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THE JACKALS

    Once the jackals developed attitude.
    They didn’t have to work at it much. They were by nature a testy lot. For years they’d felt their innate talents had been either underappreciated or ignored, and displaying attitude seemed the best way to counter that slight.
    Convinced that natural talent was at the base of their attitude, the jackals were intent on showing they should not be confused with the hyenas, who in fact had no talent whatsoever. The hyenas, as far as the jackals were concerned, merely made a lot of noise in an amateurish bid for attention, apparently persuaded that edgy, in-your-face boorishness was worthy of note in itself.  
    What made the jackals’ attitude more legitimate in their eyes was a gnawing conviction that so many others enjoyed the celebrity they were certain should be theirs instead. Why was A raved about all over the place, they wondered among themselves, and not one of us? How did B get on the cover of People? How did C deserve that big film and book deal just for being in all the gossip columns already? Why was that no-talent D considered an “idol” rather than any jackal in the world? 
    One break was all they asked for. The rest would follow automatically. In the meantime, there was nothing much for the jackals to do but to keep up their morale by praising each other’s unrecognized gifts and ridiculing, with snickers and knowing smiles, those who continued to be famous without really deserving it. On occasion, however, the jackals’ accumulated grievances got the better of them, and they were known to snarl and snap at each other whenever this happened. 	
    Ridicule wasn’t the only course the jackals considered. Some were for the direct approach: snatching the spotlight from those who currently had it by making a public spectacle of themselves and letting the media do the rest. Others urged following even small-time celebs about in hopes of sharing vicariously in their “aura,” getting close and staying alert for a chance to savor, however briefly, what should have been theirs all along.
    Perhaps that explains why, if one looks closely at a photograph of those who are at the center of attention for any reason whatsoever these days, there in the shadowy background can usually be seen a pair of eyes that glow more intensely than the others, watching and waiting. 
    In some photographs, of course, there are many more.