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THE CIVET CAT

    Once a civet cat worried about body odor.
    By the end of a long day, it often detected something acrid in the air, something a little “off” in a sticky sort of way, and would begin sniffing here and there to find the source. With all the competing odors that filled the world, from the fragrant to the putrid, it might seem a waste of time to pursue any one of them in particular. But however much it was aware of the vain character of its fixation, that awareness had little restraining effect.
    Besides, no matter how intently it sought to locate the smell on the wind or in fumes rising from one hole in the ground or another, the search ended every time in the civet cat’s turning round and round itself instead. Finally raising a limb and pushing its nose into the hollow next to its body for a whiff, it had to admit that its own smell was what offended it, once again.
    At this moment, the civet cat would invariably crinkle its nose in disgust. Not so much at the odor per se but at the thought it must be apparent to others as well, who, though they might have the good manners to say nothing, would surely be offended to the same extent the civet cat was and recoil with the same disgust. How embarrassing. To think one’s own body could smell as gamey as old meat.
    The only other creatures so concerned about how they smelled, at least so far as the civet cat had observed, were human beings. Whenever they thought nobody was looking, there they were sniffing away and trying to hide whatever unpleasant discoveries they made, looking as if they wanted to escape from themselves at all costs. What was wrong with the way they smelled? In the civet cat’s opinion, they didn’t have much to be ashamed of. Certainly nothing that merited their determination to cover all trace of the natural odors with which life had so generously endowed them by rubbing or spraying on anything they were convinced smelled better.
    The civet cat considered itself rather an authority in this regard. After all, how many times had enterprising types shown up, in their worldwide quest for scents that would make humans come off less ripe, to scrape the odorous glands on the civet cat’s behind? Handsome sums they had long paid for what they got, but was it really worth so much to them to smell like another creature’s rear end? The civet cat lived day and night close enough to its backside to tell any who cared to listen exactly what it smelled like.
    And then, with a sudden amazement that it hadn’t made the connection much sooner, the civet cat wondered if such odd behavior mightn’t be the answer to its seemingly equal obsession with body odor. Perhaps this mutual self-aversion it shared with humans had a mutual remedy as well.
    If only it could catch hold of a human being or two and give them a good scrape to find out.