Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not Zen 80: Bad Example

In a dale between two hills lived a family of red foxes. The father kept patrol around the den. Together with his vixen, he raised and taught two litters of pups.

One day, the father led his pups to a stream and taught them how to catch crawfish. His youngest pups had never seen the creatures before. They shouted at the way crawfish swam backwards with a flip of their tails. The pups’ father told them that crawfish could flap their tails and fly in the air, too. The vixen chuckled. The oldest child announced that, no, crawfish could only swim. The youngest pup, the only girl in the litter, didn’t know who to believe.

A week later, their father chanced upon a nest of snakes. He killed the biggest. Then he called over his family. He told them to scavenge the hatchlings.

“How do I grab one?” asked his daughter. She danced in front of the smallest snake, wary.

“By the feet, of course!” her father laughed. Next to him, the vixen’s eyes twinkled.

“Daddy!” wailed the daughter. “My snake doesn’t have feet.”

“None of them do,” said the oldest boy. “Just look at them. Snakes don’t have feet. It’s like those flying crawfish. Dad’s just talking crazy.”

The father yipped at them. He let his tongue hang out.

“Where do you think you should grab a snake?” he asked.

“Behind the head?” ventured his daughter. “That’s the way I saw you do it.”

“So I’ll try that again.” He winked at his mate and at his older pups. “For some reason these little snakes have no feet.”

He demonstrated the way to catch one. Everyone got a clear look as he snapped it from behind. Then the pups practiced on the remaining snakes. They and their mother hunted until they were full.

A few days later, the fox’s daughter watched him slip out of the den. She followed far behind as he pranced across the stream and passed into a grove of beech trees. He trotted along the grove until he found a sunlit spot on the edge of the trees, dense with ferns and grasses. He sat down next to a patch of wild strawberries and began to eat. She watched him pluck berry after berry between his teeth and tongue. She licked her chops and approached.

“Are those good?” she asked.

“Oh no,” he replied. “They’re poisonous.”

“Are you crazy?” she shouted. “Daddy, I see you eat bunches.”

“Then I suppose they must be okay.”

“Are you talking crazy again, daddy?”

“What do you think?”

She laid herself down and studied him.  She got up and sniffed the strawberries in the bushes. She sniffed her father’s mouth. She licked the red juice off of his lower jaw. He turned his head away and laughed.

“Why did you say they were poisonous?” she asked.

“Am I being confusing? Should I explain?” He pawed the ground next to him. She sat down where he had gestured. He leaned closer. “Daughter, I have to say things like that because I’m not a good liar. Other animals are. This way I show you to look out for them. I want you to think about what everyone says and ask yourself, ‘Does this make sense?’”

“So you give me ridiculous answers to make me think?” The pup raised her head to look into his eyes.

“No, I’m just crazy,” her father admitted.

“Aha!” she shouted. “I knew it.”

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