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THE EAGLE

    Once a bald eagle found itself turned into a gas-filled parade blimp.
    Anyone who had ever seen the eagle glide along mountain cliffs or sweep low over blue waters wouldn’t have recognized the great bird. Its mighty wings, that used to work magic with the wind, had been rendered lifeless and stiff. Rather than stretching out in full embrace of the sky, they looked as though the eagle had been shot and then nailed up like a trophy against it. The snowy head feathers now glittered with a garish, metallic, sprayed-on sheen, while the rest of its plumage was nearly invisible beneath a thick layer of corporate logos announcing its proud sponsors. 
    What need did the eagle have for wings or feathers in its current state, though? It wasn’t flying anywhere. Instead, it was being towed down the parade route on taut lines by an assembly of clowns decked out in patriotic garb. The clowns were preceded and followed by high-stepping cheerleader squads, and the squads by ranks of politicians marching shoulder to shoulder and sidewalk to sidewalk, their knees moving up and down in perfect accord. And what need did the eagle still have for its famously sharp vision either, when all it could see for blocks and blocks were the bobbing rumps of cartoon blowups that parade planners had decided should go ahead of it?
    Yet just when it seemed the eagle might have to spend the rest of its days being pulled around the country from crowded avenues to small-town kiddie fairs, a startling incident took place. Although there were any number of contingency plans for accidental leaks, terrorist attacks, liability claims and what have you, nobody seemed to have anticipated what actually occurred: the eagle took off. 
    A sudden updraft had caught it, snapping lines right and left and pulling many of the clowns (together with those cheerleaders and politicians who had instinctively clutched at any loose tethers) kicking and shouting for all they were worth into thin air. The crowd, agog at the wild gyrations above them, turned a million camcorders skyward with thoughts of selling video clips to the highest bidder at the networks or at least having something to contribute to the “Disasters of the Year in Living Color” exhibitions so popular of late.  
    As it sailed upward through the walled canyons of the city, the eagle looked into the windows of the offices and apartments it was passing and saw rows of faces staring back in surprise, consternation, or downright horror. Clearly, they were witnessing something that none of the promotional lead-up to the parade had readied them for. The danger of this kind of mishap simply hadn’t occurred to anyone in a position of responsibility, it would appear.
    But was it the gas-filled eagle that caused these expressions of dismay, or was it the sight of all those clowns and cheerleaders and politicians still clinging to the ends of their tethers as if their very existence depended on it?