Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fables For Our Times # 5

The Crow and the Oriole

James Thurber, from Fables for Our Time. New York, 1940

ONCE UPON a time a crow fell in love with a Baltimore oriole. He. had seen her flying past his nest every spring on her way North and every, autumn on her way, South, and he had decided that she was a tasty dish. He had observed that she came North every year with a different gentleman, but he paid no attention to the fact that all the gentlemen were Baltimore orioles. “Anybody can have that mouse,” he said to himself. So he went to his wife and told her that he was in love with a Baltimore oriole who was as cute as a cuff link. He said he wanted a divorce, so his wife gave him one simply by opening the door and handing him his hat. “Don’t come crying to me when she throws you down,” she said. “That fly-by-season hasn’t got a brain in her head. She can’t cook or sew. Her upper register sounds like a streetcar taking a curve. You can find out in any dictionary that the crow is the smartest and most capable of birds - or was till you became one.” “Tush!” said the male crow. “Pish! You are simply. a jealous woman.” He tossed her a few dollars. “Here,” he said, “go buy yourself some finery. You look like the bottom of an old teakettle.” And off he went to look for the oriole.

This was in the springtime and he met her coming North with an oriole he had never seen before. The crow stopped the female oriole and pleaded his cause—or should we say cawed his pleas? At any rate, he courted her in a harsh, grating voice, which made her laugh merrily. “You sound like an old window shutter,” she said, and she snapped her fingers at him. “I am bigger and stronger than your gentleman friend,” said the crow. “I have a vocabulary larger than his. All the orioles in the country couldn’t even lift the corn I own. I am a fine sentinel and my voice can be heard for miles in case of danger.” “I don’t see how that could interest anybody but another crow,” said the female oriole, and she laughed at him and flew on toward the North. The male oriole tossed the crow some coins. “Here,” he said, “go buy yourself a blazer or something. You look like the bottom of an old coffeepot.”

The crow flew back sadly to his nest, but his wife was not there. He found a note pinned to the front door. “I have gone away with Bert,” it read. “You will find some arsenic in the medicine chest.”

Moral: Even the llama should stick to mamma.

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