Friday, June 17, 2016
The Bear and the Sad but Predictable Demise of Mr. Ought
One fine day, the Bear was walking along the riverbank toward the The Shallows, which is one of his favorite fishing spots. He caught the smell of a man long before he saw him, and concealed himself in the woods. After several minutes, the man stumped up to the bank on the other side and stopped. Since he was not a hunter, the Bear revealed himself and called out a friendly "good morning."
"Good morning," the man replied amiably from the other side of the river. "I have never been to these woodlands before, and thought I might do a bit of exploring."
"You may do as you please," replied the Bear, "but you should know that the woodlands are inhabited by dangerous creatures. And the river is deep here, and the current strong."
"Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Bear. My name is Mr. Ought, by the way."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Ought," the Bear politely replied, for Bears have excellent manners when not annoyed.
"If you will but wait a moment, I shall wade over and we may converse without yelling," Mr. Ought announced.
"But, Mr. Ought, you cannot wade across here!" the Bear called back with alarm. "The water is deep and the current is strong. Walk along your side with the Bear, and we will come to The Shallows. You can cross there, and the woodland creatures will not harm you as long as you stay close to the Bear."
"I appreciate your advice," the man answered, then waved some sort of paper. "However, I have a map. It was drawn up by very intelligent men in positions of great authority. It says I ought to be able to cross here just fine."
"Stop!" the Bear cried. "Ought is not is! The water is deep and the current is strong. Trust someone who knows what he's talking about!"
"These men know what they are talking about," the man replied, shaking his map. A note of amusement in his voice carried all the way across the deep, swift river. "I am a man who listens to whom he ought to listen to, believes what he ought to believe, and does what he ought to do. You, with all due respect, are only a Bear. What credentials do you have to give advice about this river? Do you have a degree in topography? Are you an expert in watersheds? What authority do you have to tell a man where he should cross? Are you an important government official, or high-ranking cleric?"
The Bear was so baffled by the man's stubbornness that he had nothing to say before the man had stepped into the current, sank, and been swept away.
The Bear sprinted along the riverbank, faster than a horse, and leaped into the water. A moment later, he was dragging the half-drowned man out of the river -- on the man's original side.
"I beg your pardon, Bear," he spluttered. "What are you playing at? I ought to have been able to make it to the other side just fine without your interference!"
"The Bear just saved your life. You are annoying him now. He is leaving" The Bear entered the water, hardly making a wave, and easily swam to the other side.
"Is that a threat?" the man called after him. "Why, I ought to be able to manage ten Bears!"
The Bear caught his fill of nice salmon at The Shallows and thought no more about the foolish man, Mr. Ought.
Two days later, the Bear was once again walking along the river. He saw something washed up on the bank ahead.
Sure enough, it was Mr. Ought, or what was left of him. It appeared he had entered the river where it was deep, and where the current was strong, and had been drowned, washed up on the bank, and his body gnawed on by some of the less picky woodland creatures.
"Mr. Ought is no more," the Bear observed sadly. He buried Mr. Ought's body, as Bears are accustomed to do with dead things. Then, in the ancient Bear funerary tradition, he made up a limerick on the spot to appropriately mark Mr. Ought's passage.
Here lies the body of Mr. Ought.
Who was not nearly as smart as he thought.
"Is" did not matter,
He was mad as a hatter,
As are all who refuse to be taught.
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