Duke finished strapping on his artificial leg. As he tightened the Velcro straps he said a silent thank you to it”s inventor. He was able to do it with one hand, which was helpful since he only had one. He had two but only one was real. The other was plastic and stainless steel. He checked to make sure his glass eye looked OK. It did, for once. He was ready to go out and perform.
Duke was billed as “The Duke of Excitement.” Pretty clever. Not as god as Evel Knevel but at least the Duke didn”t have as many broken bones as Evel had. The Duke didn”t have as many bones to break as Evel Knevel. He used to but, what with the loss of a limb here and a limb there, he just didn’t have the numbers now.
Tonight the Duke would be doing his whole show. The payday was very nice here at the county fair. He”d do the usual jump over cars routine. The last car was a van. The crowd loved it. They really loved it when he hit the van. Duke only did that at the big shows. Then he’d try again and clear it. The fans would go nuts, which they were anyway. So was Duke. He lost his hand that way. Poor timing, that’s all.
Next, he”d do the jump through fire thing. That was a gimme. It looked difficult and brave but was actually easy and foolish. The Duke had never lost a limb or broken anything with that stunt. He had lost a couple of sets of eyebrows and no longer had a beard because of it. In fact, he no longer could grow a beard because of it. Well, saves on saving cream and time. Looked like the dickens though.
He’d give the crowd a couple of false starts to work them up. He’d slide his bike along the ground a time or two. He”d put on a show! Have to stay alert and not be daydreaming. That cost him the leg and a good set of leathers. Leathers are too expensive to waste.
If the crowd was responsive enough he do a triple roll for them. He had to check and double check the wind. Otherwise he come down upside down. One steel plate was enough for anyone’s lifetime and Duke had three. He had more steel in his head than bone. One more plate and he wouldn’t even need to wear a helmet. He’d just paint his logo on his head. Maybe get it etched on. Cool!
The Duke always got his money up front. He did that ever since the time he woke up in the hospital and couldn”t remember if he’d been paid or not. The promoter said he’d been paid but Duke wasn’t sure. He wasn’t positive who he was either but that was OK. The money was the thing. He wasn’t doingmotorcycle stunts for his health, now was he?
One of Duke’s wives, probably number three, the witch with the big mouth and butt to match, once called him, “The walking death wish.”What she didn’t realize was that she was right but he wasn’t wishing for his death. He liked number two the best. She left because she didn’t want to, “be the one to scrape him into a plastic bag for the tree lawn.”Yea, number two, what was her name?, she was the best. Great sense of humor, old whatshername or number. Great gal.
Duke limped over to his bike. He ought to take some money and get a lighter foot made. Maybe that high impact plastic stuff. High impact would always be a good thing for him to have since it was something he did a little too often. The crowd roared as he was introduced. They hollered and screamed. They yelled out and threw things. You’d think this was a rasslin’ match or a hockey game. The crowd was ready to rock. The crowd wanted to see the Duke do the rolling. The crowd was up! The crowd waned to see blood, preferably the Duke’s.
The Duke looked down the lane at the parked cars and the one van. It seems a long way to jump. Wonder if the promoter added a couple of cars to the lineup? Duke couldn’t see well enough to count them. Maybe the Duke was just getting too old for this crap. Now, there’s a thought. Maybe he should look up number two and see if the spark was still there. He could retire. Maybe buy a chicken farm or something like that. Something safe and sensible. Nah, being cheered by a bunch of chickens for tossing feed around wasn”t going to replace the roar of the crowd. The Duke knew in that instant that he”d do this until he died. Probably be why he died for that matter.
The Duke roared down the lane and went up the ramp. He and the bike flew through the air like a bird. The thing is, a bird is supposed to fly through the air. A man on a motorcycle isn’t. Tonight, the Duke and the motorcycle both flew through the air but not together.
The Duke opened his eyes, well, his eye and heard the crowd screaming. The yelled out for more but they weren’t going to get more. The Duke was finished for the night. He was told to lie still until the ambulance got there. He was told that the bleeding was under control and the leg only looked a little broken. Duke hoped it was his artificial one.
The promoter bent down to the Duke with a look of deep concern on his face. The Duke was touched. The promoter shook his head and said, “Now, remember, boy, I already paid you.”
Speaking of rats-
Ratty was staring at the dead cat. It was really getting ripe. The smell alone was enough to turn your stomach unless you were a rat. He was wondering what the cat died from. He thought it would be hilarious if it was rat poison. It would make him inedible but you can’t have everything. That gave him a chucle. It didn’t matter anyway just so long as the cat was dead. Dead cats can’t sneak up and pounce on you. They also make a delicious meal unless poisoned. Oh, they were still yummy but then you died too. Then a rat would eat you and die and so on. They’re a lot better than some of the garbage a rat ate.
Ratty had eaten so much rat poison he was immune to it. After breakfast of ripe cat, Ratty went down the alley to one of his hangouts. He walked there instead of scurrying. Scurrying seemed classless and undignified. Along the way he saw a colony of mice building a nice little nest. Mice are sort of like rats except smaller, less aggressive, and less frightening; sort of sissy rat wannabees.
There were a large number of rats gathered in the basement of this apartment building. There was an argument going on as to whether it was more fun to tease a cat or a pest control guy.
“Listen, you make a mistake with a cat and you’re gone. D-E-A-D gone”, said Grover. “Not all cats are like Tinkerbell.”
All the rats laughed at that. Tinkerbell was Mrs. Simpson’s cat. It was fat and stupid. On top of being slow it was afraid of rats. It was afraid of mice! Every rat in the neighborhood had teased this cat at one time or another. The apartment manager couldn’t figure out why the rats liked her apartment so much. He spent all her rent money on pest control. The pest control guy could never see a rat but saw evidence they had been around. Rat crap always tells the story. He also wondered about that cat. What kind of rats hung around where a cat lived and were never seen when he got there to kill them?
Ratty looked to see his friend Longtail grinning at him as if he’d just stolen the cheese from a trap. That was another enjoyable game. Ratty and Longtail had spent a lot of time dong that. It was great when you won but hell on wheels when you were a little too slow.
“Hello, Longtail. What’s up?”
“I hear they have some fresh vermin down at the docks. I thought we could go see if there”s anything new we could pass on to the humans. We haven’t started a plague for a long time. I think they’re overdue.”
“OK, but we need to be careful. We get rid of all the humans and there won’t be any garbage to pick through. Yea, we can feast on them for a while but not forever.”
As they went along to the docks they spotted another friend, Doofus. He was easy to spot since he had a mousetrap on his leg. He was dragging it along behind him. He apparently had been a little slow at trap stealing. He was a little slow period, hence the name.
“Say there, Doofus, that trap makes getting around a little tough, don’t it?”, Ratty said.
“Yea, it does. I”d like to get it off but can’t figure a way out of it.”
“Well, you know, the only thing to be done is to chew your leg off”, Longtail added.
“Oh? I don”t know as I could do that.”
“Well, sure. Me and Longtail could do it for you. If you like.”
“Well, if you”re positive it’s the only way.”Ratty was positive it was the only way.
Down on the docks Ratty and Longtail sat on a crate and watched as the immigrant rats scurried down. Immigrants always scurry until they get comfortable. One of them jumped up on the crate. The three of them sniffed away at one another. It was the rat way.
“Whewee! You smell terrible. You smell like you took a bath or something”, Ratty said with disgust.
“Yea, it rained on me and I haven’t had a chance to get dirtied up.”
“Well”, Longtail told him, “there”s a sewer over there. Better get some odor on you before you head into the city. Otherwise, some gangsta rat is going to mess you up bad.”
After that rat left Ratty and Longtail went on board. They ran into a couple of rats they knew and went to a cheese party.
“Wow!”, Ratty said, “this cheese is really ripe.”
“Well, it”s been a long trip”, was the reply.
They partied and slept and partied some more. They didn’t notice that the ship had begun to move. When they ent up to go ashore they discovered there was no shore. They stood staring at the water and wondered where they”d end up and if the other rats would miss them. Ratty summed it up best when he said,
The Watering Hole
The watering hole was sort of neutral territory. Since all the creatures needed water, and this was the only one around for miles, it was agreed that no hunting allowed here. The prey would move to another spot if they were going to be attacked. Then the predators would have to move. Then the prey would move again and it would be a vicious circle. Of course, the chain already was but the animals didn’t know that.
The hyenas were slurping water down at the far end of the hole. They weren’t allowed upwind. The rhinos enforced this rule. The last hyena that came upwind was stomped into jelly by Large Lonnie a short tempered two ton beast. The other hyenas screeched and hollered but that”s about all they did. They didn’t challenge the rhino that”s for sure. The lions laughed out loud at them. The hyena was no hunter. The hyena was a leech; a thief. A coward. The lions made certain that the rhino knew they were laughing at the hyenas and not them. The lion was brave, not stupid.
The elephants were playing around , making a racket, messing up the water as well as messing in the water. They went wherever they pleased. They had since the day Big Mama sat on a couple of rhinos.
Those rhinos never walked right again. Even the hyenas weren’t afraid of those rhinos. The lions were a bit leery also. Leaping Leo jumped on one of the males and was clawing away at him. The old boy noticed the lion the way he”d notice a flea. Eventually, he did tire of the lion and reached back and swatted Leo a good one. Leo sees two of everything these days.
The zebras had to put up with a lot of nonsense. Some of the animals called them striped horses. Horses! What an insulting thing to call them. A horse was a beaten down creature that was a virtual slave to lions, man. Granted, few horses get eaten by lions but still. At the watering hole some of the lions teased them. Can I have a ride? Why, the zebras would dearly love to kick a few if them where it really hurts but that”s not allowed here. All those humans ever see is the lion bringing down a zebra. They never see the crippled, sterile lions crawling away after losing a fight. Oh no, never see that!
The snakes were very quiet. Even here at the watering hole they didn’t make much of a fuss. Even here they were hated. They didn’t say much. Having no vocal cords they couldn’t. Didn’t hear much having no eardrums. Just as well. All they would have heard was insults. Being called legless lizards and overgrown worms. Many was the time a snake was accidentally stepped on by a rhino or, worse yet, an elephant. Oh, excuse me, I didn’t see you there, snake. Uh, huh.
The creature everyone liked was the monkey. The monkey didn’t always drink from the hole. He was a tree creature and had other sources of water. He was loved for his good nature and sense of humor. He made the other animals laugh. Even the lion. Even the rhino, who hated to laugh. There was a time the monkeys were run off when they came to the hole. Then their bigger cousins, the apes, came down and straightened everyone out. They were quicker and stronger than the lion. They were smarter and quicker than the rhino. The elephant couldn’t react fast enough to flick them off. The monkeys didn’t get bothered much after that.
Crocodiles had a special problem. They lived in the water. They stored their food there. They got their food by sneaking up on their prey in the water. Well, they weren’t going to do any sneaking up on an elephant. They weren’t going to sneak up on a rhino and go and get them pissed off. They might, just might, be able to do in a lion. Maybe yes, maybe no. But the deal was, no hunting at the hole. Except for the hyena. Hyena? Rather eat dirt than a hyena. No, just have to wait on the occasional drowning. Maybe help out in the drowning. A bit, not too obvious. Not if a rhino was looking.
Birds also did as they pleased. Great friends of the rhinos, they were able to strut around as if they owned the place. The rhinos loved them because they cleaned their teeth for them. Sort of a rhino dentist. They were immune from attack, mostly because who wanted to eat them after they”d been in a rhino”s mouth? Even the hyena gagged at that thought. A few of the birds got injured when a rhino coughed and shot them halfway to Nairobi.
The rainy season was the best for the animals. There was enough water for all the animals. There was no shoving or fussing around. The elephants could have a ball squirting each other with water. They could also squirt the rhinos, who loved it. They could also squirt the hyenas, who hated it but didn’t say much about it. They didn’t want one of the elephants to decide to roll around in the mud. They didn’t want an elephant to roll around in mud that the hyenas were in.
The rhinos could submerge and play under the water. They liked to sneak up on some unsuspecting animal getting a drink and suddenly surface and grunt. Scared the blazes out of the victim. That”s great rhino humor. The crocs had to be very careful not to get stepped on. A rhino would only step on a croc once. Once was more than enough.
The dry season was bad for all concerned. Everyone had to wait their turn and everyone got a little bit testy. The elephants would scream, the rhinos would grunt, the lions would roar, the monkeys would screech, the hyenas would... The hyenas would stay very quiet so as not to irritate anyone. There is no reason to call them laughing laughing hyena hyenas. They really don”t laugh that much nor do they have any reason to.
The watering hole is the Club Med of the African Plain.