Tuesday, 6 June 2006

THE HUNGRY PYTHON : A Cautionary Tale

The Python was unbelievably hungry. He hadn’t eaten in over a week and his last meal had been nothing more substantial than a very small bush pig that, to a python with a healthy appetite, was no more than a meagre snack.

He slithered about all over the jungle looking for food but found nothing (and no one) to eat - until he ran across a scrawny little Mouse who was sitting in a state of some irritation attempting to bite his way into a large nut. Regardless of how hard he nibbled, there seemed to be no way of cracking through the shell. So busy was the Mouse that he didn’t notice the snake sidling up to him.

“Hold it right there!” hissed the Python and, when the Mouse looked up, he fixed him rigid with his famous hypnotic gaze. “Permit me to make the introductions,” he went on teasingly (he had never listened to his mother when she told him not to play with his food), “I am a python and you are a mouse who is shortly about to become my lunch!”

“In that case,” said the Mouse, “I shan’t be needing this…” and he dropped the nut.

“How do you mean?” asked the Python, a tad confused.

“Well,” the Mouse explained, “There’s no point in my bothering to eat a nut if I’m about to be eaten myself. Why should I fatten myself up just for you?”

“Well, since you ask,” replied the Python, “because I’m extremely hungry and you are a very small mouse. So, anything that makes you a more satisfying snack, is all to the good! I will accord you the privilege given to every condemned prisoner facing the gallows: you may enjoy a hearty last meal! I will wait until you have eaten your nut.”

“Then you will have a very LONG wait,” said the Mouse, “because I can’t break open the shell.”

The Python gave a patronising hiss. “That’s easy!” he said. “I can get that open in no time.”

“Very well, then,” sighed the Mouse, “You open the nut, I’ll eat it and then you can eat me!”

So, the snake opened his jaws wide and sank his fangs deep into the nutshell but it didn’t break. Not only that, but he found that, having bitten so deeply, he couldn’t pull his teeth out again. They were fixed fast.

The Python shook his head from side to side, trying to dislodge the nut but without success. In focusing on this unexpected difficulty, the snake had to release his hypnotic gaze on the Mouse, who scampered off, laughing loudly, leaving the Python - whose his jaw was beginning to ache badly - to consider the high price of greediness and the fact that food today was becoming less and less cooperative!

© Brian Sibley 2006

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