Animal Dilemmas – Water Shrew Laughingthrush

short story about outcasts
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Short Story


The forest was full of seeds. And if the Laughingtrush took measured risks and poked about the rotten leaves. It would be well fed but alone. Food was not enough. What was enough, wondered the eccentric bird. Why would its own birds would segregate it just because it didn’t want to eat living things.

They were fools anyway. Flying along side them was just an illusion. A mind state that generated a state of belonging. But even when with them the Laughingthrush was alone. They were fools and the worm proved it. The worm knew the meaning of life. It was engagement with the things one knew how to do well and one’s environment.

Every creature had its purpose and overthinking and overwishing was foolish. If the worm could cope with its solitary fate digesting earth all day so could the bird, any bird. Solitude was the road to peace. But the worm was advantaged. It was blind. The Laughingthrush was disadvantaged that it already knew too much. It simple mind was a grain on sand but was thinking the same that the universe was. According to the universe everything is normal at all times. Even the biggest tragedy is a integral part of the grand normality of the cosmos.

It was hard to find seeds with this whirlwind of thoughts inside the bird’s mind. The Laughingthrush ate little but enough. When it didn’t eat it carved its thoughts on the bark of the trees in the forest. It didn’t think anyone would read them or benefit from them. But the process of carving itself centered its mind and gave it solace. Even at night when its bill hurt from carving it was a sweet pain that silenced its fears.

The Laughingthrush didn’t stay on one tree or even in the same area. It progressed south through the forest carving as it went, leaving a river of thoughts on the trunks of the trees, a river anyone could follow. And many did, other misfits that searched for seeds and solace. The Laughingthrush didn’t know but it was leading them deep into the forest of no return. Many of them were lost and could never find their way out. Some became food for the snakes and wild cats.

The bird didn’t know what was behind. It didn’t know what was ahead either but kept going. It went until the forest ended at a tall cliff above the sea. Was that the end it thought or there was another forest on the other side of the sea. A forest with taller trees on which it could carve more thoughts out. Was there another shore at all. Or was this forest surrounded by water and alone in the world. The sea was foreign and strange. There were no seeds to feed on. Only worm-like creatures.

The Laughingtrush dove down from the cliff thinking it has nothing to lose. It’s solitary life was not benefitting anyone. No one would miss it. If it reached the far shore its solitude would mean something. If it doesn’t it will vanish into the sea and no one will be hurt.

As it curved up at the bottom of the sea to glide on along the surface a Water Shrew waved it to stop.

‘Hey, where are you going bird. There is nothing out there.’

The bird paused and turned around. It circled above the crushing waves to kill its speed and landed on a rock next to the Shrew.

‘I have never seen a bird return from there.’

‘I don’t want to return.’

‘What do you mean, bird! You will leave these beautiful rocks full of shrimp and oysters! Get a hold of yourself, bird!’

‘I don’t live to eat. I am searching for something bigger.’

‘Bigger! All you birds are the same. You think that since you can fly, you can go around the world!’

‘I don’t want to go around the world.’

‘What do you want, bird!’

‘Peace and maybe the sea will give me that.’

‘That was a rhetorical question, bird! You don’t know what you want that is certain! Do yourself a favor and eat a shrimp before you go!’

‘I don’t eat shrimp.’

‘That’s what all you birds say until you try one. It’s better than worms!’

‘I don’t eat worms, either. And what are you? A rat?’

‘Ah, now you are pissing me off, bird. I am no rat! Rats are small and scared!’

‘A water rat?’

‘Damn you, bird! I am no rat! I am a shrew.’

‘And you are so big because you eat shrimp?’

‘And oysters!’

‘I eat seeds.’


‘Because seeds are important.’

‘You are one of those birds that finds luxury in restraint, aren’t you?’

‘I feel lighter when I eat seeds.’

‘That is good and dandy, bird. You have to fly it is important to feel light. I have to get wet to get my meal I need to chew some fat. But we can both look at the sea and the horizon. Isn’t it just dandy!?’

The Laughingthrush hoped over to the Shrew’s rock and gazed at the sea. It was peaceful and eternal, a true representative of the will of the universe. For a moment the bird really felt at peace. Until the Shrew jumped in its back and snapped its neck.

‘If I get a shrimp every time I fool a bird!’


Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, March 29th

previous chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Laughingshrew Worm

all chapters: Animal Dilemmas

more by XIDAN

photograph by Tiago Aguiar


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