The Fox and the Low-Hanging Grapes

byStrange77y6th Mar 201234 comments

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One day a clever, itinerant fox came upon a vineyard. Being unfamiliar with the local customs, and not wanting to make a fool of himself, he planted his haunches on a nearby hill and observed.

In the morning of the first day he saw tortoises crawl lazily out of their beds and lean against rocks. At midday he saw tortoises marching out to the vines and chatting among themselves. All afternoon he saw tortoises climb the poles supporting the vines and nibble away at grapes. As the sun set he saw tortoises crawl back to their beds, and with clever eyes in the darkness he saw many low-hanging bunches of grapes left uneaten.

On the first night the fox thought to himself, "Why do the turtles leave without eating the low-hanging fruit?" For he did not yet know that they called themselves tortoises. "Perhaps it's actually sour. No, that's absurd, how could someone possibly tell sour fruit from ripe without tasting it? I'll have to make more observations."

In the morning of the second day the fox saw tortoises crawl lazily out of their beds and lean against rocks. At midday he saw tortoises marching out to the vines and chatting among themselves. All afternoon he saw tortoises climb the poles supporting the vines and nibble away at grapes. As the sun set he saw tortoises crawl back to their beds, and with clever eyes in the darkness he saw many low-hanging bunches of grapes still left uneaten.

On the second night the fox thought to himself, "Ah, of course, the turtles simply can't reach those grapes! That's why they lean against the rocks, to slowly move them into place as ladders. I can't see the progress they've made, of course, because I've only been here two days and turtles necessarily plan for the longer term. To justify such effort, the low-hanging grapes must be very sweet indeed."

In the morning of the third day the fox saw tortoises crawl lazily out of their beds and lean against rocks. At midday he saw tortoises marching out to the vines and chatting among themselves. At this point his hunger got the better of him, and he ran out to greet them and present various clever schemes by which he could help the turtles (for now he had been properly introduced) harvest the low-hanging grapes in a more timely fashion, in exchange for a modest share of the proceeds. The turtles had no interest in any such plan, and were for the most part befuddled by this fuzzy red stranger darting among them at incomprehensible speeds. By afternoon an agreement had been hammered out: the fox would be allowed to harvest and eat as many low-hanging grapes as he cared to, in exchange for which he would stop talking so fast and confusing them all with his disregard for traditional methods.

On the third night the fox thought to himself, "I don't really enjoy taking advantage of these poor turtles, but I suppose it's their just desserts for being so caught up in... aaugh, my stomach! Why does it hurt so much?"

In the morning of the fourth day the tortoises crawled lazily out of their beds and leaned against the immovable rocks to let the sun warm their blood. At midday the tortoises marched out to the vines and chatted among themselves.

"I'd always heard that foxes were clever."

 

"Yes, and dishonorable besides. Maybe that one was just an exception?"

"Maybe the rumors got it completely backwards."

"I dunno, diarrhea is at least a little bit dishonorable."

"You sure? He got rid of those hard-to-reach sour grapes for us, and returned the biomass to the soil. Kinda gross, but ultimately a valuable service."

"I still think there's more going on here. Some tricky foreigner-fox plan. Why would he eat the low-hanging grapes at all when any fool can see they've turned brown?"

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