The Wildebeest and the Anteater

            Once upon a time, in a particularly plentiful patch of forest, an anteater quietly foraged for food, while keeping to itself as usual. Despite the dense foliage nearby, a wandering wildebeest rummaged there too, drawn by some of the choicest grass to have ever graced its digestive tract. Silently, the two scoured their respective zones, so utterly absorbed in their pursuits, that the rest of the world seemed to fade away fully, and their own selves along with it. Aware only of the other’s presence, both benignantly went about their business in close proximity, as peaceable creatures have done for many thousands of years.

            With its nostrils set towards the ground, the anteater nosed about, much like the well-built wildebeest, whose sloped back and long neck helped its head remain firmly fixed towards the earth as well, both adaptations born from their surroundings, as ancient naturalists long ago inferred. Positioned as such, enough time passed for them to forget about each other too, until the wildebeest finally bumped into the anteater, startling it.

            “Hey, watch where you’re going! I’m over here,” the anteater exclaimed, jolted by the bony knock. “You’re much heavier than me, and could easily crush me with one of your hazardous, hefty hooves.”

            “I beg your pardon,” the wildebeest retorted, rather annoyed at the anteater’s acerbity, “but you have nothing to worry about. After all, I’m not the one who subsists on the flesh of moving creatures.”

            “Why you little,” the anteater hissed with some malice, “at least I don’t have a bent back!”

            “Better the spine than the face! Yours curves like the crescent moon, only uglier!”

            From atop a neighboring tree, an orangutan overheard the commotion and interjected with some care, “Friends, why spoil the serene atmosphere with such harsh tones? Just a moment ago, you formed a peaceful pair indistinguishable from the landscape. Now, you hurl abuse and insults?” But, feeling upset at the personal nature of the invectives, the dyad ignored the wise red man of the forest and continued.

            “You wildebeests always go around in groups, never content to enjoy a minute of solitude. Even right now, from so far away, I can hear the bellows of your beastly brethren! And you know what they say—if you can’t ever be alone, perhaps you’re in bad company.”

            “Hmph, that’s rich coming from a loner like you. No one ever spends time with you, and it’s no wonder. With a mouth like that, only ants’ll keep you company, and even them, you gobble up! Alongside termites and soft-bodied grubs of course, you lousy slob—”

            “Now that’s quite enough,” called out the orangutan in a rolling, guttural roar. “I spend time both alone and with others, and each has its own merits. One of you likes the one, and the other, the other. Let’s all be as we were earlier.”

            “You’re nothing but a boar and a buffalo mixed together,” the anteater spitefully sneered, “hybridized by chance mutation, and cursed to forever look down, as some of the tribes teach. Perhaps that’s why you all stampede mindlessly, destroying everything in your wake without a second thought.”

            “I’m surprised at your energy for rudeness, considering your kind are known for their lethargy, spending the majority of the day sleeping like sloths, or trudging around sluggishly as if intoxicated, case in point. But perhaps nosiness is your calling, in more ways than one. And anyways, those same tribes rarely use you as protection animals, in view of your many undesirable traits, unlike us, for whom whole totems and masks have been carved.”

            “How convenient of you to leave out why the shaman ever worshipped us in the first place! For our inner senses, and oneness with all of nature’s beings—”

            “Except for me, it seems—”

            “Friends, friends,” the orangutan interrupted again, this time with a kiss squeak, “it is said that anteaters constantly search for some deeper thing, but so rich is their insight that they do quite well on their own, while the wildebeest has such strong familial bonds, that they courageously trek together unreasonable distances, just to find greener grass. And though they may run from danger more often than not, so close and protective are they of one another, that they are willing to fight when necessary, and so were named wild-beast for a reason—”

            “You can say that again,” the anteater scoffed.

            “We’re not so dissimilar,” the wildebeest shot back. “In fact, your crooked probiscis curves just like my horizontal horns!”

            “More like the crick in your neck.”

            “These two are hopeless,” murmured the orangutan as it swung away from its branch over to a quieter locale.

            Louder and louder, the anteater and wildebeest quarreled, until at last, a pair of predatory cats popped out the bush and ate them both.