The Cat and the Crocodile

            There was once a golden crocodile who lived on the Nile with other crocodilians, big and small. One of its legs was missing, along with an eye, the former ripped off and eaten, and the latter destroyed by a hefty hoof to the face. A quarter of the tip of its snout was taken too, by an unbested opponent, long ago in its youth.

            Despite these deformities, it grew to be among the swiftest of its kind, and both feared and respected by all others shrewd enough to give it space. Decade after decade, it refined its powers of ambush, until eventually, it had eaten one of practically every kind of creature smaller than itself, that lived locally near its abode. Into its massive, scaly frame, the dragonlike reptile absorbed the essence of each of these, before one day bringing down its first buffalo, whose body nourished the bask of its brethren, deep underwater, where flesh is loosened for consumption. From dragonflies to frogs, fish, birds, and hoofed folk, it made its name known, till finally, it even disposed of a fully grown lion, not quick enough to escape its impartial jaws.

            One evening, around dusk, a wee wildcat, parched from a particularly hot day, went to the river for a drink. As it lapped up the liquid, suddenly the golden croc sprang upon it without warning, eager for a small snack. By a hair’s width, the frisky feline managed to escape its steely jaws, so to live another day. With its head still on the riverbank, and the bulk of its body in the water, the crocodile lingered lazily, without any of its usual haste to return back into the depths of its home. Despite its fearsome gaze and protruding teeth, the cat refused to run too, and instead stared at the imposing figure, transfixed, before beginning to speak, out of a genuine curiosity that could only belong to a cat.

            “River dragon,” said she, “why are you so angry? You’ve conquered every known creature, yet still you scowl and menace the shores, perpetually ill at ease, with beady, snakelike, irritated eyes, that seem deadened and insensitive, but also angry and alive too. With a powerful conceit, rivaled only by your limitless indifference, you sunbathe casually along the shoreline, as would I, if covered in a thick armor impossible to penetrate. And so I ask, who’s wronged you? From where does your wrath arise? Do you even care about anything or anyone, much less what I have to say?”

            Unmoved to the point of apparent disinterest, the croc stared either at, or past the scanty cat for some time, until at last, some small jolt of energy incentivized the large lizard to reply, in its deep and raspy voice, ancient and foreboding, characterized by a tone of utter detachment, as if incapable of brooding or dwelling on anything, not even its own words and self.

            “Silly feline,” thundered the triangle-headed dinosaur, “my ilk have graced these lands from before your kind even resembled themselves, far fore all of what you now see. If only you knew of my cosmic pedigree, much like that of the dragon, you would not be so cavalierly mistaken in your judgment of me and my mien, for I am older than time, and as timely as the moment. Unencumbered by thought, I precede intelligence. Simple by my ways, I know not mischief or spite. And yet, I am the foundation upon which wisdom has been built. You may see a scowl on my face, accentuated by the fierceness of my grin, but I neither scowl, nor sneer; I smile, for I am good at what I do, and I only do what I am good at. No one raised me, and no one can stop me, so steadily, I beam an impudent grin, for I always remember that which even the wisest of humans forget, that I am who am.” And with that, the great beast slinked back into the river, out of sight of the crafty cat.

            “No wonder it’s eaten everyone,” said the inquisitive kitty, “for everyone is whom it precedes. How daft of me to think a croc’s nature could harbor rage, for nothing’s ever personal when it comes to its dealings; even losing a foot means little, and everyone knows crocodile tears lack sadness, which might be why they’ve been so successful over the ages. Never again will I project my specious sensibilities upon such a specimen, lest I delude myself as to the nature of my own forefather and mother.” And with that, the wildcat ran off into the bush, wondering whether anyone would ever believe that a crocodile opened its mouth just for her, without the intention to consume her too.