Limerick: Sick

This week did not go by quick

The stress was more than a bit

But the weekend has come

And it’s time for some fun

But I’ll be in bed freaking sick

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Limerick: Black Fly

In bed, tired, depressed, I lay

Happiness is a state of mind they say

So I rise to give it a try

Until a dirty black fly

Flew in my coffee and ruined my day

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Streak!

Pretty proud of myself…getting back into the habit…

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TBT: Caught by Love

Sand clings to the naked body like a new skin.

Free falling into a thing called love a life is ready to begin.

Underground the Earth rumbles and shakes the world above.

Growing together from the strange chemical of love.

Father please save me, for I know not what I do.

Flying as if there was nothing that clouds my soul, renewed.

Arrows pierce my flesh and puncture my bleeding heart.

Eyes blinded from all things when we are apart.

Caught by love, practicing the single most beautiful form of art.

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The Monster in the Woods

Finishing this up today! Really excited how this story turned out.

In the woods surrounding the city of Harmon, nature flourished in all its beauty. While some viewed the natural world as peaceful and lovely, others saw it is wild and dangerous. In reality it was both. There was certainly much beauty in the plants, trees and creatures of the woods, but there was also a threat. For inexperienced explorers, the wild was fraught with hazards and predators, but for the rangers and woodsmen of the world, there was nothing to fear, but much to be respected. As with most things in the world, the wild always sought a balance. Sometimes, when the balance was ruined, the actions of the natural world’s defenders was required to set it right.

    On one calm and warm afternoon, a herd of deer was grazing in the shade of the forest canopy; sheltered from fear and danger. This particular herd was composed of 5 males. The dominant male was large and strong and commanded the respect of the others through yearly battles for mates. With mating season still months away, the males were able to coexist and get along well enough though they recognized the superiority of the alpha. They had no cares in the world as they nibbled at bushes and leaves from low trees. The herd did not have the faintest warning that the peaceful balance was about to be upset.

    Nearby, an ancient creature sniffed the air and caught scent of the herd. The beast growled low and looked about for sign of the animals but did not find them. Instead he sniffed again and turned to the direction of the unsuspecting bucks. He squinted his eyes and sniffed some more, confident he had found the source of the smell. He slobbered and groaned thinking about how delicious and tasty the bucks would be. His eyes focused as his hand gripped a rudimentary club in his giant hand tightly.

    The deer perked their heads up hearing a commotion nearby. Their ears twitched back and forth as they tried to determine the direction and nature of the disturbance in the otherwise peaceful and calm woods. Nerves shot down their spines and told their legs to run but they did not know in which direct to flee. They were frozen hearts pounding and eyes bulged ears desperate to find the danger.

    Then a crash nearby gave the bucks the confirmation they needed. They broke into a dash for safety leaping over fallen trees and crooked bushes. Their pursuer was not about to let his meal escape however. The beast was so large that it bowled through trees and smashed through brush growing hungrier each leap.

    The bucks dashed as fast as they could, quick and lithe they fled for their lives but they were not getting further from the beast.

    Like thunder rolling across the forest floor the monster reached the herd and swallowed them up. Growls and snarls were the last sounds they would hear as the savage creature smashed one buck with a forehand swing of the massive tree trunk it used as a club snapping its body as if it were clay, then a back hand caught another and crushed it as well. Three bucks still raced for their salvation from the demon born monster that sought them. Another swing of the club shattered a leg of one and hobbled him though he tried desperately to rise once more and flee. Not satisfied with three bucks, the monster dove after the remaining two landing atop one and pinned it helplessly to the dirt and clawed at the last. The young buck was racked across the back. It cried out as searing pain shot through its body but it only stumbled and blind to anything but holding on to life and escaping the drooling maw of the hideous beast, it blocked the fire in its flesh and willed its legs to continue on in flight.

    The beast glared at the buck that dashed through trees towards freedom and was intent on chasing it further but then the buck under it wailed and the creature looked to it, annoyed that it protested its fate and snapped its gnarled and twisted teeth into the poor animal’s neck ending the torture. The taste of blood and flesh in its mouth was enough to break the trance of reckless pursuit and the monster paused to savor the meal leaving a huge gape in the innocent prey’s neck.

    The monster climbed to its feet gripping its club in one claw and the dead buck in the other. It looked longingly towards the direction the sole survivor escaped and then a cry from behind turned its attention to its other victims. One lay dead beside a tree that rose like a headstone above it. Another laid, body broken, only able to plead for mercy with feeble cries. The last crawled away with the only strength that remained in its badly damaged bones.

    The beast dragged the gnawed buck along as it approached its dying friend. A quick smash with the club was the only release it would receive but it was preferable to the only sensation that remained; suffering. The creature then turned to the noble buck that continued to cling to the hope that it may yet survive. A trail of blood lead from the spot where it endured the powerful blow of the club for several yards into thicker brush. The monster stomped on the foliage and immediately found the animal toiling to put distance between it and its predator. It turned to view its executioner before the sweet release of death and saw the an enormous monstrosity it had never seen before but knew that there was no escaping its greedy appetite.

    In a deliberate and slow motion, the beast reached out for the buck which did little to resist except call out once more. It took the buck in its claw and effortlessly lifted it to its dark maw and in one bite ended the torment.

The otherwise majestic and beautiful forest bore a deep and hideous scar that day that would not heal easily.   

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Battle of the Beasts

Another monster story for this time of year

The charred-wood arena was located in a remote land; far from the regulating eyes of the legionnaires. The fights that were held there were illegal, but also the most fantastic of all, and so many risked arrest and banishment to travel to the hidden site, beyond the woods and carved into a mountain, as legend has it, by dragon’s fire. Indeed the rock jutted inward from the otherwise regular contour of the mountain in jagged edges and teeth-like points. The arena itself appeared somewhat like the snarling mouth of a serpent snapping at its prey. In its throat monsters and men battled to the death.

The arena was run by despicable men. Men who cared nothing about right or wrong, only about money and prestige. They profited off the deaths of heroes and slaves, champions and beasts. They did not value life in the least; only coin and fame. With this goal in their hearts, they captured or lured many types of souls with promises of mercy for their families or wealth for their pockets, yet most promises went broken. Still, the bouts did not go unfilled and the seats did not remain empty. Many gathered for glory, entertainment and wealth.

This particular evening there was a fascinating match. The owners of the arena managed to capture an ogre and pit the foul beast against a troll, and equally disgusting creature. Both were very strong yet also heinous. All were intrigued by the fight which was about to begin.

A pair of men, who placed bets of the opposing beasts sat next to one another with goblets of ale apiece. Each were officials from a nearby kingdom; lofty in position and authority. Though the arena was forbidden, they did not hesitate to participate in such sport, confident that the regulation did not apply to those meant to enforce such social constraints. They delighted in the spectacle and enjoyed seeing the hoi paloi risk their lives for a small purse of coins. Their names were Lords David and Vanne.

Lord David, smile beaming across his face leaned over to Lord Vanne who he was already very familiar with and stated with confidence, “This troll will defeat the ogre easily! I’ve put much gold on that! It will be a glorious battle!”

Lord Vanne grimaced, “I wouldn’t be so sure. The ogre is a savage creature. Deadly. I put my coin on him.”

“You know nothing,” David scoffed, “Trolls are ancient creatures. They’ve roamed the lands murdering and destroying peasants since before civilization. They’ve lasted this long, they’ve learned to survive anything. This orge is no match.”

“You are ignorant in the ways of ogres, clearly,” Vanne countered, “Ogres are stronger and more savage. While the history of them is shrouded in mystery, their results speak for themselves. None can best them. The ogre will tear the troll limb from limb.”

As they debated the virtues of the beasts, the monsters were released from their cages and set loose in the arena. For moments they were confused, each looked about and saw all of the spectators. Each howled at them and roared with stinking breath detectable throughout the circle. All held their breath and coughed trying to escape the stink of the combatants. With attendants pushing the beasts with poles and trying to anger them, they finally noticed the other. They did not hesitate to attack, each recognizing the danger in his opponent.

The foul creatures rushed toward the center and collided as two boulders sending an earthquake throughout the arena and a deafening crack like the snapping of a giant trees. Each monster howled in pain as bones broke in the collision. Undeterred they attacked further through a grapple. They bit and clawed and kicked at one another.

Blood, spit, hair and teeth were flying in all directions as the two hideous creatures battled for their very lives. Meanwhile, the crowd roared in approval.

Lord David was confident his favored monster, the troll, was winning. “You see this Vanne, you fool? The troll is the better beast by far! Surely he will win!”

“You must not be watching the same fight,” Vanne replied, “It appears to me that the ogre is much more powerful. There is conviction in his attacks. The troll will succumb to his savagery any moment.”

“Nonsense!” bellowed Lord David. “Your ogre is done for. Trolls cannot die except by fire. The ogre will never prevail.”

The lords yelled at the top of their lungs at one another trying to convince each that they were correct to back their particular brand of monster. Neither budged but stubbornly held their convictions.

The ogre and troll grappled with equal strength, each unable to manipulate the other into submission. Both monsters dug deep into their pain and anger and battled on. As they struggled for control of their enemy the troll tripped and stumbled backwards. In his fall, however, he pulled the ogre with him and threw the beast with all his might into the side of the arena.

The monster crashed through the wall separating the spectators from the combatants and several who were cheering on the battle were injured. Screams of terrified mortals filled the air as the ogre, confused and blinded by hatred, clawed and punched those near him. One by one he murdered those men who moments earlier cheered him or his opponent on. They were not as gleeful now that they were part of the fray.

Guards with spears sped into the arena, some to block the troll, who regained his footing, from engaging the ogre any longer, others to try to coax the ogre from his attacks on the crowd.

The ogre would no be deterred. He relentlessly attacked those around him and the number of dead rose quickly with blood and limbs spraying from the epicenter of the attack. The heinous monster left a trail of death as he moved through the fleeing crowd.

The troll was mollified for a moment as the spears thrust at him gave him pause, but he was far too angry and hateful to be calmed by a few guards and when he backed against the wall he looked up and decided he could leap upon in. With a roar and a mighty jump, the troll bound to the top of the protective wall and stared down the helpless crowd. He hopped off the wall and into the crowd of people and tore through them like he evil counterpart did on the opposite side of the arena. All were in peril.

Lord David blamed the ogre, “Your stupid ogre caused this mess! Now look at what’s happened! People are being murdered by that dull monster and you were naive enough to support him.”

Naturally Lord Vanne saw the scene very differently, “You imbecile! That hideous troll you so brazenly backed threw the ogre into the crowd. It is the troll’s fault that these people are dead.”

The Lords continued to argue about who’s fault it was and who was misguided in their support of their respective monsters. Meanwhile the evil beasts murdered any they could get their claws on, included the pair of lords who did not have enough sense to flee when danger approached. They were more concerned with blaming one another than saving their own lives. In the end, dozens were murdered and the beasts escaped and fled into the night.

Kings denounced both beasts eventually and passed decrees outlawing such arenas and the beasts they forced to fight therein. But alas, little changed. The charred-wood arena was rebuilt and once again was a place for the hopeless to seek fame and fortune. Others like it thrived across the land. All the while ogres and trolls roamed the countrysides murdering peasants and destroying towns.

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Shooting an Elephant

Teaching imperialism today using this story and I am always impressed with the writing, with the metaphor and with the description of his experience. One of my favorite writing pieces. It moves me every time.

In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism – the real motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out. I took my rifle, an old 44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem. Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant’s doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone “must.” It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of “must” is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction and was now twelve hours’ journey away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in the town. The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. It had already destroyed somebody’s bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.

The Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched with palmleaf, winding all over a steep hillside. I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of “Go away, child! Go away this instant!” and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed, clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man’s dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black Dravidian coolie, almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes. The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast’s foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend’s house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.

The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant. They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides they wanted the meat. It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting the elephant – I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary – and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels. At the bottom, when you got away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass. The elephant was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the crowd’s approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth.

I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery – and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of “must” was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.

But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast’s owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.

It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller. But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind. For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have been if I had been alone. A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of “natives”; and so, in general, he isn’t frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.

There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.

I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open – I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had got to put an end to that dreadful noise. It seemed dreadful to see the great beast Lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him. I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.

In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour to die. Burmans were bringing das and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.

Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

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