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THE BUFFOONS

    Once two troops of lowland buffoons squared off on a patch of ground where the Halls of Congress now stand.
    The dispute involved one of those visceral conflicts over territory and dominance that occur with great regularity, regardless of whether the rivals belong to the ranks of the Greater Buffoons or the Lesser.
    As usual, each of the troops in question was persuaded it alone had supreme right to the area both claimed. And so intent were they on maintaining such claims that the territory actually at issue, though quite small and shrinking all the time, assumed ever-greater importance in their eyes.
    The confrontation itself began as such confrontations regularly do, with a series of ritual feints and gestures that became more pronounced as both troops grew bolder and bolder in asserting their primacy.
    While telling the two sides apart was difficult enough under ordinary circumstances, the sight of each other brought out behavior that made it even more so. And because each troop had a limited repertoire of instinctive moves very much like the other’s, differentiating between these buffoons came down primarily to variations in the color of certain portions of their anatomy, most notably the head and hindquarters. 
    One troop favored blinding shows of red, white, and blue, while the other went in for equally intense exhibitions of the same colors but in slightly altered proportions. As for the rest of the confrontation, it followed the predictable pattern. Alpha buffoons on one side would gesticulate dramatically, curl their lips in studied menace, and make loud grunting noises to the point of near-hyperventilation as the other side covered its eyes and ears. Then the roles would be reversed.
    Neither troop of buffoons appeared to tire of this performance, but after a while both would agree to withdraw and return for another round in the future. And sure enough, there they would all soon be again, adopting the same postures, making the same noises, and displaying the same parts of their anatomy. It was enough to make one wonder whether they’d changed their basic patterns of behavior at all in millennia. 
    Or ever would.