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The Parable Of The Platypus

“The platypus is one of the world’s great wonders. People should be coming from miles around to buy one.”
| Nov 20, 2012 | No comments |

A lanky old man in faded jeans, lizardskin boots, a blue flannel shirt, and a battered cowboy hat walks up to a roadside stand in rural Texas manned by a young fellow in overalls and a John Deere cap. There’s a hand-lettered sign on the stand: “Pete’s Platypuses”.

The old man spits tobacco juice onto the gravel road and adjusts his hat. “Mornin’, Pete. How’s business?”

“Mornin’, Bill. Slow as usual. I don’t understand it. The platypus is one of the world’s great wonders. People should be coming from miles around to buy one.”

“Seems you’re not lacking potential customers. They’re lined up all the way back to the state highway over there at Dolly’s Ducks.”

“Ignorant yokels wouldn’t know a quality product if it bit ‘em in the leg. What could be more boring than a duck? She doesn’t even sell the colorful ones. Plain white ducks, day in, day out.”

“Well, they’re pretty versatile. Soft and fluffy, lay eggs, keep the bugs down if you turn ‘em loose on your front yard. Besides, you can stuff pillows with the feathers, and in a pinch, you can serve the critters up roasted for dinner.”

“I’ll  wager you enjoy sitting on your front porch watchin’ the grass grow, too. Here…take a good look at this platypus. It’s got a bill and webbed feet, plus a beaver tail, fur, and poison spikes on its hind legs. It’s warm-blooded, and it lays eggs. Tell me that’s not more interesting than some stupid duck.”

“Maybe you’re trying to sell to the wrong crowd. I hear tell there’s a steady market in Australia for platypuses. You could set up shop there.”

“No, sir. No way, no how I am ever leaving my Lone Star homeland. These are Texas platypuses. I’ve specially bred these animals to reflect the unique heritage of the Longhorn State in a manner that is instantly recognizable, yet subtle and tasteful. See that white patch on their sides? If you turn your head just so…”

“I see it! Hook ‘em Horns!”

“Amen, brother. Now, the way I figure it, once those Australians see the innate superiority of these Texas platypuses and the culture that spawned them, they’ll  want to become Texans themselves, and I won’t be able to keep up with demand for my fine product.”

“Pete, I don’t believe anyone has ever changed citizenship on account of their taste in pets.”

“I only wish I could sell more of them to Americans. The hayseeds around here buy the same thing over and over again. Ducks, ducks, ducks. No sophistication, no sense of adventure. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Dolly! Nice hat! You got a pilot license for that thing?”

“I think she’s ignoring you.”

“No matter. She can’t keep selling those ducks forever. People are bound to get tired of them eventually. Listen, the key to the future is attracting the attention of the city folk. That’s where the real money is. Take a gander at my Urban Platypus version.”

“Wow. What did you use to get his fur to stand up like that?”

“Hairspray. The ripped jeans and little combat boots were the hardest part. Poison spikes’ll do a number on you if you’re not careful.”

“How’d you get him to sit still for the tattoo?”

“Oh, that’s henna. Painted on. Hard to tell from the real thing, if you don’t look too close.”

“So, you sell a lot of these?”

“Not yet, but I have high hopes. It sure riles up Dolly and her customers. They think it’s unnatural. I’d better put this one away before they round up some tar to go with all the feathers over there.”

“Mmm-hm. That gal in the calico and pinafore looks like she’s ready to put a hurtin’ on you.”

“How about you, Bill? You gonna stand here jawin’ all day, or are you going to buy yourself a platypus? I’ll give you a special discount.”

“Sorry, Pete. I’ve got to mosey over to Dolly’s. Wife sent me here with specific instructions to buy her a duck, and I don’t want to think about what might happen if I come home with something else. Best of luck, though. Hook ‘em Horns!”

“Right. Thanks for nothin’, buddy.”

“And Pete, you might want to work a bit on that sales pitch. And smile more. People enjoy a nice smile.”

“Do tell. Enjoy your duck, you ignorant yokel.”

Fred was born in Tacoma, Washington, but spent most of his formative years in California, where his parents pastored a couple of small churches. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a bomber navigator, flight-test navigator, and military educator. He retired from the Air Force in 2007, and now works as a government contractor in eastern Kansas, providing computer simulation support for Army training.Fred has been married for 25 years to the girl who should have been his high school sweetheart, and has three kids, three dogs, and a mortgage. When he's not writing or reading, he enjoys running, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, and playing around with computers.Writing has always been a big part of his life, but he kept it mostly private until a few years ago, when it occurred to him that if he was ever going to get published, he needed to get serious about it. Since then, he's written more than twenty short stories that have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, and a novel, The Muse, that debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, which was a finalist for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year in the speculative genre. Speculative fiction is his first love, but he writes the occasional bit of non-fiction or poetry, just to keep things interesting.

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“Pete, I don’t believe anyone has ever changed citizenship on account of their taste in pets.”
 I’ve considered changing citizenship to Great Britain on account of their glorious history, amazing literature, skilled actors and…

Okay, because of Doctor Who. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say about this post. 


I think my chances of being picked up by The Doctor as a companion would certainly be better if I moved across the water. 😀
He always seems to favor Great Briton. 😉

Kessie Carroll

That’s why I’m working to cut off my platypus’s front legs, so I can sell it as a duck. 😀

Bob Menees
Bob Menees

To make it work, you’d have to teach it to quack, and that’s near impossible. It be best if you started out with near knockoff. Say, a parrot.