FURTHERMORE DEFINES THE PROBLEM
The hydra was busy fighting with itself the other night when I drifted down to chat with Brother Furthermore, my pet raven. I paused for a few minutes to watch the battle. Actually, I should have been angry. I hired the danged thing to guard the main entrance to the cavern. It was a quota thing. You hire nine heads, you just beat affirmative action quotas all to hell. I could have had any of a number of really nasty mythological beasts, but, noooooo, I had to take the hydra. Half the time, it fights with itself. The other half it divides between sleeping and fighting with me.
So, as I said, I should have been angry. I mean, I could have been anyone--a disgruntled postal worker, a politician, a marketing executive, a lawyer--just about any mean-spirited, vicious, evil-minded creature. Still, it was entertaining to watch the hydra trying to put itself in a headlock, so I watched for a few minutes. Then I brought out the cattleprod I’d juiced up to jigawatt strength and proceeded to help the hydra understand the meaning of better living through electricity. Needless to say, the hydra was fried.
Furthermore was tapping his talons atop the skull on the mantle when I finally ran out of juice and dropped into my favorite chair with a very satisfied smile.
“You shouldn’t pick on that dumb animal,” he informed me in the tones of a guardian of endangered species.
“Dumb!” I shot back. “It’s got an I.Q. of 360!”
“Only when you add up all nine heads! Divide by nine and you get 40. A dumb animal.”
It suddenly dawned on me.
“Aren’t you a little out of character, Furthermore? Since when did you become the champion of endangered species?”
“Since about five paragraphs back. That’s not the point. The hydra will get even someday. You watch. They’re like teachers. They’ll form a union and start publishing a newsletter and then where will you be? Huh? Answer me that!”
By now I knew I’d lost whatever control I’d had of the conversation, and was prepared to just go with the flow. Brother Bird is always headed somewhere in his own weird fashion. He arrived at his destination much more quickly than usual.
“The point,” he explained, still tapping his talons, “is violence.”
This I could almost understand. Local and national politicians have been screaming about violence in the home, violence in the schools, violence in the community, violence in the movies, and so forth, since before the last election. It occurred to me that perhaps Furthermore was becoming more community-spirited, mellow in his old age.
“I agree,” I told him. “Violence is the issue. Do you have any solutions? Or are you just part of the problem.” (I’d seen that last part on a bumper sticker, so I knew it was solid philosophy.)
He shot into the skull and popped out the left eye socket a minute later with a scroll in his beak.
“Check this out, my Brother,” he chortled proudly.
The scroll was a list. The main headings included guns, gangs, movies, schools, etc. The usual topics for such a list.
“Well,” I admitted, “You seem to have considered the main areas. Let’s take guns, for example. How were you planning to control them?”
“Who said anything about control,” Furthermore asked in a puzzled tone. “Control is not the issue. Distribution is the issue. There are too many people out there without guns. You can’t fight back if you’re not armed. How can you expect to retaliate without firepower?”
He looked at me as though I were some sort of twit.
“Gangs?” I said, going back to his list.
“Let ‘em at each other. Make it an Olympic sport. Get ‘em off the streets and into the stadium. Worked for the Romans!”
I was beginning to get a really awful feeling about where this was going.
“Movies?” I asked.
“Too many cartoons and stuff about covered bridges in Iowa. Remember the good old days when the cartoon cat dropped the piano on the cartoon mouse? Now that had style.”
“What about movies like the Diehard series and Lethal Weapons and such?”
“Bright spots in an otherwise dreary business,” Furthermore noted, returning to his list.
“But don’t you think they just encourage violence?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Well, of course. Did you think they had some other purpose, after all?”
“Let me get this straight. You are in favor of increased violence?”
“Well, it’s been nature’s way of population control for centuries. How naive are you? You’ve been taught it all your life. Remember your fairy tales when you were a kid? Mice always getting eaten or beaten up? Guys jailing their wives in pumpkin shells? Little girls killing spiders with spoons? Hey! It was a jungle out there!”
I was trying to sort this out when a thought hit me.
“If that’s how you feel, how come you’re always on my case about the hydra? What’s a little gratuitous violence, after all?”
Furthermore rolled up his list and stuffed in back into the skull.
“Oh, I don’t care what you two kids do to each other,” he responded. “I just think if you’re going to be role models, you ought to do a better job of it. You’re sloppy. You hit the hydra with enough electricity to fry Detroit, and here it is, sneaking up behind you right now...”
He didn’t finish the sentence. He shot straight up and I did a barrel roll under the table just as the hydra hit my chair with scorching flame from five of its heads. The sneaky thing! I’d forgotten about the breathing fire schtick.
Too much violence, I was thinking to myself as I grabbed the double-ended battle-ax from over the mantle and prepared to reduce the local head count by three or four. Way too much violence. Not enough brotherhood.