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THE OXEN

    Once Congress moved to outlaw the goring of one’s own ox.
    Two or three oxen lost to the close-quarter perils of a legislative session might be acceptable, but doing the people’s business while having to step around more than just the usual piles left on the floor was becoming difficult. Particularly when it came to making one’s way to the speaker’s well to deliver oneself with soaring oratory to C-SPAN’s camera, three colleagues, and a scattering of congealed tripe.
    What to do was the topic of conversation whenever members tried to pass one another in the corridors, each leading his or her prize ox. Or else being led by it whenever the bell sounded for another vote on raising the budget limit to feed these multi-stomach regulars at the public trough. As time passed, even making it to a vote without a great deal of skating about through the natural outcome of such appetites proved challenging for the handmade shoe and the cloven hoof alike.
    The blocked Senators and Representatives were stymied by the absence among them of a new Hercules who might force the Potomac from its banks and wash out this modern version of the Augean stables. Quite the contrary, the reigning opinion had been that if one ox could make it through to the public trough, then two could and, with a little pushing and shoving, many more, until it wasn’t simply the corridors of the Capitol that were at a standstill but both chambers as well. And when the full Congress assembled for a joint session, the bellowing and stamping of feet silenced even the most impassioned calls for a return to some semblance of order and decorum, not to mention public health. 
    Eventually, however, the inevitable goring began. When it became clear there simply wasn’t enough in the trough any longer to keep every politician’s growing herd of oxen fat and happy, panic set in and the stampede for what remained was on. Constituents and petitioners ran for all they were worth as if at Pamplona, but they were only ancillary victims. The real targets of the deadly horns were any other oxen within reach.
    Police were alerted, the building sealed off, and stumbling staff members evacuated in disarray past jostling, shouting reporters. Inside, the terror continued without pause. From the outside, it might seem like business as usual, but the every-ox-for-itself infighting for a shrinking share of what had always been theirs in abundance laid waste to many that had looked untouchable for years. No one’s ox was safe now that horns were locked and the fray was joined.
    Only when the place was gassed and the Hazmat teams completed their sweep was the full extent of the carnage apparent. By all calculations, the oxen had been reduced from their former herds to only one per Senator and Congressperson. Each of the survivors was given an earmark to identify its owner, with the lot of them counted up at the close of each session to check for any surreptitious increase. By unanimous vote, it was mandated nobody’s ox would be gored again, which made no further action necessary in the eyes of all involved. Under these measures, the people’s representatives could set their minds to carrying on anew with their customary level of deliberation.
    Measuring their step only by the usual piles on the floor once again.