THE SABER-TOOTHED CATS
Once a group of saber-toothed cats came upon a tar pit. From the pit’s edge, the cats looked out across the bubbling expanse before them. Half submerged here and there could be seen the rotting carcasses of creatures that had apparently blundered into the pit in the past and been slowly sucked under. Why had these unfortunates waded blindly forward, the cats asked themselves? What could have possessed them to do such a thing? Did they simply lack the mental sharpness of a saber-toothed cat and couldn’t recognize what lay ahead of them? Or had rash hubris led them to believe their strength alone would carry them through? What delusion had made them assume they would arrive at the other side of the pit without mishap when so many others clearly had not? Although they could barely make out the far bank themselves, the cats were confident that it was well within the range of their own leaping abilities. And if they did happen to come down short, their quick reflexes would no doubt allow them to spring away again after barely grazing the surface. If that failed, they could always touch down momentarily on the rotting remains in a corpse-hopping strategy of last resort. There were, to be sure, a few voices that counseled against such a leap, suggesting the cats simply walk around the obstacle and continue on their way. But they were in the clear minority, and their reservations were no match for the full-throated roar of those labeling all doubters “pessimists” or even “defeatists” and insisting there wasn’t the slightest question of clearing the pit safely. “This challenge should be regarded as a test of our mettle,” these dismissive voices insisted. “Not to answer it and fail to show what we’re made of would call into doubt our very standing as ‘a super-breed of cat.’ In that case, the tar pit would have won.” This last declaration had a rousing appeal to it that carried the day. Now neo-convinced of their claim to being “a super-breed of cat,” undeterred by anything in their way, the lot of them drew back from the pit’s edge only far enough to get a good running start and then, led by those who’d been most confident of showing the full power at their disposal, charged forward as one and took a flying leap. The rest of the story doesn’t really need telling, for every schoolchild knows what happened to the saber-toothed cats.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans