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THE BEACHED WHALE

    Once a whale beached itself in a furniture showroom recliner.
    It happened on a day when crowds of bargain hunters had been drawn to the store by advertisements of once-in-a-lifetime prices. The sales staff, though irritated by the whale’s choice of the most popular item to stretch out in, carried on with business as usual, as if the leviathan weren’t right there in front of them. That was, until the clientele began to complain about the snoring.
    Then the staff took it in turns to creep up and gingerly poke the whale from a safe distance with whatever came to hand, most often a floor lamp or bunk bed ladder.  Throwing pillows was suggested, but the idea was abandoned as not likely to have much effect—to say nothing of reflecting adversely upon the dignity of the store. While pulling the enormous thing off the recliner and back outside was obviously beyond the might of staff and shoppers combined.
    Meanwhile, the whale continued to snore away blithely, almost as though singing to itself. All through the day, with eyelids dancing and a smile lifting the corners of its slack jaw, the whale slipped from one dream to another, finding deeper pleasure in each by turn.
    There were the careless frolics and league upon league of wish fulfillment in every direction, as might be expected of course, plus plenty of blubber-smokin’ sex. But all these delights were soon exhausted without leaving much of a trace on the surface of the whale’s mind.
    By contrast, what began to play an ever-larger part in its slumber were satisfactions of another sort. Shadowy at first but steadily rising from the depths of the unconscious came every scaly, toothed, shelled, or tentacled creature of the sea, their massed forms swelling the whale’s bulk as each snore and snort made room for more in a spreading measure of contentment. 
    The alarm of all who witnessed this nonstop waxing that threatened to pin them to the walls cannot be described, on the other hand. The recliner and most of the rest of the furnishings in the store had long disappeared from sight by now, and still the whale continued to add to its girth. After the bounties of the sea came those of the land and air, as everything that walked or flew or simply stood rooted to the earth was packed away. Soon the sum of existence might roll in the rumbling depths of this single creature’s breath. Its smile broadening all the time.
    What to do? What to do? Would the crowd now trapped in the store by the tumescent whale find themselves reeled into its world like all the rest and lodged, like all the rest, in one flabby fold or another? What an inconceivable turn of affairs. One minute happily shopping away and the next powerless to save yourself from another species’ dreamy self-indulgence! 
    What gave the whale the right to act like nothing mattered but its own wishes and comfort, people demanded to know. Just what!?