The Bird and the Crocodile
“I'm bored”, said the crocodile to the centipede. “Here I am, in the only place in this wretched desert that has
any water left and there’s no one around. I don’t understand. Where is everybody? You are the first living creature I’ve seen for absolute ages. I'm so bored, that I have decided not to eat you. I'd much rather talk to you for a
while.” "Oh, thanks, but no thanks,” breezed the centipede and hurried away.
Two weeks passed, during which the crocodile didn’t encounter another soul. Boredom and the pain of having been
snubbed began to make way to anger and frustration and on top of that he began to feel hungry. Then, one day out
of the blue, along came a desert rat. "I'm bored, said the crocodile, "I met a centipede a while ago and I told him I wouldn’t eat him, because I wanted to talk to him, but he went away, which was very annoying. So, I am going to eat you instead." The big jaws of the crocodile snapped open, and before the desert rat could say no, he had
disappeared inside the crocodile's mouth. "Hm, I feel better now,” the crocodile
thought, as he lay basking in the morning sun that day. But that day passed, and in the days that followed, the crocodile became more and more bored and frustrated, as he pondered over what fun he might have had, had he not eaten the desert rat. Besides he was beginning to feel a little paranoid because he
started to wonder whether somehow word had got round that he had eaten the desert rat and that’s why no one wanted to come near.
Every day he would spend the morning warming himself in the sun and in the afternoon slide back into what was
left of his watering hole, by now a black, stinking, murky bed of mud. Where he
lived, it only rained once a year. When it rained, it rained a lot and what was
dry desert for most of the year, would turn into luscious grassland, and his watering hole would become part of
a river that wound it's way through the flat countryside. For a few weeks
the place would be teeming with life – and then of course there was the great
migration of wildebeest, his staple diet. But the rain was a long way away and
no one, it seemed came his way if they could help it at all.
One day the crocodile was so bored
that he decided, there was no point in doing anything at all, so he just lay
there, in the middle of the baking pool of mud. "What's the point even of breathing", he thought
and sighed a crocodile's sigh which sounds a bit like someone dropping a bag of marbles on the floor.
"That sounded like someone dropping a bag of marbles on the floor", a voice behind him chuckled. Stunned, the
crocodile lifted his head and saw a small, black and white bird, balancing
elegantly on a small rock at the edge of the water hole. "Have you eaten
recently? " the bird said after he had sharpened his beak on the smooth rock.
"What's it to you", the crocodile snapped.
"Obviously not, I can tell. I only asked,
because I was going to offer to clean your teeth for you. But if there's nothing
"I ate a desert rat about..oh I don't know, a long time ago. But anyway, I'm not that hungry yet, I ate a whole
buffalo last summer"
"A whole buffalo! I'm impressed!"
The crocodile was warming towards the bird.
"It's not a big deal", he said, trying to sound modest.
"You ate a whole wildebeest? On your own?"
"Of course I ate it on my own. Do you see anyone else around here?
I can assure you with absolute certainty, that
there is no one here except me, well, and you, at the moment."
"So, where are your brothers and sisters?"
"What brothers and sisters? I don't have any"
"Oh. You must be quite bored with no one around"
If crocodiles could kiss, the bird would at this point have received a big, wet, sloshy one, but as perfect as they
are, this is something they haven't learnt how to do yet, so instead, he sighed
again, this time with pleasure.
"Yes, yes, yes", he said emphasizing each yes with a vigorous nodding of his head.
"I cannot tell you, how bored I have been over these last few months. Bored to tears...Here I am, everyone
thinks I am perfect, I've even been on television, and everyone was really
impressed with me, but that was ages ago. What they seemed to admire in me most,
is that I only really need one big meal a year...I am efficient..That's what
they say. I say..they don't know how boring it makes my life..Can you imagine?
One meal a year. How often do you eat, eh? At least once a day! Am I right?
You're lucky. You've got things to do, places to go...My kind have survived
fires, floods, comets, ice ages, and for what? So that I should lie here, in my
stinking mud hole, with nothing to do, no one to talk to? It's just not fair!"
The bird nodded gravely. "Yes, I understand, of course. It is strange that you are alone here though, without any
of your family. You must have, or have had some family. Do you know what
happened to them?"
Crocodiles don't have a very good memory, which may be part of the reason why they have survived
for so long, but this is only supposition. And the crocodile found, he
simply couldn't remember, which made him miserable all over again.
"I don't know. Ok? All I know is, I'm here by myself as long as I
can remember, and I don't like it!"
"Of course you don't" said the bird reassuringly. I suggest you go to the CEA."
"CEA? What's that?"
The department for "Complaints and Enquiries for Animals"
"Never heard of them"
"They don't like to advertise themselves, for obvious reasons."
The crocodile looked puzzled.
"Otherwise everybody would complain. Even just for the hell of it."
"So, how did you you find out about them?"
"I get around." The bird clicked his beak mysteriously. "As a matter of fact, I complained to them
Now it was the bird's turn to sigh, except his sigh sounded a bit like falling leaves.
"I wanted to change my name. I am often called...", and here the bird made a small pause, "I'm often called 'spur
winged plover',"..The crocodile burst out laughing, which sounded a bit like
someone trying to start a motorbike.
"..... and it has always irked me", the bird continued patiently. " I don't mind the 'spur winged', it's the 'plover' I
object to. It just sounds ridiculous and I don't feel it suits me. I just wanted
them to take the 'p' away, to make it into 'lover...". The bird fell silent.
"So," the crocodile said impatiently, after he had recovered, "what happened?"
"Request denied. It wasn't important enough."
"Spur winged plover...plover.." The crocodile made no secret of thinking it was a very funny name.
"You are proving my point" the bird said curtly. "But I've got used to it now. It's only a 'p', after all. Without
it, my life would be a totally different story of course.... But I guess I've learnt to live wit it."
"It's hardly as important as my complaint", said the crocodile coolly.
"No, I suppose it isn't. Well, on the surface..."
"So, how do I get in touch with the CEA..?" The crocodile was in no mood to get into a
"Well, first of all, you have to write to them..."
"So, you have the address?"
"There is no address"
"No address? How can you...
"There is a post box"
"A post box?"
"Yes. There aren't many who know about it..."
"Is it far from here?"
"About two days flight from here"
"Oh, but that's far. And I can't fly. Will you take a letter for me?"
The bird shook his head. "No, I'm afraid, I can't"
"But why not?"
"It has to be posted in person. The way they look at it, if you can't be bothered to post it yourself, the complaint
can't be very important in the first place."
"But it's not my fault, that I live so far away"
"It doesn't matter. There are those who live even further away than you.
"Yes, but they can run fast, or they can fly..It's not fair!"
"Maybe not, but that's the way it is"
"But how will they know anyway? Surely you could just slip the letter in and nobody would be any wiser.."
"They will know, believe me."
The crocodile sighed. "But how will I get there? I need water, otherwise I get too hot in the heat..."
"I suppose you will have to wait for the rainy season"
"But that's at least another month away"
"It's not a long time"
"Long enough", the crocodile muttered. But he realised, that the bird was right. It was the only way. Once
the rain started, he could swim the up or down the river. There would also be
the herds of buffalo, and a good hearty meal before a long journey was surely
"Then stay with me until then""I can't. I need to find food. There is nothing around here."
"Then promise me you will come back" There was desperation in the crocodile's voice. "Promise me!"
"I'll do my best"
"No, that's not good enough. You have to come back. You have to!"
The bird sighed. "Alright. I promise you, I'll come back. You'd never find the post box without me, I suppose."
"And there's another thing".
"I...I can't write
"You can't write?" The bird sounded genuinely surprised.
"How am I supposed to know how to write, when nobody taught me? You have to help me write the letter.
"We will write the letter together, when I come back. It won't take very long, because you are not allowed more than
ten words, anyway." The bird perched on the edge of the rock, ready to take off.
"Only ten words? But that's not enough...Where are you going?" the crocodile shouted after the bird who was
swooping up into the air.
"It will have to be. Think carefully what you want to say," the bird shouted back and then, suddenly,
turned into a shadow in the shimmering light of the