The Tale of the Snut

Once up­on a time, in a galaxy, far, far away, there lived a small and de­ter­mined band of he­roes who fought evil for rea­sons con­cern­ing Truth, Justice and the American Way. Since Truth and Justice are, at best, sub­jec­tive terms whose de­f­i­n­i­tions change de­pend­ing on who has pow­er and since no one who they fought for [or again­st] had any idea what the American Way was [since this hap­pened else­where a good god­damn long time ago] their tights and capes were prompt­ly con­fis­cat­ed and they were put away. Instead of telling you their sto­ry, I am, in­stead, go­ing to tell you this one.

There was on­ce a snut who lived in the forest. This was a good place for a snut to live be­cause the fa­vorite food of a snut is the root-tip of the fab­u­lous fug­wup tree. The snut looked like a very small tapir; if you can imag­ine a tapir around the size of a shih tzu, and had soft and sub­tly var­ie­gat­ed fur and was lone­ly. Snuts are typ­i­cal­ly soli­tary crea­tures, but they must come to­geth­er to breed and they typ­i­cal­ly stay to­geth­er un­til their young is raised. It had been so long since this snut had seen a fel­low snut that it was be­gin­ning to de­spair ever find­ing one again.

In fact, the forest wasn’t as fun as it used to be. The fug­wup trees were get­ting hard­er to find and when the snut did come across one, it was of­ten sick­ly and its roots tast­ed bit­ter. The snut had even tried eat­ing the berries of the graz bush when fug­wups were par­tic­u­lar­ly scarce, but they gave the snut a belly­ache and made it dizzy. Even the oth­er forest an­i­mals seemed more sub­dued, the snut heard few­er birds and the few an­i­mals it came across looked at him odd­ly. There were of­ten vi­o­lent and alien sounds to be heard in the dis­tant parts of the forest. One day the snut even ac­ci­dent­ly ran in to its most fear­some preda­tor, the kata. The kata didn’t eat the snut, how­ev­er. Instead, she gave it a pitied look, took a deep breath, turned and dis­ap­peared in­to the near­est graz bush.

The snut was shocked at this be­hav­ior, but still great­ly re­lieved. It even ab­sent­mind­ed­ly ate some grazber­ries in its be­muse­ment. The snut had run in to this be­hav­ior be­fore, al­most as if the oth­er an­i­mals knew some­thing about its kind which the snut wasn’t aware. As it moved off in­to the evening, the snut crossed a stream, went down a hill, rolled in some par­tic­u­lar­ly nice leaf mold and crossed some­thing new to its ex­pe­ri­ence. A hard black river that hurt its feet. All of the­se strange and ex­cit­ing events had briefly made the snut for­get how lone­ly it was, but af­ter cross­ing the black river the im­mense soli­tude came rush­ing back.

The snut want­ed a mate; it wasn’t as young as it used to be and it felt an ur­gent need to make its mark be­fore it be­came com­plete­ly un­at­trac­tive to oth­er snuts. This was the right time of year to come across oth­er snuts, the breed­ing sea­son, but in all of last year it had on­ly come across three oth­er snuts. A fam­i­ly to be ex­act, a snoot a snout and a snit. They had come up to the snut and snuf­fled it be­fore mov­ing off in­to the forest.

While re­call­ing all of this, the snut had be­come quite phys­i­cal­ly ill from the grazber­ries it had eat­en ear­lier and quite men­tal­ly ill from the trau­ma of lone­li­ness. The snut’s eyes were wa­ter­ing heav­i­ly and it coughed up a bit a graz juice and stum­bled again­st a tree. It hadn’t seen a healthy fug­wup tree in just about as long as it hadn’t seen an­oth­er snut. Once the ma­jor­i­ty of the dizzi­ness had worn off it tot­tered for­ward to­ward a clear­ing. Life wasn’t all bad. The weath­er was the same and the snut rev­eled in the rain­wa­ter that washed its fur, and the dirt smelled the same and the snut loved to feel it be­tween its feet. It still found joy in its life.

There was a sud­den, sharp pain in the snut’s hind leg, the world spun and the last snut felt it­self lift­ed in­to the sky. There is dan­gled. There it writhed. There it died. Three days lat­er a man came in­to the clear­ing, cut down the stiff­ened corpse, skinned the snut and tossed the car­cass in­to a stream. It was a stroke of luck to have caught a snut, they were so rare now. Its skin would fetch him a nice price at the log­ging camp down the road.