The Tortoise and the Hare: A (Post)Modern Day Fable

Once upon a time there lived a tortoise and a hare. The hare was always running this way and that, chasing after the latest fashion, listening to the latest number 1 pop hit, never letting a thought rest in his head longer than the average MTV jump-cut. The tortoise, on the other hand, met each day as it came, plodding through each of them on his fat little legs. One day the hare was hanging out with his posse when they happened upon the tortoise shuffling down the road.

“What a loser,” the hare said, and his friends laughed.

“Where you going in such a hurry?” one of them asked.

“Be careful not to strain yourself,” another one said.

“Wouldn’t want you to fall down,” the hare said and kicked the tortoise onto his back. The hare’s friends laughed and jeered while the tortoise waved his stumpy legs in the air. Frowning in concentration, the tortoise began rocking back and forth on his shell until he was able to swing himself back onto his feet. The hare and his friends laughed all the more.

“Not everyone is in such a hurry,” the tortoise said.

“They are if they plan on going anywhere,” the hare shot back.

“Well slow and steady wins the race,” the tortoise said, “that’s what my dad always tells me.” The hare and his friends laughed again.

“Yeah, right,” the hare said, “like you could beat me in a race!” His friends laughed some more.

“I could beat you any time!” the tortoise said. “Just name the place.”

When the hare finally caught his breath after laughing so hard, he managed to say, “By the elm tree outside the new Chili’s in town. Be there tomorrow at noon.” He started to spring away, adding over his shoulder, “If that’s enough time for you to get there.”

The next day came and everyone gathered at the old elm tree outside the new Chili’s. The tortoise was preparing for the race with his father while the hare lounged on the grass with some friends. The rest of his friends and family were waiting at the finish line.

“You didn’t even bring your running shoes?” one of his friends asked the hare.

“You kidding?” the hare said, glancing at his size twenty-three Crocs, “I’ll be done with this before I get through all the singles from the Fall Out Boy CD I ripped to my iPod!”

The tortoise frowned an angry frown at them.

“Don’t worry about them, son,” his father said. “Remember: slow and steady. Your mother is waiting for you at the finish line.”

The tortoise nodded, his face set in grim determination.

The hare sighed, bounding to his feet. “Let’s get this over with,” he said, trotting to the starting line.

“Okay,” the tortoise said, hunkering down in his shell. “Reeeeeeady . . .”

“Go!” the hare yelled and sped off

The tortoise placed one of his front feet a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the opposite back foot and then he heaved his bulk forward, and then he placed his other front foot a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the other back foot and heaved his bulk forward. He continued to do this.

The hare sped down the street by leaps and bounds, breezing past shops and trees, all the while rocking out on his iPod. In the blink of an eye, he was so far ahead that the tortoise was no more than a spec off in the distance.

Then the hare happened to spot a Best Buy on the corner. He glanced over his shoulder at the tortoise plodding along far off in the distance and thought, I got enough time to peak at the new releases. Ears twitching, he ducked into the store, perusing the hot buys, sale items, then—yes! New releases.

“Heard it, heard it, heard it,” he said, glancing through the music section, but then a familiar logo flashed beyond the DVD rack.

American Idol!” the hare cried, vaulting over the movies and video games to the wall of brand new plasma screen TVs, each displaying a high-def close-up of Simon, Paula, and Randy. The hare slapped his forehead. “I forgot the new season started today!” He stood before the screens, eyes wide, mouth slack, mind racing through all the possible humiliations, all the possible triumphs, all the possible pop hits he could hear reimagined. He sat down and awaited them.

Meanwhile, the tortoise placed one of his front feet a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the opposite back foot and then he heaved his bulk forward, and then he placed his other front foot a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the other back foot and heaved his bulk forward.

The hare laughed along with the rest of America as the contestants humiliated themselves in front of the cameras. He did this until the first commercial break. But the slow pace of the commercials weighed heavily on the hare’s racing mind, making him sleepy. Then, just as he was nodding off, he realized why the commercials were putting him to sleep when they never had before.

“I don’t need to watch this here,” he said. “I totally Tivoed it!” And with that, he picked himself up and ran out of the store, turning on his iPod again and zipping past the finish line while listening to “Thnks fr th Mmrs.”

The hare’s friends and family cheered and clapped and hugged and laughed. The hare shrugged it off, playing it cool. He asked them, “You really think I was going to lose?” Then a rabbit in a smart business suit approached him.

“Hi,” the rabbit said, “my name is Chet Zipgower and I’m here as a representative of Red Bull GmbH,” he flashed a grin, “and I saw your race and I gotta tell you, kid, you’re going places, no doubt in my mind, and Red Bull GmbH is looking for kids like you—kids who want to go places—and I’m here to offer you, kid, a place in the Red Bull extreme sports family.”

The hare opened his mouth—

“As your sponsor,” Chet continued, “Red Bull GmbH will show you the world—Europe, Asia, not so much Africa or South America but what do they have anyway, am I right, kid?”

The hare opened his—

“Of course I am and you know it and I know it, but the real question I have for you today, kid, is are you ready to go places—Germany, Greece, Thailand, China—cuz we wanna take you there, kid: photo shoots, clothing lines, TV spots, the works—you and Red Bull GmbH, can you handle that, kid?”

The hare—

“I think you can, kid, cuz I saw your race and you’re just the kind of go-getter that we at Red Bull GmbH want to represent our brand, so whaddya say, kid, you ready to turbo charge your life with Red Bull—turbo or no-go, kid, turbo or no-go?” Chet blinked at him three times.

The hare glanced at his friends and family, each of them holding their breath in anticipation for his answer. The hare turned back to Chet with a wicked grin and waved two pairs of bull’s horns at him with his hands.

“Turbo!” he cried and his friends and family cheered wildly.

As Chet escorted the hare to a helicopter waiting to fly them to fame and fortune, the tortoise’s mother called out, “Excuse me!”

Chet and the hare paused, glancing over their shoulders.

The tortoise’s mother called again, “Excuse me!” She plodded through the crowd, one foot after the other, trying to catch up to the executive, sweat glistening her forehead. She lumbered around one person, then another, then one more, continued weaving herself through the hare’s family, panting for breath, and then finally stopped in front of Chet. “Excuse me,” she said, gulping for air. “Wait . . . can you, please . . . take my . . . son with you.” She turned back to the tortoise still in the distance, trudging towards a finish line he could barely see, one dour step after another dour step after another dour step.

Chet twitched his nose. “I guess we could use him,” he said, watching the tortoise, “as a counterpoint to our hare here. A kind of ‘You-Don’t-Wanna-Be-This-Loser-When-You-Got-Places-to-Go’ sorta thing.” Everyone turned back to the tortoise.

The tortoise placed one of his front feet a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the opposite back foot and then he heaved his bulk forward, and then he placed his other front foot a few inches in front of where it had previously been along with the other back foot and heaved his bulk forward, and then he placed that first foot a few inches in front of where it had previously been again—

“Forget it,” Chet said, “we can use a studio tortoise.” And even the tortoise’s mother saw the wisdom in that.

The End

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