Humor Fiction posted December 1, 2017

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Reality-checking Aesop

Tortoise and Hare Redux

by Mark Valentine

“And so the moral of the story is that the race goes not always to the swiftest, but rather to the consistent. Slow and steady wins the race.” Having finished his story, the tortoise looked out over his congregation to make sure his listeners had grasped the lesson. “Are there any questions?”

“Yeah”, replied a hare from the back of the crowd, “Are you stupid? The swiftest, by definition, wins the race. That’s how races work – the creature with the fastest time wins. Always. There are no style points in track and field. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Bolt. I know you just set a world record in the 100, but the guy from Portugal had a nice slow, even pace so I think we’ll give him the gold medal.' That’s not how it’s done.”

Many in the crowd nodded in agreement. “Yes, the long-eared mammal makes a good point. I have noticed that fast creatures tend to win races against slow creatures. I guess it’s because they’re…well, for lack of a better word, faster.”

The tortoise seemed a bit frustrated. He was losing some of the crowd.

“You’re missing the point”, insisted the tortoise. “I know that Usain Bolt seems fast, but isn’t it better to be slow and steady?”

The hare shook his head in disbelief. “What part of this aren't you understanding? When it comes to racing, slow is bad. Look, Mr. Tortoise, I’m sure you have many nice qualities. You’ve got a nice mobile home on your back, you have an incredibly long lifespan, I’m told you taste wonderful in a soup, but speed is not one of your assets,” the hare explained, before adding, “and I’m not sure logic is either.”

“Well, perhaps you and I should put my theory to the test. How about a race? 100 meters. Right here, right now!”

The hare just shook his head at the tortoise’s challenge. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“What’s the matter – sc-hared?  Hey, see what I did there everybody? By inserting his name into my challenge, I made it into a pun, thereby accentuating the mockery aspect of it.”

“Yeah, I think they get it,” the hare said with an exasperated sigh. “Okay, I guess we’re doing this.”

As luck would have it, they were standing right next to a state-of-the-art, 400-meter, tartan track. The onlookers stretched a tape across the 100-meter mark. The contestants took their positions. Harry, the chimp, being one of the few in the crowd with opposable thumbs, fired the starter’s pistol.

The tortoise covered the first four centimeters in one second. The second four centimeters also took one second. Same for the third, fourth, fifth, and so on. The race was going exactly as he had planned. At the ten second mark, he had covered exactly 40 centimeters, or 1/250 of the race.

Unfortunately for him, the hare finished in 9.41 seconds, shaving .17 seconds off Usain Bolt’s world record time, and beating the tortoise by 99 and 6/10 meters. It was the biggest rout in track and field history.

“Let’s do it again,” challenged the tortoise, “or are you sc-hared of a rematch?”

“First of all, the ‘sc-hared’ thing wasn’t funny the first time. Secondly, there’s no point in racing again. If we raced a hundred times, I would beat you a hundred times.”

The tortoise was undeterred. “Well, of course you won the sprint. I’m more of a marathon guy. How about we do 26.2 miles? Right now? Or are you sc-h…”


The hare knew that a marathon might be the only way to put an end to the madness. They caught a red-eye into O’Hare, making it to Grant Park just in time for the start of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Again, the two contestants approached the starting line. Again, the pistol fired, and again, the hare held a 99.6 meter lead after 100 meters.

But then something changed.

The hare stopped and rested, while the tortoise plodded on – slow and steady. Soon, the tortoise had covered an entire meter, while the hare remained at the 100 meter point. After another twenty-five seconds, the tortoise had covered a second meter. The hare continued to rest at the 100 meter mark. The hare joked with his friends and munched on alfalfa sprouts.

“Whoa, better look out, hare, the tortoise is only 98 meters behind you now!” a raccoon warned sarcastically.

“Yeah, I guess I should get going.”

The hare sprinted ahead another 300 meters, then rested some more. He continued this pattern over the next couple of hours, crossing the finish line in a respectable time of 4 hours, 22 minutes, and 13 seconds. That was thirteen years ago. The tortoise never did finish the race. After a few months, he found that he had travelled only about 700 feet. He dropped out of the race and moved to Kentucky where he was elected Senator. Once in Washington DC, where his slowness of foot and of wit was no longer a detriment, he rose (swiftly) through the ranks to become the Senate Majority Leader.

The moral of the story is, people in Kentucky will vote for anybody.


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