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Crocodile Tears (Part One)

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In the old days, when the animals could talk, Crocodile was king of the water creatures. One year, there was a drought, and the water in the river ran dry. Crocodile sent Otter to scout for a new home, and two days later, he returned to say there was a deeper river on the far side of the farmer’s fields.

When he heard this, Crocodile called upon Tortoise and Alligator, and he explained they must go see Lion, king of the land creatures. “The veldt is dry,” he said, “and it will be a difficult journey, but we must make peace with the Lion and all his subjects, or we will die. They must help us cross the land to reach the other river.”

Tortoise and Alligator set off at once to see Lion. They carried along a peace treaty Crocodile had composed.

When they arrived, they handed Lion the treaty.

Lion read it and decided he must consult with his associates, and then all the animals would hold a meeting. “Let us meet this evening at the willow tree at the far end of your river, where Crocodile has his headquarters,” Lion said. “There we can discuss the plan.”

So Tortoise and Alligator gave the news to Crocodile, who was very pleased to hear about this turn of events. “We must prepare some treats to woo our friends,” he said, so he and the others prepared many fish delicacies.

That night, with Otter and Beaver and Tortoise and Alligator, Crocodile traveled to the willow tree.

There they met Lion and Wolf and Jackal and Baboon.

Crocodile was so pleased to see this gathering, a tear of joy dropped down his face and landed in the sand. “We have brought you some treats!” he announced, and Wolf and Jackal pounced with delight on the bounty.

After they had finished eating, Crocodile began to explain his desire: He wanted peace among all the animals. “If we do not join forces, the farmer will destroy us all,” he said.

The truth was, the farmer had already stationed at the source of the river three steam pumps to irrigate his land. Every day, water was more and more scarce; if this continued, all the creatures would die. Besides, there was the habit Elephant had of reaching into the water with his trunk and drinking up creatures, then tossing them hither and yon when he lifted his head.

Lion was interested in peace, for he knew that peace among the animals would only add to his glory.

But Jackal wasn’t so sure. “How will peace benefit us?” he asked.

Crocodile explained, “Peace benefits both sides. No one will harm anyone else, and any animal wishing to drink water at the river will be able to do so without fear of harm from any of my subjects.”

Lion and Jackal talked quietly together, and Lion asked, “Crocodile, what promise will you give us that you will keep your part of this contract?”

“You have my word!” Crocodile said. And he wept again, and a few more tears dropped in the sand.


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