Modern Responsa

Fables as Told to Themselves

The Weasel & The Idiots

The Weasel had always been able to persuade The Idiots to give it permission. But this time was different. One of the idiots had voted no. Not a good sign, thought the weasel.

Moral: Equally good as a conversation starter and stopper is the question, “Who’s the idiot now?”

The Bartender, The Intestinal Fortitude & The Backbone

The Intestinal Fortitude and The Backbone were about to drink their final pint of stout when the bartender announced “April Fools!” Did this mean that it wasn’t the last stout of the evening or that all of the stouts had been the last ones?

Moral: Not everything can be deconstructed.

Terrorism & Renewal

Every winter, the hijackers debated whether to continue. Security checks, feigned nonchalance, layers of underwear, a resolve that lacked any real zealotry …it was all becoming one unpleasant chore. But then, spring was right around the corner.

Moral: Enthusiasm dies when the plane goes down.

The Smith

Assigned to forge the latest brand for the old man’s herd, the Smith took inventory. Circled letters were, as the ranchers called them, passé-like. He heated up a length of iron and formed just an open circle with a long handle. “What’s gonna be in that circle?” the apprentice asked. “Cow,” said the Smith.

Moral: Don’t be all cattle and no herd.

Monty & the Glue

Monty fell down the stairs each morning. Living alone as he did, there was no one to whom he needed to say “I’m okay!” He dusted himself off, reminded again that the second step needed some new nails. “Maybe some glue, as well,” he thought, as usual.

Moral: Habits of thought are our downfall.

The ‘Spectable Job

Tilting at windmills used to be a ‘spectable job, he told his grandchildren. Nowadays, it’s come to mean fighting enemies what ain’t there. From their graves, his grandchildren never replied to his pronouncements. He stood, with difficulty, and placed a few more pebbles on their headstones.

Moral: The dead ain’t.

The Dead & the Just Tired

Neither judge had wanted the case, but the old judge wanted it less. I’m too old, he complained. It would be my last case.

Moral: Whenever there are two, one becomes first.

The Questions & the Bullet

She chose mercy, and her prisoner took a deep breath—one of many more, he now believed. For her part, the information was insufficient. But she could get nothing more from him, and her interrogation had become cruelty for its own sake. She killed him with a single gunshot for which she would have to answer.

Moral: Breathing is nothing to believe in…

No Going Back Up

Knees hurt. That was now the truth upon which he based his movements. It made for greater efficiency, he told himself. Bring everything downstairs that needed bringing so that he did not have to go back up. Depress the clutch only when it was absolutely necessary to change gears. Ignore the doorbell — letting visitors in was painful. This was also generally true.

Moral: Truth may be beauty, and vice versa, but one must know a lot more than that.

The Cheap Aluminum

The distinctively metallic taste to the food he cooked made it unlikely that she would want to pursue the relationship. Let’s go out, she said. That, too, did not bode well.

Moral: Intimacy may be a force of nature, but nature isn’t everything.

The Doctor, the Child, the Parents and the Pieces

All the knights, bishops and rooks were in the child’s mouth. As he removed the chessmen with forceps, the pediatrician told the parents that because the pieces were unvarnished, it was likely that their son had ingested toxic wood-stain. Not wishing to alarm them but also not wanting to mislead, he said, He probably won’t die.

Moral: Always ask for proof of not-dying.

The Bronx & the Natural Habitat

Escapes from the zoo were rare, but twice in the past month the hippopotamus had simply walked out of its cage, ambled slowly and visibly along the path before exiting onto Southern Boulevard. Bronx residents had learned the hard way after the first escape that attempts to lure the hippo off the road would be met with the animal fury that made hippopotami among the most dangerous animals on Earth. The keepers approached cautiously, their tranq-rifles at the ready. It would take two darts filled with carfentanil to knock the beast out cold. The keepers stayed well behind the six-thousand pound fugitive, and on signal, they fired their rifles in unison. The hippo began to pivot to face its attackers, but its legs buckled before it could complete its turn-around. The crane was already there to lift the animal onto the flatbed and return it to its cage. Back at the zoo, students from P.S. 44 wanted to stay to see the hippo awaken and, they could only hope, escape again.

Moral: The minds of children must not be permitted.

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