, too,
with his whole mouth, tongue and body, unfortunately,
and not just with this or that pit in particular. So that,
before long he was even eating like a snake (especially
since he quickly discovered that in spite of the 'rat'
in their title, most Rat Snakes preferred poached chickens
to gulping down altogether undercooked rats).
Kalima The Snake God!
"Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! Father," a frightened
village boy came into his house shouting one day:
"Father, a big Rat Snake has just taken all the eggs
our best egg-laying chickens laid today!"
"Nonsense!" Said the father: "How can one
Rat Snake alone take all our eggs with it, my son?"
"I shall now proceed to tell you how, Father,"
was the boy's answer: "The big ugly Rat Snake
I am telling you of came into our chicken coop
and after swallowing a couple of eggs on the spot
like any other Rat Snake
it then pocketed the rest of the eggs and..."
"Pocketed?" The startled father asked his son.
"Yes, father," said his dutiful son:
"It must have had at least five pockets
(if you include its shirt pocket).
"Oh, my son," said the disappointed father
when he heard that: "Do you owe money to somebody,
if you don't mind my asking?" Immediately
opening an investigation
into whether his son might have been
selling their eggs without cutting him in on it.
Worse still, the boy also expected his father to believe
that this particular pockets-sporting Rat Snake
also had a big ugly round head
which closely resembled that of a certain Kalima,
a poor fellow who had become famous some time before
for having vanished from a nearby village without a trace.
But although this particular father was forced to punish
his son for telling him such transparent lies, soon
people from a number of other villages
all over that part of the country
also began reporting that they too had spotted
a big ugly Rat Snake with four or five pockets
stealing every chicken's eggs, or even just lying about
in the Sun sometimes (whose ugly description
sounded suspiciously like
their own puzzling egg-pocketing Rat Snake).
And so, well, eventually the father was forced
to apologize to his son. Then
everybody got together and went to visit
the local holy man, who was also The Wisest Man
In The Land (who was known to be
The Wisest Man In The Land, even if not as holy
as he should have been, because he spent all day
humming to himself
while living better than most of them put into a mob,
I dare say; and without working a day of his life, no less).
The Wisest Man In The Land listened patiently
to their very puzzling story. Then
he quickly determined that the answer was
that their long-lost fellow villager Kalima Limaluma
had probably been swallowed by a Rat Snake
(for by every account he had already been
living a rather mousy existence, lying about all day
and the rest of it), and now he had been reborn
as a Rat Snake god himself, no less!
"Oh, heavens protect us!" The villagers cried out
in shock at these awfully supernatural news.
After which The Wisest Man In The Land advised them
that there really wasn't much
for them to get themselves all worked up about.
According to him, all they really had to do was
leave a few offerings out here and there
for their new Rat Snake god, chickens and other
good things (especially with him personally
... as he himself selflessly volunteered to see to it
that all their whatever contributions
should be put to the best possible use
for which they were intended).
For which devotion to the betterment of
their miserable lives, naturally, the villagers were most thankful
(and generous) to The Wisest Man In The Land.
Well, in the natural course of events,
the villagers did exactly
as The Wisest Man In The Land said
they ought to be doing. And all were happy
to do it, too, for they were all pious people
no less than everybody and wanted nothing to do with
getting themselves on the wrong side of any god,
whether an ancient and established one, or one
who was only now trying to make a name for himself...
Although after that they did become a bit more shy
about venturing out into their forest, for
even though they now knew their new Rat Snake god
was only their empty-headed old neighbor Kalima
(so it was not likely to be an especially clever god
for the Good or for Evil either)... well, to be truthful
about this, nobody who had known Kalima
when he was just a simple villager living among them
really wanted to run across a Snake Rat that
looked anything like him, for heaven's sake...
As far as the villagers were concerned, that
was the end of it then and there, since
they had lots more important business to take care of.
However, as far as Kalima Limaluma himself went,
that was only the beginning: He had a hard time
adjusting to life among the Rat Snakes. At first
because most of them resented the fact that he
could count all the way to twenty, I dare mention it,
and without having to put together
nineteen good friends to do it either.
Then again, Kalima himself also had several complaints
about the table manners of his new companions, which
were considerably atrocious: It was always
the most difficult thing in the world to get any of them to
split a chicken with him, have no doubts about that.
And they always kept sticking out their tongues at him
all throughout their every meal, no matter how
terrible a fuss he made over it.
However, eventually Kalima got used to
his new life as a Rat Snake. But
although life was not all that bad among the Rat Snakes,
it was not all that good, either:
There were plenty of things about living the life of
a Rat Snake which Kalima never completely got used to
--one of the principal ones being their practice of not eating
fried chicken, or boiled chicken for that matter.
But in order to fit in and be accepted by the Rat Snakes
among whom he now made his home, Kalima had to
do things the way a proper Rat Snake did--Even shedding
his clothes every night before going to bed
and slithering back into them the following morning
without using his hands!
And yet it was mostly an untroubled (if
uncomfortable) existence for Kalima now
--Untroubled that is, until the day he met up with
the Snake-Catching Eagle!
The Snake-Catching Eagle.
This is the way it happened... one day, as
Kalima was slithering lazily back to the forest
after checking out the chicken coops in a certain village...
"Swoop!" Went the Snake-Catching Eagle
without any advance warning... diving
from high in the clear blue sky
all the way down to where Kalima was slithering
along over a cleared plot of land
which offered him no protection from
the Eagle's very keen eyesight:
"Swoop!" And before Kalima knew what was
happening he was being carried off
hanging from the talons of the world's biggest Eagle.
"Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! I beg you humbly
to pardon me, but," Kalima shouted at the Eagle
(even though the wind kept filling up his mouth
every time he opened it
and making it exceedingly difficult for him to speak):
"But, if you do not mind my asking it... what is it
that you think you are doing up there?"
"If you do not mind," the Eagle answered Kalima,
angered at being interrupted in the middle of work:
"I think I am taking the fattest snake I have even caught
back to my nest, that is what I think I am doing!"
Continuing to fly higher with every beat of her
huge wings: "What is it do you think you
are doing down there!?"
"Well, I am very sorry to have to tell you this,"
Kalima insisted, "but I most definitely do mind
your taking off with me like this, for you have
most assuredly made a horrible mistake somewhere in all this!"
Kalima was sure that none of his fellow Rat Snakes
would criticize him this once
for taking advantage of the fact that
he really wasn't a snake--not really--
to escape from that monstrously large Eagle.
"And what mistake have I made,"
the Eagle asked skeptically, "if you could
work your way to properly explaining it to me!"
"I will have you know that I am certainly NOT
a snake!" Kalima bravely shouted at the Eagle,
trying to sound as outraged as it was possible
for somebody hanging from an eagle's talons
that high up in the air
to sound at such a moment: "Are you blind
perhaps? If you do not mind my pointing this out
to you: Would you mind
taking a closer look at my person!?"
Alas, Kalima's outrage only seemed to
strike the Eagle as humorous somehow, and
she was soon laughing at him
so hard that she almost dropped him!
"I must confess, now,
you must certainly take me for some pitiful imbecile,
that is certain!" Said the Eagle, boasting
proudly: "I will have you know
my eyesight is the greatest of all the animals'."
"But I am NOT a snake, I am telling you!"
Kalima protested. "So it is unquestionable
that you must be mistaken about this."
"I never make mistakes when it comes to food,
I assure you of this," the Eagle testified,
"so you are wasting your time, snake.
In any case, I would certainly never take a snake
at his word. Least of all a sneaky
chicken-snatching Rat Snake like yourself,
if you do not mind my telling you this."
"Help! Help! Help!" Kalima replied to that.
"Furthermore," the Eagle explained, flying
higher and higher still as she flew back
to her extremely high-built nest: "I will admit
that I have never caught an uglier
or more talkative Rat Snake. (That
I am certain of.) But every Rat Snake
I have ever caught has tried to fool me
into letting it go with this or that trick--I dare say--
And they are all eaten and gone now,
let me make certain that you understand this!"
"I am NOT a snake, I am telling you!"
Kalima yet protested.
"I shall be sorry to have to eat you, snake,
that I'll concede," said the Snake-Catching Eagle,
sincerely, too, "for you are a funny snake
indeed," all while in the distance, in her tremendous nest,
her two huge, hungry and extremely excited chicks
screamed louder and louder the closer and closer
they flew to them: "By now my children must be
very hungry, I will have you know, and
you fit their bill."
In the agitated state he was in Kalima only
heard, "fill their bills." But all he could do was
to protest with ever greater distress, complaining interminably
about the unpardonable mistake
he claimed the Eagle was making:
"I am not a snake!" Kalima insisted and insisted,
wiggling and squirming in the Eagle's talons
... like a snake: "I am not a snake! I am not a snake!"
But it was no use: "For somebody claiming not to be one,"
said the Eagle, quite sternly: "I must tell you,
you certainly act very much like a snake." Then
the huge animal laughed at the silly argument
'the Rat Snake' it had caught was making:
"You slithered just like a snake. And when you talk
your tongue certainly flicks out. And
I have even watched you filchering chickens
from the villagers now and again... exactly
like the sneak-thieving snake you are! And yet
here you are still telling me
you are not a Rat Snake in the face of it!"
"I may look like a snake," said Kalima, his
eyes bulging out farther and farther from his head
the nearer and nearer they got to the Eagle's nest
with its two hungry chicks in it, "but
that is only because I was... temporarily
trying to be a snake, that's all, certainly," sorry now
that he had ever tried to pass himself off as a rat snake!
"I know one thing," the Eagle finally laughed at Kalima
disrespectfully: "I am sure a big chicken like you
will taste like a snake!"
"If you will permit me," Kalima said,
waving his arms and legs like crazy for the first time
since he had made a snake of himself: "Look at this:
Can snakes do this, I am asking you?!"
The Eagle looked. However, "You are not
the first snake that has gone all to pieces like that
after it's been caught, snake," she said to him:
"Your tricks will not work with me!"
Kalima next tried explaining to the Eagle
how the Rat Snake had been the only creature
noble enough to raise... a hand to help him
out of the quicksand patch
when no one else in the world would
(in spite of the fact that the Rat Snake didn't even
have a hand to begin with)...
But the Eagle only laughed even more
at the poor fellow because of it: "Oh,
such nonsense!" She told him:
"Any normal person would have just
thanked the Rat Snake and let it go at that."
This the Eagle was quite certain of:
"Nobody would ever be so grateful to a Rat Snake (even
for saving one's life) that he would actually become
a Rat Snake himself! I do suppose you will be
telling me next that if a dung beetle
would have saved you from the quicksand patch
you would have become a dung beetle?" The Eagle
could not help laughing even more freely at the idea:
"Or what if a murderer had saved your life?
Are you going to tell me that you would have turned
murderer yourself? Oh, what nonsense you talk!"
Laughing at him most cruelly: "I have never
heard the likes of it in all my life, you can be sure of that."
Kalima did have to admit that one would have had to have
been there to fully understand his
choosing to become a Rat Snake:
"Now, if you please, I must ask you
not to make me laugh any more: I might drop you
... and spoil my babies' dinner,"
the Snake-Catching Eagle almost pleaded with him:
"I declare, you would want me to believe
that anybody who was not a snake
would want to become one! And
a Rat Snake at that--My very word!"
"Ah, Kalima," was all Kalima could answer (sadly,
to but himself): "You certainly have made
a mess of it now!" Although he never really
ceased pleading with that unsympathetic
and unbelieving Eagle louder and louder
the closer they flew to her nest:
"I am not a snake!" He screamed out
again and again: "I am not
a snake I am telling you! I am not a snake!"
"Hush!" Was all the answer Kalima got
from the Eagle as they climbed higher and higher,
and closer to her two huge and hungry chicks:
"Hush all that yapping and jabbering down there:
It's going to upset the children--"
Indeed, too late now, Kalima finally realized
just what an awful mess he had really made of it.
And then he just hung limply from the Eagle's talons
... as limp as a rag (although not quite as quietly):
"I swear to you that I am not a snake!
"I am telling you, what a sneaky snake!"
Said the Eagle as she carried the noisily limp Kalima
to her nest: "No use trying to fool me now, snake!
You think I have not been watching you for a long time
before I finally got my talons into you?
I will have you know I perfectly well know
you are most definitely a snake!"
"But... I am not a snake!"
Kalima's limp voice finally trailed off
into the distance
as the Eagle began to lower him down into
the biggest nest upon the highest tree in the forest
... and within reach of her eagerly waiting hungry chicks.
The Myna Birds.
And was that the end of Kalima Limaluma?
Actually now, perhaps so. But then again
perhaps not. For even though there are those, especially
those who believe that Kalima Limaluma finally learned
his lesson (the hard way)... there are people
who believe that, indeed, that was the last
the world ever saw or heard of poor Kalima.
However, there are others (and especially
those who are just as convinced that he was
the sort of fellow who never learned anything
from his mistakes--or anything else),
there are others who see it all quite differently...
They insist that what really happened was
that just as the Eagle dropt Kalima into her nest
for her chicks to fight each other for him (and before
he had actually fallen all the way down into
the nest itself)... a swift-flying flock of Myna Birds
which had been listening to Kalima's cries for help
took pity on the poor fellow (since he could scream
like the devil was after him, I'm telling you)
and rescued him, plucking him right out of the air
as soon as the Eagle had opened her talons
and let go of him!
Further, they also insist that this very same
quick flying flock of Myna Birds then brought him down
to the ground where they deposited him safe and sound
before the Snake-Catching Eagle knew what was what.
Not only that--according to those who tell of his legend--
that wasn't even the end of it, because
they insist that Kalima being the sort of fellow he was
(totally incapable of learning anything whatsoever
from his mistakes)... that Kalima was so grateful
to those Myna Birds
for rescuing him from the Snake-Catching Eagle
that right there and then
he made up whatever was left of his mind
to become a Myna Bird himself, no less!
No? Yes! And very soon after this... villagers
all over that part of the country were telling anyone
who would listen (as they'll do to this day)
that every once in a while one of their local Myna Birds
suspiciously seems to do a bit more jabbering
and yapping than a normal everyday
crazy Myna Bird ought to be doing.
Where most Myna Birds are content to just whistle
and repeat whatever dribble you speak to them,
these story-telling fellows yet insist that there are
some other unusual Myna Birds
which actually attempt to strike up a conversation
with you, of all things... asking how things are with you
or with the world, wanting to discuss the weather
with a fellow, and all sorts of odd things.
And so the singers of the Limalumalay
(as the legend of Kalima has grown to be known)
swear to everybody that these very rare Myna Birds
are quite as intelligent about what they are talking to you
as you yourself are about what you are
dribbling to them... which is indeed strange indeed!
But try as one might to explain to people
that Myna Birds are just only Myna Birds,
and that's an end to it there... still
those who believe the legends sung by the singers
of the Limalumalay
will swear to your face (and see if I am not right
about this) that, no, quite the contrary... that
sometimes Myna Birds are not just merely Myna Birds at all
but are really people who have lived as people long,
long ago and must now live as Myna Birds because
they did not learn the lesson of life properly, you see,
and so must try again and again
... and sometimes even as Myna Birds.
And believers like these will tell you
with a straight face
that every once in a while they spot
an unusually big and especially ugly Myna Bird
flying featherlessly all over the place, no less,
yes, without even one single feather anywhere
on its whole ugly body--and yet flying--
and sometimes even trying to build a nest!
(Although it always lays an egg when it does this.)
But since the matter is always like this
with most believers of these legends the world over,
who am I to tell you differently, I ask you!
And thank you kindly for listening
to my Limalumalay.
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