Animal Dilemmas – Catfish Swan
The swans and ducks settled on the edge of the pond under the fence. High-pitched sounds were unnatural to them and signaled danger. Hours later they shed their fears and redistributed evenly about the pond and the little island in the middle where the action had taken place. The Penguin was taken away and the head Swan had flown away.
The Swan was a strong leader but not a natural one. It had worked hard to discipline itself on how to walk and behave in public. After great moments of stress it was not sure of itself and hid until its feelings settled. The birds had never see it downcast and never doubted its authority and that was what the Swan wanted to avoid in this case.
It flew away out of the zoo to the nearby river to contemplate on what was it going to tell the flock in the evening. It knew that words were a powerful tool and if it arranged them correctly and said them passionately enough the birds would believe them.
The Swan landed in the shallows and swam about poking into the water in search for fish. It knew the hunt will distract it and center its mind then it could think clearly. It came across a school of fish and caught one. Gulped it down whole and looked for another but the school was gone.
The Catfish had grown large in the river and all fish in their right mind swam as fast they could when they felt the torrent of its tail. The poking and splashing the Swam did had attached it to the shallows. It was hungry and not for just anything. The Catfish was hungry for something big, fish or bird. It liked to play with its food. So when it saw the bottom of the Swan it rose and bit its legs off.
The Swan cried and spread its wings but the wind had left them and it flopped on the surface of the water helpless.
‘Calm down,’ said the Catfish. ‘I am not going to eat you. I thought you were a duck. I like ducks; they are fatty and you are hard to chew and all these long feathers make me constipated,’ said the fish.
‘So why did you handicap me. I will never be able to recover.’
‘I thought you were a duck.’
‘How did you grow so big and mean?’
‘Mean, I am just hungry. As for my size, I grow as large as the water pool allows me. I was small once in a pond not far from here. But they drain it and transferred all the fish to the river. I lived for years in the small pond and ate my fill but was at a fixed size. Once I came here I swam up and down found many fish to eat and many deep waters. The river is vast. And before I knew it I was the largest beast in the water. Life is good.’
‘Do you tell your life story to all your victims!’
‘I like to play. I have no competition so I get bored. I sleep a lot. I sleep and eat I don’t swim up and down any more. There are nets, they are trying to catch me.’
‘I hope they do! I didn’t know fish eat birds.’
‘Yes, I am glad you asked. It’s a new thing for me. The first time it happened by accident. I liked it. Keeps me busy to try to hunt above water. Once I flipped a boat and bit the hand off a giant. It was beautiful.’
‘I am leader of a colony that depends on me to guide them. We eat to live not for entertainment.’
‘Once you cover the basics, the rest of life is entertainment. I want to grow more but the river has its limitations. So I stagnate and try to find challenges.’
‘How am I going I to go back.’
‘Don’t worry, nothing left to worry about. You don’t have to lead any more. Just relax. Tell me about your pond.’
‘It’s on the other side of the forest. It’s clean and the giants bring us food daily.’
‘That is my old pond. So they filled it up again. I don’t understand those giants. They are irrational.’
‘The pond is part of the zoo now. It is their way of entertainment, to observe us.’
‘Ah, yes, that they do. They have covered the basics long ago and we are their entertainment. Always trying to catch a bigger fish those land animals. I have broke my share of nets and they have nearly had me more than once. It was exciting to fight for your life.’
‘I don’t agree.’
‘You birds are afraid of anything. I branch falls in the water and you all fly away. Were you born on the pond?’
‘Yes I was. My parents were also born there.’
‘And what is a zoo?’
‘They keep animals in cages for the giants to come and see them.’
‘They are strange those giants, very irrational, indeed. See we come from the same place but we are so different.’
‘I am a leader!’
‘A legless leader. I was born while the pond was wild. You were born when it was cultivated and cared for with food and shelter.’
‘I can survive in the wild by instinct just like any other swan.’
‘Yes instinct. I believe in instinct. You instinct will guide you but can you survive without legs?’
‘I guess we will find out. I am never going back to the pond.’
‘No, we are not going to find out,’ said the Catfish and swallowed the Swan whole.
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photograph by Florian GiorgioHire An Editor