What really happened on the day the tortoise beat the hare?
The Fox and the Bear is live on Patreon!
This project was actually 10 years in the making. I wrote it back in College and I had to read it as part of my final to a class of very serious writers. The reaction was a group full of stodgy poets snapping their fingers (because “we don’t clap here, we snap.”) And my professor saying something like “right,” or, “okay,” or both while I chuckled awkwardly at what I thought was a very funny story.
Two years ago, I reworked this story into a flash fiction piece that became a part of the Flash-365 project and was published in the art collective, Hijacked Amygdala. When our project ended, Stephanie, who’d been a long-time reader of mine, showed me some of her amazing work and we decided to take on the project of turning The Fox and the Bear into a living breathing ‘Children’s Book.’
The idea behind this story is that Fables don’t teach relevant lessons. In the world today, where the tortoise would be awarded a participation medal, and the Hare would be paying out 5 million-dollar settlements to quiet sexual abuse victims, and gaming any system is a publicly encouraged pastime, perhaps fables need to grow up a bit. (And having a laugh while they’re at it never hurt anyone.)
It is online at thetruthaboutthehare.com
To access the story, sign up on Patreon.
*It is only 1$/m but I won’t stop you if you want to do more.
This tale was brought to life by Stephanie Stickel, a German artist who does amazing children’s book illustrations.
You can find more of her work here:
I hope you all have as much fun reading the fox and the bear as we had in making it.
Moreblueberries: My brother Elliot Davis helped me to format and place all of the text in this story. He did many things on his computer that I couldn’t even begin to lie about understanding and is responsible for weaving my words and Stephanie’s art into a cohesive whole.
KM: My friend Konstantin helped me to turn all of the images into something useable by doing things with computers and programs (that is as eloquent as I am able to put it)
Nikita Klimov: And of course, Nikita, who I’d be helpless with this kind of stuff without, took the story and created the webpage thetruthaboutthehare.com while I sat there and pestered him with “can we do this?” “what about putting that there?” “and how about adding this little thing” and “will they turn like this—yeah, cool.”
Thank you very much to my Patreon supporters for making this possible. If you would like to access this project, please visit: https://patreon.com/benjamindavis
wish you all the best,
In the mirror, I attach the fake ears and tug the hat onto my head.
“It’s the wealthiest Preschool in St. Peter,” K had said, “they’ll pay you a boatload to just stand around as an elf for their Christmas party.”
I sigh now, as I did then, resigned.
I wash my hands and step out into the hall. The Babushka rolls up to me. Her rock-face is polished. Her eyes are onyx.
She points. I nod. I follow her directions to a door inundated with Christmas joy. I go through.
The room is vast, a gymnasium almost. It is crowded with all manner of Christmas. Bells float through the air, jingling. Ropes of ornament-covered pine snake along the walls. A fat tree absorbs the center of it all.
Children wander about the place. None are more than five or six years old. They are dressed almost exclusively in argyle. A snowman in the corner is telling a story as a small blonde girl discreetly stuffs bits of his backside into her mouth. On the other side of the room, Santa Claus is red-faced as he picks up a small boy. A red-nosed reindeer stands calmly next to him, chewing on the inside of its own mouth.
Santa places the boy on the red-nosed reindeer. The boy begins to wail. A woman in a black sweater runs over and pulls the child down. The boy runs off across the room. I see him slide on his belly down a thin layer of ice. A young woman in a blue dress stands beside it. She claps.
A fair-haired little girl walks up to me. Not dressed like the rest. A simple black dress.
“You got a cigarette?” she asks.
She sighs, “you got a cigarette?”
“I’m not a child.”
“Oh…are you a midg—uh I mean– a dwarf?”
“I’m DEATH. And, I want a cigarette.”
I’m not sure whether or not to laugh.
“What do you mean you’re DEATH?”
“I’m not sure what else I could mean. That polished rock turd out there hired me to be here so…”
DEATH shrugged, “I’m often in Russia this time of year anyway.”
I continue to stare at the frail-looking girl. She winks. “Just between you and me,” she lowers her voice, “I never go anywhere I’m not needed. Even for the kind of scratch, this place shells out.”
“Right,” I manage.
“So, you got a cigarette or not?”
“Let’s go have one then. Take my hand, everyone thinks I’m a child anyways. Pretend you’re taking me to the bathroom.”
She holds out her hand. I take it hesitantly. Suddenly she grabs it tight, very tight.
“Your time has come!” DEATH says, her eyes go black. I panic and jerk my hand away. My heart stops.
She bursts out laughing. She holds her stomach and bends over, a joyful tear falling from her eye. “You should see your face,” she gasps.
I feel like vomiting.
“Oh, that never gets old,” she says, catching her breath, “but, seriously, let’s go.” She holds out her hand again, her eyes back to blue. I don’t take it. She steps forward and grabs my hand anyway.
“Don’t be a pansy,” she says. She leads me out the door.
The fear in my legs has subsided by the time we get to our destination, a closet. Inside I light up two cigarettes. She takes one. She smokes through her nose. I can’t wipe the frown off my face. It’s beginning to hurt.
“So, what are you doing here?” DEATH says through the cloud that’s sprouted up between us.
“Uh, I am an actor.”
She snorts. “Bummer.”
We finish our cigarettes in silence.
“We better go back,” DEATH says, holding out her hand again.
I take it this time, apprehensively. Before we leave, I can’t help asking,
“What did you mean that you never go anywhere you’re not needed?”
DEATH smiles up at me and shrugs, innocently.
Continue the story at https://deathatapreschool.com/
**Artwork by Marvel** (This fairy tale was prompted by the artwork shown above)
The Turtle was born with the world on his back.
Well–not exactly. The Turtle was born with his mother on his back, his father atop her, atop them were a series of grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles then great-greats of all breeds and colors and even way up at the top just below the world there was rumored to be a great-great-great. But The Turtle felt the world on his back through it all as he pressed down upon his brothers and sisters and little cousins all below him all holding up the world all smaller–bigger–fatter. There were talkers, and snorers, and wigglers and whiners; it was turtles, all the way down.
The Turtle was born around the time the spoon was invented. In fact the first words he ever heard trickle down from the world above were ‘you just dip it into the soup and pull it back out.’
The Turtle had never seen a spoon. Once, before he was born, someone dropped something called a goblet, which his father always described in great detail.
‘It hit me right on the head!’ his father would call down, ‘sat there for a hundred years, couldn’t see a thing!’
It was a magical story. The Turtle hadn’t heard it’s like, but he planned to. He waited. The world grew louder and louder and all the greats and great-greats and those above began to grow agitated and cranky. Eventually even The Turtle ‘s father would no longer tell the story of the infamous goblet.
One day while the turtles above and the turtles below whined and griped about things they’d all started referring to as ‘booms’ The Turtle slipped away and swam up to the world’s edge. He climbed up and rolled out into the sun. Then he began to walk. He was the size of an elephant and it wasn’t long before the world took notice of him. It was a man–one at first, and then a village. They asked the turtle if it wouldn’t mind carrying their village to a nearby valley. The turtle, knowing the villagers to be much lighter than just his mother alone, accepted on one condition, they show him a spoon.
So, they did. They showed him an elegantly carved wooden spoon, a hundred years old, never used. The Turtle eyed it suspiciously and decided, “no, that is not a spoon.”
But, the villagers had already loaded themselves and their things into a great big suitcase on his back so he agreed to take them as long as they promised to show him a real spoon once they arrive in their new home. They agreed and the turtle carried them. It was not a long journey and they soon arrived in the next valley and found a town full of people. They were starving and they told the turtle that the land was no longer fit to live. They asked the turtle if he would carry them too over the next mountain. The turtled, realizing that they certainly couldn’t weigh more than a few aunts and uncles, agreed on one condition; that they show him a spoon. The townsfolk, with no food and an excess of spoons, agreed. They brought hundreds of spoons to the turtle and laid them out.
The Turtle eyed them suspiciously and decided, “no, those are not a spoons.”
But, the townsfolk had already loaded themselves and their things into the great big suitcase on his back so he agreed to take them as long as they promised to show him a real spoon once they arrive in their new home.
On the other side of the mountain they found a city, war-torn and dying. The turtle once again agreed to take them too on his back as they were no heavier than a dozen or so turtles. And again, they brought him spoons and again he did not believe them to be spoons. So, the turtle walked with the suitcase on his back until it was full of everything in the world but spoons. At the very end of the earth he found an old man with a stick who was sitting on a block of ice. By this point the turtle was very tired and he could feel that the “booms” had begun inside the suitcase on his back.
The old man on the block of ice was very cold and asked the Turtle if he might come inside the suitcase so that the turtle could take him somewhere nice and new. The turtle, who’d grown cynical and suspicious told the man that he could only come into the suitcase if he showed the Turtle a spoon. The old man, looked out at the trail of spoons behind the turtle and frowned. But he was a very wise man and so he took his stick and held it up to the turtle.
“This is a spoon,” he told the turtle and then dipped the stick into the water and pulled it back out, as you might a spoon.
At this, the turtle was so over-joyed that he fell, rolling onto his back and never could quite manage to get back up.