Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Pythons and the Raccoons

I woke this morning from a terrible dream. In the dream, a Burmese python was in the house. I don’t know how it got into the house, but there it was, a monstrous spotted, slimy thing winding its entire slithery length throughout the house.

My wife and I started trying to herd it into an empty room. We didn’t want to touch it, so we poked and prodded it with sticks, but the damned thing was impossible to move. Then, when it finally started moving, it wasn’t due to our prodding—no, it had seen the cat and was going straight for her, licking its snake lips with its forked tongue.

“Grab the cat!” I screamed to my wife—and woke up … and lay there a long time, thinking about the dream.

I knew right away what caused it: a news story I read yesterday about how pythons have taken over the Everglades and are eating every small animal in sight, with the result that raccoons, opossums, and other animals are disappearing from their native habitat.

Thinking about it now in the darkness of my bedroom, with that awful, lost, desolate feeling you only get when it’s 3:30 in the morning and you’ve just had a nightmare, I thought: My god, at the rate these pythons are eating, they’ll soon run out of food. Why, before you know it, they’ll leave the swamps and find their way into people’s backyards and start eating small children … if they haven’t already …

We’ve got to feed them something else, I thought. Various politicians came to mind—also Goldman Sachs executives, Monsanto executives, TSA agents, and such. All would make fine snake food ...

I got a good laugh out of that, but in a little while the desolate 3:30-in-the-morning feeling returned and I was thinking about the pythons again, and the desperate plight of the raccoons, bobcats, opossums, and deer.

Oh, what a perfect metaphor for our world today, I thought. We are the little critters of the Everglades, and the politicians and corporate criminals and bullying cops—all the predatory scum that have taken over our world—are the pythons.

We, the little critters, scurry about, trying to stay one step ahead of the pythons, trying to make a living, trying to pay our taxes, pay our mortgages, our insurance bills, grocery bills—yes, and try to stay out of trouble, too, but that’s not easy, with more and more new laws being passed each day, more and more unreasonable, police state insanity ruling our lives.

You meekly take off your shoes at the airport, but they confiscate your prosthetic leg. You dutifully pay your mortgage, but they take away your home. You obediently get out of the car when the cop tells you, but he tasers you anyway. You try to eat the right things, try to stay healthy, but they poison your air, food, and water anyway—and, adding insult to injury, outlaw your vitamin supplements.

And we, the raccoons, wonder, “When did the pythons take over our pretty forest? Where did these horrible creatures come from? And why, oh why, do they feed on us—and how will we ever get rid of them?”

The raccoons scratch their heads with their little fingers, trying to figure it all out—trying to decide what to do. Then, one day, one of them says, “There’s more of us than there are pythons. And if we get the opossums and bobcats and all the other animals to join us, we could easily pounce on the pythons and claw and bite and destroy them!”

So, the raccoons take the idea to the opossums. But the opossums aren’t so sure it’s a good idea.

“Might be safer to lay low,” say the opossums. “Find a hole inside a tree, and wait them out—wait till all the pythons leave. And they will, you can count on that. They’ll get tired of eating us and go somewhere else. Just you wait.”

Next, the raccoons take the idea to the bobcats. But the bobcats have bought into the pythons’ propaganda.

“The pythons keep us safe from terrorists,” say the bobcats. “That’s why they swallow us sometimes. Why, there’s no place safer than a python’s belly when terrorists are on the loose!”

Next, the raccoons try the deer, but the deer are too stupid to understand. “Pythons?” they say. “What pythons?”

So the raccoons hold a meeting. “Mic check!” one of them shouts, and this is what he says (repeated by all the others so those in back can hear): “The opossums and the bobcats and the deer aren’t with us on this revolution idea. That’s too bad, because the bobcats are good fighters, and the deer can do a power of damage with their horns and hooves. But there’s still enough of us to stage some kind of protest. It’ll have to be non-violent, of course—peaceful disobedience. Yes, some of us may get eaten in the process, but just you wait, when the other critters see, they’ll join our noble cause—and then we’ll win. Anyway, what have we got to lose?”

So the raccoons, bravely, decide to occupy the pythons’ breeding ground. Whereupon the pythons attack and eat many raccoons. The carnage is terrible, but most raccoons escape—and just as predicted, the opossums and bobcats begin to sympathize with the raccoons. Some even talk about joining the raccoons' movement.

The pythons, concerned by this change in public sentiment, decide to use their greatest weapon: propaganda …

“We will visit the other animals,” says the leader of the pythons, “and spread fear among them. We needn’t bother with the deer, because they’re too stupid to be any kind of threat. But the bobcats and opossums are another matter …”

So the pythons slither off to see the opossums. The opossums, never having seen so many pythons all at once, are frightened out of their wits. They hide inside their little cubbyholes and listen as the python leader says, “See how many of us pythons there are? There are more than enough of us to eat every last one of you. But if you are good, and stay here, and do not join the raccoons, we will leave you alone. We promise.”

The opossums, shaking with terror, quickly agree.

Next, the pythons visit the bobcats. The python leader says, “We have warned you there are terrorists in the forest. Yet we have never told you exactly who the terrorists are. We have not told you, because we were not sure ourselves. But now we know: the terrorists are the raccoons. We caught them gathering en masse—‘occupying,’ as they call it. But in fact they were preparing to attack you. That is why we attacked them—to protect you. But there are too many of them for us to defeat on our own. We need you to help us. We need you to attack the raccoons …”

So, the bobcats attacked the raccoons, and tore them limb from limb. Those few raccoons who managed to escape were eaten by the pythons … and when it was all over, and the raccoons were all dead, the pythons feasted on the bobcats.

Then, they went back to the opossums, and luring them out of their hiding places with more sweet promises, ate every last one of them.

Then, having eaten all the other animals, they went to the deer, grazing peacefully in the depths of their stupidity, and ate every one of them.

And that, my children, is how the raccoons and the opossums and the bobcats and the deer all disappeared from the Everglades …

A dark fable, yes—perhaps too cynical, too pessimistic—dark thoughts, the kind of thoughts you have at 3:30 a.m., when you know that somewhere, outside, there are pythons on the prowl …