Seversonia #8 Economic Growth In Neighboring States

22 Jul

While visiting in our neighbor state of Arid-zone this intrepid reporter decided to investigate a new claim by its governator: Drug Doozy.

Mr. Doozy has come up with what he believes is a fool-proof scheme to ramp up his state’s sagging economic growth. 

“It was there staring at me all this time,” said Doozy. “I just had to open my ears, reach out, and smell the coffee.”

Mixed metaphors notwithstanding, Doozy’s plan, in a nutshell, is this: he proposes harvesting burned Arizona pine tree trunks left standing after rampant wildfires; not caused by climate change, he hastens to add; and saw them into boards. Since the trees are dead but there is still some barely useable wood to be harvested from them, Doozy wants to see that he utilizes this untapped resource.

These boards will be used to create Arizona Dead Pine Coffins, the specific name he has given to his brainchild (term used advisedly). 

Doozy says there an unusual, and to him, baffling, spike in demand for coffins all across our country. Doozy notes that this demand represents a significant opportunity for the state.

“It’s a boom for our great state!” Doozy gushed. 

“Don’t you mean ‘boon’?” asked the reporter for the Elfrida Daily Peach.

“Huh?” said Doozy.

The official site for the new state business, Arizona Dead Pine Coffins, is yet to be announced, but this reporter has heard that several available locations are under consideration. High on the list is the State of Arizona capitol building since the current occupants of that structure aren’t using it for any important business.

In order that consumers can be assured as to the authenticity of the coffins, Doozy has decreed that his image, giving a familiar gesture of success, will be engraved upon the side of each coffin. He will be joined by his favorite companion, a donkey that was rescued from high in the mountains during last year’s fires. 

Because the donkey was found at a very high altitude, Doozy has named him, Up. While Up was large but quite skinny when found, Doozy has seen that he is very well-fed, resulting in a considerable weight gain.

So when you go to buy your official Arizona Dead Pine Coffin, look for Drug Doozy, his thumbs upright, and Up, his big fat ass.

To be continued?

Seversonia #7 More of the Fifth Estate

20 Jul

I caught up with Joe Void in the front room of Shorty’s Bar and Grill. He was playing pool and talking to a man wearing sunglasses who was seated at a nearby table.

“Mr. Void can I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure,” he answered, “we’re almost done here.”

“We? It looks like you’re playing alone.”

“I’m playing him,” he jerked a thumb back at the man at the table.

Looking at the man again I noticed that in addition to wearing dark sunglasses indoors, he had a white cane leaning against the table.

“Mr. Void,”I said, “he appears to be blind. How is he able to play pool?”

“Well obviously I have to make his shots for him. I describe where the balls are on the table and Charlie tells me what shot to take.”

“How’s that working?”

He leaned towards me and whispered conspiratorially, “Well, to be honest, Charlie’s not very good. I’ve beat him four out of five games today already.”

I nodded. ”I see, can I ask you about the recount?”

“The what?”

“The recount of votes in MeaCulpa county.”

“Oh that,” he said, “we’re done.”

“Great! So when’s your report coming out?”

He set down his pool cue. “Not so fast there, bucko. We still have a lot to do.”

“Like what?”

“Wellll—to start with we’ve discovered how they did it.”

“How who did what?”

“Those inscrutable orientals. We now know exactly how they loaded thousands of illegal ballots into the ballot boxes in MeaCulpa county.”

“Really? How’d they do that?”

Void looked around and then leaned in toward me again and whispered, “Water buffalo.”

“Water buffalo?” I repeated.

“Yep, Asian Water Buffalo. They strapped zip-lock bags onto their backs and swam the buffalo across the Pacific Ocean, up the Gulf of California, marched them across the desert to MeaCulpa county and dumped those ballots in with the legal ones.”

“How did you come up with this unique explanation?”

“We used all the resources available to Crybaby Nimrods. We did remote sensing, LIDAR, ultra-violet aerial photography, we studied stationary traffic camera records, we left no stone unturned.”

“And that resulted in you discovering the use of water buffalo?”

“Nope, none of those methods worked, they showed us nothing.”

“Then how—?”

“In the middle of our efforts we were lucky enough to secure the assistance of a very valuable volunteer. He is an expert on Asian Water Buffalo and their uses.”

“You don’t say?”

“Yep, he found buffalo hairs on the ballots and also recognized the distinctive smell of Asian Water Buffalo saliva on them.”

“Who is this remarkable expert?”

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder indicating the man at the table again, “Charlie.”

“He’s your volunteer expert?”

“Yep, all we had to give him was food and board, keep him supplied with beer and slip him a hundred dollars a day for incidentals.”

“Some volunteer,” I said. “He’s blind, how did he find the buffalo hairs on the ballots?”

“By touch.”

“And he says he can detect the scent of water buffalo saliva?” I asked.

“He’s an expert, I told you,” said Void. “Just ‘cause he can’t see doesn’t mean he can’t smell.”

“Well something certainly smells in all this, that’s certain.”

“Glad to have you onboard,” Joe said.

To be continued?

Seversonia #6 The Fifth Estate

20 Jul

Here in Seversonia we are anxiously awaiting the results of the recount being done by Slimy Nunchucks. We’re eager because we already know that whatever they find changes nothing. We just want to get on with things.

Slimy Nunchucks estimate that they will have completed the recount of the four ballots by September 31st. When we pointed out that September has only thirty days they replied, “Never mind.”

They did try to renegotiate the payment amount due to them to $4 even. “That’s only one dollar a ballot,” their representative argued. When we pointed out that one of the ballots had been peed on by a dog, they agreed to settle for $3.85.

Meanwhile we have been closely watching a similar activity in our nearest neighboring state, Arid-zona.

There is a recount in MeaCulpa county that has raised quite a stir. The State of Seversonia sent our state’s crack investigative reporter, me, to discover what is what.

I interviewed the two men who are running the recount. Bob Null and Joe Void are executives in the company hired to do the job, Crybaby Nimrods. I visited them in their offices on the site of the ongoing political activity, the back room of Shorty’s Bar and Grill on West Stonewall Jackson Road.

Sixty-seven people were sitting around on pillows looking at ballots in by peering into uniformly red View Masters and recording their observations on Etch-A-Sketches, also red. “We like that the two tools we are using are red in color,” said Bob Null from behind his student sized desk, one that had been removed from a local elementary school for his express use.

He offered me a pillow to sit on, “We don’t have any chairs, but we have lots of pillows.”

“So how’s the recount coming?” I asked.

“The what?” he asked.

“The recount of ballots in MeaCulpa county.”

“Oh that” he said, “I don’t know. Jim handles that.”

“You mean Joe?”

“Yeah, him.”

“So what do you do?”

“I make sure everyone has a pillow. You can keep yours if you like, we have thousands of them.”

“No thanks,” I answered as I walked out to find Joe Void.

To be continued?

Seversonia #5 Taxation.

20 Jul

Taking a cue from our nearest neighboring state, Arizona, we, the leaders of Seversonia have decided to go them one better. Rather than merely offering lowered taxes for the wealthy Seversonia is decreeing ‘No Taxes!’ for the wealthy.

That’s right, zero, zilch, nada, absolutely no taxes for the rich.

Because of limited space availability, our neighbors who are simply rolling in dough don’t even to actually reside in Seversonia.

Taking a cue from a recent national figure known for his creative (read ‘illegal’) economics, the wealthy need only claim residency in Seversonia to reap the benefits of zero taxation. Once they have asserted their presence in absentia (is that Latin again?) they can sit back and relax, confident that their millions are safe from the odious notion of ‘paying their fair share’.

Those recently created scions of private prisons and charter schools all across the state of Arizona will sleep the just sleep of the just rich.

Recognizing that the demand for this benefit will be high among the numerous, degraded former GOP legislators who form the Grand Canyon’s state’s nouveau riche we are offering this opportunity at a ridiculously low handling fee.

You long-suffering affluent individuals a can become tax-exempt residents of Seversonia for merely one quarter of your current personal worth, delivered in cash, in plain brown paper bags containing unmarked bills of denominations not greater than $50. All deliveries are accepted at night only (Thanks for the ideas, DJT!)

This minuscule surcharge will repeat annually. So hurry on out and prepare to reap the benefits of absolutely zero state taxes. Bring your affidavits of residence and the bags of cash to our newly created facility on the grounds of an underground receptacle, hand-excavated, that was formerly used to store feminine sanitary products, the aptly named Dug Douchey.

To be continued?

Seversonia #4 Ballot Recount

20 Jul

Update on ballot recount in Seversonia.

Because of accusations of irregularities, the State Senate of Seversonia, that is, me and my daughter, hired a special firm to investigate. The company hired is out of Florida, way WAY out of Florida, and it is named Slimy Nunchucks.

The main reason they were selected was that their bid was the lowest: $3.78 in cash and a daily delivery of ten Taco Bell tacos.

The four ballots cast were delivered to Slimy Nunchucks in an undisclosed location four days ago, one day after the election ballots were created and six days after the election itself.

A word of note, despite the fact that there are currently only three people living in Seversonia, there are four ballots because Pebbles, my daughter’s dog, was given one. She voted by placing a muddy paw on hers. That is actually part of the subject of the complaint. Pebbles’ paw landed on the name, Pall Grosnark, a known member of the Insane Clown wing of the Republican Party. Additionally, he is ineligible since he is not a resident Seversonia but is, at the moment, largely a homeless derelict. The official press representative of Slimy Nunchucks, I. C. A. Buck, suggested that perhaps Pebbles didn’t understand what was expected of her so they put another ballot down on the floor in front of her. This time she squatted on the paper and urinated on the name, Murk Burnawitch, a member of the Far, Far, Far Righteous wing of the Republican Party. His name, of course, should also not have been on the ballot as he is a permanent resident of the Arizona State hospital in Phoenix. Because of these grievous irregularities, Slimy Nunchucks will continue their investigations unless my wife the governor, decides to put a stop to it.

In an exclusive interview with the Seversonia Daily Smear, the Governor said she thought the taco budget was becoming excessive.

To be continued?

Seversonia #3 Emigration

20 Jul

We here in Seversonia have been receiving a lot of interest from various individuals who want to emigrate to our fair state.

While we do maintain an open border, especially for Democrat and Independent refugees seeking asylum from our nearest neighboring state, Arizona, our government wants to make it abundantly clear: space is limited.

There are two bedrooms and a bonus room more-or-less available but all of them are repositories for the extensive and multi-varied historical inventory of Seversonia. Currently our official state run landfill, aka the back bedroom, is full almost to bursting. Were some of the former residents of Seversonia to return and reclaim their historic paraphernalia, some space would be freed up in that region, but even in the event of that unlikely occurrence, I doubt that it would accommodate more than a single individual—and they might be forced to sleep upright in a sitting position.

The state museum, also known as the middle bedroom, offers a better chance for those married individuals who insist on sleeping in the same room. If you bring your own climbing gear, including the expertise and equipment needed for free-climbing and possibly rapelling, industrious individuals should be able to avail themselves of the more-or-less available queen-size bed therein.

The bonus room, formerly known as Susan’s Serenity Room, or the ‘Leave Mom Alone for Just a Damn Minute’ room, is available for those who don’t mind sharing it with our dryer and all the toys that we have for the grandkids— and we have a lot of toys for the grandkids. They would also probably insist that any new resident be willing to share the space with them when they want to play, which is frequently.

Realizing that competition is running exceedingly high, you may want to purchase your tickets for the future raffling-off of these prime locations asap! The preceeding has been a public service announcement sponsored by the state government of Seversonia. You’re welcome.

To be continued?

Seversonia #2– A Controversy!

20 Jul

One day after establishing the fifty-first state, Seversonia, an accusation of political machinations and voting irregularities has been leveled against our fledgling entity.

My daughter contends that my wife and I should not have been elected as Senators from our state because she was never afforded an opportunity to vote. She says the vote was illegal and she demands to see the official ballots.

I realized that she was serious when she was willing to spend much of the day parading out in front of our house carrying a placard that said: “Stop The Steal and while you’re at it, Help Me Petition my Parents to Install AC in my Apartment”. It was a really big placard.

In my position as Secretary of State I agreed to meet with her if she would withdraw the part about installing AC. She agreed saying that was her dog Pebbles’ idea anyway.

We discussed her concerns and I said I would supply the desired ballots forthwith or at least with forth.Then I garbbed my laptop and left to go to Kinkos.

In the meantime my daughter consulted with the Governor of Seversonia, her mother, and they made an agreement that if my daughter would not contest my wife’s election as Senator, she would appoint my daughter as the other Senator because I was currently in absentia and could not contest the action. I really hate it when they use Latin.

I returned with the now official ballots only to find that perfidy had been unwarrantedly enacted! I started to argue that I was gone only because I was on official state business, but then I realized that I would be arguing with my wife and I saw the futility of that recourse.

“Well at least I will be our Representative in Washington,” I said. That was when my wife and daughter explained to me that Pebbles the dog had been elected to that position and it wasn’t available. “How could you elect a dog to the House of Representatives?” I asked. “It was easy,” replied my wife, “once we realized that Pebbles was much smarter than Louie Gohmert and he’s already there so it was a literal no-brainer.”

I had to admit, she had a point.

To be continued?

The State of Seversonia

9 Jun

I.

In light of the bizarre actions occurring in Arizona’s MeaCulpa County, a local referendum was established, and, by a vote of 2-0, representing a two-thirds majority of the current population (my daughter was at work), our property has been established as the Fifty-first state of the United States of America. 

Our state will be called Seversonia.

My wife was elected Governor of Seversonia by general acclamation and some not inconsiderable verbal arm-twisting. I was appointed by her to be Secretary of State. Looking around our house we immediately applied for Federal funds under the Disaster Relief provision. I figure we have a better chance of getting the money than Puerto Rico. 

Once my daughter came home we held elections for National positions and my wife and I were elected as Senators from our state. My wife will serve in the Senate as a Democrat, and I as an Independent, who often votes with the Democrats, when I bother to vote. I plan to only vote on bills that really interest me and avoid the others, no matter how much I have voiced my support for them, a practice commonly known as ‘Kyrstening’ the vote.

Since our state’s total population numbers three, we are only entitled to one representative, so my daughter was elected that position, under duress. “Dad! I have at least two jobs already!” she protested. “Call me Mr. Secretary, please,” I replied.

As Secretary of State I did argue that our state’s population density was probably greater than that of Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, and both North and South Dakota so maybe we should have more than one representative, but the governor countered with a succinct argument, to whit: “Who would it be? There’s only the three of us. 

Since our state does not have any traitors, morons, conspiracy theorists, or sexual predators, we don’t see the need for the Republicans to have any representation in Seversonia. That doesn’t mean that our state does not feature sundry heterogenous populations, quite the contrary. Two thirds of our state’s population is both female and left-handed, and thus occupy two important population demographics, making our state more diverse than West Virginia, Montana, Wyoming, and possibly Maine.

The major economic activity of the people of Seversonia is performing arts, and, since nether of the two people engaged in that esteemed profession have yet to demonstrate the ability to profit economically from their employment, as Secretary of State, I have declared Seversonia to be economically depressed. 

As an economically depressed state we expect to receive a much greater portion of national economic relief funds, rather like Kentucky. 

To be continued?

The Children’s Shrine

19 Mar

retold by Marc Severson

The people of the desert, the Tohono O’odham, dwell in the Sonoran desert where they have lived for a very long time. They have many tales and legends about their himdag, their culture history. I am going to tell you a Tohono O’odham story that was told to me, of how some children saved the world. I have heard several versions of this story and this is the one I like best.

Heki hu, long ago, a farmer lived near Big Narrow Mountain. His farm was on the north side of a big wash that flows from the mountain. He grew corn, beans, and squash, as well as a little cotton. His farm was very successful.

But he had a problem.

A badger was coming to his field at night and digging for rodents. Sometimes the badger uprooted the farmer’s precious plants. 

He decided to go talk to kawk, the badger. One evening, as Tash was setting in the west the farmer faced the sun because that was the way the badger always came from. He spoke to the badger saying: “Brother Badger, please listen to me. You must dig somewhere else. This is my field. Do not dig here.”

The farmer hoped that the badger would heed his words, but the next morning he found that the badger had returned to dig in his field.

The farmer grew angry. He wanted to chase the badger away from his fields. He knew he wasn’t supposed to bother badgers, they were a taboo animal, but he couldn’t have it digging up his plants. 

That night the farmer hid in his field waiting for the badger. Kawk did not arrive until almost dawn. He came snuffling and sniffing into the field looking for a nest of rodents. When he found a likely spot, he began to dig. 

The farmer rose up and threw a rock at the badger hitting him in the side. The badger came up out of his diggings, hissed at the farmer, and waddled off into the greasewood bushes to the west. “There,” said the farmer. “I warned you! You didn’t listen to me! Now you know I am serious! Stay away from my field!”

The farmer went home, confident that the badger would not return. He was wrong. The next morning when he got to his field, the badger had been back digging up his plants again.

The next night the farmer hid in his field once again, waiting. This time he brought his rabbit stick with him. 

Near to dawn, the badger came snorting and snuffling into the field looking for a nest of rodents. Catching the scent of his prey, he began to dig.

The farmer stood up and threw the rabbit stick. It flew spinning along through the air just above the ground. It hit the badger, ’thwack’ right in the side! The badger rose up, hissed loudly at the farmer, and once more he waddled off into the greasewood bushes to the west. “I have talked to you three times!” the farmer said. “You didn’t listen to me! Listen to me now, stay away from my field!”

But the badger came back again.

For a fourth night, the farmer went into his field. He was worried. With him he had his bow and arrows. He meant to kill the badger. 

If the people of his village found out he had killed a badger, a taboo animal, they would be very angry at him. They might even banish him. But he felt he had no choice. He had spoken to the badger, he hit him with a rock, and he hit him with his rabbit stick, and still the badger came back.

He heard the sound of the badger’s snuffling just before dawn once more. He nervously nocked an arrow. The sound of the badger’s big claws pawing at the ground came to his ears and a little unsteadily, the farmer stood up. 

In the dim light of near dawn he could see the badger digging. He took aim and loosed his arrow but his hands were shaking so badly that the deadly projectile merely grazed the badger’s back.

Some say that is why the badger has a white streak along his back, all the way to his nose, even to this day.

Jumping up out of the shallow pit he had dug, the badger hissed and ran off into the bushes. 

The farmer realized this time he couldn’t let him get away. He ran after the animal. The badger slid down into a hole in the ground. “So that’s your burrow, huh?” the farmer said. “I’ll get you yet!”

The farmer ran back and got his best digging stick. Returning to the burrow he began to dig furiously. Suddenly a blast of wind hit him. He stopped digging.

Looking down into the hole he saw water come bubbling up from underground. He touched his finger to the water and tasted it. It was sweet. At first the farmer was pleased, “Oh how wonderful! I have found a spring of good water!” he said. 

But the water kept coming, and coming, and coming out of the ground. It started gushing up into the air, higher than the farmer was tall. He became worried. This was sure a lot of water!

He tried to put rocks over the hole to slow the water but its powerful gush lifted the rocks up and out of the hole.

Soon the water covered all the land around him and still it was coming!

Terrified, the farmer ran to the village yelling, “Come everyone, come look! There is water coming up out of the ground!”

A man standing out in front of his house looked at him and said, “What?”

“Water, lots of water is coming up out of the ground, it’s lots of water!” 

A woman sitting under her wato weaving a basket said, “What?”

“Quick, come and see!” the farmer said.

The people were confused by what he said but they followed. When they got to a little hill near the farmer’s field and looked down they saw all the water. 

“That is a lot of water,” said one villager. 

“Yes,” said the farmer, “I told you! I can’t stop it! I am afraid it will flood everything. What shall we do?”

One of the village wise men said, “We should send someone to I’itoi, the Elder Brother, to ask him what to do.”  

They all agreed that a runner should be sent to I’itoi to ask his advice. They sent for the village’s best runner. 

I’itoi’s cave was far away, it would take the runner a long time to get there and to get back. To help him avoid fatigue, he kicked his running ball and chased after it to kick it again, all the while pointing his face toward the place where, Tash, the sun rises.

Reaching the hill next to Waw Gi Wulk, the sacred peak, he stopped for only the briefest moments to catch his breath before setting off to climb the steep trail to I’itoi’s cave.

Emerging into a small rock enclosed place before the cave, he saw I’itoi sitting in it, across from him, by a small fire. 

“Oh, welcome,” said the wizened little old man. “I am so glad to see you! No one comes to see me any more.” He waved his hand to a place opposite him. “Sit,” he said. “Have you eaten?”

The runner was laboring to get his breath, “No, water, water—” 

“Oh, yes,” said I’itoi picking up a jar. “Of course. I have water. Here, drink.” He offered the jar to the young man. 

“No, no,” said the young man waving it away, “water from the ground—”

“Yes, this water is from the ground,” I’itoi said. He leaned over and pointed to a place down below them. “I used to get it from a spring right down there but it dried up, so now I have to go to that other spring a little farther on.”

“No, no,” the runner said. “There is water coming up out of the ground near my village.”

“Oh,” said I’itoi. “You have water coming up out of the ground. Well, you are sure lucky.”

The young man shook his head. “It’s a lot of water! It’s going to flood everything! We need to know what to do. How do we stop it?”

I’itoi thought for a moment. “You have to give the water something it likes,” he said, “and it will go away.”

The young man looked at I’itoi. “What did you say?” he asked.

“You have to give the water something it likes and it will go away.”

The young man looked at I’itoi. “What does the water like?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” said I’itoi, “I’m not the water.”

Rising up from the ground the young man said, “Thank you, I better get back.”

“You sure you don’t want some breakfast?”

The runner shook his head, “No, I need to go back.”

I’itoi nodded, “Yes, I understand, let me know how it goes.” He watched the young man run back down the trail. “They’re not going to be happy,” he said to himself.

When the runner returned the water was already covering some of the village houses.

The people were all standing on the little hill and they gathered around the runner to ask him what I’itoi had said. 

“He said,”—the young man struggled to catch his breath—“he said—”

“What did he say? What did I’itoi say?”

“He said—he said that we should give the water something it likes and it will go away.”

“What?” the people asked.

“He said ‘give the water something it likes and it will go away.’”

The villagers looked at each other. “What does the water like?” people asked.

The young man answered, “I’itoi didn’t say.”

Four village wisemen sat down to think on what the water might want.

The first said, “I think I know what might work. You know those little black birds that are always swimming on ponds? I bet the water wants one of those.”

A man ran off to catch one of those birds. When he returned, they released the little bird out onto the water. The water calmed, the little black bird swam happily—and then the water came gushing up again! The bird flew away in fright.

The second wiseman said, “I think we need a bigger offering. We should get one of those large water birds with the long legs.”

Two sisters said, “We know where one is, we’ll try to catch it!”

They returned with a squawking, angry crane in a net. But when it was released into the water, it grew content, striding patiently around the edge of what was now a huge lake, looking for food. The water calmed. It mirrored the blue of the sky. 

Then the water came gushing up out of the ground again! The startled crane flew away.

The third wiseman shook his head, “We are going about this all wrong,” he said. “What we need is an animal that swims in the water. We need a turtle.”

Three men ran off to look for turtles down by the river. When they returned with a turtle it was released into the water. It swam out into the water and disappeared. 

The water calmed. It reflected the blue of the sky. The people watched the reflections of clouds pass across the top of the water. Then it came gushing up again!

Many people were puzzled by this until they looked over at the fourth wiseman. One man said, “You know what the water really likes a lot, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said the fourth wiseman.

“What is it?” the people all asked.

“I don’t want to tell you,” he answered. “It is too terrible.”

The people grew angry, “Tell us or we will all drown!”

The fourth wiseman sighed. “When the water comes to the desert, what do you always see in the water?

“Mud?” someone said.

“No no!” he said, angry at them, “Think! What do you always see in the water, happy and playing?” he said.

Their eyes grew wide with surprise. One woman whispered, “Children!”

“Yes,” said the man sadly, “we must give our children to the water.”

One woman cried out, “You’re telling me I must drown my children?”

“I do not know if the water will harm the children we give it,” answered the man, “but I believe they will be gone forever.”

This made everyone sad but they agreed he was right.

“How many children?” asked one grandmother.

“I think four,” said the wiseman. “Two each, a boy and a girl, from the Coyote’s people and from the Buzzard’s people. They must be the best children in our village.”

One woman knew her son would be chosen, so she quickly ran back to her house. She unrolled a mat and laid it on the floor. “Here,” she said, “lay down on this.” When he had laid down she rolled him up and set the mat up in a corner. She whispered, “Now, be quiet, don’t say anything! Wait for me to come get you.”

The people arrived at her house. “Where is your son?” they asked. “He is a good runner and always listens. We need him.”

“I’m sorry,” said the woman. “You just missed him. He went to his granny’s house.”

“Where is that?” the people asked. “We have to go get him.”

“Eh-uh,” the woman said as if thinking. “You go that way,” she pointed, “until you get to that big tree. Then you turn that way,” she pointed in a different direction, “until you see that rock that looks like a big duck—”

“Oh—ee-yah!” said the people, “we can’t wait that long! We’ll get someone else!” 

Another woman knew that they would come for her daughter. She went and got the girl and took her out into a field where she hid her under a large bush. Then she whispered, “Shh, be real quiet, don’t talk! Wait for me to come back to get you.”

Then the people came at her house. “Where is your daughter?” they asked. “She makes fine baskets and she’s a good toka player. We need her.”

“It’s too bad,” said the woman. “You just missed her. She went to her auntie’s house.”

“Where is that?” the people asked. “We have to go get her.”

“Eh-uh,” the woman said as if thinking. “You go that way,” she pointed, “until you get to those two hashan growing right close together. Then you turn that other way,” she pointed in a different direction, “until you come to that rock that looks like a big duck—”

“Ee-yah!” said the people, “we can’t do that! We’ll get someone else!”

At last they chose four children, two boys and two girls. Tying a rope around the waist of the first boy, they lowered him off the hill toward the water. He looked worried but when his feet touched the water he began to laugh. “It sure tickles!” he said. 

Gradually he went down into the water, laughing all the time, until his head went beneath the surface. They could still hear his laughter. The people looked at one another in wonder.

They lowered the other children, one by one, into the water. As each child neared the water it seemed to reach up to catch them. When the water touched their feet the children began to laugh. The water tickled. Even after they went under the water, the villagers continued to hear them laughing and talking to each other.

When the last child was submerged, the water stopped gushing out of the hole. It drained back into the ground. As the people watched, a wind appeared to move through the bushes and follow the water underground.

The people put things in the hole to memorialize the children. They gathered flat stones from the little hill and piled them up to cover the hole. Then they gathered mel-hog, the ocotillo, a plant that will live again even if you cut it down. You put it in the ground and it will root and grow leaves. It is a symbol of life.

They stripped the thin bark from the ocotillo and used it to build a shrine over the place. 

Remember that one woman who rolled her son up in the mat? She went back to get him. She unrolled the mat, saying, “It’s okay now you can come out.” All that was there was that green scum that you see atop some ponds. The water had come and taken him.

And the other woman who had hid her daughter under the bush? She went out and lifted up the branches saying, “It’s safe, come on out now.” But all she found was that brown foam you see on fast flowing washes. The water took her too.

That was many summers ago. The people of the village nearby keep a close watch on this place. They have fenced it off and visitors may only go in with a guide.

If you go to there you will see the shrine to the children who went to live with the water. The mel-hog sticks stand around the rocks forming a fence. Each stick is bent over the shrine. They look something like an arbor. There are four openings in the fence: one to the east, one to the south, one to the west and one to the north. It is said that if you enter the shrine from the east, you must leave by the west, if you enter from the north, you leave at the south, passing across the space.

You will also see places off to one side representing where the wise men sat thinking.

You should take something to leave for the children. Something that they would like. Place it on the stones. Visitors will see toys, candy, ribbons, flowers and even money left on the rocks.

People also go to the shrine to ask for help. Some leave a memento on the stones of something that they asked the children of the shrine to help them with.

Those stones are still taken up and washed every four years. New ocotillo are placed around the shrine by the people who live nearby. They also place some special objects into the hole itself.

The old sticks, and the things from within the hole, are put on two huge piles to the north and south of the shrine. The size of the piles bespeak the exceedingly long time that the site has been renewed.

And, if you go when the big wash is running full with the water of the summer rains, and you stand beside that wash, it is said you will hear the sounds of the children laughing and playing. Those six children who live with the water, forever.

That is the story of this sacred place as I heard it.

Now, the weight of my story is less than it was, while yours has increased.

Tohono O’odham Glossary:

hashan (hah-shań) — Saguaro cactus

heki hu (hoo kee´ hu´) — long ago

I’itoi (ee ee toy´) — the Elder Brother, helper of the people

kawk (caw k´) — badger

mel-hog (mul hawk´) — ocotillo

Tash (tahsh) — the sun

Tohono O’odham (toe hoe no´aw thum´) — Desert people

toka (taw-ká) — a game like field hockey, played by women

wato (wah´ toe) — a ramada

Waw Gi Wulk (wawa gié wuk)— Baboquivari  Mountain

On The Savanna

12 Nov

Another extended allegory of modern satire.

I

Ruddy Gull stepped out one of the several openings in the fence around Moralardo. The increased options for egress and entrance were courtesy of the rhinoceroses, Lippy and Beaky. On the whole, the former fence now more closely resembled random piles of dry thorn bushes scattered around the outside of Moralardo.

Ruddy wandered up to the stump standing in the open space in front of Moralardo. He hopped up onto it. Surveying the various individual animals, most of whom belonged to herds, he squawked and flapped his bedraggled wings to gain their attention.

He clacked his beak.

Ruddy Gull’s beak was a sight to see. The upper half was bone white and shiny as if it was well-polished. The bottom half was gray and mottled brown with little patches of green. Bent and missing a small chunk on one edge, it did not appear to match the upper half of his beak in any way.

“Hearken you animals to my voice! I am sounding the alarm!” Ruddy said. “There is a great crime being committed under our vary noses! I’m talking about the vote count. This process is illegal and it seeks to disenfranchise the lawful leader of the two lands, the Great Baboon!” He took a deep breath and continued, screaming at the top of his lungs, “This must be stopped!” 

One or two of the grazers looked up from the small piles of fodder they were feeding on. Chewing absently they looked curiously at the old bird with the mis-matched beak and many places on his body that were missing feathers. A couple glanced at other herd animals that were also observing the gull and then, looking at each other, they shrugged.

“Your rights are being ripped from you as I speak!” Ruddy went on. “If we do not act now, with all possible speed, a political disaster of unimaginable dimensions will occur within days!”

A hyena peeked around the edge of the thorn bush pile to see what the furor was. When he saw Ruddy Gull and heard what he was saying, he quickly withdrew.

“This is an illegitimate process, they aren’t letting our legitimate observers oversee the counts!” Ruddy went on. “They won’t even let them into the areas where the counts are happening. We have the legal right to question every vote registered against the Great Baboon!”

Two gazelles eyed each other, nodded as one, and moved farther away from the raucous noises of the scraggly old bird.  

Ruddy didn’t seem to notice, “We have designated our vote watchers to supervise this referendum. The leaders of the Land of the Antelope won’t let them do their jobs! That is intolerable! It’s illegal!”

Marked Monitor lizard, moving as quickly as he was able, left the enclosure of Moralardo and, after grabbing a beetle off the nearest brush pile with his tongue, he hurried towards Ruddy Gull, munching as he went.

“Our Great Baboon was all set to win another term as leader when the cheating Antelope pollsters decided to steal his victory from him!”

Reaching a point just behind the stump, Marked Monitor lizard swallowed, cleared his throat, and said, “Uh, Ruddy, can I have a word with you?”

Ruddy glanced back and whispered, “Just a minute Marked, this is important.” He went on, “They are even counting male-insect ballots! That’s illegal! That’s never been done before!”

“Um, Ruddy, that’s not quite true,” said Marked Monitor. “Male insect ballots have always been counted. You need to talk with someone about this.”

“Not now, Marked, I think I’m getting to them!” Ruddy said. He continued, “These are fraudulent votes. They should not be allowing them! We have to protect the integrity of our elections! We can’t let them get away with this!”

“Ruddy,” Marked Monitor said, “I need to talk to you right now.”

Ignoring him, Ruddy shouted, “They know that their only chance of winning is by counting these illegal male-insect ballots! It must be stopped now!”

“Ruddy!” sounded a voice, shouting at him from the edge of Moralardo. The gull turned to see Wild Boar standing there.

“Not now, Boar,” Ruddy protested, “I’ll be with you in a minute! I’m about to grab them with the logic of my argument!” Ruddy Gull turned back. There were many fewer animals standing out before him than when he started, “You have to share this critical knowledge with your friends and neighbors,” he shouted. “Don’t let the cheaters win!”

Wild Boar hurried up to Marked Monitor lizard and said, “Why didn’t you stop him?”

“I tried,” replied the lizard, “but you can see he’s not listening!”

“Only by rising up by the hundreds and storming the balloting centers can we hope to save the truly lawful reign of the Great Baboon!” screamed Ruddy.

“Ruddy!” Wild Boar yelled, pushing him off the stump with his head. 

“What?” the gull yelled back at him from the ground. 

“You need to stop!”

“Why?” Ruddy stood up. “This is important!”

“It’s embarrassing, stop it now!”

“But why?”

“Because they haven’t started counting yet.”

Ruddy Gull stared at him for a full minute. “What?” he asked.

“The process hasn’t even started yet. They start the counting later.”

Ruddy Gull looked out at the few animals who were left on the expansive plain. He sighed. “Too bad,” he said, “I was doing so well. I almost had them!”

“Sure you did,” said Wild Boar winking at Marked Monitor lizard.

II

“I need my spiritual advisor!” Dump the Baboon with the Orange Butt said. He lay sprawled upon the ground within a small enclosure surrounded by thorn bushes and roofed over by a spreading acacia tree. Gathered around him were Mewanka, Dump Junior, I Forget His Name, White Mamba, Wild Boar, Marked Monitor lizard, and the Little Gray Weasel.

“What was that you said?” asked Wild Boar.

“I need my spiritual advisor!” the baboon repeated.

“You have a spiritual advisor?” asked Little Gray Weasel. “I thought I was your primary advisor. I’m hurt!” He brought out the round white stones he always carried and held them up for the baboon to see, “See? How round they are. How well they roll on the ground. Fancy a game?”

“Not now!” The baboon replied. “I need reassurance! I need my spiritual advisor!”

“How about we send some orphans to the river and watch them try to swim?” asked the White Mamba.

“Not now. Get me my spiritual advisor, immediately!”

“Who?” asked Dump Junior.

“MY SPIRITUAL ADVISOR!” the baboon shouted.

“You have a spiritual advisor?” Dump Junior asked.

“Why am I surrounded by idiots?” asked the baboon.

“Uh, sir,” said Marked Monitor.

“What?” asked the baboon.

“You personally chose everyone that’s here.”

“So? What’s your point?”

“Uh, nothing, I guess,” said Monitor.

“Another idiot!”

“Dad, who is your spiritual advisor?” asked Earache, otherwise known as I Forget His Name.

“How many times do I have to tell you, don’t call me dad!”

“I’m sorry, da—ah, oh Great Baboon, who is your spiritual advisor?”

“Piranha Shrike, of course.”

“Who’s Piranha Shrike?” asked Earache.

“MY SPIRITUAL ADVISOR, AREN’T YOU LISTENING?”

“OK dad—“

“Ssssss” said the baboon.

“I’m sorry, oh Great Baboon, If you’ll tell me where she is, I’ll go get her for you,” said Earache.

“So why are you still her? Get her!”

“Um, oh Great Baboon, uh, where do I find her?”

“She’s a piranha shrike,” said the baboon.

“Okay, what does that mean?”

Barred Bush Lemur slowly slid down the trunk of the acacia and said, “Shrikes are predatory birds, some of whom impale their victims on thorns so that they may consume them at their leisure.”

“Oh,” said Earache, “I see. Sooo—where do I find her?”

“She’s piranha shrike,” said the baboon. “She likes fish! Look down by the river!”

“Gotcha da—ah, oh Great Baboon.” I Forget His Name ran out of the enclosure.

Dump, the Baboon with the Orange Butt, looked at Barred Bush Lemur and said, “I thought I told you to stop sneaking around!”

“Yes, indeed you did, but I felt explanation was needed to avoid further confusion.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said the baboon. “That’s what I get when I am surrounded by morons!”

“Uh sir,” said Marked Monitor. 

“What?” shouted the baboon. 

“Nothing, forget it.”

“Go get me Ruddy Gull,” said the baboon.

“Who? Me?” asked Marked Monitor.

“He didn’t request two pronouns,” said Little Gray Weasel. “He said go get Ruddy!”

Marked Monitor lizard shot the weasel a thinly disguised look of hate, and left.

“Daddy?” said Mewanka.

“Yes, my sweet daughter?” answered the baboon.

“Do I have to call you Oh Great Baboon, like Earache does?”

“Of course not, dearest,” he patted the ground close to him, “come sit by me.”

“Yeah, Mewanka,” said Dump Junior, “we don’t have to call him Great Baboon like—“

“But you do!” said the baboon, quickly interrupting Dump Junior.

“What?” asked Junior. 

“You will address him as Oh Great Baboon,” said Little Gray weasel. 

“But I’m named for him,” argued Junior.

“Not as Oh Great Baboon, you’re not!” said the weasel.

Earache came running in, leading a medium sized bird of red and black coloring. “I found her, da—Oh Great Baboon!”

“About time,” said the baboon. 

Earache reached behind himself and jerked at something, saying “Ouch!” as he did so. “She pushed me into the thorn bushes, several times before I was able to persuade her you wanted to see her. I’m still pulling thorns out of my backside.”

“Nobody cares,” said the baboon. “Come here Piranha, I need healing your touch!”

The bird hopped forward and began pecking the baboon, “Wokka, wokka, be tell juice, be tell juice, bunk raptcy, bunk raptcy, cheetoh, cheetoh!” she chanted. “Shine down on the Great Baboon, oh shine! Victory for the gods, victory for the gods! Name aster me, name aster me!”

“What’s she saying?” Junior asked Mewanka.

“She’s speaking in tongues,” said Mewanka.

“Who’s tongues?” asked Junior. 

Mewanka shrugged.

“Cass inos success, cass inos success! And now for something completely different,” said Piranha Shrike. “Oo ee oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang! Shaboom, shaboom! Oo ee oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang!” 

Marked Monitor lizard entered and said, “Ruddy’s coming.”

“Thank you Piranha,” said the baboon. “I feel much better!” He looked around the enclosure, “Everybody out! Now!”

As all the others hurried to leave, Mewanka looked at Dump the baboon and said, “Me too, daddy?”

“Yes precious,” he said, patting her, “you too, now!”

III

Ruddy Gull and Marked Monitor lizard entered the small enclosure where Dump, the Baboon with the Orange Butt, was sitting on the dirt floor. The space all around him was littered with fish bones. 

“What’s with all the bones?” Ruddy asked Marked Monitor in a whisper.

Answering back, even more quietly, he said, “The Great Baboon loves fish, mackerel, really big mackerel. Harpy eagle has been bringing them to him. He loves his Big Mackerels.” 

The baboon looked up at Ruddy, “It’s high time you got here! Now Marked, tell Harpy to bring me my mackerel. Then go find Dappled Ass, my physician, while I speak with Ruddy gull alone!”

“Yes, Great Baboon,” Marked Monitor said. Then he sneezed, “’Ah-choo’!”

“What’s the matter with you?” demanded the baboon.

“Nothing, nothing at all, I’m fine,” the lizard said. 

“Good! Go get Dappled Ass!”

Once he had left, Dump said, “Ruddy, I need you to fly over and see Valor, the crocodile, right away!”

“Oh, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea—“ Ruddy started to argue.

“You’re not here to think!” the baboon yelled. “If I tell you to do something you will do it, or I will tell everyone what I know about your disgusting habits!”

“No, no, I’m not saying I won’t do it,” Ruddy quickly added. “You just tell me what you need, I’ll do anything you want!”

“That’s better!” Dump said. “I need Valor’s help in this choosing thing. He helped me last time and I need it even more now.”

“I’m not certain if he will be willing to assist—”

“Why not?” demanded the baboon, his voice rising.

Ruddy jumped back, “Since you’ve stopped having the herd animals come to Moralardo—I mean since he’s no longer getting prey-ments—I’m just not sure.”

“You will tell him if he ever wants increased access to more animals from me in the future, he needs to make sure I stay in power!”

“I understand,” Ruddy Gull replied.

“And no stops along the way to fool around!” the baboon added. “I need him to get right on this! There’s not much time, they’re going to start the counts soon.”

“No, no stops, cross my beaks!”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt suddenly sat up, “What was that noise?” he asked.

“I heard it too,” agreed Ruddy. He motioned with his head, “It was over there in that grass.” 

“Take a look!”

Ruddy gull rushed over to the space he had indicated and stuck his head down into the dry grasses. He rustled around for a few minutes. Then he emerged and said, “It was just a lizard, a little one—kind of a yellowish white lizard. He got away, but I’m sure it’s not important.”

“It better not be,” said the baboon. “Now go talk to Valor, chomp, chomp!”

“That’s not funny,” said Ruddy quickly. “I never like the way he looks at me when we’re talking. I don’t trust him.”

“Nobody trusts him. But I’m not asking you to trust him, I’m telling you to get him to help me! Get going!”

Ruddy Gull hurriedly left.

A few minutes later, Marked Monitor lizard re-entered with Dappled Ass, the baboon’s personal physician. 

“Great, oh yes! Finally,” said Dump. “Dappled Ass you’ve got to help me!”

“What’s wrong?” asked Dappled Ass. 

“This new counting to choose a leader has got me perturbed. I’m worried!” Dump said. “I can’t be defeated now! I just can’t!”

Dappled Ass looked at Marked Monitor lizard and said, “You need to give him that gourd over there so he can take a drink from it.”

Marked Monitor glanced at the gourd and asked, “What’s in it?”

“It’s a mixture of spring water, various special ingredients, and crushed adders.”

“Adders! You mean snakes?”

“Yes. It’s allowed to ferment for a few days to produce an ale. It will make him feel much better. Stronger and more under control.”

“So it’s adder ale?”

“Yes, he takes it all the time.”

Picking the gourd up, the lizard said, “Ew! It smells terrible!” Then he abruptly sneezed again and dropped the gourd. The container rolled over on its side. Blackish colored contents spilled out all over the floor, seeping into the soil amid the bones.

“You clumsy reptile! What is wrong with you?” yelled the Baboon with the Orange Butt. 

“I’m sorry, boss,” the lizard said. He looked at Dappled ass and said, “Is there any more?”

The ass nodded, “There is a lot of it, we keep a big store of it on hand for the Great Baboon’s use.”

“Where is it?” asked Marked Monitor lizard. “I’ll go get get it.”

“Don’t bother,” the baboon said. “I’ll have one of the rats get it!” He whistled and a large rat appeared at the entrance to the enclosure. 

“Si?” the rat asked. 

“Go get another gourd of the Adder ale,” said the baboon.

“The goo-urd? Si, si, cabron, right away!”

“Cabron?” Marked asked. 

“It’s an honorary title they have given me,” said the baboon. “I think it means Boss, or Commander, or something like that.”

“I see,” said the lizard. He leaned back and, turning his head, he sneezed again.

“You sound as if you might have caught something,” said Dappled Ass. “It’s possibly a cold. Do you have chills or a fever?”

“No chills. I don’t know about a fever,” said Marked Monitor. 

“Let me check,” said Dappled Ass, placing his hoof on the lizard’s head. “Yes, you’re awfully warm, especially for a lizard in the shade.”

“You better get out,” said the baboon. “I don’t need you to get me sick!”

As the lizard was leaving the rat wandered back in, pushing another gourd in front of him.

“Bring that to me, right now!” said the baboon. 

The rat nodded, “Si, cabron!”

IV

Honey Badger heard her name called from outside her burrow and she emerged to find Newt and Lark awaiting her. 

“I wasn’t expecting to hear from you today,” said Honey Badger.

“I got a hold on some information that I thought might interest you,” replied Newt. “So I had Lark fly me over.”

“I’m exhausted,” said Lark, “you need to lose some weight or engage a larger bird as your partner.”

“So what’s up?” asked the badger.

“I happened to be hanging out in the brush inside Moralardo,” said the Newt, “and I saw Ruddy Gull approaching the area where the baboon was. I snuck in to a closer position and I heard Dump order Ruddy to go ask Putrid the crocodile for help in the choosing.”

“I expected as much,” said Honey Badger, “but it’s good to get confirmation. We’ll have to warn everyone.”

“What do you want us to do now?” asked Lark.

“Much as I hate to impose,” said the badger, “I need someone to go warn Blue Wildebeest to be on alert for possible interference in the voting.”

“As long as I’m not hauling Newt with me I think I can do that.”

“Not to worry, I have another task for Newt,” answered Honey Badger.

“What’s that?” asked the little amphibian.

“There is one character who so far has eluded all attempts to link him with the baboon and Putrid, the Mud turtle.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I just need him to be closely watched. I figure he can’t go any faster than you can.”

“Thanks a lot!”

“Ha-ha, sorry. Truly, if I could find out who he talks to, how he operates, it would help a lot.”

“I can do that. Do you know where he is?” asked Newt. 

“I’ve got Bateleur out searching, he shouldn’t be hard to find. Once we know his location, I can have the eagle take you there, if you’re willing.”

“Sure, if I can survive being carried all over by Lark—“

“Be very careful what you say next,” warned Lark.

Newt glanced at her and said, “I think I’ll just shut-up and wait to hear from Bateleur.”

“Good decision,” said Lark. “I’ll head on out to inform Blue now. After that I’ll go back and keep an eye on Moralardo.”

“Sounds good,” said Honey Badger.

– – – – – 

Meanwhile, at Moralardo the Baboon with the Orange Butt was napping when Marked Monitor ran in to his enclosure.

“Oh Great Baboon, I have disturbing news,” he said. 

“What are you doing here?” the baboon asked. “I thought Dappled Ass said you were sick?”

“I’m feeling better, sir. Besides he said there’s no chance it’s the disease because Dappled Ass says that it doesn’t exist!”

“Fine, fine. So what is it now?” asked Dump groggily.

“Remember that part of the forest you set off with thorn bushes and started sending the last of the fodder to?”

“Yeah, I figured if I couldn’t get the animals to come here any more because of those lies spread by the badger, I’d still get their votes with food delivered them personally.”

“Well, my assistants keeping an eye on the region say it’s not working.”

“What do you mean?”

“My observers report that the female residents of the forest have already voted overwhelmingly for the gnu and now male votes are trending toward him too!”

“You’re saying the male ballots in the penned sylvan area are going to Blue?”

“Yes sir, and it’s a big voting block. There are many types of herd animals there. They have a bunch of proxies. It could cost you the election!”

“We’ve got to find some way to stop them counting those votes!” shouted the baboon.

“It may be too late for that, Oh Great Baboon.”

“Try anyway. What about calling a meeting?”

“Why would we do that, sir?”

The baboon jumped up and screamed in his face, “SO I CAN TELL THEM WHO THEY SHOULD BE VOTING FOR!”

“I’ll see what I can arrange,” said Marked Monitor.

“Who was in charge of penning off that area to make sure it stayed in my control?”

“The Fence secretary, East Pond otter.”

“Fire him!”

“Right now?”

“Yes right now! What do you think? I can’t have these losers on my team! Who hires these morons?”

“Uh, sir?”

“What?”

Marked Monitor lizard shook his head and said, “Nothing. I’ll go fire East Pond otter and then arrange your meeting. Is there any special place you want to hold it?”

“How about at the place where we had those fire sessions?”

“I’ll see if it’s available.”

“No, you’ll make it available. Take I Forget His Name to help you.”

“I should be able to handle it without his—“

“Just take him! Get him out of my hair!”

“Yes sir,” responded Marked Monitor, then he sneezed.

V

Honey Badger and Blue Wildebeest stood together out by the Fire Sessions meeting place along with dozens of herd leaders. Kalahari Macerating bustard and Harpy Eagle stood in front of the assembled animals, looking nervously about them. 

“Here comes more trouble,” the lead impala said. They all looked up to see a distant figure in the southern sky, flapping madly. The aerialist moved upward, or down toward the earth, coming dangerously close to colliding with the ground, several times. Finally, the erratic aeronaut resolved itself into Ruddy Gull. 

At last arriving at the place where the bustard and eagle were standing, he made an inept, though ultimately successful landing. Both of the female birds moved a few steps away from where he alighted. 

“Where is everyone?” Ruddy demanded.

“We don’t know,” answered the Harpy, “how did you find out about this?”

“A tweeter from the baboon caught up with me on my way to the—“ Ruddy stopped and looked around. He realized that all the surrounding animals could hear what he was saying. “—it caught up with me somewhere near Moralardo.”

“He was on his way to Musk Cow lake,” Honey Badger whispered to Blue Wildebeest who nodded in reply.

“Where’s Marked Monitor?” asked Harpy. “He was supposed to be here.”

“He’s sick,” Ruddy answered and then he leaned toward the other two and whispered “the disease”, in a scarcely softer voice that could be clearly heard by all. 

“How about the baboon? Is he coming?”

“Nope,” Ruddy answered. “Same problem.”

“The Great Baboon is—“ she stopped and looked out at the other animals. “So who is in charge?” she asked Ruddy.

“I understood Junior was supposed to handle everything,” Ruddy said. 

Harpy nodded, “That explains a lot.”

A small bird, bright red and black in color, flew in and began tweeting to Ruddy.

“It’s from Wild Boar,” Ruddy said. “He’s at the salt fields near the lake. He’s wondering where we are.” 

“He’s at the salt flats, you mean Fish Seasonings?”

Ruddy nodded, “Evidently that’s where he was told to go.”

A second red and black sparrow flew in behind the first one and also reported to Ruddy. The gull dropped his head, shaking it from side to side.”

“Now what?“ asked Harpy Eagle.

“This one is from I Forget His Name,” Ruddy said, “he’s at the place where they’re growing new young trees to replant after the fires.”

“Four Saplings?” asked the eagle. “He’s supposed to be here. Why is he there?”

“Those were his instructions.”

A third seedcracker, also in bright red against black, fluttered in and tweeted loudly to the three large birds.

“What did that one say?” asked Harpy. “Now who is it from?”

“Little Gray Weasel,” the gull said, his head dropping down again. “He’s waiting for us at Fur Sashes.”

“Fire Sessions!” the eagle shouted, “We were told Fire Sessions as the place to meet. Look!” She indicated the other animals, “They’re all here! Why are the others all scattered across the country? Fish Seasonings is far to the south, Four Saplings is east, Fur Sashes is way west of here. This is crazy! How did it happen?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where is Junior?”

“I have no idea.”

“They seem to have some problems with communications,” Blue said to Honey Badger. 

“At a minimum,” she answered.

“Fine!” Harpy Eagle said to Ruddy Gull. “You and I will just have to handle things here.” She looked at the little tweeting finches that had brought the messages. “Send replies to weasel, Earache, and the boar and tell them to go back to Moralardo.” 

Looking at the bustard, she said, “Let’s get started.”

Kalahari Macerating bustard took two steps forward, croaked and squawked, then she said, “Listen all to a message from the Great Baboon!” She paused and looked back at the eagle, who nodded. “It will be delivered by Harpy Eagle.”

Harpy Eagle took her place in front of the assembled animals and said, “The Great Baboon wants you to know he values all the support he has received from his subjects.”

“All the ones whose votes he paid for,” said Blue.

“He recognizes that a choosing of a leader is a complicated process that is fraught with dangers.”

“Here we go,” Honey Badger said.

Harpy Eagle fixed a stare at Blue Wildebeest as she continued, “Because of this, he warns that some votes may be compromised.”

“What votes are you talking about?” asked Honey Badger.

“Well, that’s hard to say exactly without a proper investigation,” the eagle answered, “but say for example the large numbers of male ballots reported in the Penned Sylvan area. Where did they all come from?”

“From male voters,” a hartebeest replied. “Many of those votes were from my herd,” she added.

“But how can you be sure they were legal?” asked Harpy.

“Why wouldn’t they be?” the hartebeest replied.

“Because the baboon did well there in the last choosing.”

“And now you’re worried that he might lose?”

Ruddy Gull stepped forward and said, “We just want to make sure all the votes that are counted are legal ones.”

“As long as they are for the baboon,” said Honey Badger.

“That’s not fair,” Harpy said, “we’re trying to ensure a fair election—“

“We can all see what you are trying to do,” Blue Wildebeest said. “I’ve heard enough.” He turned and walked away. Most of the other leaders and Honey Badger joined him. The few that were left, gathered together and spoke to each other for a few minutes. An eland left the group and walked toward the three birds. 

“We have one question before we go.”

“Certainly,” said Ruddy. “What is it?”

“Where is the baboon going to deliver the next load of fodder to try and bribe us?” Then the Eland started laughing before receiving an answer. He and the rest of the herd animals left.

“That went well,” said Kalahari Macerating bustard.

VI

“Oh that this should happen to me!” wailed the baboon as he lay upon a bed of grasses. “The greatest Leader in the history of our land reduced to needing the help of rats!”

“Those rats are taking good care of you, daddy,” said Mewanka from her place near the entry to the baboon’s enclosure. “You won’t let me come over there and take care of you, so they are the next best thing, unless you want me to find The Fanny.”

“Who?”

“The Fanny, your other daughter.”

“Oh—her, ah choo!” the baboon said while sneezing. “No, I don’t want her here, you stay and make sure they do everything they can to keep me comfortable.”

“I will daddy. You know, don’t you, that that one rat was a physician in his homeland, he’s the one who suggested this treatment,” She continued, “You’re feeling better aren’t you?“

“A little, what are they doing?”

“He has his workers fill hollow reeds with cool water and then they sprinkle it on your fevered brow. He says if they can keep your fever down you should be okay.”

“Yes, that helps.”

“Dappled Ass said he would send an assistant to help take care of you too.”

“Tell him not to bother if he won’t come himself. This rat seems to know what to do.”

“You know that rat is a physician,” said Mewanka.

“Yeah, yeah, you told me already!”

“He came here because he was in danger back—“

“Nobody cares! More water reeds, more water reeds now! I’m getting hot again!”

“Yes, daddy, I’ll go get the rats,” said Mewanka running out.

“That damned lizard, he did this to me!” the baboon said, talking to himself. “I ought to fire him as Chief of Stuff!” He sneezed. “And I would too, if I could find any other animal who wanted the job!” The Baboon with the Orange Butt started coughing then, just as Mewanka returned with a large rat.

“Oh daddy, let me help you!” Mewanka said starting to move to his side.

“No!” the baboon yelled. “You stay there, let the rat help me. I can’t afford to let you get sick. Who will  make sure that they take good care of me then? I need the best care! You have to stay well so that you can make sure I get it!”

“Yes daddy.”

The rat moved up close to the baboon and felt his head, “Si, es verdad, we need more agua, pronto. I will be right back with the water reeds,” he said.

“Well hurry up!” said the baboon, starting to cough again.

“Si, si, cabron!” the rat answered. 

“Isn’t it nice that he addresses you by your important title that those rats have given you, daddy? You know, he was a well respected animal in his homeland—“

“Nobody cares!” yelled the baboon. 

“Oh daddy, I feel so helpless seeing you like this,” said Mewanka. “Should I go find Maliciosa?”

“What for?”

“I just thought—“

“Don’t think!” The baboon coughed some more, then he said, “Mewanka honey, if I die from this disease I want you to promise me something.”

“Daddy you’re not going to die,” she said hurriedly.

“Who knows? It would be a terrible tragedy for the land if I did. But I want you to promise that if I do pass on, you will make sure they build me a great monument on the highest mountain.”

“Yes daddy,” she answered.

“I’m not done yet!” he snapped. “I want them to preserve my body and place it in a shrine on the mountain top—“

“Yes daddy—“

“Still not done. I want there to be flowers and gifts brought up to that monument all year long by representatives off every group of animal—“

“Yes daddy—“

“Still not done,” he said. “And I want food brought to me every day, my favorite food. I want big mackerels and those eggs I like, those eggs of the puffins—“

“Those little birds that live near the ocean?”

“Yes, those are my favorites, it gets those birds really angry, but those are what I want, eggs of mad puffins. Oh, and—and—those little chickens that live in the cane forests in that region of our land where Mud turtle is from.”

“Chickens daddy?”

“Yes, they are highly sought after, a real delicacy. They’re hard to catch in those canebrakes but I love them. Yes, make sure they bring me those Cane country prized chickens!”

“Yes daddy—“

“Still not done. And I want all of those representatives who come to my shrine on the mountain to crawl up to it—“

“Crawl daddy?”

“Yes, crawl!” snapped the baboon. “They should come to honor me on their worthless bellies! After all I’ve done for them, it’s the least they can do for me!” The baboon began coughing again. “Oh, where’s that rat and the water reeds? What’s keeping him?”

“Here he comes daddy, he’s got some helpers with him. They’ll sprinkle you with droplets of cool water now.” 

“Hurry up!”

The rats entered and began sprinkling drops of water all over the baboon. “How is that, cabron? Do you feel better now?” asked the physician rat.

“Yes, but more water reeds, get more water reeds!” said the baboon.

“Si cabron,” the rat answered. “I will find more of my country’s hard working rodents to assist me. They will listen to me. I will send many more of them to bring back the cool water.”

“Good, do that!”

“What ever you need, oh cabron!” said the rat.

“See daddy,” said Mewanka, “they’re taking such good care of you.”

VII

Newt returned to meet with Honey Badger after a few days observation of Muck Mud turtle. They sat beneath the huge acacia that shaded her burrow. 

“I can tell you it was an interesting investigation,” Newt said. “This Muck is one twisted character.”

“In what way?” asked Honey Badger.

“Well for one thing, he talks to himself all the time, and not just mumbles, I’m talking about full conversations.”

“What kinds of things does he say?” 

“I can recite entire exchanges for you, Newts have photographic memories.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Honey Badger.

“Oh yes, our hidden talents are largely ignored by the mass of our world’s other creatures. It remains a mystery to me why we’re not better recognized for our multitudinous and various expertise.”

“Indeed! What was Muck talking about?”

“One key soliloquy I recall was this: ‘They laughed at me, oh, yes, they did! But I’ll show them yet. They have not begun not cower beneath the power of Muck, no, no! I’ll show them very very soon! That I will! They will yet bend to me!’”

“Wow! That’s some twisted stuff.”

“Oh it gets better,” said the Newt. “Another rant went: ‘I’ll tie them up in knots! The baboon was just the beginning. They haven’t seen anything near what I can do to gum up their works! I’ll bring this whole country to a standstill! The nonsense with this ridiculous baboon was just my opening salvo! Yes indeed, Muck, you devious old turtle, they’ll see! Dump was only an expedient, a means to my ultimate ends!’”

“So what is he up to?”

“One thing I can tell you,” the Newt said, “is that the baboon and his machinations are not the real focus of Muck’s campaign. The baboon is his distraction. He’s trying to keep us looking one way while his schemes proceed unobserved elsewhere.”

“Like what schemes?” asked Honey Badger, obviously worried about what Newt was going to say.

“Muck has a mate, she’s a Swamp Water buffalo, from the land south of Musk Cow lake. Her name is Lame Cow, though I didn’t see that she was hobbled in any way.”

“She’s not a Cape buffalo, like the one the lake is named for?”

“No,” said Newt, “Swamp buffalo are similar but supposedly more docile. And they are native to that other land.”

“Why is she significant?”

“At first I didn’t even notice what was happening, but then after a couple days I figured it out.” Newt laid a few small dark seeds on the ground. “Her whole family has emigrated over to our side of the lake, they live in Muck’s Cane country. They move back and forth between their homeland and Cane country and they bring these.”

Honey Badger picked some of the seeds up. “What are they?”

“They are flowering plant seeds. The plants produce quite a few seeds and lots of animals eat them,” said the Newt. “But I don’t think they’re planting them for their edible seeds, or the pretty flowers.”

“So why are they planting them?”

“The pods of the plant that are left behind when the flowers die have a milky sap. Animals chew on them. They get drowsy and what’s more important, they seem to want to keep coming back for more.”

“The pods are addictive?” asked Honey Badger.

“Yes, at least psychologically if not physically.”

“The plants cause animals to become addicted, and Muck’s mate Lame Cow and her family control the spread of the plants in our land.”

“Exactly,” said Newt. “And, as their name implies, swamp buffalo eat the plants that are found underwater in swamps.”

“So that’s why Muck wants the baboon to increase the size of the swamp!”

“That’s what I think.”

“Great work, Newt!” Honey Badger said.

“I’m not done! Wait until you hear what Muck is up to—!”

“There’s more?”

“Quite a bit,” said Newt. “As you might guess the swamp buffalo and crocodiles don’t get along. But that hasn’t stopped Muck from working closely with Putrid. He meets with him almost daily.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what do they talk about?” asked Honey Badger.

“You already know about baboon providing prey for the crocodiles.”

Honey Badger nodded.

“Evidently Dump, the baboon, is even more indebted to Putrid than just for Moralardo.” 

“What else does he owe him for?”

“I couldn’t always get close enough to hear what they were talking about but I know that Putrid worked to provide the baboon with the fodder he’s using to bribe the animals to try and win their votes in the current choosing.”

“Yes, we guessed as much.” 

“And Putrid’s agents started all sorts of rumors about Highland Cheetah in the last choosing which may have led to the Baboon with the Orange Butt getting elected.”

“His agents?”

“Freshwater crabs,” Newt said. “They spread out from the lake, talking to other animals, spreading rumors that are started by Putrid and the other crocodiles.”

“Okay, but how is Muck involved?”

“He’s the intermediary. To save Dump having to be seen talking to Putrid all the time so they can coordinate, Muck, or his helpers, shuttle between Musk Cow lake and Moralardo with messages.”

“Who are his agents?”

“Other reptiles, lizards and snakes mostly.”

“That makes sense,” said Honey Badger.

“And dangerous for me,” added the Newt, “I had to keep a sharp eye out for Muck’s snakes!”

“You’ve performed your service admirably.”

“That’s newts for you,” he answered, “as I said, as a species we’re remarkably talented.”

VIII

Mewanka entered her father’s enclosure and saw him sitting up. “Daddy are you feeling better now?”

“Much better, dearest, yes,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “What did that rat doctor give me, anyway?”

“He said it was something he was trying out,” Mewanka said. “He wasn’t sure it could help, but he said it couldn’t hurt.”

“Whatever it was, it seems to have worked.”

“Maybe we should offer it to other animals who are sick?”

Dump the baboon stared at her, “Why would I do that?”

“It was just a thought.”

“So what’s going on in my Two Lands?”

“Well the choosing is almost over,” Mewanka said.

“WHAT?” the baboon yelled. He jumped up from his grass bedding. “I forgot all about that!” He ran to the entry of his personal paddock. “Call all the rats over here, get the hyenas, and all the wart hogs!”

“What’s wrong daddy?”

“We need to rebuild the thorn brush wall around Moralardo. I need guards posted at all entries until they are closed, we don’t have much time! Hurry up!”

“But why daddy?” Mewanka said. “I don’t understand.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt took a hold of his daughter’s shoulders with both hands. “Listen honey,” he said. “When I win, those losers will storm Moralardo! They’ll try to take it all away from me! We’ll be outnumbered!”

“But if you’re the winner, how can we be outnumbered?”

Dump the baboon jumped as a voice behind him said, “It’s simple.” He turned to see Barred Bush Lemur standing there. “You know Barred,” the baboon said evenly, “one of these days you’re going to do that to me when I have a club in my hand and I’m going to spin around and beat the holy bejesus out of you!” He glanced at his daughter, “Before I realize who it is, of course,” he added.

“I shall try and avoid that situation,” Barred said. “As to why your father is concerned about being out numbered,” he went on, “we live in a representative republic. That means each animal’s vote can carry different weight.”

“You mean the animals don’t all weigh the same? I know that,” said Mewanka. “An elephant weighs more than a baboon!”

A slightly pained look passed over Barred Bush Lemur’s face briefly. “No, that’s not what I meant.” He said, “For example, there are about five hundred baboons in our land, they vote and whoever gets the most baboon votes is the candidate that their proxy will vote for.”

“And they’ll vote for daddy because he’s a baboon like them?”

“Not the point I’m trying to make,” said Barred. “There are about fifteen hundred elands here, their votes will also be tabulated and their proxy will register his, or her, one vote. Thus five hundred baboons have the same voting power as fifteen hundred elands.” 

“Hmm, I think I see what you mean,” said Mewanka. “That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Of course it’s fair!” said the baboon. “How do you expect me to win?”

“But that means more animals could vote for your opponent and you would still be chosen as the leader!” said Mewanka.

“Which is exactly what happened last time,” said the baboon.

“Actually that doesn’t appear to be the issue this choosing,” said Barred.

The Baboon with the Orange Butt leaned toward him, “What do you mean by that?”

“All early reports seem to imply that you are losing,” said the lemur.

“WHAT?” yelled Dump. “Quick, get those rats over here, all of them, get the hyenas, and all the wart hogs! Hurry up!”

“Why daddy? If you’re losing they won’t come to storm Moralardo, will they?”

“It’s all the more reason they will be coming!” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. 

“But why?”

“They’ll be coming to take me into custody!”

“Your father has made some injudicious alliances and decisions,” said Barred.

“You mean he’ll be arrested?” Mewanka asked.

“More than likely,” answered the lemur. “In point of fact almost certainly, along with many of his associates.”

“I’m not going to allow that!” The baboon said. “I’ll pardon all of them, and I’ll pardon myself!”

“You can do that?” asked Mewanka. 

“Of course, I’m the leader, I can do anything,” answered the baboon. 

“Um, sir, that might not work out as well as you hope,” said Barred. 

The baboon looked at him, “Why not, smart guy?”

“Because when you accept a pardon you relinquish the opportunity to Take the Filth.”

“What’s Take the Filth?” asked Mewanka.

“When you are brought before a court of law, and asked a question that might incriminate you in a crime, you can Take the Filth, and refuse to answer.”

“But then you’re saying that you’re guilty.”

“Exactly,” responded Barred. “Accepting a pardon is considered an admission of guilt. Therefore you have already incriminated yourself and can’t Take the Filth.”

“So what?” asked the baboon.

“Well it means that if you can’t Take the Filth, you either have to admit to a crime or lie. If you lie, you negate your original pardon and you can be found to be culpable in a new crime of lying,” Barred said. “You would then be liable to imprisonment despite being pardoned for previous crimes, or it you chose not to lie, you are an admitted criminal.”

“I still don’t see the problem,” said Dump the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “Now if you’re done showing off, help me gather everyone up and start rebuilding the wall around Moralardo!” He ran out and they heard him yelling to the rats, hyenas, and wart hogs.

“Barred,” Mewanka said. “You make it sound like my father is a criminal.”

“I simply pointed out the obvious,” he answered. “The conclusions are apparent to anyone.”

IX

The Baboon with the Orange Butt stood at the entrance to his enclosure and yelled, “I Forget His Name, get over here!”

I Forget His Name ran to the entry and said, “Yes fath—uh Oh Great Baboon?”

“Where’s Marked Monitor lizard?”

“Um, Monitor lizard?”

“Yes, my Chief of Stuff, I want him now!”

“Is there something I can do for you?” asked Earache.

“You? Yes, you can go get Marked Monitor and bring him over here right now!”

“Uh, the thing is Oh Great Baboon, you see, he’s in quarantine.”

“What for?”

“Because he has the disease, remember, he’s the one we think gave it to you.”

“Are you stupid? Of course I remember. I remember everything!”

“Well if you have the disease, you’re supposed to be quarantined for fourteen days, two weeks.”

“I don’t remember hearing that.”

“Yeah, you should probably be doing that too.”

“No way in hell! I’ve got things I want to make happen. Who came upon with this two week stuff?”

“The Elder Meerkat, he says the only way to stop spreading the disease is to quarantine those who have it.”

“Oh, him! Nobody listens to him,” said the baboon.

A voice behind him said, “Actually sir—“

“Dammit! Him again? Where’s my club?” the baboon said, turning around to face Barred Bush lemur. 

“Violence against my person will not change the facts,” said Barred.

“Maybe not,” the baboon growled, “but it will go a long ways toward improving my mood. Besides I don’t have to believe in facts.”

“Facts are indisputable, that’s why they are facts,” said the lemur.

“Oh yeah? Well I’ll dispute them if I want to! And I want to!”

“The Elder Meerkat has been the best source of information on how to deal with this disease and slow its spread through the land.”

“My source, Dappled Ass, says there is no disease,” answered the baboon. 

“Closing one’s eyes does not change what is before you,” said Barred.

“Do you have any idea how irritating you are?” asked Dump the baboon. Turning to Earache he said, “Go get Marked Monitor, now!”

“Yes, Oh Great Baboon.”

“And you,” the baboon said to Barred, “get lost!” The lemur clambered methodically up the trunk of the acacia and disappeared into the leaves. 

Earache returned with a sniffling, droopy-looking Marked Monitor lizard. “What can I do for you, Oh Great Baboon?”

“I want a parade!”

“A parade?“

“Yes, you know, crowds marching, cheering for me, clapping for me when I speak, the usual! And make it spontaneous!”

A voice from the tree said, “Spontaneous means—“

“Shut-up!” the baboon yelled. “Go start getting my parade together,” he said to Marked Monitor.

“Having a parade, right now, with all that is going on, I don’t think that it is a good idea, sir—“

“I don’t keep you around here to think!” the baboon snapped. “I keep you to do stuff! Now go do it!”

“But sir, we’re not supposed to gather in large groups—“

“Who says?”

Marked looked at Earache, who shrugged. “Well, there’s the Elder Meerkat for one—“

“Him again? I don’t want to hear him mentioned anymore by either of you, is that clear?” They nodded. “Now, get out there! You can start by getting a hold of those monkeys with the big noses, the Proboscis Boys, they really like me.”

Speaking from within the safety of the foliage of the over-spreading acacia, Barred said, “They do not so much like you as they like what you say about them.”

“Somebody get me a rock!” the baboon said. They heard rustling from above them as the lemur scrambled to escape the baboon’s wrath. “Now, where were we?” asked the baboon.

“You were planning your spontaneous parade,” said Earache.

“Are you still here?”

“I thought I could help,” Earache said.

“I doubt it,” said the baboon. “Just stay out of the way.” He turned to Monitor, “I want flowers, lots of flowers strewn in front of the paraders. And bright colored birds flying everywhere. We need the hyenas, the wart hogs, the boars, and bushpigs, oh, and all the rats, have them march with the others.”

“Anyone else you have in mind to participate in this parade?” asked Marked Monitor, stifling a cough.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot, get that mixed animal group, the White Naturalists too! They’re big supporters of mine!”

“I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“Why not?” asked the baboon.

“They won’t want to march with any non-native animals. Like the Southern Cane rats for example,” said Marked Monitor. “You’ll have to invite one or the other.”

“No, I want them both, and the polecats,” said the baboon. “In fact, have my Secretary of Snakes, Plump Polecat lead them. He should also see that all the cobras and other snakes show up. Oh yeah, and get Piranha Shrike to lead them all in a prayer for me!” 

“Is that all?” asked Marked Monitor. 

“No, it’s not! Make sure you invite my good friend, Shorn Manatee!”

“Where do I find him?”

“He works the river and coast as a reporter for the Red Fox, check with the Goliath frogs. They should know where he is.”

“Okay,” said Marked Monitor, “and how soon do you want this spontaneous parade to start?”

“I want it to start right now!”

“That’s not possible. I have to get messages out to all the groups you want to show up.”

“Don’t tell me what’s possible or not! Just do it! No! Wait!” the baboon said.

“What?”

“Get my tweeters, I’ll send them out to everyone.”

“But nobody can understand them!” protested Marked Monitor.

“Do you like your job?” asked the Baboon with the Orange Butt.

“I’ll get the tweeters.”

X

Shorn Manatee dragged his bulk up out of the water and onto the riverbank. He surveyed the gathering of animals who had arrived to hear his daily report. 

“Friends,” he intoned, “I have the sad duty to report to you that we are facing unprecedented threats! Our beloved leader, the Great Baboon, is under assault from all sides and we must hurry to his aid and support the rightful leader of the Two Lands.”

Off to his left, a large Marabou Stork standing in shallow water, took a few tentative steps in Shorn Manatee’s direction. 

“Our citizens are witness to larceny and base thievery openly practiced upon our long held policies! We must repel these illegal acts! It will take all of us, standing up for our beliefs in core values, to repel this spurious attack!”

“What attack are you talking about?” asked the stork.

Glancing at the large bird, the manatee continued as if he hadn’t heard her. “This perfidy cannot be allowed to occur!”

“Are you talking about the choosing that just occurred?” asked the stork. “I didn’t see any of this perfidy you just mentioned.”

“It is both subversive and yet pervasive,” the manatee said, speaking directly to her. “You would probably not even notice it unless you were alerted to the underhandedness of our spurious opponents!”

“I don’t think you are using that word correctly,” the stork said. “Spurious is not necessarily negative, though it tends to have that connotation. It refers to something that is fake. So you if you speak of fake attacks or fake opponents aren’t you really talking about neutrals or even allies?”

“If you would like to cultivate a following of listeners,” the manatee said evenly, “you might want to talk to Red Fox to see if he can offer you a platform.”

“No thanks,” said the stork. 

“Then if you don’t mind,” Shorn Manatee continued, “I’d like to get back to work.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the stork. “I didn’t realize this was your job. I thought you were just blathering in a general manner.”

Shorn Manatee harrumphed, then he turned back to the scattering of listeners who stood before him. “Friends this is our call to action! This choosing is being stolen from us right under our noses! The herd animals have allowed dead animals to vote! That’s right, dead animals are stealing this election from the Great Baboon!”

“First,” said the stork, “even if dead animals were voting, they might have the greatest right to do so, since it is because the baboon has ignored this disease that most of them are dead. But you know, as well as anyone, that all voting was overseen by representatives of both the Land of the Elephant and the Land of the Antelope.”

“These herd animals represent our greatest danger!” Shorn went on as if he hadn’t heard the stork. “They are social animals, working for the benefit of their herd, that’s socialism! Socialism is the most dangerous form of government that can exist!”

The Marabou spoke up again, “I would think that anarchy was much more dangerous because that means there is no oversight by any government. At least socialism seeks to provide for everyone in theory.”

“Socialism means that they will come and take all you own and give it to the government!” the manatee went on. “It tries to make everyone the same, that goes against the basic principle we all recognize of protecting the individual’s rights!”

“If they were socialists I doubt that they would’ve participated in a vote at all,” said the stork. “At the best definition of the herd they might be seen as democratic socialists which means they expect an elected government to work for the benefit of all.”

Shorn Manatee stared at her. “Don’t you have some dead thing to go scavenge?”

“No, not right now.”

“I would think that all you scavengers would be supporters of the Great Baboon. Look at the sumptuous repast he has provided to you with his policy of ignoring the disease!”

“I voted for the wildebeest,” said the stork.

“That’s just you, I bet all the other carrion feeders are rabid proponents of the baboon’s policies.”

“No, I don’t think so. His ignorance is the problem,” the stork countered. “With so much death occurring at once the scavengers can’t keep up. It leads to other dangerous diseases being stimulated within the decay and general putrefaction.”

The manatee turned away from the stork, shaking his head. Speaking to his listeners he said, “These illegal acts by the herd socialists are nothing more than pathetic attempts to mask the fact that the baboon actually won this election!”

“You are aware that no one is saying that but the most rabid supporters of the baboon, aren’t you?”

“We will prove the truth of our contention yet!” said the manatee. “Right now, the baboon has his most trusted and highly qualified colleague hard at work, gathering all the evidence we need to expose this act of treason against the two lands!”

“Who’s that?” asked the stork.

“Ruddy Gull is in charge of the investigative team,” said the manatee.

The stork snorted, “That crazy old fowl? Good luck! Are you sure you can keep him from spending al his time chasing young birds?”

Two Speckle-throated Otters were standing up on a low rise listening to the exchange. One turned to the other and said, “So you come here every evening to listen to this Shorn Manatee?”

“Yep,” the other one said.

“Why?” asked the first. 

“It’s something to do. I kind of look forward to the nightly entertainment of listening to his wild accusations.”

“You call this entertainment?’ asked the first otter.

“Well yeah. It’s definitely not news. This whole time that the baboon has been in charge has been kind of like watching a terrifying movie while simultaneously you’re unable to close your eyes.”

“What’s a ‘movie’?” asked the first otter.

“I don’t have any idea, but the allusion seemed apt.”

XI

”How many is that today?” asked the Cape Mountain Zebra. 

“We’ve heard from thirty-seven different groups, that should be about all of them in this district,” replied Ant Bear Aardvark. 

“Unlike most of the other regions, this one, Geo Gorge is trending away from the baboon and toward the wildebeest,” the zebra said. 

“I don’t know about that, there are several that have flipped.”

“Oh, you mean like Mushy land?”

“Don’t forget the Arid zone, Wispy confluence, and most importantly, the Penned Sylvan area.”

“That’s true, I guess. There are others where the trends of voting are cycling differently. Just the opposite of the last choosing,” said the zebra.

“Hey, you two,” said a voice from the brush behind them. The zebra and aardvark turned to see the Little Gray weasel standing there. 

“Hello,” said the aardvark, “what brings you here?”

“I simply wanted to see how things are going, with the counting of the votes,” said the weasel.

The zebra said, “You know you’re not allowed to be near the official counts areas.”

“Oh? Is that so?”

“You’re a recognized representative of the baboon,” added the aardvark. “That means you’re disqualified from approaching any of these proceedings.”

“Oh, nonsense, he and I just happen to share a love of a little game, that’s all.”

“No, it’s not all. Every animal for miles around knows you hold the ear of the Baboon with the Orange Butt.”

“But you’re a resident of the Land of the Elephant,” said the Little Gray weasel. “Doesn’t that make you a representative of the baboon?”

“Not in the least,” replied the aardvark. “I’m a duly appointed representative of the Land of the Elephant, just as the zebra is a representative of the Land of the Antelope. As such, we’re neutral as far as the choosing is concerned.”

“But are you really?”

“Yes,” said the zebra, “really! We don’t even vote as members of our species.”

“How noble of you.” The weasel looked past them, at the piles of white and black pebbles, “So how’s the count going?”

Bear Ant aardvark quickly moved to screen the piles from view, “And you know also, that we’re not allowed to share that information with you.”

“Well—I happened to hear you discussing regional changes in this choosing from the last one,” the weasel said. “I figured since I already know about those, you’d be willing to give me a little more—shall we say—in depth analysis of how the race is trending.”

“Nope,” said the zebra. “We aren’t going to do any such thing. You need to leave now!”

“Sorry,” the weasel protested, “I didn’t intend to cause trouble. I’m sure you’ve spoken with representatives of the wildebeest, so I just thought—“

“We have had none of the discussions that you are suggesting with them!” said the aardvark.

“I didn’t mean to impugn your integrity,” the weasel said. “I’m truly sorry.”

Aardvark looked at zebra and rolled his eyes. “Fine,” the aardvark said. “Now—“

“Can I talk to you privately?” the weasel asked Ant Bear Aardvark.

The aardvark glanced at the zebra who nodded. “I trust your sense of discretion implicitly,” the zebra said.

“Thank you,” the aardvark replied to the zebra. “I’ll be back momentarily.” He walked off a short distance with the weasel. “What do you want?” he asked.

“You’re a resident of our great land,” the weasel said, “the Land of the Elephant.”

“All my life,” replied the aardvark.

“Then you must realize that the stakes in this current election are quite high.”

“In what way?”

The weasel looked over at the zebra to ensure that they were out of earshot. “The very future of our two lands is in the balance!” the weasel said. “I’ll also be speaking with the Land of the Elephant representatives in the Arid zone, in Wispy confluence, and the Penned Sylvan area after I’m done here. I believe there are illegal votes being cast that must be removed in these critical areas.”

“What kind of illegal votes?”

“Well for example, votes that are uncertain, say you didn’t quite get a definite answer from several hundred voters for the wildebeest. You know, as if they were coached.”

“There were no such votes.”

“Maybe there were votes that weren’t cast properly.”

“None of those either,” said the aardvark. “That’s why we’re here, to make sure the procedures are followed correctly.”

“Maybe you might lose a few hundred votes, you know, accidentally. It happens.”

“You’re suggesting that I cheat.”

“Cheat?” the weasel said in mock outrage. “I’m not suggesting any such thing. What I’m suggesting is that you act as a patriot! That you take into consideration all that the baboon has done for his people and how we need that to continue.” The weasel moved closer, “For example, I’m certain the baboon would be very appreciative to any animal that helped him.”

The aardvark stared at the weasel for a few moments, “What does the baboon have on you?”

“What do you mean?” asked Little Gray weasel. This time his outrage was real.

“I figure that the baboon is blackmailing you somehow.”

“He isn’t,” said the weasel, “I mean he doesn’t have anything.”

“You were a trusted friend of the old Lion,” the aardvark continued, “you two were always together. Would he approve of what you are doing now?”

“I can see I’m wasting my time here.”

“Good, I’m glad it finally became apparent to you,” said the aardvark. “Now if you don’t mind leaving the area, I have to get back to work.”

XII

Ruddy Gull moved into position before Judge Brown Goose and clacked his mismatched beak several times. “If it please your Honker,” he said, “I intend to demonstrate that the illegal actions in this choosing perpetrated by the animals from the Land of the Antelope seek to rob our Great Baboon of his rightful position as leader of the Two Lands.”

“Whether I am pleased or not, is a moot point, Mr. Gull. I am more interested in the proof you intend to present in support of your motion,” replied the Judge.

“I understand, your Honker, our position is quite simple, we would like you to stop this illegal counting of votes in the Penned Sylvan area.”

“Why?”

“They might be illegal votes,” Ruddy Gull said. 

Judge Brown Goose said, “And I repeat myself, what proof have you brought in reference to this allegation of illegality?”

“Proof, your Honker?”

“We are a court, we operate on proof, Mr. Gull,” said the Goose. “Certainly you recall that pertinent element of basic law.”

“Of course. I will have that proof within days, your Honker,” replied Ruddy.

“Mr. Gull, I recognize that you have not been before a court in your current role of that as a lawful representative in some time, but surely you must remember how this works. You bring proof, I rule on that proof. What I see before me at this time is that the counting of votes is based on proof. That is why they are doing it. So I ask you again, where is your proof that I should halt their count?”

“Your Honker, I have it from a good, and exceedingly reliable source that hundreds of thousands of votes across our great country were illegally cast for the Blue Wildebeest!”

“Mr. Gull, who is this source?”

“Who, your Honker?”

“Who, Mr. Gull?”

“My source wishes to remain anonymous at this time, your Honker, to avoid retaliation by our opponents.”

“Your source has been threatened in some way?”

“No, as of not yet, your Honker, but we are cognizant of how volatile his testimony might be and wish to avoid any chance that he might be targeted.”

“I see. And he gave you this reliable information—when?”

“I was informed of these facts in my case just yesterday, your Honker. It represents an unimaginable outrage being perpetrated against our long held political system.”

“Why?”

“I’m sorry, your Honker,” said Ruddy, “why?”

“Yes, Mr. Gull, why is our system of counting all votes an outrage?”

“Because, your Honker, they are stealing the leadership of our country from the Great Baboon!”

“It would appear to me that they are tabulating votes and those votes show that the rightful leader of our land is Blue Wildebeest.”

“But the illegality, this incredible malfeasance, your Honker, it cannot be allowed to continue!”

“What illegality?”

“The illegal votes, the hundreds of thousands of illegal votes being cast for the Blue Wildebeest!”

“You are contending that hundreds of thousands of illegal votes are being cast, and that all the illegal votes are for the wildebeest?”

“Yes, your Honker, that’s exactly what I am saying!”

“And the proof of your charge that you have brought before this court today consists of—what?”

“Your honker, given twenty four to forty eight hours, I am prepared to return with dozens of examples proving the validity of my case.”

“Twenty-four to forty-eight hours, Mr. Gull?”

“Surely no more than say, eighty six hours,” replied Ruddy.

“So let me make sure I understand what you are requesting of me,” the goose said. “You want me to stop all  counting of votes in this district on the theoretical testimony of an anonymous witness, while you proceed, over the next several days, to find the proof to support that there is a reason why I should do just that?” He shuffled his position slightly, ruffling a few feathers. “Is that a correct, succinct, and complete synopsis of your motion, Mr. Gull?”

“Yes, your Honker. That is it exactly.”

“Are under a retainer for your work as a legal representative of this administration of the baboon?” asked Judge Brown Goose.

“Uh, we have an understanding, your Honker, yes.”

“Normally I would remark that I am never surprised when a competent legal representative receives remuneration for their efforts. It is certainly to be expected. In this case, however, I am shocked.” 

He continued. “I should perhaps apologize for peppering you, Mr. Gull, with pointed questions. But I am distressed by the opacity I find in your arguments.” 

“I’m not sure what ‘opacity’ means,” Ruddy Gull said. “It probably means that you can see.”

“No, Mr. Gull,” the judge replied. “It means you can’t see. What standard of scrutiny should I apply to your case, Mr, Gull?

Ruddy Gull replied, “The normal one, I guess.” 

The Brown Goose asked, “Should I apply ‘strict scrutiny,’ in considering your alleged equal protection violations?“ 

“I do not know what you mean by ‘strict scrutiny’, your Honker.” 

The Judge looked at the other legal authority before him, a district representative of the Penned Sylvan area, Ms. Errant Egret, and asked, “Do you wish to take up the mantle of constructing a reply to this motion, Ms. Egret?”

Ms. Errant Egret replied, “Thank you, your Honker. I could spend the next half an hour of your valuable time rebutting this morass of empty nonsense from Mr. Ruddy Gull, a once respected legal mind. That refutation might specifically aim rhetorically at Mr. Gull’s current incompetence, accusing him at various and sundry points of being “ignorant” of the law, living in ‘a fantasy land,’ and perpetuating wild conspiracy theories that are ‘disgraceful in a court of the Two Lands.’” She took a step forward. “But I will confine my remarks to simply this, are you kidding us, Mr. Gull?”

“Thank you, Ms. Egret,” said the Brown Goose. Turning back to Ruddy Gull he said, “You do not need to reply, Mr. Gull. Case dismissed.”

XIII

Honey Badger and Caracal were walking outside the rebuilt thorn bush fence around Moralardo. They heard a wail and various raucous screams coming from within.

“That pathetic crying must be from some of those poor orphans that White Mamba stole from their parents,” said Caracal.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Honey Badger, “I think it’s the baboon.”

“It’s not fair!” the voice screamed. “I’m the winner! I’m not a loser!”

“Yep,” said Honey Badger. “That’s him!”

They moved around to the eastern side, in front of Moralardo, where Ruddy Gull was holding another Push conference, his third in a row in as many days.

“The results of this choosing must be overturned!” Ruddy shouted.

“Why?” asked Leopard.

“What?” asked Ruddy looking at him.

“Why must it be overturned?”

“Well, because it’s illegal, for one thing!” Ruddy said.

“Actually,” said the Ostrich, “the mere fact that you have called for its overturning substantively demonstrates that you believe the Blue Wildebeast to have won.”

“No, no!” said Ruddy, “I didn’t say that! It’s illegal!”

“How is it illegal?” asked Honey Badger.

“How can you ask that? It’s obvious,” Ruddy said, “the votes in the Penned Sylvan area, Mushy land, Wispy confluence, Arid zone, and Geo Gorge, all flipped from the previous choosing when the Great Baboon won in each of those places.”

“He was chosen by extremely slim margins in several of those locations,” said the Ostrich. “And in three out of the five of those regions had voted for the candidate of the Land of the Antelope in numerous elections previous to that one. Coupling this information with his massive loss in individual votes, perhaps it was the election of the baboon that was illegal!”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Ruddy Gull, “those votes were legally counted and they certified that the Great Baboon had won.”

“Which is precisely what has happened this time,” said Night Caracal, “resulting in the election of Blue Wildebeest as the new leader.”

“It’s not the same!” shouted Ruddy.

“How is it not the same?” asked Leopard. “Because your candidate lost?”

“No, because it’s illegal,” said Ruddy. “All these illegal votes must be reversed.”

“Which votes are the illegal ones?” asked Honey Badger.

“All those votes in Mushy Land and Penned Sylvan area that were cast for the wildebeest, to name some!”

“So any vote that is not for your candidate is automatically illegal?”

“In this case, yes!” said Ruddy.

“When did you receive your extensive training in illegal vote counting from the crocodile?” asked Leopard.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” said Ruddy. “I never received any training from him.”

“So you’re self-taught in crazy conspiracy theories?” asked Honey Badger. “That explains a lot.”

“You’re missing my point!” said Ruddy.

“You have one?” the badger asked.

Ruddy said, “There was interference from socialists in this election!”

“What socialists?” asked White Rhinoceros.

“Those socialists, you know—them!” Ruddy said. “All our foreign enemies have poured their thousands of illegal votes into this election!”

“How did they do that?” asked Honey Badger.

“They had them counted with the legal votes! They were allowed to vote against the Great Baboon!”

“How?” asked the badger again. “Were they counted by the official animals at each site?”

“Yes, exactly!”

“There was a duly appointed member of each land overseeing the votes,” the Ostrich said. “Your rightfully chosen animals manned those sites along with the animal representatives from the Land of the Antelope. Are you saying the baboon selected blind representatives who couldn’t see if votes were being cast illegally?”

“These illegal votes happened!” Ruddy continued, “I can smell them!”

“Can you smell fear?” asked Honey Badger. “Raw, rank, mindless fear? Because that’s what driving your current display of public insanity.”

“It’s not fair!” the gull went on. “No animal living in the Two Lands can look at this choosing and say that it was fairly run.”

“Fair,” the Rhinoceros said, “is, in your definition, anything which results in the baboon being a loser.”

Ruddy said, “Curl-fur Mole has said that these are serious, somewhat strange accusations, that bring up questions about the fundamental fairness of our leader choosings.”

“Who’s Curl-fur Mole?” asked Leopard.

“I remember him,” said White Rhinoceros, “he was an advisor to Grand Bush Elephant when he was the leader.”

“That was ages ago,” said Honey Badger. She looked at Ruddy Gull, something dark was running down the feathers on both sides of his head. “You’re quoting an old mole who lives underground, eats worms, and can’t see past the end of his nose as your support for your argument?”

“He was a respected advisor once!” Ruddy said.

“So were you—once,” said Honey Badger. “And by the way, what’s that stuff on the side of your head?”

The gull reached up a wing and wiped off some of the dark liquid. “They said it was permanent!” he shouted disappearing inside Moralardo.

“I guess the Push conference has ended,” said Leopard. “What was that stuff?”

“My belief,” said the Ostrich, “having witnessed the gull’s attempts to push back the inevitable clock by pursuing females much younger than himself, is that he had some of his top feathers dyed a darker color, in an effort to demonstrate a more youthful appearance.”

“How very sad,” said Caracal.

XIV

It was the first time the Baboon with the Orange Butt had been seen in public since the announcement that he had lost the choosing. He looked tired and his eyes were swollen. He’d replaced the lion’s mane fur on his head with something that looked—odd.

“It is my great pleasure to announce to you all that our efforts to find a cure for this terrible disease is nearing an end,” he said. Behind him, White-headed Prancing monkey stood in front of Wild boar, Dappled Ass, Little Gray weasel, White Mamba snake, Gully Sand Harpy eagle, Kalahari Macerating bustard, and Mewanka. Prancing monkey looked as if he expected the baboon to call upon him at any moment. 

Spread out before the stump, listening, were representatives of each animal group in the Two Lands. After the baboon’s Push conference they would report back to their members with the news, if there was any, one never knew when the baboon was speaking. 

Honey Badger, Black rhinoceros and Leopard stood off to one side observing. “He looks like a stretch of bad trail through the desert,” Black rhinoceros said of the baboon. “Desolate, dry and possibly deadly.”

“Why deadly?” asked Leopard.

“Because he’s desperate,” answered the rhino. “He’ll do almost anything now just to keep from having to give in to the wildebeest and hand over power.”

“There’s not much he can do,” said Honey Badger. “Not without help, and I don’t see Muck Mud turtle anywhere,. He’s the only one who could possibly intervene to try and change everything.”

“Muck’s busy,” said a voice from slightly above them. They looked up to see Bateleur eagle sitting up in the high branches of an acacia. 

“What’s he up to?” asked Honey Badger. 

“Last I saw of him he was heading east, at a slightly faster pace than his usual plod. I think he’s on his way to Musk Cow lake, maybe to set up a meeting with Putrid to plan how to proceed now that their puppet is out of a job. I told Melodious Lark to keep an eye on him and report back.

“Good idea,” said Honey Badger. 

The baboon started up again, “I want to have my medical expert, Dappled Ass, speak to you now.” 

The ass trotted up to take his place beside the baboon, “Puff-eyed lizard has discovered an herb which shows progress in possibly curing the disease in animals who are infected,” he said, “and in preventing the disease from being passed to others. If so, this is a great breakthrough, and a testament to the efforts of our Great Baboon on behalf of his subjects.”

“I thought you said there was no disease,” asked Sandveldt Tined lizard.

“I may have been a bit hasty in that assessment.”

“Now he tells us,” said Honey Badger.

“So the Puff-eyed lizard has been working with the team that the baboon set up, led by Prancing monkey?” asked a Washed-out Tan Mole rat, a well-respected reporter.

“No, but he has been in touch with us, and we greatly appreciate his efforts,” said the ass. 

“But he could’ve told me sooner that he thought he might have a cure,” groused the baboon. “Like before the choosing, so I could’ve announced it!”

“To try and save his Orange Butt,” added Black rhinoceros to Leopard.

Another reporter, a Cape Lago Hare, asked, “When will this cure be available to all the animals in all of our Two Lands?”

“It will be ready right away,” said the baboon, “with enough for everyone.”

Prancing monkey stepped forward and said, “That’s not quite true, sir. We have to go through tests and then even if it is shown to be effective, we have to collect enough of the herb—“

“You’re not helping me here!“ the baboon shouted. 

“Helping you, sir?”

“This could save my position as leader of the Two lands!” the baboon hissed, audible to almost everyone. He waved his arm out towards the assembled listeners. “These animals won’t want to get rid of their savior, namely me, who is bringing them an antidote for this horrible disease!”

“I thought you said that the Puff-eyed lizard was developing this cure,” asked a Bat-eared Fox. “Why are you taking credit for his discovery?”

“I’m not!” the baboon yelled. “Stop listening to my private conversations!”

“Everyone could hear you,” the fox said.

“That doesn’t mean you should be listening! But, since you mentioned it, I’m the leader of these lands and I made his discovery possible. Without me he couldn’t have found it!”

“How can you say that?” asked a Sand Frisky monkey. “It appears to me that you had almost nothing to do with his find.”

“That’s how much you know about it!” yelled the baboon. “You animals have no idea of all I’ve done for you!” Little Gray weasel scampered up next to him and whispered something. 

“Go ahead,” said the baboon. 

“Our Great Baboon,” the weasel said, “has sacrificed so much for us, his people! I think it is only fitting that we name this great discovery after him.”

“You want to call it, ‘Incompetent Narcissist?’” asked Leopard. That produced a ripple of laughter from the assembled animals. 

Washed-out Tan Mole rat said, “Isn’t it prerogative of the discoverer to name his find?”

Kalahari Macerating bustard marched up to the baboon’s side and said, “You animals are ungrateful! This Great Baboon has given you his all, and yet you mock him!” She looked at the baboon and continued, “Our great leader has been vitally involved with our campaign, Apparition Wasp Speed, which has offered many incentives to those seeking a cure!”

“Is Puff-eyed Lizard a part of this campaign?” asked Bat-eared fox.

“He is now!” said the Little Gray Weasel.

“That lizard should be here bowing down to me for allowing him to join in our success,” said the baboon.  “Instead he waited to announce the success of his herbs until the day after the choosing. I bet he did that on purpose in order to avoid helping me! He’s probably a resident of the Land of the Antelope!”

Leopard looked at Honey Badger and asked, “How long do we have to wait for Blue Wildebeest to take over as leader?”

“I think it’s supposed to be two weeks,” she answered.

“We’re not going to make it,” said Black rhinoceros.

XV

“I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, “ the baboon said to Wild Boar. They were walking out before Moralardo, watching the area before the stump fill up with widely spaced reporters for the various animal populations.

“Why do they keep doing that?” asked the baboon.

“Doing what?” Wild Boar asked in response.

“Spread out like that,” said Dump, “Dappled Ass said it was entirely unnecessary!”

“I believe that is precisely why they do it.”

“What?”

“Never mind,” said Wild Boar, “I don’t have time to try and explain it to you now. Here they come.”

They watched as three monkeys and a ferret emerged from Moralardo. They took up a position just behind the stump and waited.

Stepping up to the stump then climbing up onto it, the baboon surveyed the gathering. He raised his chin so to purse his lips and said, “Welcome my subjects to the Wondrous Moralardo, home of your beloved leader, me, the Great Baboon! I have ordered you here today to witness another in the fantastic events I have created as leader of the Two lands!”

Honey Badger and the two rhinoceroses stood off to the left, under the acacia, they were joined by Ostrich and Giraffe who hurried up to them. “Have we missed anything?” asked Giraffe, trying to catch his breath.

“With the baboon it’s always hard to know whether you’ve missed something or not,” said Honey Badger.

“And then even when you’re certain you didn’t miss it,” Black Rhinoceros added, “you often wish you had.”

That initiated a round of relief bringing laughter. “So what is our esteemed leader instituting for his personal benefit today?” asked Ostrich.

“No one is quite sure,” said White Rhinoceros, “it has something to do with his Two Screams court.”

As if on cue, the Howler monkey appeared and her thunderous scream echoed forth, startling the unwary, and bringing the court to order.

“I could’ve done without that for a period not to exceed the rest of my natural life,” said Black Rhinoceros.

“Good one Beaky,” said White Rhinoceros.

“Thanks Lippy,” answered the other rhino.

“If you two are done with the mutual admiration society meeting you might want to pay attention,” said Honey Badger. “I think something is happening.”

The baboon nodded to the Howler monkey, “Thank you for your announcement,” he said “Today I have made a momentous decision. I asked my two Screams court here so I can initiate a great addition to justice in our land.”

“I already don’t like the sound of this,” said Giraffe.

“Other than old Orange Butt, who would?” asked Leopard, announcing his arrival.

“Good you got here,” said Honey Badger, “you haven’t missed the main attraction.”

“Water Buffalo turds! I could always go back and walk slower,” said Leopard.

“Unfortunately, with the baboon’s continued propensity for perseverance,” said the Ostrich, “that wouldn’t be likely to help.”

The baboon said, “I have decided therefore as my first initial act of this day—“

“You realize, I’m certain,” broke in Ostrich, “that there can be only one ‘initial’ act in any given day.”

“What?” asked the baboon. Wild Boar leaned over and whispered something in his ear. “Of course I knew that!” the baboon said to him. “Now as I was saying before being rudely interrupted, I am hereby making an addition to the Two Screams court. The new justice is Cave Veldt Nautilus!”

Two rats, with a platform suspended between them, emerged from Moralardo. Upon the platform sat a large convoluted spiral shell, reddish brown on pale amber in color. From the opening of the shell protruded an array of tentacles surmounted by a dark brown mantle. Centered in the mantle, one on either side, were large, pale blue, slightly bloodshot eyes.

“Cave Veldt Nautilus will be joining Barrens Colobus monkey, Collared Mangabey monkey, Cape Vervet monkey, and Ima Crony Ferret as a member of my Two Screams court,” said the Baboon.

“Aren’t nautiluses sea creatures?” asked Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

Wild Boar stepped up to answer, “Normally, yes, but the Cave Nautilus can breathe outside of water for a period of time, and we have further discovered that by feeding him a liquid diet of fermented grains he can be sustained on land almost indefinitely.”

The nautilus emitted a rather loud ‘burp’.

“Interesting,” said Bat-eared fox, “but why add him to your court?”

“In discussion with the Great Baboon,” Wild boar went on, “I suggested an uneven number on the court was best for resolving votes.”

“But why now? Your administration is nearly ended.”

Wild Boar turned and, without replying, walked back to where the Baboon with the Orange Butt stood.

“Now, Hairless Hippopotamus will deliver the oath of office to the Cave Veldt Nautilus,” said Dump the baboon.

“Here we go again,” said Leopard.

The hippo walked out, stood before the nautilus on the platform, said some unintelligible words, and then disappeared into Moralardo again.

“How unimpressive!” said White Rhinoceros.

“Watch carefully now,” said Honey Badger, “here comes the punchline, and I’ll bet we’re the ones getting punched!”

“Now that the Two Screams court is complete with its five members,” the baboon said, “I am asking for it to rule on my petition to overturn the Male Impala votes in the Penned Sylvan area.”

“Told you,” said Honey Badger.

“Under what authority could they do that?” asked Sand Veldt Tined lizard.

“Under my authority,” said Dump. “It’s my court!”

“You didn’t tell me about that part of the plan,” protested Wild Boar.

“I don’t tell you everything!” snapped the baboon. He turned to the court members, “Well?”

The three monkeys looked at each, back and forth several times, the ferret chittered, the nautilus blinked its large bloodshot eyes. They all gathered together, the rats bringing the platform with its occupant to the others. There was a brief flurry of gesticulating among them all. The nautilus ‘burped’ again.

Looking out from the group, the Barrens Colobus monkey signaled the howler to join them.

“This should be an easy decision, you know,” the baboon said impatiently.

Cape Vervet monkey looked up at him and said, “It was. We all agree we wouldn’t touch this case with a nine-and-a-half foot striped polecat!”

Howler monkey stepped away from the group, sucked in a huge breath and screamed for all she was worth. The three monkeys and the ferret turned and scurried back into Moralardo, followed closely by the two rats with the nautilus, who had entirely withdrawn into his shell, and was rocking back and forth slowly.

Howler monkey bowed and also left.

“Oh Chimp crap!” said the baboon.

XVI

“I’m thinking of giving a party,” the Baboon with the Orange Butt said to Marked Monitor lizard, his Chief of Stuff as they were walking in Moralardo.

“What kind of a party?” the lizard asked.

“Oh the usual kind, lots of guests telling me how awesome I am,” said the baboon. “You’ll make out a list of invitees and arrange the food.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Marked Monitor said.

“Why not?”

“For a couple of reasons,” said the lizard.

“Name one!”

“First off, there is general agreement that gathering in large groups tends to spread the disease.”

“Who says that,” asked the baboon, “that meerkat?”

“For one, yes, but he’s not alone in saying that. It’s believed to be true by many others.”

“Dappled Ass says it’s no big deal,” said the baboon.

“Okay, fine. Here’s my second reason, in this case you shouldn’t be using the reserve stocks of food that we have stored away. Now that the wildebeest is the recognized leader he has a right to access some of the stored food, too.”

“Fine! He can have his share after the party.”

“That’s not the way it works, sir.”

“Why not? It belongs to me!”

“Actually no,” said Marked Monitor. “Those food stores are for all the animals of the Two Lands.”

“Oh yeah? Well then let them all attend my party.”

“That’s not going to happen, sir.”

“Says you!”

“It’s just common sense,” the lizard went on, “you received significantly fewer votes than the wildebeest. Most animals are not supporters of yours.”

“But I got more votes this time than the first choosing, doesn’t that say something?”

“It says that more animals voted in this choosing than the last one, the wildebeest received a record number of total votes, many more than you got.”

“Humph! Most of his votes are illegal!”

“There’s no evidence that that is true.”

The baboon stopped walking and peered at his Secretary of Stuff, “Say, whose side are you on, anyway?”

“I’m on your side, sir! How can you even ask that?”

“It looks to me like you’re trying to undermine everything I want to do!”

“I’m only trying to make sure you have all the up-to-date information, sir.”

“Information is over-rated.”

“We have to operate on the best information available,” said the lizard.

“Why? It only gets in the way.”

“But if we don’t pay attention to what is happening around us these events may end up putting barriers before our intended actions. That could slow us down or stop us all together.”

“Nonsense, nothing can stop me!”

Marked Monitor considered remarking to him a fact that the wildebeest had stopped the baboon, but he wisely refrained from pointing out the obvious.

The baboon went on, “Do you have any other stupid reasons why you think I shouldn’t have my party?”

“Yes, just one more,” said Marked Monitor.

“Alright then spill it!”

“Well, what exactly are we celebrating? I mean you lost the choosing—”

“Nobody’s proved that I lost!” said the baboon.

“Yes, they have, it is proved by the votes that were counted by representatives of the Land of the Elephant and the Land of the Antelope. But that may not even be the most important fact. It’s not so much a matter of proof as it is acceptance. Everyone accepts the results of the election that says the wildebeest won.”

“I don’t accept it!”

“Sir, all the votes have been counted. They are certified by every area of our land, that certification was done by representatives of both lands. They’ve been recounted as per your requests and the results haven’t changed. Why not simply accept them?”

“I want the recounts recounted!”

“It still won’t change the election results.”

“They are illegal!”

“No one found anything illegal. And believe me when I tell you, they looked.”

“Ha, fat lot you know! They counted votes in other lands! Foreigners voted in our election!”

“I haven’t heard any such thing.”

“You’re not listening to the right animals. I heard this from Tuck Hair Curl-horn oryx, he works for Red Fox. It must be true!”

“Again, I have to tell you that there is no evidence of this having happened, sir.”

“Of course there’s evidence, that’s what Tuck Hair is reporting on! You think he just makes this stuff up?”

Once again, the lizard chose not to respond.

“That’s not all,” added the baboon. “Some of the votes for me were changed to votes for the wildebeest!”

“Who told you that?”

“Nobody had to tell me, it just makes sense. Think about it! How else do you explain places like Penned Sylvan area going for that fake gnu? The animals of that place voted for me last time. Bigly! You think they would just change their minds that way?”

“Many more of them voted in this choosing and you only won the Penned Sylvan area by a small margin the first time.”

“And I won by an even bigger number this time if you change those votes back to me!”

Sighing, the lizard said, “If you say so, sir.” There was a hint of resignation in his voice.

“So start planning that party for me now!”

“Yes, sir.”

XVII

Blue Wildebeest stepped out into a large clearing already occupied by an array of other animals, evenly positioned at the recommended intervals, waiting patiently for him. He was followed at a short distance by several additional animals, each spaced widely from the next.

“Thank you all for coming,” the old gnu said, “I wanted to get started introducing you to some of the members of the team that will be assisting me as leader of the Two Lands, but first I’d like to say a few things.” He paused and looked out over the gathering. 

“What I propose to do cannot be done by one animal alone, it takes many working together to succeed.”

He gathered his thoughts for a moment. “It occurs to me that I have been at this for some time, leading others. I worked with Barrens Zebra when he was the leader and I saw the toll it takes upon an individual. It is an enormous responsibility to accept. You are looked to as a guide and a decision maker, and those decisions will impact the lives of many others. It is not something to be taken lightly.”

“Even beyond that,” he went on, “it’s not a job for egos.” Blue Wildebeest glanced back at the others who stood behind him. “If an individual enters into this role for the purpose of inflating themself, to garner accolades and acquire testimonials, they’re going to fail.” He paused. “Anyone who believes they were chosen for their own benefit needs to leave immediately.”

The wildebeest didn’t look backward again, but his meaning was clear.

“I, and in truth all leaders, are eventually selected for what they can do for the ones electing them. If that is not their clear focus, if they spend time demanding others recognize their every effort, or fritter precious time away in self aggrandizement, or personal gratification, they are useless as leaders. Actually, they are worse than useless, they are detrimental to those expecting their help.

“It has been said, by wiser voices than mine, that there is no ‘I’ in team. There is no ‘me’ either. The letters are present, but those two letters, ‘m’ and ‘e’, are reversed in ’team’. And in this case, the reverse of ‘me’ is ‘us’. It will take all of ‘us’ working together to prevail.

“Folks, we are in a war, and we dare not fail.”

The wildebeest pointedly looked left and right and then said, “Folks, listen, I mean it, you cannot declare war and then go play a game. War is not a game, it is life and death; dilettantes need not apply! We are locked in a struggle against an unthinking, pernicious opponent, one that has no plan, only attack and attack again. We cannot approach the pursuit of this war in an equally thoughtless manner by waiting for it to end. That is surrender.

“We dare not surrender!

“Too many have already been sacrificed for lack of a cohesive plan. Such a route is unsustainable. Only through study, thoughtful reflection, and science-based testing can we hope to triumph. Inaction means more dying, useless and unnecessary deaths, and too much of that has occurred already.”

He looked upward and took a deep breath. Focusing on the animals standing before him, he said, “That’s why I am telling you now, I cannot do this job. No, I’m sorry, I already know this to be a fact. I will fail.”

He paused as if expecting a response and then continued, “I cannot do this job, but we can. Only with your help, your cooperation, and your faith in me, can we accomplish the enormous task of leading our great land out of the darkness and into a new light, a new day, a stronger future.

“I have selected those I feel best qualified to work directly with me, but without your trust, your patience and your belief in the historic principles that established our land, I will not succeed. I am asking for your help. It is the only hope for hundreds who are even now threatened by our common enemy, this rapacious disease that has infected our bodies, and our hearts.

“Only by calling upon all our resources, collectively, and cooperatively, do we have any hope of achieving victory in this deadly war against our implacable foe, the enemy of everyone who lives here.

“My friends who stand behind me have agreed to work with me in the pursuit these goals. I did not require of them any pledge to me personally. But I did ask that they commit to working toward the good of all our neighbors, the residents of the Two Lands.

“Now, I’m asking that you, all of you, those who live in the Land of the Elephant, and those who live in the Land of the Antelope, everyone of you, be of the same mind, in total concurrence, in accord with us in the belief that only together do we have an honest hope that we will advance as a nation, forward towards prosperity and safety for each of us in the Two Lands. 

“It is our only route towards realization of the expectations inhabiting the hearts of each of us. Our only hope for deriving personal success for each creature in turn lies in our total cooperative effort. Only then do we attain the desired prospect of realizing prosperity, and life for all.”

“I am asking for your help. Simply that. Thank you.”

XVIII

Dump, the Baboon with the Orange Butt rushed to catch top with his daughter Mewanka inside Moralardo. 

“I’ve got it!” he chortled. “I have them beat!”

“What do you mean, daddy? Have you figured a way to steal back the leadership after losing the choosing?”

He glared at her, “Do not ever suggest any such thing to me again!”

“Which thing, daddy?” Mewanka asked, chastened by his tone. “The losing or the stealing?”

“That I lost the choosing of course! I did not lose! It was stolen from me!”

“I’m sorry daddy,” she said. “So what have you come up with?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, I’ve come up with a foolproof system so that can’t indict any of us.”

“You’re so smart! What is it?”

“Com’on I’ll show you.” The Baboon with the Orange Butt led her to his personal enclosure and pointed proudly to a pile of what was apparently garbage. “See?”

“Um, I see it daddy. What is it?”

“It’s my collection of guarantees for my most loyal supporters.”

“It is? How does it work?”

“Wild Boar told me that I can issue official pardons for anyone who committed crimes in my name, or in support of me.”

“That’s great daddy,” Mewanka gushed. “But I—um—still don’t see what these, uh, these things have to do with that.”

“Oh my poor innocent darling!” The baboon said, eliciting what was meant to be a demure smile from his daughter. “These are mackerel fins.”

“Mackerel fins?”

“Yeah, I’ve been saving them from all those big mackerels I eat,” he said picking one up. 

“Eww—daddy,” she put up her hands as if to push him away, “they stink!”

The baboon brought the fin up to his nose and sniffed, “I guess they are a bit fragrant, at that.”

Covering her nose with her hand, Mewanka said, “I still don’t get how they work.”

“It’s simple, anyone I want to pardon I give a mackerel fin to. I’m thinking of stringing them on strong vines so they can wear them around their necks. If someone sees you with a mackerel fin, no matter what crimes you have committed, you’re immune from prosecution.”

“I see,” she said, “I think. But do they have to wear them?” 

“It’s all the proof they have. Mackerel fin means pardoned”

“Who are you thinking of giving them to?” asked Mewanka.

“Ruddy Gull for one, Wild Boar, maybe even Mud Turtle. I have to think about it a little more because as Barred told me a while back, if they accept the mackerel fin, they’re automatically guilty and can no longer take the filth to avoid testifying.”

“How about Night Chameleon, your old legal representative that you had before Ruddy Gull?”

“That traitor? Not a chance. He’s a turncoat!”

“That’s what chameleons do, daddy.”

“Huh?”

“They turn their coats.”

“That’s not what I meant, he betrayed me.”

“How daddy?”

“He folded, he gave up information I told him to keep secret!”

“You mean about you and the Steamy mammals?”

The baboon held up his hands, palms out, “Hey! I didn’t realize you knew about that little indiscretion of mine. Don’t mention them in here.” He looked around quickly, “Maliciosa may be listening!”

“She already knows, believe me.”

“You think so? And I thought I was being discreet.”

“Seriously?” Mewanka asked. She shook her head, muttering, “Even I could see what was going on.” But when the baboon didn’t seem to have heard her, she decided to return to the previous subject. “So if an animal takes a pardon they’re considered guilty?” 

“Don’t worry, my dear, if I offer them a mackerel fin, it’s because I know they’re guilty anyway.”

“Hmm, who else do you think you might give one to?”

“White Mamba snake, for certain, he needs one. Your brother, Dump Junior, for another; he better take one.” The baboon thought some more. “Dappled Ass might want to get one.” Then he held up his hands, “Oh, I almost forgot Little Gray weasel, he’s going to need the protection of a mackerel fin.”

She reached out and tentatively fingered the fin the was holding. “Everyone that has one of these is immune from prosecution?”

“Yes, well, no, not totally,” the baboon said, “they are immune from being brought to trial by the country’s courts. But other courts could still indict them. It’s the best I can do.”

“Couldn’t we just move?”

“Where would we go? he asked her. “I already offered to Valor that I would build a new Moralardo over by the lake.”

“You talk to the crocodile?” she asked, unable to hide her surprise. “He’s a killer!”

“Oh, who? Not me, no!” said the baboon quickly. “I had Ruddy Gull make the offer.”

“But he said ’no’?”

“He didn’t say either way.”

“That’s just as well,” said Mewanka. “Who wants to live near the nasty old crocodile anyway?”

“Uh, yeah, you’re probably right.”

“Did you think of anyone else you’re giving a mackerel fin to?”

“Just one,” he responded. “Me!”

XIX

The Bristle-furred Gray mole, head of Feral Burrows Investigations for the Two Lands, popped up through the surface of Moralardo and looked around to see if the Baboon with the Orange Butt was nearby. Unfortunately, because he was terribly near-sighted, he could only make out blurred shapes moving about him. 

Looking up at the closest figure, Gray mole asked, “Have you seen the Great Baboon lately?”

The small figure answered, “El Jefe, Señor Cabron, no, and I hope not to see him any time soon, tambien”

The mole blinked several times and leaned in closer to the speaker, “You’re one of those southern rodents, aren’t you?”

“¡Si! I am,” the rat answered.

“Well, don’t you work for the baboon?”

“That could be said of me, I guess.”

“Then you should have a better attitude. The baboon has fed you and provided you with shelter. Do I have to report your disparaging remarks to the baboon?”

“You would do that?”

“It’s my duty.”

“I see your point, señor. It is a point of honor then. Tell me, do you know who I am?”

“No, I don’t. I can’t even see you clearly, you’ll have to come closer.”

“No, I don’t think I will, adios!” said the rat as he ran off. 

“Hey! You better come back here!” yelled Bristle-furred Gray mole. 

“What’s the matter?” asked another voice from the opposite direction. 

Turning the mole said, “Who’s that?”

“It’s Earache, the baboon’s son,” said I Forget His Name, walking up to the mole. “Who were you yelling at?”

“Oh never mind, it’s not important. Do you know where your father is?”

“Yes, I’ll take you to him.” The mole followed I Forget His Name over to the baboon’s private enclosure, “He’s inside,” said Earache. 

“Aren’t you coming in?” asked Gray mole.

“Who? Me? No, I don’t think so,” said Earache. “He hasn’t been too happy to see me lately.”

“Why not?”

“Dad, ahem, I mean, The Great Baboon, feels I didn’t do enough to help him win re-election.”

“What more could you have done?” asked the mole.

“I don’t know,” replied the baboon. “Maybe if it comes up, you could ask him for me?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” replied Bristle-fur Gray mole. He entered the thorn bush lined room. Seeing the baboon reclining on the ground in a corner he hurried over to him. “I understand you wanted to see me?” asked the mole.

The baboon looked at him, “Did I?” he asked. He shook his head as if to clear it and asked, “Who are you?”

“It’s me, Bristle-fur Gray mole, head of the Feral Burrows Investigation.”

“Oh yeah, I did want to talk to you. Did you find out how they are trying to steal the election?”

“Who?”

“Them!” yelled the baboon. “Don’t play innocent with me! You know as well as I do that those animals from the Land of the Antelope stuffed illegal votes into the count! Have you figured out how they did it? Do you have the proof we need to overturn this plot?”

“I’m sorry sir, I’ve found no such evidence, quite the contrary, this choosing seems to have been the most secure we have ever had.”

The baboon jumped up, “Not you too!” he screamed. “I’m surrounded by traitors!”

“Sir, I doubt that, seriously. Everyone around you has been hand-picked by you to do their jobs.”

“Traitors, all of them!” The baboon stomped around his enclosure, occasionally jumping up and down. “I’ll fire every damn one of them!” He stopped and stared at the mole, “You,” he pointed at the mole, “you sound just like that back-stabbing crab!”

“Which crab is that sir?”

“Clipper Crabs, my old so-called head of security,” said the baboon. “Ha! That’s a joke! He lied about this choosing, saying he certified it as secure. I had to fire him for that!”

“But he wasn’t lying—“ the mole said as another animal entered the baboon’s compound. It was Lean Masked squirrel, head of the Scent-trail Inference Aliency. 

“Good,” said the baboon, “finally, now we’ll get the real story from my Inference Aliency. Now tell me Masked squirrel, what about it? Have you gotten to the bottom of this, the greatest crime in the history of the Two Lands?”

“Which crime are you speaking of?” asked the squirrel. She looked at the mole but he just shook his head.

“The crime of stealing the choosing from me!” shouted the baboon. “What other greatest crime is there?”

“I’m sorry sir,” said the squirrel. “I have no information about that. As far as I know there is no crime associated with the choosing.”

“No information? No crime? How is that possible?” the baboon said. “It’s all over out there, anyone can see it, you’d have to be blind not to see that I won, I won! I won!” The baboon stomped out through the opening and out into the yard of Moralardo, screaming, “I WON! I WON! I WON!”

“Whew,” said the squirrel, “that was crazy! It looks to me as if he’s getting worse.”

“Yeah,” the mole agreed, “he threatened to fire me for telling him the truth.” Then he shook his head, “Fat chance of that happening!”

“What? You don’t think he can fire you?”

“Oh, he can, but he won’t do it in person. He’s too much of a coward. He’ll send one of his tweeter birds with a message that I’ve been fired, just like he has all the others.” 

“What do we do in the meantime?” asked the squirrel.

“Do our jobs I guess, what else?”

XX

Dappled Ass walked into Dump the baboon’s private enclosure. Glancing at the baboon sitting against one wall, he winced and sighed audibly. 

“It’s good you’re here,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt, without remarking on the mood of his visitor. “Can you tell me why nobody seems to realize what is happening in our land?” He stood up and wandered aimlessly to a spot under the overhanging acacia, “They just can’t see what I do. This choosing is being stolen from me right before my eyes.” The baboon looked up into the greenery spread out above him, “Can you explain it to me?”

“No, I can’t,” said the Ass.

The Baboon with the Orange Butt looked at him and nodded, “So you’re as baffled as I am?”

“No, I’m not baffled at all. I simply can’t explain it to you.”

“Why not?” yelled the baboon startling the ass.

“For two reasons,” said Dappled Ass regaining his composure. “First, there is no evidence that the choosing is being stolen from you—“

“What do you mean by that?” screamed the baboon rushing towards him. The ass backed away defensively. “Anyone can see that this is a subversive plot by those animals in the Land of the Antelope!” the baboon continued. “They are staging a coup! They are illegally grabbing power from the legitimate leader—me!”

“No one but you, Ruddy Gull, and a few of your most blindly loyal syncopates believe that,” said the Ass. “And as far as that goes, I don’t think Ruddy Gull actually believes the conspiracies he’s spouting, he’s just using the situation to make himself famous again. Much like you, he thrives on the thoughtless adoration of the masses.”

The baboon narrowed his eyes. “And you’re saying you don’t?” said the baboon sarcastically.

“Not at all, I crave it as much as any of you, that’s why I came here today, it’s the second reason I can’t support and prop up your crazy ramblings any more. I quit!”

“Quit? You can’t quit! I’ll fire you!”

“Okay, that will work too. Go ahead and fire me.”

The baboon shook a fist at the ass, “I will, I’m warning you!”

“I’m standing right here, now’s your chance. Fire me!”

“You’ll be sorry, you’ll see! Just watch!” The baboon turned and stalked away. “One day, very soon, you’ll come crawling back on your belly begging me to champion you again! You’ll ask me to make you famous! Only I have that power.” Turning around the baboon shook a finger in the face of Dappled Ass, “But I also have the power to destroy you!” He wandered back into a corner and plopped down. “You’ll be sorry!”

“I’m sorry now,” said Dapped Ass. “I’m going back to Red Fox and ask him if he will hire me as his medical specialist again.”

“Hah!” said the baboon, “as if that will happen. The Red Fox listens to me!” 

“I think you better check on that. He is rethinking his support for you.” 

“You’re lying! The Red Fox and I are linked together forever!”

“I think you have hit on what might be exactly the problem for him.”

“What does that mean?”

“As long as you are unable, or unwilling to see the obvious truth before you, he cannot continue to support you and your wild ravings.”

“I see exactly what is happening, there’s no problem with my sight,” said the baboon. “I can see that the problem is I am surrounded by cowards and traitors!”

Wild Boar entered the enclosure walking slowly forward to stand between the two arguing animals.

“Here! Tell this fool, Wild Boar, tell him what your investigation has uncovered!”

The boar looked at Dappled Ass and said, “Nothing, not a blessed thing.”

“What?” yelled the baboon. “What do you mean by saying you’ve found nothing?”

“Because that’s what we’ve found. There was no cheating, no lying, no plot to steal the election. Everything looks to be totally in order.”

“You’re–you’re kidding?”

“No, I don’t kid. I’m telling you the truth. The election was completely fair.”

“You can’t say that in public,” the baboon wailed, “it will finish me!”

“Then you’re finished,” the boar replied. “I just reported my findings, or rather my lack of any findings to the animals assembled led out in front of Moralardo.”

The baboon with the Orange Butt stared at Wild Boar for a moment and then he stammered, “But, but—why—why would you do that?”

“Because,” the boar said, “you told me to make a full report of the plot against you as soon as my team was finished. Well, we’re finished and there is no plot, so I made my announcement.”

“This is horrible!” The baboon cried. “I need to think, I need to come up with something!” He looked at the boar and the ass, “Get out! Get out both of you, right now! You’re useless to me!”

The Wild Boar and Dappled Ass walked out into the open yard of Moralardo. “The place is looking kind of deserted these days, don’t you think?” said the boar.

“A lot of the foreigners, the rodents who were working for the baboon, have left,” said Dappled Ass.

“Ah, rats leaving before the end of their shift. Can you blame them?”

“Blame them?” replied the ass. “Hell, no, I’m going to join them!”

XXI

Ruddy Gull stood up on the stump out in front of Moralardo, and announced, “We have located definitive proof of the attempt to steal this election from the Great Baboon!”

From the group of animals scattered out before him, Washed-out Tan Mole rat asked, “And when will you be releasing this ‘proof’?”

“Soon, very soon,” replied Ruddy. “In the meantime we have brought witnesses to the greatest crime ever committed in our land!” He turned and whispered something to an odd-looking bird standing behind him. She stepped up to the stump. “This is Yellow-billed Loon, a world traveler. She will now give you first-hand testimony as to what she saw.”

Ruddy stepped down off the stump and she took his place.

“Thank you, Rummy,” she said in a high-pitched whiny voice. 

“That’s Ruddy,” said Ruddy Gull. 

“Right, that’s what I said,” she continued. “So here I am, on vacation, I’m just minding my business, on a pleasure flight around the world, when I happen to stop for a rest on one of your trees here. She stopped and looked at them, “You know, you need more trees.” She glanced around, “There’s just not enough trees for as big a place as this is. It’s terrible looking forest.”

“It’s a savanna,” said Ruddy.

“Yeah, sure it is. Soooo anyway, as I told Runny here—“

“That’s Ruddy.”

“Of course, I knew that,” she went on. “I was just sitting in that tree, when I finally found one, a tree that is, and I saw it! I saw it all with any own eyes!”

Ruddy Gull leaned in and said, “Tell them what you saw.”

“That’s what I’m doing here, Duggy!”

“Ruddy!”

“Whatever, so I look down and I see them dumping dozens of extra votes into the count for the wild beast.”

“Wildebeest,” said Ruddy.

“That’s what I said,” she snapped. “It’s just lucky for you I happened to be there!” she said, “otherwise those elk would’ve gotten away with this!’

“They were antelope, gnus, and gazelles,” said Ruddy, sighing. 

She stared at Ruddy, “What’s gnu?”

“A gnu, a wildebeest,” 

“No!” she screamed, “you’re supposed to say, “’Nothing, what’s gnu with you?’, it’s a joke! Don’t you creatures know anything here?”

Ruddy just shook his head. 

“Where was I? Oh, yeah,” she said, “so I saw them pour hundreds of votes for that wild beast into the count!”

“Just a minute ago you said it was dozens,” said Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

“Were you there, huh? Were you? No, you weren’t! I was, so you just listen to me, Bub!” She waved a wing at him, “I know what I saw, and I saw hundreds! Hundreds of illegal votes!”

Ruddy reached out for her, “Okay Ms. Loon, we really appreciate this, I want to thank you—“

She ignored him, “You all should do a better job taking care of important things like elections! It shouldn’t be up to a visitor from another place to save your country from a terrible mistake!”

“Thank you Ms. Lo—“

“And another thing, where do you get off not having law enforcement officers watching all this like hawks?” She stopped and looked around, “There aren’t any hawks here are there?”

“Some,” said Ruddy, now—“

“Well then you make sure you protect me from them, you hear? I’m a guest! I’m here to save your ‘choosing thing’, so you better protect me.”

“Yes, we’ll make certain—“

“As I said I saw them dumping thousands of illegal votes—“

“You just said hundreds,” said Washed-out Tan Mole rat, “before that it was dozens. Which is it?”

“I said hundreds? I did not! I said thousands, and I saw hundreds, I mean thousands! I know what I saw there, buster! I’m telling the truth here and you can have me taken into custody if I’m not,”  she looked around again,  “if you have any law enforcement officers anywhere around here. You hear me? I’m willing to be arrested if I’m lying, because I’m not lying!” 

Wild Boar walked up and whispered something to Ruddy Gull, who nodded. He moved up to right behind the stump. 

“So you all just listen to me, because I was there, and you weren’t, and I know what I saw—“

Ruddy Gull wrapped his wings around the Yellow-billed Loon and lifted her off the stump. 

“Hey! What’s going on here, Buggy?” she yelled. “What do you think you’re doing? I know my rights! I’m a visitor in your land! Is this how you treat tourists here? No wonder no one ever comes! Between the way you treat us and the fact you have no trees—“

Ruddy and the loon disappeared into Moralardo. The animals gathered out front could still hear her chattering away inside.

Wild Boar walked up to the stump and said, “That will be all the witnesses we will be introducing today. Thank you all for coming.”

“Are you saying there will be more tomorrow?” asked Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

Wild Boar appeared to be considering his answer before answering, “Maybe.”

“Wanna bet?” asked Honey Badger.

XXII

Reporters were surprised when they were called to an official Push conference at Moralardo. It was the first that had been held in weeks. 

They gathered out before the entrance to the fenced compound, along with some interested observers, waiting patiently for the proceedings to begin. Few had any idea about the subject of the meeting. Those that did were merely theorizing.

Push Secretary Kalahari Macerating Bustard was no where to be seen. Nether were the usual hanger-ons like Wild Boar, Little Gray weasel, or Harpy Eagle.

Most of those in attendance were surprised when the Baboon with the Orange Butt emerged accompanied only by two hyenas.

The baboon took a position at the stump and looked out over those in attendance. “Thank you all for coming promptly at my request,” said the baboon. 

“He can’t help making everything about him,” Honey Badger whispered to Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

“We can begin now,” the baboon said. “I will take a few questions about official subjects.”

“I’d like to ask you about your response to the disease which is still rampaging across our land,” said Sand Veldt Tined lizard.

Turning to look the other way the baboon said, “Next question?” 

“I have a question for you,” said Sand Frisky monkey, to the Baboon with the Orange Butt.

“I’m sure you do,” said the baboon.

“It’s about the Board that counsels our defense team about relevant foreign affairs.”

“What about it?”

“You dismissed all the long-serving, dedicated, and highly competent members of this board. Why did you do that, while subsequently, appointing all new members in their place?”

“These decisions are up to me.”

“Maybe, for a few more days, but why choose animals who have no experience in this field, including Surly Loud Banded Auk and his associate Avid Buzzard as co-heads?” asked Sand Frisky monkey. 

The Baboon with the Orange Butt yawned and asked, “So what’s the problem?”

“Besides the threat to our country’s security, these two appear to be very unusual choices. They’re both best known as rampant supporters of yours,” said Sand Frisky monkey. “I’m wondering what are their qualifications?”

“You just stated it.”

“What?”

“Their qualification.”

“I only said they were ardent supporters of yours.”

“And that,” replied the baboon smugly, “is their qualification.”

“You appointed them simply because they support you,” asked the Sand monkey, “without any other qualities that recommend them for the positions?”

“Next question,” said the baboon.

“Is it true that Ruddy Gull is sick with the disease?” asked Shy Crag-going Oriole.

“Define that term for me,” said the baboon.

“What term?” asked the oriole.

“The word ‘true’, what does that mean?” asked Dump.

“It means—“

“Never mind, I don’t care!” said the baboon. “As far as my great associate, Ruddy Gull goes, he’s not feeling well, as you know he’s been working very hard on my behalf, but he’s resting comfortably.”

Sand Veldt Tined lizard said, “I heard that some leaders in the Arid Zone were so afraid of catching the disease that they all went home to quarantine after having met with Ruddy Gull.”

“That’s a terrible lie that someone irresponsibly started spreading!” said the baboon.

“So then why did the Arid Zone adjourn their meeting?”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Because it’s an important occurrence in our country,” said Honey Badger, “a country where you’re supposed to be the leader, for a little while yet at least. Shouldn’t you know something about it?” asked Honey Badger. 

“There are lots of things I know!” snapped the baboon.

“Like what?” she asked.

“I don’t have time to share them with you now.”

“Is that because you’re spending most of your time haranguing leaders of various regions to throw out votes and declare you the winner of the choosing?” asked Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“What I’m talking about,” said Mole rat, “is your visit yesterday to the Penned Sylvan area, your third one in the last week, to try and bully the governor of that region to destroy votes for Blue Wildebeest.”

“We had official matters to discuss.”

“Really? Then there was the day before when you followed the Arid Zone Governor all day begging him to change that area’s results.”

“This is all hearsay!” said the baboon. 

“Maybe,” continued Mole rat, “but if it is, it is those two governors who started the hearsay in the first place. They’re the sources who told me what you’ve been doing.”

“You shouldn’t talk to traitors! Does anyone have a valid question?“ asked the baboon, vainly trying to change the subject. 

“I do,” said Washed-out Tan Mole rat.

“I meant anyone but you!” 

Mole rat ignored him and continued, “Why are you attacking the governor of Geo Gorge and also trying to undermine the leadership in Mushy land? Along with Penned Sylvan area, and Arid Zone, those are other two regions that contributed substantively to your defeat.”

“There is no defeat! I haven’t been defeated yet!”

“Oh yes, you have!” said Honey Badger. “You’ve been defeated by every animal you tried to bully, bribe, or threaten. They have all said ’no’ to your underhanded actions. Now all you’re left with is a bunch of incompetents, many of whom are trying to find a way to leave quietly, hoping you, and we won’t notice. I see,” added the badger, “most of them are noticeably absent from these proceedings.”

“You’ll see,” said the baboon. “You’ll see alright! I’ll show all of you!” I’m going to find a way to win this choosing thing yet!”

“No, you won’t,” said Honey Badger. “You’re done. At this point you better start looking for a way to avoid being taken into custody the day you leave the position of leader.”

“The Wildebeest can’t have me arrested, I have immunity as leader.”

“It’s a funny thing about that,” said Honey Badger. “The wildebeest has already volunteered that he is unlikely to pursue any kind of investigation into your actions. Though the subject of your immunity is unclear.”

“See! I’m safe!”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Honey Badger. “It’s the regions, the very ones you’ve been visiting, trying to bully them into illegal actions. That is who you should be worried about, all those animals you’ve been attacking since you lost the election. They’re not as likely to be as magnanimous as Blue Wildebeest.”

The baboon turned around and stomped off back into Moralardo.

“And that!” said Sand frisky monkey, “may have been his last official Push conference.”

“Let’s hope so,” said Honey Badger.

XXIII

I Forget His Name peeked into the Baboon with the Orange Butt’s personal enclosure at Moralardo and said, “Ah, Da—I mean Oh Greatest Baboon, there are some animals here to see you.”

The baboon, as usual, was laying down on his mat, doing nothing. “What useless animals are they?” was the surly reply.

“I think it’s all the animals who are district leaders.”

“Finally!” the baboon shouted, jumping up from his mat. “Those fools must’ve come to their senses at last!”

“Um, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, I think—“

“They’re undoubtedly here to announce they have reversed the illegal results of this fraudulent choosing and are naming me leader for life!”

I Forget His Name looked back over his shoulder and said, “You better come talk to them.”

“You bet I will, whoever you are!”

“I’m your son who—“ I Forget His Name started to say, but the baboon rushed past him without waiting to hear the rest.

As he went across the open space of the enclosure the Baboon with the Orange Butt called for Mewanka and Dump Jr. to join him.

“Can I bring Barred?” asked Mewanka.

The baboon scowled, saying, “If you must!”

Striding out of Moralardo, with three of his children and Barred Bush lemur in tow, the Baboon with the Orange Butt saw a large contingent of various animals, widely spaced from each other, standing out before his stump. He walked up and onto to the stump. Puffing out his chest and pursing his lips. He waited to hear what the animals had to say, confident that he would at last be vindicated.

White Rhinoceros took a few steps toward the baboon and said, “I’ve been appointed to speak for the group.”

The baboon nodded, allowing himself a slight smirk.  

“We are here to register a formal protest at your actions!” said the rhinoceros.

His face falling, the baboon sputtered, “Wha—what actions are—are you talking about?”

“Yesterday, during meeting at several districts, notably the I Don’t Know and the Deplorida districts, the leaders and their family were surrounded by numerous angry hyenas and grumbling jackals.”

“So what?” asked the baboon.

“They were mostly hyenas,” repeated the rhinoceros.

“I still don’t see your point.”

“You have many hyenas working for you,” said the White Rhinoceros.

“Yes,” said the baboon, smiling. “I do.”

“The leaders of these districts believe that many of the hyenas who were threatening them are ones who work for you.”

“The leaders of these districts believe that many of the hyenas who were threatening them are ones who work for you.”

“Be careful what you say here,” Barred Bush lemur warned the baboon. 

“Be quiet!” the baboon snapped, “I know what I’m doing!” The baboon looked around and shrugged. “Maybe, who’s to say?” 

“The I Don’t Know and Deplorida districts are both ones that voted in the majority for you.”

“Yes, they are shining lights of reason within the Two Lands!” said Dump Jr.

“Thank you,” said the baboon looking at Dump Jr. “we appreciate all your support in these trying times.”

Standing next to White rhinoceros, Honey Badger said, “Oh brother! He’s a ‘we’ again!”  

Looking at the rhinoceros, the baboon asked, “Why shouldn’t our followers hold the same opinions that we do? It’s only logical.”

“Opinions about how to deal with this disease?” asked Honey Badger.

“What do you mean?” asked the baboon.

“What I mean is, these leaders weren’t discussing the choosing. They agree that’s over. They were voting on whether to follow recommendations made by Blue Wildebeest’s medical expert.”

“It’s not over!” grumbled the baboon. “Who made these recommendations?”

“The wildebeest has asked Elder Meerkat to be his medical advisor.”

“Well there you go,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “Many of our animals are tired of the continuous warnings against gathering in large groups. They want to return to normal life.”

“Are many of them also tired of living?” muttered Honey Badger.

Glancing at her briefly, the White Rhinoceros asked the baboon, “Where are your hyenas?” 

“I gave them time off,” said the baboon. “They’ve been working very hard.”

“So they might have been some, or even all of the hyenas threatening these leaders?”

“I suppose it’s possible,” said the baboon, “they have a right to their opinions.”

“And you didn’t send them out to threaten the district leaders?”

“Fath—ah, Oh Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived,” said Dump Jr., “perhaps I can shed some light on these proceedings.” He winked at the baboon as he walked up to the stump. 

“Yes, perhaps so,” said the baboon, as he stepped down and allowed Dump Jr. to take his place.

Clearing his throat, the younger Dump said, “Those hyenas and jackals undoubtedly belong to an important group which also has me as a—that is—uh, I am also a member of that organization.”

“What group is that?” asked White Rhinoceros.

“The Unnatural Stifle Association,” said Dump Jr. holding his head up higher as he moved it from side to side, surveying the assembled animals. “I am hoping to be elected as the next leader of this prestigious  organization.”

“Prestigious his butt,” muttered Honey Badger to White Rhinoceros. “And what is the purpose of this group?” she asked Dump Jr.

Jr. smiled down at her. “They—I mean we, gather to discuss current events. We offer outreach services toward those individuals who we hear are speaking against the leadership of the Greatest Baboon Ever. We attempt—ah, seek to quiet their wrong-headed opinions. If possible, we make corrections in their thinking about these vitally important matters.”

“In other words, you threaten them!” said Honey Badger.

Dump Jr. shook his head. Still smiling he said, “Threaten is such an ugly word. Let’s just say we try to instruct them in the basics of the appropriate manner of proper thinking.”

“So you threaten them,” said the rhinoceros. 

“I tell you what,” said Dump Jr. “I’ll go speak with them and maybe we can make an amicable solution to your concerns.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” said the rhinoceros.

“Why not?” asked the younger baboon, his smile disappearing.

“Because they’ve been taken into custody.”

“They’ve what?” yelled the Baboon with the Orange Butt.

“A cadre of leopards was brought in to stop them,” said Honey Badger. “The hyenas and jackals surrendered without a fight.”

“The cowards!” muttered the baboon. “By what right—“ 

“You can’t go around threatening duly elected leaders for doing their jobs!” said the rhinoceros. “That’s illegal!”

“Oh daddy!” wailed Mewanka, “who’s going to protect us now?”

“So they were your hyenas,” said Honey Badger.

“That question may have been ill-advised, my dear,” said Barred to Mewanka.

“Don’t worry,” said White Rhinoceros to the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “They’re being taken before the judge later today. With any luck, they’ll be back on duty by the time you officially leave your position as leader of the Two Lands.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt turned on I Forget His Name and barked, “Well, don’t just stand there, go get the wart hogs!”

XXIV

For the second day in a row, I Forget His Name peeked into the Baboon with the Orange Butt’s personal enclosure at Moralardo and said, “Ah, Oh Greatest Baboon, there are some more animals here to see you.”

The baboon, laying down on his mat, was picking lint off his wig. “Now what do these useless animals want?” he replied without looking up.

“I think it’s some animals who are district law givers.”

“Really?” the baboon asked, rising up from his mat. “Why are they here?”

“They say they want to help the Greatest Baboon Ever to save his position as leader of the Two Lands,” answered I Forget His Name.

“Okay!” said the baboon. He hurriedly rushed out of his enclosure, stepping on I Forget His Name’s foot in the process. 

As the Baboon with the Orange Butt got out into the open area, he shouted, “Mewanka, Junior, com’on out with me!”

“Daddy can I bring—“

“No!” the baboon shouted. He glanced back at I Forget His Name who was still in the entrance, jumping up and down, holding his foot. “What in the hell are you doing?” the baboon shouted.

“You stepped—“

“Never mind, I don’t care. Come on out with us in case I need you. Hurry up!”

I Forget His Name limped along behind them.

Waiting for them all, out in the open area in front of the baboon’s stump, were a dozen or so various types of animals. The Baboon with the Orange Butt walked out to them, stopping in front of the animal at their head, a skunk. “What can we do for you today, my, I mean, our subjects?” asked the baboon.

“Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, I am Compacted Dung skunk,” said the leader. “I am the law giver for the great district of Jackass!”

“Oh yes, the Jackass district is home to many of my most fervent supporters!” said the baboon. 

“Yes, Oh Greatest Baboon ever, and as one of the largest districts, the second largest to be exact, we have many hundreds of animals who voted for you!”

“But you’re also bordered by the river where many of those illegal animals cross over into our great country,” said the baboon.

“That’s true also, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, but thanks to your idea of piling all our dung in a wall along the river, we have severely restricted their entrance. In fact, I am one of the main depositors to your project and because of my unique skills I also volunteer to help keep our wall sturdy!” 

“Your efforts are to be commended,” said the baboon. “Tell me, are you related to Darker Carcass skunk, one of my favorite commentators for the Red Fox?”

“Yes, he’s a distant cousin,” answered the skunk, “and one of your staunchest supporters!”

“So,” said the baboon, “how can we help you help us?”

“Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, I have issued a writ contesting the counting of votes in the Penned Sylvan area, Mushy Land, Geo Gorge, and Wispy Confluence. It seeks to have any votes counted after you had a lead thrown out!”

“Great idea, we like it a lot!”

“Yes, and all these animals,” the skunk waved to the dozen or so behind him, “as legal representatives of districts that voted for you, have volunteered to support my writ!”

“Wonderful!” said the baboon. “This gets better every minute!”

“We were hoping, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever,” said the skunk, lowering his head meekly, “that you would agree to support it also.”

“Hmm,” said the baboon. “There might be some political or legal reasons why I should be careful here. I wish Ruddy Gull wasn’t sick.” He sighed, “Oh well, I guess it can’t be helped, I’ll have to ask the only other animal who might know.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt turned around and said, “Mewanka can you go get—Barred?”

Before she could reply, a voice sounded behind the baboon, causing him to jump, “You wanted to see me?”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt turned to see Barred Bush lemur standing there. “When anyone is watching you,” said the baboon evenly, “you move slower than any other animal I’ve ever seen. How the hell do you appear so fast behind me?”

Barred shrugged, “It’s a gift. What do you need me for?”

“And that’s another thing, why don’t you address me as Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, like everyone else?”

The lemur stood staring at the baboon.

“Fine!” said the baboon at last. “This skunk,” he pointed at Compacted Dung skunk, “has a writ to overturn the choosing in several districts where I lost and he wants me to support it. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a bad idea,” said the lemur.

“So, I shouldn’t support his idea?”

“No, that’s not what I said,” answered Barred “I said it’s a bad idea, but I think you should support it.”

“If it’s a bad idea, why should I add my name to it?” asked the baboon.

“Because every other thing you’ve tried has failed and this, even though it is undoubtedly doomed, is probably your last chance of having any hope to reverse this choosing.”

The baboon leaned in toward the lemur and, in a very quiet voice, said, “Have I told you recently how much I dislike you?”  

“Do you need me for anything else?” asked Barred.

“No! Get lost!” Turning to the skunk, the baboon said, “Okay, you have our official approval of your magnificent effort!”

“Thank you Oh Greatest Baboon Ever,” said the skunk. He stood there in front of the baboon as if expecting something else.

“Can we be of assistance in any other way?” asked the baboon with a hint of impatience in his voice.

“Well, yes, since you asked,” answered the skunk, “there is one little thing, I hesitate to mention it, it’s so trivial.”

They stood looking at each other for several long moments, “And?” asked the baboon finally, now obviously exasperated.

“Oh Greatest Baboon Ever, back in my home district, the Jackass district, there is an investigation, an investigation that alleges I misused some of the food resources you sent to my district. I was hoping—“

The baboon raised one hand to quiet the skunk and walked over to I Forget His Name. He whispered something to him and the younger baboon nodded. He ran back into Moralardo.   

The Baboon with the Orange Butt stood waiting until I Forget His Name returned with something in his hands.

“Oh daddy!” said Mewanka. “Not those again! They stink!”

Taking the objects from I Forget His Name the baboon walked back to the skunk. “Here put one of these around your neck,” he said holding out an odd-looking, flat thing, hanging off a looped vine.  

“What is it?” asked the skunk. 

“It’s a Mackerel Fin. By wearing it you acknowledge that you’ve been officially pardoned by me.”  

The skunk put over his head to drape down in front of him. He sniffed, “It doesn’t smell that bad to me,” he said. “I’ve smelled worse.” 

“I’ll bet you have.”

The skunk continued standing in front of the baboon.

“Now what?” asked the Baboon with the Orange Butt.    

“Well, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever,” the skunk glanced back at the other animals standing behind him. 

“Ah!” said the Baboon. He turned to speak to I Forget His Name again, “Go get some more fins, we have a lot of guilty animals out here.”     

“Wait a minute,” said the skunk. “I didn’t say I was guilty!”

“You came here to ask me to pardon you, you took the fin,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “Would an innocent animal who wasn’t on trial or convicted of something need to take a pardon?” 

“I see,” said the skunk, hanging his head.

“Don’t feel so bad,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt waving at his family. “Before this is over we’ll all be wearing one!”

“Eww! Daddy!” said Mewanka.

XXV

“Where are we going?” asked Wild Boar.

“Out to the stump,” answered the Baboon with the Orange Butt. They were walking side by side across the open area of Moralardo. 

“What’s going on?” 

“There’s going to be an important resignation announcement,” said the baboon.

“Oh?” said the boar. “Who is it now?” 

“You,” the baboon said.

Stopping, the boar said, “Me?”

“Yes, now hurry up!”

Running to catch up, the boar asked, “Why am I resigning?”

“Because you failed in your job.”

“How did I fail?” asked Wild Boar.

The baboon stopped now and spun on Wild Boar, “You failed to stop them from saying I lost this choosing!”

“You did loose the choosing,” said the boar.

“See!” shouted the baboon. “That! That’s my point exactly!”

“I did what you wanted me to do.”

“No you didn’t!” the baboon said. “You were supposed to investigate the process of selection of the leader and find irregularities.”

“But I did investigate the process,” protested the boar. “I investigated it thoroughly.”

“But you didn’t find the damed irregularities!” the baboon shouted.

“There weren’t any,” the boar said.

“SO?” the Baboon with the Orange Butt continued yelling at the top of his voice. “If you didn’t find any, you should’ve created some!”

“That just wasn’t possible.”

“Humph!” said the baboon. “For you maybe. My lawyer should be able to take care of these kinds of things.”

“I’m not your lawyer, that’s Rudy Gull! I’m the legal counsel for the Two lands.”

“And I,” said the baboon, “am the single most important animal in the Two lands! You should’ve done what I needed you to do to protect me!”

Wild Boar shook his head, “You only have a few more days as leader, why now?”

“I still have some things I want to get accomplished.”

“What kind of things?”

“That’s not your concern any more. You’re resigning.”

“Have you thought about who will take my place?”

“Yes, Cleft-nose Ox will assume the position of legal counsel for the Two Lands.”

“My assistant? But he worked for me on the investigation!”

“That may be, but you were in charge,” the baboon said. “I think he will be more willing to get done what I need him to do.”

They continued out of the enclosure and the boar saw all the reporters were gathered out in front. 

“You called the media?” Wild Boar said.

“I thought it would be appropriate with such an important announcement.”

“But I don’t have any remarks prepared.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “I’ll stand behind you and tell you what to say.”

Wild Boar stepped up onto the stump. The Baboon with the Orange Butt moved over right behind his shoulder and whispered, “Good day, thank you all for coming.”

Turning back to look at the baboon, the boar said, “I know that much!”

“Then say it!” snapped the baboon.

Wild Boar stared out at the gathered animals and said, “Good day, I thank you all for coming.”

“I didn’t say ‘I’, get it right!” hissed the baboon.

The boar shrugged, “Now what?” he whispered back at the baboon, out of the corner of his mouth.

“It has been my greatest pleasure of my life to have worked for for the Greatest Baboon who has ever lived and the greatest leader ever in the Two Lands.”

Wild Boar hissed, “Shouldn’t that be, ‘THE greatest pleasure’?”

“Just say it!” snapped the baboon.

“Ahem,” said the boar, “I have had the enormous pleasure of working for, ah—with the Great Baboon, a leader of the Two Lands who is unexcelled in our history.” 

The baboon grabbed the boar’s tail and jerked it hard, “Hey! That’s not what I said!”

Wild Boar looked back over his shoulder, “I’m paraphrasing!”

“You’re screwing it up!”

“Who’s resignation is this, anyway?”

“Just say it the way I tell you!”

“Wait,“ said one of the reporters. “You’re here to resign?”

Swiveling back to face them the boar said, “Yes, I am announcing my resignation.”

“Effective when?” asked the reporter.

“Effective when?” the boar asked the baboon.

“Uh—today, no, soon, you’re um—you’re quitting to spend more time with your family,” said the baboon.

“Yes,” Wild Boar said to the reporters, “I will resign effective two days from now. This has been a busy time and I hope to spend more time with my family.”

“You’re ad-libbing again!” said the baboon. “Cut it out!”

“Isn’t it unusual for you to be leaving at this juncture?” asked another reporter. “I mean there is so little time left for the current administration.”

“Yes, well, I just—I just thought the time was right. I feel I’ve accomplished all I can working in service for the Two Lands.”

“And Leader Baboon?” asked one of the reporters. “Are you on-board with Wild Boar’s resigning his position at this time?”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt stepped out from behind Wild Boar. He sauntered up to a  position beside him and nudged the other animal off the stump. Climbing up onto the pedestal, he raised his chin and pursed his lips. 

Looking out across the assembled throng, he said, “We see it as a great tragedy for you, my—our subjects. Not to have the Wild Boar by our side will be a great loss. We will miss his counsel and powerful words. He has been a strong supporter of our administration so far, but have no fear, we will continue to provide the best ever rule of law for our land.” 

“Have you selected a replacement?”

“Well we only just heard of this today but, yes, the assistant to Wild Boar, Cleft-nose Ox will assume his critical position.

“With only a few days left of your—“ the reporter started to say.

“Stop saying that! It remains to be determined!” said the baboon. “I have many avenues still available to me—to us—to correct this great wrong!”

“What wrong?” asked a reporter. 

The baboon glared at him and said through clenched teeth, “The wrong done to me!”

“But leaders like Mud Turtle have congratulated Blue Wildebeest on his win,” said a reporter. “The proxies met yesterday to officially acknowledge him as the new leader.”

“But I’m not done yet!” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt. “You’ll see!”

XXVI

Kalahari Macerating bustard slipped into the private enclosure of the Baboon with the Orange Butt. He lay in a corner on a rough pile of matting, his right hand lifted to his face. When he noticed her, the baboon quickly lowered his hand. The bustard wasn’t sure but she thought he had had his thumb in his mouth when she came in. Wisely, she didn’t mention it.

“Sir?” she began, “there are many animals calling for you to appear out before Moralardo.”

“Why?” he asked.

“They say that numerous animals have been attacked by crocodiles, a lot of them, and they want to know what you’re going to do about it.”

“What do I care? I wasn’t attacked. Those crocodiles have been more supportive of me than my own subjects are. Why should I do anything about it?”

“You’re still the leader for a few more days, sir,” the bustard said. “I think they want you to at least say something about the attacks.”

“Well then, they’re going to be mighty disappointed. I have much more important things to consider.”

“You must mean the roll-out of Puff-eyed lizard’s new vaccine against the disease, don’t you?”

“What? No, I don’t care about that.”

“But sir, White-headed Prancer monkey, your second in command, was vaccinated in public today along with his mate and several others.”

“So what? That little traitor is going to be out of a job too! Is he doing anything to stop this terrible crime against me?”

“Yes, sir, he is,” said Kalahari Macerating bustard. “He gave a wonderful speech just yesterday saying how you were fighting bravely to see that every legal vote got counted and every illegal vote was thrown out!”

“Bah! What good does that do now? Those traitors, the animal proxies certified the vote already!” The baboon leapt up and rushed at his Push Secretary causing her to retreat a few steps. “If he really wanted to help he’d see that those crocodiles got a hold of that wildebeest and his second, that damned Camel-colored hare!”

“Ah, sir, I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Why not?” asked the baboon. Turning and walking away from her, he mumbled, “Maybe White Mamba could bite them both.”

“He’s not here, sir.”

The baboon spun around and asked, “Why not?”

“Um, I—I don’t know.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt put on a crafty look and said, “I think you do.”

“Well, yes, okay, I do know, but he asked me not to tell.”

“So?” The baboon took a couple of steps toward her.

“He’s out looking for a job,” she said quickly.

The baboon laughed, “Who’s going to hire him?”

“He said something about a group of exterminators, Gnats Seized Smartly. I think he said they could make use of his particular skills.”

“I’ll bet,” the baboon said as he sat down again and started drawing pictures in the dirt with his finger. “Even Mud Turtle has deserted me!” the baboon wailed.

“But you do have some loyal supporters, sir! Take Tame Tuber viper for example! He’s out there working to save your position!”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“If you’re not going to go talk to the animals—“

“I already said I wasn’t!” the baboon yelled.

“Yes, I know, but there is another problem that you might want to address.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt looked worried, “What now?”

Kalahari Macerating bustard glanced back behind her as if to make sure she could make a fast escape if necessary. “It’s that, um, do you remember those flies?” 

He rolled over onto his mat, “What damned flies?”

“The ones you were using to send messages to some of your, um, helpers?”

“Oh, you mean the Tsetse males?” asked the baboon, sitting up. “What about them?”

“Yes, those, well—some seem to have been intercepted by certain members of your opposition. I’m afraid they have leaked their messages. They may be somewhat—incriminating.”

The baboon stared at her for a full minute, his mouth open. “Which messages?” he asked finally.

“The ones from Pallid Lax gander.”

The baboon slapped his head, “Those aren’t the ones that—“

“—talked about infecting all the animals in our country with the deadly disease in order to speed the process? Yes, they were.”

The baboon stood up, somewhat unsteadily, and staggered a few steps. “When you say, ‘my opposition’, which ones exactly do you mean?”

“Ah—a—pretty much—all of them.”

The baboon’s knees shook, he reached out to the sticks forming the wall nearby to hold himself up. ”What are they doing with the Tsetse males? What did you mean by saying, ‘leaked’?”

“They released the information they got from them to the public.”

“Oh, buffalo crap!” the baboon said softly as he collapsed into a heap against the brush wall.

“So how do you want to deal with this, sir?”

“I—I—I don’t.”

“You want me to talk to the reporters then? How shall we spin this? Do you want to say it’s being blown out of proportion? Do you want me to accuse the Fake gnus of planting the messages with the Tsetse males?”

“What I want you to do—“

“Yes sir?”

“—I want you to find Little Gray weasel and tell him to come here. Tell him to bring those little white stones of his. I need to go play!”

“But sir—“

“Just do it!” screamed the baboon.

XXVII

The Baboon with the Orange Butt and his daughter Mewanka were walking across an open area in Moralardo. “In case I do have to leave,” the baboon said, “I’ve been getting some stuff ready.”

“Like what daddy?” 

“Oh, you know, just the usual, stocking up on everything that was sitting around in the leader’s quarters. Then, I discovered something this morning.”

“What did you find, daddy?”

“I walked down to the river to tell those damned crocodiles of Valor’s to take it easy on the killing of our animals, at least for a day or so. After that I wandered over by our storage area. There’s not even half of all those donations made to my re-election campaign left, let alone the general surplus for the Two Lands.”

“Really?”

“I put that husband of yours in charge of taking care of that, despite my reservations. I suppose I should—no, wait!” The baboon stopped. Turning around in a complete circle, he scanned the location they were in. Seeing a tree not too far away, he said, “Let’s move away from here.”

“What is it daddy?”

“Nothing, I just want to get into an open area where no one can sneak up on me.” After a few steps he stopped and said, “Okay this is good.” Looking at his daughter he said, “As I was about to say, you better call your—“ The Baboon with the Orange Butt yelled while simultaneously jumping up into his daughter’s arms as a voice behind him asked, “You wanted to see me?”

Mewanka staggered a little under her load but she was used to carrying her father around for brief periods. Gently, she set him back on the ground.

Once he was standing again, the baboon looked at Barred and said, “One of these days you’re going to do that to me and I’m going to jump backwards and land on you!”

“I shall be wary of that eventuality,” said Barred Bush lemur. “What can I do for you?”

“Oh boy, what can you do for me?” Said the baboon, rubbing his palms together. “I’m so tempted!”

“Daddy!” said Mewanka.

“Okay, sweetie, don’t worry.” He turned back toward Barred and said, “I was just telling my darling daughter how there’s not nearly as much stored food as I thought there would be in our warehouse area.”

“Yes,” answered the lemur. That’s because we’ve been making donations to various small businesses and worthy foundations.”

“We have?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” asked the baboon.

“You told me to make sure we used the surplus food in an appropriate manner,” Barred answered.

“Yeah, I remember that now, but to just give it away? Who’d we give it to?”

“Well, 10% went to the Foundation for Indigent Baboons.”

“FIB?”

“Yes,” said Barred.

“I’ve never heard of them,” said the baboon. “Who runs it?”

“Let’ see, the Chief Operating Officer in charge of dispersing resources for FIB is your son, Dump Junior.”

“He’s in charge?”

“Yes, although he does have to answer to their Board of Directors.”

“Who is on that?”

“Your other son, I Forget His Name and your mate, Maliciosa.”

“I see,” said the baboon. “Who established this foundation?”

“I did.”

“I should’ve known. What other groups have we donated to?”

“The Council of Original Natives received 10%.”

“CON, eh? Who runs that?”

“Your daughter Mewanka is the president and Little Gray Weasel is the board chairman.”

“Who else is on the board?”

“That’s it.”

“Let me guess, you set this one up too?”

The lemur nodded. 

“Any others?”

“There’s the Company Organizing and Obtaining Kernals and Seeds, they received 20% of the donations.”

“That would be CROOKS?”

“Yes.”

“And the president of that company is—“

“I am.”

“I’m beginning to see a pattern here,” said the baboon. “And I think I like it!”

“I thought you might.”

“Are there any others?” 

“Oh yes, there are several. The lemur blinked his large eyes slowly, “There’s Review of Occupations for Baboons,” said Barred.

“That’s ROB?”

“Yes, the Chief Officer is Simply Killforall.”

“Dump’s girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

“Are these individuals compensated for their work?”

“Of course,” said Barred.

“Uh-huh, how is that done?”

“They each receive a stipend, weekly.”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt nodded, “I see. Any other groups I should know about?”

“There is one called Friendly Animals Taking Baboons Under Their Tutelage. They have been allotted twenty-five per cent of the stores.”

“Hmm, is that FATBUTT?”

“Yes.”

“Who’s in charge of that business?”

“Currently they do not have their leadership in place,” said Barred, “but there is an offer of a directorship being tendered by Tsetse male this week, and I expect the individual to accept.”

“And who is that?”

“That would be you,” said Barred.

“You saved FATBUTT for me?”

“I did.”

“Thanks, I’m sure you considered various candidates carefully before dropping it on me.”

“No, you were my first choice.”

“I suppose I should’ve guessed that. So, let me review.  You’ve sent out a large portion of all the resources that were donated to us to establish a national surplus to v various companies all run by my family and closest friends?”

Barred Bush Lemur nodded.

“Why did you decide to do that?”

“I thought it was better than just waiting for Blue Wildebeest to come into power and distribute it to all the animals of the Two Lands, including those in the Land of the Antelope.”

“Yeah, that would be a real waste.”

“I’ll get to the rest of the stores very soon.”

XXVIII

“Hear ye, hear ye!” said a tall secretary bird in a loud, raucous voice, “the court of Judge Pard Leopard tortoise is now in session.”

“Thank you Sagittaria Secretary bird,” said the tortoise who stood on top of a flat stone. “What is on our docket for today?”

“The sentencing of Dun and Tan Hunting vulture is the first item, your honor.”

“I see,” said the tortoise, “is the prisoner present?”

“He is your honor,” said the secretary bird, indicating a large bird in the custody of two servals standing off to one side of the stone.

“Dun and Tan Hunting vulture,” the tortoise intoned, “you have been found guilty of embezzlement of campaign donations and fraud—“

“Just a minute,” said a new voice.

All the animals turned to see the Baboon with the Orange Butt striding through the dry grasses toward them followed by two wart hogs.

“I have new information about this matter,” said the baboon.

“This trial is over,” said the tortoise, looking at the baboon, “the prisoner has been found guilty, with, I might add, overwhelming evidence of that guilt.”

“But I have something very significant to say pertaining to his case,” said the baboon.

“And what might that be?” asked the tortoise.

The Baboon with the Orange Butt strode up to the large flat stone that Judge Pard Leopard tortoise was standing on and said, “This esteemed animal,” pointing to the vulture, “was the first official in the Two Lands to voice his support my candidacy for leader.”

A large elephant standing out before the stone said, “Your honor I fail to see the connection that this fact has to the present case.”

“I have to agree with District attorney Loxodonte, on this. I realize that you are the leader for a few more days, Dump, but what bearing does this fact have on these proceedings?”

“On these?” answered the baboon. “None. But I told you that to tell you this, I am giving Dun and Tan Hunting vulture a Mackerel Fin.” The baboon turned to one of the large wart hogs following him and procured a large rotting fish fin on a vine. “Once Dun and Tan Hunting vulture has this on, he will have my official pardon for all his crimes.”

“Phew!” said the secretary bird as Dump passed her, “that smells disgusting!”

Dump put the vine around the vulture’s neck and said, “You are free to go.”

“Just a minute,” said the elephant. “This vulture took donations given to him to support political activity in his district and used it to bribe animals to bring him numerous carcasses to feed upon at his leisure. That is fraud and misuse of funds!”

“That is true,” said the tortoise. “And the district attorney is rightly justified in his outrage that such a criminal would be offered clemency, but—“ the tortoise looked at the Baboon with the Orange Butt, “as leader of the Two Lands, Dump baboon has the power to offer pardons to anyone he chooses. Much as I hate to admit it, Dun and Tan Hunting vulture is free to go.”

The vulture looked around at the two servals that stood to either side of him. He looked at the baboon and said, “I knew my endorsement of your candidacy would come in handy, one day. Thank you, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever!” 

“It’s my pleasure,” said the baboon, “loyalty such as yours should always be rewarded.”

Dun and Tan Hunting vulture bowed to the baboon and, opening his large wings, he flew off.

“What’s next proceeding today, Saggitaria?” asked the tortoise, sighing.

“Another sentencing, your honor, this time it’s four hyenas who wantonly slaughtered foreign animals in a land across the lake.”

“Don’t bother yourself judge,” said the baboon.

“What do you mean? What is your interest in this regrettable incident.”

“About the supposed incident, again, none. But I have Mackerel Fins here for these hyenas too.”

“Why would you want to set free four convicted murderers?” asked Judge Leopard tortoise.

“I have my reasons,” said the baboon, “it’s my right to use my pardon power how ever I want!”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that they belong to that private army of Thicket Pinched-face rat, would it?” asked the elephant.

“Who?” asked Judge Leopard tortoise.

“The brother of Bat-seeking Devious rat,” answered the district attorney. “She works for the baboon.”

The judge looked at the baboon, “Is that the reason you are pardoning these killers?”

“It’s none of your business why I am pardoning them,” said Dump.

“But you heard what my bailiff, the secretary bird said, these four hyenas wantonly slaughtered animals of all ages, even the young, not to feed on them, but just because they could,” said the tortoise.

“So you say,” answered the baboon, “maybe I see them as heroes of our lands.”

“Maybe you have a warped sense of what is heroic,” said the elephant.

“Possibly the most cogent comment of the day,” said the tortoise. “Please bring out the prisoners,” he said to the secretary bird.

The four hyenas, guarded by four leopards, entered the clearing. Dump walked over to them and said, “You’re free boys. Here are your Mackerel fins.” He put one around each hyena’s neck. “As long as you wear these you’re pardoned for all actions that were taken in defense of my administration and our great land.”

One of the hyenas sniffed the decayed fish fin on the vine around his neck and said, “Wow, do these ever stink! And you better believe me when I say, I know stink!”

The other hyenas and Dump all laughed. “Don’t worry,” said the Baboon with the Orange Butt, “the smell won’t stop you from getting a job. Maybe a position with someone grateful for your service, and one who is a very famous baboon, if you know who I mean.”

The hyenas all heartily laughed again as they left the clearing.

Sidling up to the tortoise the elephant whispered, “How can this be legal?”

“I don’t know,” the judge replied. “Maybe we’ll have to talk to Blue Wildebeest about looking into it.”

“Do you think he will?” asked the secretary bird.

“I certainly hope so,” said Judge Pard Leopard tortoise.

XXIX

The Baboon with the Orange Butt swung a small flat stick, sharply striking a little round white rock. It rolled along the ground for several feet and stopped an arm’s length from a hole. 

Striding up to a position nearer to the hole, he pointed at a rock, previously hit by the Little Gray Weasel, that lay in a closer proximity to the hole than the one he had hit. “Looks like I’m nearest the hole,” said the baboon. “I’ll go first.”

“Sir, I think that’s my rock,” protested the weasel.  

“No, it’s not!” said the baboon. “I remember that mine had a one little black speck on one side, and there it is, see?”

The weasel didn’t even bother to look, “I’m sure you’re right about that, Oh Greatest Baboon Who Has Ever Lived,” he said. “You always are.”

The baboon nodded, “You better remember it!” He swung his stick and tapped the rock right up to the edge of the hole. Squatting down he eyed the little white sphere, perched on the brink of falling in. He edged forward until his nose barely touched the rock and it dropped into the hole.

“I knew that would go,” he said, standing up. 

“Your grasp of the intricacies of this game is very impressive, Oh Greatest Baboon Ever,” said the weasel.

“Talk loud and carry a small stick,” said the baboon. He looked up to see Marked Multi-veined Monitor lizard rapidly heading towards them. “Oh what does this idiot want from me now?” lamented the baboon. 

Marked lizard arrived mostly out of breath. He nodded to Little Gray Weasel, and, after catching his breath, he said, “Oh Greatest Baboon Who Has Ever Lived, I’m afraid we have trouble!”

“You know, I think I’m going to change it to ‘Most Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived’ from now on,” said the baboon. “It sounds better, more appropriate.”

“Yes,” said the lizard, “I think so too, Most Exalted Greatest Baboon, but I think you should listen to what I have to tell you.”

“You forgot ‘Who Ever Lived’,” said the baboon evenly.

“What? Oh yes, I’m sorry Oh Most Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived,” said the lizard.

“I didn’t have that ‘Oh’ in there.”

“What? Oh, the ‘Oh’ I see my mistake—“

“Never mind,” said the baboon, “leave the ‘Oh’ in there, I like it,” said the baboon. “Now what’s this trouble?”

“The trouble is something I heard while I was out by the washing post this morning—“

“What’s the ‘washing post’?” asked the weasel.

“You wouldn’t know about that,” said the baboon. “There’s an old tree outside Moralardo, on the south side. All the limbs have fallen off and it’s just a post now. The hyenas and jackals like to gather at it and relieve themselves against it. They refer to it as ‘washing the post’.”

“—yes, exactly” said Marked lizard, “and they were out in numbers this morning when I went by there. The lizard paused. 

‘Well?” asked the baboon.

 “Um, they were all talking about how you should concede and let Blue Wildebeest get to work!”

“What?” yelled the baboon. “That’s unimaginable! The animals at the washing post have always been completely on my side!”

“They’re not anymore,” said Marked Many-veined Monitor lizard. “I’m afraid we’re sunk!”

“That’s just not possible!” said the baboon. “You must’ve heard them wrong!”

“No, Oh Exaulted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived, I’m afraid not. I stayed for quite a while, out of sight,  listening to them. They all agreed that you should back off of trying to change the result of the choosing.”

“But I won, I won by a lot! It was crooked! They brought in dead animal votes for the wildebeest! They double counted all those male impala votes! It’s not fair!”

“Muck Mud Turtle said that none of those things happened,” said Little Gray weasel. “He says the election for leader is over and the wildebeest won.” 

“Who are you going to listen to?” yelled the baboon. “He’s a traitor too! Who’s side are you on?”

“I’m on your side, you know that. But the Mud turtle is the oldest and most powerful leader in the Land of the Elephant,” said the weasel. “You have to listen to what he says.”

“No you don’t! You only have to listen to me, just me!”

“But what are we going to do about the washing post, sir?” asked the lizard.

“Don’t worry, it won’t matter anyway! I’m going to have White-headed Prancing monkey throw out the proxies votes as illegal!”

“Ah, sir, I’ve looked everywhere for the Prancing monkey. He’s nowhere to be found.”

“What a coward! Okay then, I’m going to declare Partial Law!” said the baboon.

“What’s ‘partial law’?” asked Marked lizard.

“It’s a little known power that I have,” said the baboon. “I can declare that the only laws that are to be enforced are my laws.”

“I’ve never heard of that specific power,” said the weasel.

“Yeah, it’s not well-known, like I said,” agreed the baboon.

The lizard looked at the weasel and whispered, “I think he just made that up.”

The weasel nodded.

“If you declare this ‘partial law’” asked the lizard, “how will you enforce it?”

“I’ll have my hyenas and jackals make sure it’s enforced.”

Marked Multi-veined lizard looked at Little Gray Weasel again, the weasel shrugged and shook his head. “I think we may have a problem with that too, sir“ said the lizard.

The baboon leaned over to retrieve his white rock from the hole. “Why?” he asked.

“Do you remember what I told you when I first got here?” asked the lizard.

“No,” said the baboon, lining up his rock as he prepared to hit it toward the hole again, “should I?”

“Yep,” said the weasel, looking at the lizard, “we have a problem.”

XXX

The Baboon with the Orange Butt stood out in front of Moralardo. Before him, spread out across the open plain, was a large gathering of baboons and proboscis monkeys.

“Our faithful followers, it is our sad duty to tell you that the time has come for us to storm the centers of false beliefs, the lairs of those who are denying our victory in this choosing! We must march together through the Arid Zone and to the very site of the Penned Sylvan Area itself! Go now! Go and save our country from the fake gnus who would steal it from us! We will grab a few things and be with you all presently!”

The horde of listeners cheered as they thundered off. Behind the baboon, Marked Multi-veined lizard asked, “Is there something I can go get for you, Oh Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived?”

Turning to walk back toward Moralardo the baboon said, “No, why?”

“You told them that you had to get a few things before you went with them.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” the baboon said.

“But you just told them that you would accompany them.”

“So?”

“I’m confused. Aren’t you going with them?” asked the lizard.

“Not on your life, it’s going to be really dangerous.”

The lizard asked, “Then why did you send them?”

“You’re really quite intelligent, you know?” said the baboon.

“Thank you sir, but—“

“That wasn’t a complement,” said the baboon, interrupting him.

The lizard looked at him, “I’m sorry? What?”

“I lied. You’re a moron,” said the baboon, “like all the rest of them.” He continued walking toward the entrance of Moralardo. 

“But you just said—“

“I told you, I lied when I said you are smart.” 

“You lied?”

“See how easy it is?”

“But—“

“Oh shut-up! Go with those other morons and come back and tell me what happens.”

“You mean the baboons and proboscis monkeys?” asked the lizard.

“Of course that’s who I mean, what a dope! Get going!”

“Yes sir.” The lizard ran off after the mob heading toward the Arid Zone. 

Upon entering Moralardo the baboon saw Dump Jr. and I Forget His Name running toward him. “Where are you two off to?” he asked.

“We’re going to join your supporters marching to save our country,” said Dump Jr.

“The hell you are!” shouted the Baboon With The Orange Butt. “Haven’t you learned anything?”

“But da—Oh Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived, we thought—“ said I Forget His Name.

“You didn’t think!” said the baboon, still shouting. “That’s the problem! Haven’t you been paying attention to what I have been teaching you all your miserable lives?”

Dump Jr. said, “What do you mean, da—, oops, ah, Oh Exalted—“ 

“Shut-up! I mean you should know by now that you never go do the dirty work yourself, you get others to do it for you!”

“But Oh Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived, don’t you want to lead them to make sure they do what you want?” asked Dump Jr.

“Who cares? I set them loose. They’ll screw things up enough without me being there.”

“I don’t understand,” said I Forget His Name.

“That’s obvious. Now get back inside Moralardo where you’ll be safe.”

As they were walking back in, Marked Multi-veined lizard came running up to them, “Oh Exalted Greatest Baboon Who Ever Lived, I have grave news!” he said.

Turning on the lizard, the baboon screamed, “I thought I told you to stay with those idiots! What are you doing back here already?”

“I was sure you’d want to know about this immediately, sir.”

“Fine!” said the baboon. “Tell me what it is and get back there.”

“But sir, one of the baboons you sent has been killed!”

“So?” asked the Baboon With The Orange Butt.  

“I don’t understand, sir? Don’t you feel responsible?”

“For what?”

“For the death of one of your supporters.”

“How did they get killed?” asked Dump Jr. 

“I’m not sure,” said the lizard, “somebody said she was killed by a lion, others said it was a leopard. It was a mess! There was confusion everywhere!”

“That’s not important,” said the Baboon With The Orange Butt. “It’s obvious she should’ve been more careful.”

“But sir,” said the lizard, “you sent her. You sent all of them, and now they’re rioting!”

“I didn’t send them to riot, or to get killed.”

“But you sent them as a mob without leadership!”

“No I didn’t,” said the baboon. “This isn’t my fault. I simply encouraged them to use their own judgement. I told them to look to their conscience for direction. They are just trying to save our country. They are patriots.”

The lizard stared at the baboon, his mouth hanging open.

“Close your mouth, you look even stupider than you actually are,” said the baboon. “Now get back there and report to me when it’s over.”

Marked Multi-veined lizard slowly turned around and walked off.

The Baboon With The Orange Butt looked at his two sons and said, “I’m surrounded by morons!”

“But da—“ Dump Jr. started to reply.

“Shut-up,” snapped the baboon, “I’m including you in that group.”

XXXI

“Did you hear?” Dump asked Mewanka when she entered his enclosure.

“Hear about what, daddy?”

“They trashed the Wish And Done capitol area! My heroes aren’t going to let me be cast away! They won’t let this election be stolen from me!”

“The Wish And Done area? Why there, daddy?”

“That’s where they were doing the final certification of that wildebeest winning the election. But my people know he didn’t win! They stopped it!”

Marked Multi-veined lizard followed Mewanka into the thorn bush walled home of the Baboon With The Orange Butt.

“What do you want?” snapped the baboon.

“It’s done,” Marked said, “they’ve finished!” He plopped down on the dirt. “We’re finished!”

“You didn’t address me as Oh Most Exalted Greatest Baboon Ever!” said the baboon.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Marked lizard.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean they’ve certified the choosing for Blue Wildebeest!”

“No! No, that’s not true!” shouted the baboon. “My supporters stopped it! They destroyed the place!”

“They destroyed the place alright,” said the lizard, “but the certification was done anyway.”

“How?” asked Dump.

“They decided they would return and continue, despite the destruction. Your supporters failed!”

“I can let this happen!” the baboon said. “All of you get out! I must muster them again! This isn’t over! I have work to do!”

Mewanka looked at Marked Multi-veined lizard and they exited the enclosure. “I’m worried,” she said once they were outside, “he’s getting worse.”

“Yes, I agree, but what can we do?”

“I don’t know, I’m going to go find Barred, he might know.”

Barred Bush lemur stepped out from behind the thorn bush walls and said, “You were looking for me?”

“Yes,” said Mewanka, hiding her surprise, “walk with me. We have to talk about this.”

They had not gone far when Dump, the Baboon With The Orange Butt caught up to his daughter Mewanka and Barred Bush Lemur walking across Moralardo. “They’re gone!” Dump shreiked. “They’re all gone!”

“Who are gone, daddy?” asked Mewanka.

“My birds, all my birds,” Dump lamented.

“I don’t understand,” said Mewanka, “you have birds?”

“My tweeting birds!” Dump yelled. “All my tweeting birds are missing!”

“Oh those,” said Mewanka. 

“I’m sorry, sir,” added Barred. “I meant to tell you. I spoke with them last evening and they said they were leaving.”

“But why?” asked Dump.

“They said they couldn’t work for you any more.”

“I can’t alert my supporters without them! What can I do now? How do I get them back?”

Barred blinked slowly and shrugged.

“We had an agreement,” said Dump forlornly.

“The leaders of the group mentioned that,” said Barred. “According to them, you were asking them to break the law by sending them out with messages that were inciting violence. They said your directions constituted dangerous threats for the safety and the lives of other animals.”

“Dangerous? What could be more dangerous than having my leadership stolen from me? I just told my supporters to march to that place and fight for me! They had to save the election from being stolen!”

“That was another of their points in their argument as to why they were leaving,” said Barred. “In their opinion you are delusional in your repeated accusations that the election was stolen from you.”

The baboon took a step towards the lemur, “Are you calling me delusional?”

Barred shook his head, “Not me, the birds.”

“But I’ve given them everything,” Dump whined. “I’ve made them famous!”

“Not according to them,” said Barred, “they said you’ve put them in an untenable position and left them to face the outrage of other animals without supporting them.”

“That’s crazy,” the baboon argued, “I was always there for them.”

“The tweeters said you were just using them and they had had enough.”

“They are a bunch of ingrates! How am I to speak to my followers now?”

Barred shrugged, “You could always hold a public meeting to deliver you message.”

“What? No, no that won’t work!” said the baboon.

“Why not, daddy?” asked Mewanka.

The baboon shook his head, “Because they will ask me questions. I don’t want to answer any more questions.” He sat down in the dirt. “This is a tragedy!”

“Oh daddy, don’t let it get you down. After all you’re almost done here.”

The baboon looked up at her, “What does that mean?”

“Well, the wildebeest takes over as leader in a couple days.”

Jumping up the baboon screamed, “Not you too!” causing Mewanka and Barred to step backward rapidly to a safe distance. “You’re betraying me?”

“I’m not betraying you, daddy, but everyone knows that this election is over. It’s time to plan for our future.”

“I have no future except as the rightful leader of these lands!”

Mewanka looked at Barred, who shrugged and walked away. 

“Where’s he going?” asked the baboon.

“He going to talk with some animals from the desert regions to the north. I think he arranging for somewhere that we can call our next home.”

XXXII

“Hey, what happened to you, there, bud?”

Dump the baboon, bits of ripe fruit dripping off him everywhere, wiped the mess off his face and looked up to see three hippopotamuses surrounding him. They looked at him sitting on the ground with surprised faces.

“You’re a real mess,” one of the hippos said.

“A bunch of birds just flew over,” Dump said, “they dropped rotten peaches on me. I’ve been em-peached again!”

“Huh,” said another of the hippos, “Not popular with the birds, eh?”

“Not anymore,” Dump said.

“Well go clean yourself up somewhere else,” the third hippo said, “we got work to do here and you might get stomped—accidentally, of course.” The other two hippos chuckled.

“Yeah,” said another hippo, “but don’t go down by the river, it’s loaded with crocodiles! They’d love to see you coming! They’d be licking their chops!”

“Knock it off,” said the third hippo. He looked back at Dump and said “Com’on, beat it! We’ve got a lot of work to do!” 

The Baboon with the Orange Butt asked, “What kind of work?”

The hippopotamus that appeared to be in charge, looked around and said, “We’re supposed to clean up this mess. We’re going to bust up all these thorn bushes and drag all this crap off.”

“You can’t do that!” protested Dump.

“Oh yeah? Why not?”

“Because I live here, this place belongs to me!”

All the hippos laughed uproariously at this statement. “You?” said the boss. “You’re a baboon!”

“So?”

“So old Putrid only likes baboons if they are in bite-sized pieces!”

“You mean Valor the crocodile? He gave me this place!”

Now the laughter exploded out of the three huge animals, one actually laughing so hard he fell over and rolled across the ground.

“What’s so funny?” the baboon angrily asked.

Gradually gaining control of himself again, the leader of the hippos said, “Old Putrid never gave anyone nuthin’! With him, everybody pays.”

“Oh yeah?” Dump said. “Well he gave me Moralardo!”

“What’s Moralardo?” asked the hippo.

Standing up suddenly, all the while flinging the remains of rotten peaches in every direction, the baboon shouted, “This is Moralardo, I live here and the crocodile gave it to me!”

“Must’ve been a loan then,” said the hippo. “Because he’s taking it back!”

“He is?” The baboon looked around, “But where am I supposed to go?”

“How should I know?” asked the hippo. “Where were you before?”

“Before—?” asked Dump.

“Yeah,” said the hippo impatiently, “before you were here. Go back there, or don’t. But you gotta leave, now!”

“Maybe you could ask your friends?” said one of the other hippos. The boss looked at him. “I’m just trying to help,” the hippo said. He shrugged and added, “You know, he could go with them somewheres.”

“What friends?” asked Dump.

“You don’t have friends? Com’on everybody has some friends.” The hippo glanced over to one side, “I saw a big white snake over there somewhere, I almost stepped on him. Is he a friend of yours?”

“Snakes ain’t nobody’s friends” said the boss hippo. “They’re snakes. You shoulda stomped him.”

“He was too fast,” said the second hippo. He looked back at the baboon. “So maybe some other friends?”

“They’re all gone,” said Dump. “They left. They abandoned me, everyone of them. After all I did for them, Bat-seeking Devious rat, Harpy eagle, Plump polecat, Little Gray weasel, even White-headed Prancer monkey. It’s just so unfair, I did so much for him!”

“Yeah? What did you do for the monkey?” asked the hippo.

“He was nothing until I made him my second-in-command!”

“Oh you don’t say?” asked the hippo. “Second-in-command of what?” 

“Of what?” shouted the baboon. “Of everything! I made him my second in charge of it all!”

The hippo looked at his boss, who nodded knowingly, giving him a wide hippo grin. “Sure you did, bud, you were a prince to that monkey!”

“No I wasn’t,” yelled the baboon, “I wasn’t a prince, I was the boss—leader of everything, I had it all!”

“Right,” said the hippo. “But now you gotta leave here boss! G’wan, make tracks!”

The Baboon with the Orange Butt looked at him. He started to say something more in protest. Then his shoulders slumped. He stared at the ground around him, littered with rotten peaches. Dump the baboon gave a big sigh, “What’s the use?” he said.

“There you go,” said the boss hippo. “Can’t fight progress.” As the three hippos stood and watched the baboon walked off, out of the thorn bush-walled area, and disappeared around the edge of the wall. 

The first hippo, who had been quiet all this time said, “Hey! I just figured it out! You guys know who that baboon was?”

“No,” said the boss, “who was he?”

“That was the Greatest Baboon Ever!”

“Really?” said the boss, “Never heard of him.”

“Yeah,” said the second hippo, “if you’ve seen one baboon—“

“You’ve seen one too many!” said the boss. The three hippos all laughed. “Let’s get busy,” he added.

To be continued?