Androcles and the Lion
Everybody knows Aesop’s fable about Androcles and the lion: How Androcles came upon a lion in the forest with a thorn in its paw, and how Androcles removed the thorn and, how later Androcles was condemned to being thrown to the lions in the arena, and how the lion that was sent out to eat him was the lion he had helped, and how they had a happy reunion, and how the emperor was so moved by Androcles’ story that he freed them both. Aesop tacked on one of his tiresome morals, in this case, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls,” how sappy is that? and called it quits.
But there was more to the story.
Andy lived on a farm on the edge of the savannah where the lion and his pride hunted wildebeest and whatever else came their way. Every few days the lion would come by, usually bringing a nice wildebeest haunch or something else from the hunt and the two would have a cold beer in the shade of the big tree in the front yard and talk. Mrs. A had inherited the farm and never let Andy forget who was the boss. She worked him like a rented mule. The lion’s visits aggravated her severely. There was always plenty she wanted done right then and she didn’t like to see him not working. When the lion came she constantly made remarks about Andy and his beer drinking buddy which she was not shy about letting the lion hear. One day when the lion came to visit she said, “I wish you would quit encouraging that disgusting flea bag. You have work to do.”
“Now honey, the lion is my friend. I would be dead now if it had not been for him.”
“ You aggravate me so much that there are times, like right now, when I wouldn’t care if you were dead.”
Andy heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes. “Sometimes I wish she would just go away,” he said. The lion understood perfectly: he had dealt with a mouthy lioness in his own pride. He knew what to do.
The next day Mrs. A didn’t come back from shopping. This was not surprising, the town was half a day’s journey away and riding a bouncy, horse drawn wagon down a rough rutted road was tiring; Mrs. A often spent the night with her mother, Bitch One, in Andy’s book, or with her older sister, Bitch Two. Andy had to cook his own supper, but except for that he enjoyed the peace and quiet. The next day the horse came home pulling the empty wagon.
Andy carefully considered his alternatives. He could go looking for her, and if Mrs. A hadn’t been, as the third in the line, Bitch Three, he might have. Even so, he might have gone looking but then he remembered what had happened the first time the horse came home alone. Genuinely concerned, he had saddled the horse and gone to town, looking carefully for places where Mrs. A might be lying. He finally found her at her at the home of her sister. When she saw him she said, “What in the world are you doing here? Why aren’t you home hoeing the corn?”
“I thought something might have happened to you and that you might need help.”
“What is wrong with you? What in the world could happen to me? I have made this trip hundreds of times and nothing ever happened to me before. Why should anything happen to me now? I sent the horse home because I wanted you to get on with the plowing. Myrtle (Bitch 2) and Elmer (Poor Suffering Bastard), are going to take me with them when they come down to spend the week. Quit wasting time and go home and get to work.”
“Why,” thought Andy, “would any sane man risk a tirade like that? Best not. Things were rocking along pretty nicely, why tempt fate?”
The weekend came and went with no sign of Mrs. A. Maybe something had happened to her, but Andy thought that was too much to hope for. After a few delightful days of life without Mrs. A, Andy dreaded the day when she would come roaring in like a tornado and make his life miserable again. He didn’t want to even think about it.
In the middle of the week, remembering their happy early days, Andy thought about looking for her, but, by then, what was the point? There were two possibilities: One, she was at the house of her sister or, two, she was lying dead by the side of the road. If she was at the house of her sister, things would get back to normal on their own, without any help from him. If she was dead, the most he would find would be her rotting remains. He could bury those, but handling a rotting body would be messy, besides, why cheat the buzzards? Better, perhaps, to just wait and see. In the end, cool logical reasoning triumphed over impetuous romance.
After several days of glorious tranquility the lion came by. Andy grabbed a couple of cold ones and he and the lion sat down in the shade of the tree as usual. After a few minutes Andy said, “ My wife’s gone missing. I wonder what’s become of her.”
The lion grinned broadly and said, “You’re welcome.”
Andy thought for a moment, “Well, thank you old buddy, but how did you know? ”
“Something you said gave me the idea.”
“Oh”. Andy smiled as he poured more cold beer into the lion’s dish.
They watched the sunset while Andy scratched behind the lion’s ears and the cat purred a deep contented rumble. There was, Andy reflected philosophically, a certain beautiful symmetry in how things worked out. He had removed a thorn for the lion and the lion had removed a thorn for him and they were both happier for it.
. This fable also has a moral: Don’t be a bitch.
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