William C. Blome
Faux Fable: The Braided Lion

Not long ago, there was a lion in Uganda whose earliest and enduring dream was to swim across the Rouge River in Detroit. The lion knew, of course, his first task would have to be to leave Africa and find transportation to Michigan. So while he kept practicing his best strokes in several local streams and rivers, he grew saturnine many a night when he pondered his lack of progress — his lack of direction, really — in finding a way to get to Detroit. His sadness was real and palpable enough that if you spread your hand across the long and flattened grass beneath where the lion rested its head, you would have found it wet with tears.

It was in early afternoon during a day in the dry season that a beetle chanced to crawl into the lion's ear, and he overheard the lion having his dream. So vivid were the lion's thoughts that, at first, the beetle scurried out of his head when he heard the loud sounds of barge traffic and rushing, laughing water, but the beetle soon came to understand that these were sounds of the imagined Rouge River in Detroit, and the beetle came to know, of course, that they came from — nay, they defined — the lion's dream.

It also didn't take long for the beetle to hear that other watery sound, the lion's tears dropping on the grass, and it didn't take very long for the beetle to see the flash of potential for a terrific opportunity. If he could map out and propose a plan for both the lion and him to get to Detroit, he could feast forever on all the exotic leaves and flowers he just knew were there, growing on both banks of the Rouge.

Now it also wasn't lost on the beetle that a somewhat ironic first step would be necessary in order for him to devise a successful exit and travel strategy for the lion and himself: because the lion's dream voice was so loud and plaintive, he, a mere beetle, was going to have to vacate the lion's head in order to find the solitude necessary to evoke and sustain serious thought. And while he didn't doubt for a moment his ability to easily locate this particular lion again, to be on the safe side, he tied a bunch of knots in the hair surrounding the lion's ears as special markers of identification.

So the beetle flew off to rest and ponder things beneath the branches of a great banyan tree. He no sooner landed than dark storm clouds overhead opened up, and the splatter of the falling rain put him in exactly the right frame of mind to think about the Rouge River and to find a way for him and the lion to get to Detroit. With no more time that it took for the cloudburst to pass and sharply-defined shadows to appear again on the ground around him, the beetle's plan took shape. He would first stuff himself with food and then fly on his own to Entebbe International Airport in Kampala. From there, he would patiently bide his time until the moment was ripe for crawling into the pocket of a traveler bound for America. He reasoned he could repeat this scenario as many times as he had to until the wonderful day came when he'd lift off on his own wings from Wayne County Airport in Detroit and finally alight on one side or the other of the nearby Rouge River.

To the beetle's great credit, he remained under the tree for several more hours, trying to find a way to include the lion in his plan. But try as he did, he came to the sad conclusion that there was no way the large lion could be part of his plan. The beetle grew truly sad, and his heart became so heavy he began to doubt if he'd ever fly anywhere again. But then, like the sunlight and shadows around him following the rain, another idea finally came to the beetle, and his future seemed bright once more.

He modified and expanded his plan so that after he'd tasted his fill and gorged himself on all the wonderful plants growing on both banks of the Rouge, he'd repeat all his previous actions, only this time in reverse, so that eventually he'd wind up back in Uganda. He'd locate the braided lion, and he'd immediately tell him about how he himself had recently been in Detroit and how he'd marched and crawled and flown about, trying to find something to eat on either side of the filthy Rouge River, and that he'd discovered absolutely nothing there — zero — worth eating, drinking, or swimming for.

Moral: Once a dream gets stolen, it's not worth having anymore.