Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Turtle's Injustice: A Modern Fable

Once upon a time a turtle was taken to court by a sloth.
The offense in question was one of emotional trauma on the part of the sloth. The case took the forest by storm.

“Your Honor, my client has suffered immeasurable emotional strain to the point of a mental breakdown over a grave injustice,” the Weasel began. “On the afternoon of today one week previous, this turtle was resting in the middle of one of the less-used forest trails while my client was walking down the same said trail to a job interview. My client perceived a rock to be sitting in the middle of the road. A bit perturbed at the obstacle, she mustered the energy to climb over it. However, once she was on top of it, the rock, also known as said turtle, moved. My client was knocked off balance and tumbled to the ground. She spent the next few hours regaining equilibrium on her feet and discerning why a rock would move. She also had to deal with a wave of guilt and fear after she realized that she had almost unknowingly crushed a turtle. The entire ordeal cost her a strenuous amount of time and energy, making her half a day late to her appointment. Upon arrival the desired job had already been given to a baboon. My client was so distressed over these accumulative turns of events that she did not fully have her wits about her on the way home. She fell out of a tree, breaking both her timidia and fibula, which has rendered her physically and emotionally immobile for the next three months. She has fallen victim to a contemptible deception and deserves ample compensation for her losses.”

Halfway through the proceedings the turtle recovered from shock long to enough to say a few words in his defense. He mumbled something or other about the difference in color between turtle shells and rocks as well as typical reactions when an animal is stepped on. But since the stenographer did not hear him (because all legal proceedings have a natural tendency to listen only to the victim) they were not recorded and cannot be written here.

The honorable judge ruled in favor of the sloth. The turtle was required to give monetary compensation to the sloth for all medical bills related to her injury and the projected loss of income at the job she wasn’t able to obtain. Furthermore, another fine was levied to help assuage the duress of the sloth’s indefinite emotional stress. Combined with court costs, the turtle was forced to put his house up for sale the following day. But only after he redid the paint job. In bright yellow letters the shell read, “WARNING! NOT A ROCK!”

The story was widely read in newspapers all over the forest. Soon all turtles were required to paint warnings on the backs of their shells. And the paranoia continued to spread. It was only a matter of time until the porcupines began to wear makeshift protective cases to avoid the liability of accidentally poking someone with their quills. The alligators posted signs outside the swamp warning that all logs may not be as they appear. The neighborhood river was plastered with signs that said, “No otter on duty. Swim at your own risk!” And so on and so forth. Signs continued to be manufactured and posted on every available tree, hole, rock, and water spot until no one could see the forest through all of the billboards. Everyone was afraid of everything to the point that the animals could no longer find enjoyment in daily life activities for the sake of the imagined threat to their homes and livelihoods.

Meanwhile the turtle decided to escape the commotion and move to the beach. He created a makeshift residence right next to the seashore and spent his days sipping lemonade and developing a suntan. He almost lived happily ever after… until the armadillo moved in next-door and filed suit against him for indecent exposure.

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