Funny stories in under 500 words.

Aesop's Conspiracy

This retelling of the Tortoise and Hare fable was written by Kael Moffat, who lives in Olympia, WA with his wife and children and works as an academic librarian. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, jazz/funk drumming, and taking photographs. Previous work has appeared in The Transnational, Dark Matter, Flint Hills Review, and other literary journals.
After sixty years, the tortoise’s conscience finally broke like a prisoner of war in a dank prison cell, so she called a press conference. "It is with great shame that I crawl before you today." Journalists from all over the world and from every kingdom and phylum scribbled in their notebooks or on their iPads or pointed their voice recorders at her.

"I conspired with Aesop to prevent the hare from winning the race," she said even slower than normal. She explained how they had tainted a bunch of carrots with banned substances, a barbiturate made from thistles and a stimulant made from rare wild grasses. The plan was to make the Hare so fast that he would wear himself out and then rest longer than normal. "That’s how I won the race."

The reporters had dozens of questions, of course. "Why didn’t you use any snake venom?" an adder shouted. "Don’t you realize that millions of us are unemployed and hunted because of bad press?" A bear from Germany asked whether the fixed race had affected the exchange rate. A flea asked whether any insects had been harmed in the preparation of the banned substances.

The tortoise answered each question with candor and grace. "I am so ashamed that me and my grandchildren hide our heads in our shells an average of 2.3 three hours a week more than other members of our subspecies, according to research."

An owl from Italy complemented the Tortoise for her courage in admitting her guilt.

Just as the junket was wrapping up, a matriarchal African elephant trundled to the podium. "My friends, I was told by the hare himself that he had also acted in concert with Aesop." She explained that the hare had developed an anxiety disorder after being hounded by the press after winning so many races that he and Aesop devised a plan to let the tortoise win, allowing him to escape the limelight. "Aesop was compensated handsomely by both parties."

The reporters were naturally shocked again.

"Of course, the tortoise is lying about the substances," the elephant continued. "The thistle concoction was prepared at such a high concentration that months later the hare developed internal bleeding that eventually caused him to slip into a coma and die lonely and dishonored."

Because it was the elephant telling the story, nobody doubted her and a scorpion from Crete rushed forward and delivered a painful, but not fatal, sting to the tortoise’s front left foot, while two wasps darted down and stung her eyes.

When the news finally reached the human world, there was such an uproar that university students burst into libraries and yanked books of fables from shelves to burn them. But, of course, the damage had already been done and Aesop’s reputation for wisdom survived intact and unquestioned. Eventually, the hobling blind tortoise was given a lucrative book deal for a tell-all memoir and the accompanying film rights.




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