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([personal profile] mskala Apr. 16th, 2009 09:01 am)
[The is a re-posting of a story I wrote in 2004 and to which I keep coming back. It has already appeared in several other venues; the long-term archive location for it is on my Web site.]

One day the Fox met the Bunny, eating grass at the edge of a big field. "Hey," he said, for no particular reason, "let's race to the other side of this field." "Okay," said the Bunny. So she hopped and he ran, and the Fox made it across the field just a little bit ahead of the Bunny. "I win!" he said, and went on his way. "Bye!" called the Bunny happily, and went back to eating grass. The Turtle had been watching them, and he said, "I want to do that, too."

So the Turtle asked the Bunny to race against him. But, he said, he knew that he was much slower and couldn't possibly win right then. He'd need some time to practice and train first. They made a date for a month later, to race around the pond to the other side, and the Turtle immediately went into training. He ran laps around the pond every morning before breakfast; he worked out in the gym; and he followed a special racing diet.

Now, everybody loved the Turtle and wanted him to be pleased. They admired his intelligence, his good nature, and his swimming skills. So his friends tried to give him good advice. The Snail said, "I know you have a reputation for being a slow animal, but I'm even slower. There's no way I could ever win a race against the Bunny myself, but here's the training program I follow to make the best of my own abilities. Maybe it'll give you some ideas, so that you'll actually have a chance of winning." The Turtle said, "Thank you! I know you love me and want me to be pleased. Many of these ideas aren't really applicable to me because my body is constructed very differently from yours, but I'll use the ones I can."

The Owl said, "The reason we're all such good friends is because of our differences, which make us strong. It would be a boring and silly world if we were all fluffy Bunnies. You can never run as fast as the Bunny, but that's OK; you are a valuable and important person anyway, for other reasons. Why don't you just train to improve your personal best time?" The Turtle said, "Thank you! I know you love me and want me to be pleased. I've been plotting my times on this chart, and you're right that it's nice to see how I've improved. But I really want to win against the Bunny at the end of the month, so I'm going to train as hard as I possibly can."

The Fox said, "You know, you're a very strong swimmer. In fact, you're the volunteer lifeguard for the pond. The rules of the race don't say that you have to run on land, you just have to get to the finish line first. Rather than using your weakest skill, you should win the race by doing what you're good at: swim across the pond to the other side." The Turtle said, "Thank you! I know you love me and want me to be pleased. I know I'm a good swimmer, and much better at swimming than the Bunny, or anyone else. In fact, last Summer I had to rescue the Bunny three times because the practical-joking Snake kept telling her there were carrots growing on the island in the middle of the pond, and she'd try to swim there and get all soggy and run out of energy halfway across. But it wouldn't be a challenge or meaningful if I won the race that way. I want to learn to run fast, like you."

So, the day came for the race. The Turtle and the Bunny took their positions at the starting line, and the starting gun went off, and the Turtle ran as fast as he could. The Bunny said, "I wonder why the Turtle thinks this is so important? I don't. All I care about is eating grass and carrots and having sex with boy bunnies. Maybe if I were as smart as the Turtle I'd understand, but I'm just a fluffy Bunny. All I know is that he wants to win the race, and I love him and want him to be pleased. It's up to me." So she hopped very slowly - slower even than the Snail - and the Turtle was much faster, and crossed the finish line first. All the other animals were waiting there, cheering for the Turtle, and they awarded him a trophy for winning the race.

The Frog, who was a television reporter, had brought his camera crew, and he interviewed the Turtle immediately afterwards. "How does it feel," asked the Frog, "to have achieved your dream of winning the race against the Bunny?" The Turtle burst into tears. "I'm very grateful," he said, "for all my wonderful friends who love me and want me to be pleased."
.

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