“It’s going to be a tricky Town Hall this time”, he whispered, scuttling a bit to keep up with the Giraffe.
“Hmoo”, sounded the Giraffe. If in agreement, the Crab was pleased, but one could never tell with the Giraffe. It was as if he lived at a completely different level, sometimes. The Crab did not mind. He had sowed the seed of doubt, and had many other representatives to cover before the big meeting began.
It was unusual, this Town Hall. Held every year to mark the autumnal big moon, this time they had been called early, in Spring. They all knew why, for the whispers had traveled fast and wide. So many of them had even begun to spread their wings, ride on the winds they had thought lost to them. This is alway why this gathering was special. After many centuries, it was actually in a town. For years, decades certainly, the Town Hall had be be held in smaller and smaller locations, hidden away from man. As jungles receded, it became more and more difficult to convene without the two legged ones finding out.
They could not be included. The Elders had agreed on that many many hundreds of years ago. They had made that mistake once, and more than once. Each time the two legged ones came back with gifts, and appeasements, and the Elders, some easily pleased with a bit of bread, or cheese, or a shiny object, gave way. Each time they gave way, they had to give more and more, till they found that they had no home left. Their beautiful grottos were turned into shiny flat boxes, rivers that lulled lovers, birds and the bees, deer and geese, and even bigger beasts were now lost somewhere deep underground. No trace of them remained, except in the stories of Elephants, who we all knew were the keepers of memories. Elephants remembered the old ways, the old paths, and the old tales. Why, they could even take to to the spot where the lions kissed, or, indeed to the little nook where a rainbow had met….oh why should I tell you the story, it’s theirs to tell. Let’s just say, that only the Elephants know the true story of the Unicorn.
The Elephants were here too. The Council of Elders always had an Elephant, and they always traveled with their massive families. This made Town Halls so much fun, for while the Elders held their conclaves, the other Elephants told their stories. Everyone gathered for their stories, the squirrels, the geese, the snakes, rabbits, deer, and even tigers. Some of the stories were new, for the Elephants covered great distances in their travels, and brought news from far corners of the world. But so many of the stories were old, ancient even, and all the animals loved to hear it again and again. The stories never really changed, but ever so often, a question from the gathered audience made the Elephants tweak the story a little bit, or add a little bit. So that every thing that seemed odd in the original story, now had a plausible back story to it. After all these years, no one remembered which ones were the real stories, and which ones were the made up bits, but they all agreed that these stories were from their past, and that they told them about themselves, and everyone was happy with this story about the stories.
All except the crabs. And maybe the hyenas, but talking about them like that was not allowed any more. They were troublemakers, everyone knew that. But of course, not all of them. It wasn’t good to brand every species based on the behaviour of a few. We all knew that.
As did the Giraffe, as he sounded his “Hmoo”, acknowledging the crab, and his gossip. He did so want to hear the gossip, for we all knew that crabs always had the best gossip, and they managed to twist it in the most delightful of ways. But he also knew that his partner would disapprove, if she heard that he had given in to crab gossip. In any case, it wasn’t very easy for him to hear the crab, the distance between them was too much. He walked on, at his ambling pace, towards the Town Hall, ignoring the crab full of tales, and wished for an Elephant for company. So much easier to amble with one who was at the same level. And liked to browse on the same things, pause at the same spots, and chew the cud in comfortable shared silence.
The crab, of course was not going to be silenced. He had found a bigger audience. It wasn’t that difficult, since all of them were headed to the same Town Hall, and it wasn’t far. The crab soon found himself surrounded by all sorts of animals, and the air was full of chatter of so many species, that he was in a state of delight. He joined in, and told as many stories as he heard, happily scuttling from one group to the next. So many of them did, the nosy squirrels, the clever rats and of course the eternal cockroaches. They all moved forward as one, and someone watching them from a distance might have thought that there was a multipatterened carpet on the forest floor that moved and heaved. And hummed, for their gossip may be wordless, as we humans understand the word word, but it did have a distinct hum. The crab listened to the hum, and the hum told him all the stories he needed to hear. And what he heard made his eyes glitter. For this gossip was like treasure found, and it seemed to be happening everywhere.
“What news have you brought, Crab?”, asked the booming voice. “Is it true what they say?”
“I hear it everywhere, sire”, replied the crab. “It is the same story everywhere. All the animals from all over the world say the same thing”
“Then, we have won, and they have lost.” The loud voice sounded unsure of the win, and Crab knew then, that he was speaking to a wise Lord.
“I would not declare a victory yet, my Lord”, he added the deferential phrase. The rewards for the news had not been negotiated, and like every freelancer, he knew that you could not be sure of anything till you had been paid in full. And the more you suck up, the more you could believe that you would be paid, eventually. Lions, particularly, had their pride.
“Hmm. You are right, little scuttle”, grooshed the Lion, his normally boomy voice down to a whisper now. “We must be prepared, and prepare we will, another day.”
“Today, we take the town!”, he boomed. The roar echoed through the cave, and it’s rumble was heard far and wide.
The animals, they heard it, and looked at each other, their eyes smiling, for all of them did not have mouths, and it wasn’t easy to smile if you had a beak.
“The King of the Jungle has spoken!,” they cried out. “The towns are ours”, echoed the others.
“Men have gone!”, cried out the elders, in wonder.
“The towns are ours”, echoed the others.
“To the TownHall!”, called out the young ones.
“The Towns are ours!”, they all cried out!
And this is why, dear fellow humans, you may have seen the videos of animals taking over the towns, marching through the streets, as fast as their joy would take them.