Turmoil in the Island in the Sun: Endless caucus races
Just as he was grateful to the jolly Lady Hippopotamus for dancing with the Star Tortoise, so too the Southern Lion was very grateful that the Mock Turtle had been so kind to the Star Tortoise. And because he did not just dance with him, but also had taught him to graze for himself, the Lion thought the Mock Turtle must be very wise.
But there was no other trace of wisdom for, whenever the Lion spoke, the Mock Turtle simply nodded his long head to agree with whatever he was asked. He agreed with everything the Lion said, though he did not feel this was necessary with the Panthers. But of course he never disagreed with them either. All he did if he thought something was possibly incorrect was todraw his head in and keep silent.
That was what he had done when the Grizzly Bear from Arkansas wanted to talk to him, not understanding that hell had no fury like a Grizzly Bear scorned. And you must understand, Dearly Beloved, that this fury is much worse when the Grizzly Bear is a Lady.
So little by little the Lion lost the friendship of the beasts beyond his kingdom who could have helped him to stay on top of things. And while he had done much for the kingdom while he was fighting the Winged Monkeys, and even for a few years afterwards, for a long time now there had been no improvements in the lives of the animals. And with the Grizzly Bear grunting, and an icy wind blowing from the Himalayas in the North, the animals decided there had to be a change.
But the Lion was old and tired and he did not have the energy to make any changes. Sometimes he wondered if he could reduce the angst the older animals felt by making one of them his principal assistant. He himself knew the assistant he had, a very old Cocker Spaniel he could seat on his lap, was worn out and moth eaten. But he liked the fact that, though the Spaniel could hardly speak, he could pull his tail and get him to squeak when silences were stretching for too long.
He knew that was not enough, but then there was the problem that, while an older animal was what the rest wanted to balance things, both the Mock Turtle and the Pink Panther thought they had done so much for the Lion that they should be chosen. And though he knew neither was much liked, he did not want to upset them.
‘We have a problem,’ he said finally to the Pink Panther, though without mentioning that perhaps the Panther was a problem. ‘The Animals want a change.’
‘Not a problem,’ the Panther said cheerfully. ‘We can have a Caucus race.’
The Lion snorted. ‘We have had lots of Caucus races,’ he said. ‘And the results are always the same. Don’t you think the animals are getting tired of these?’
‘Not at all. They love to see you run. It doesn’t matter who else runs with you. All they want is to see you run faster than the Seethala Kotiya, and you can always do that.
The Lion was flattered, as the Panther knew he would be, so instead of making any changes he decided to have another Caucus race. But you must know, Dearly Beloved, that these Caucus races were special since, though every one was allowed to begin and end where they liked, there was always a winner, and the winner was himself. And when he won the race, he felt the animals would be as thrilled with him as when he had overcome the Winged Monkeys, so he could hold off the need for change.
So he held Caucus races all over the country, and he won every one. Those who ran along with him ran obsequiously a few paces behind, but since he himself was so quick they came to the front long before any other animals. The animals that tried to run on different paths went hopelessly astray, because they followed the Seethala Kotiya from Biyagama and he could not run at all. He would lollop along, his elbows held closely to his sides, and his hands swinging to left and right so that often those following him would stop and gaze mesmerised at him, expecting him to drop jelly babies for them to pick up. But his hands were empty and there were never any jelly babies.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha