Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Metamorphosis

With apologies to Franz Kafka; hope I’m not alienating you, big guy!
* * * *

One morning, as Henry Dung-Beetle awoke from a worrisome dream (in which his attempt to make a sphere of dung went terribly wrong, and he wound up with a cube, instead, provoking the jeers and laughter of his fellows), he discovered that he was strangely out of sorts. As he stretched his legs he looked at himself and found that two of his limbs were missing, and noted, as well, that his exoskeleton had been replaced by a soft, slightly elastic material. He let his head fall back “I must still be dreaming. God, I’ve got to stop eating the mushrooms that grow on those cow pies.”

As the morning hours passed, he didn’t feel any different, so he got up and found, to his astonishment, that he was a biped. He walked to a clear puddle of water, created by the previous night’s rain, with the aim of lapping up some of the water and washing away the foul taste of “morning mandibles.” Henry was greatly dismayed when he saw his reflection on the still surface of the puddle; staring back at him was – arguably, at least – the face of a man. “It is certainly not a handsome face,” he thought. “In fact, it reminds me of a sun-bleached pile of cow dung, completely desiccated and ready to turn to powder at the slightest touch. If it weren’t for those beady, shifty blue eyes, I’m not certain I would call it ‘human’ at all.”

Henry Dung-Beetle walked back to his burrow, musing that he would now be able to create dung balls of truly enormous size. His neighbors, however, were horrified by this transformation, and it wasn’t long before their fear had turned into hatred. They drove Henry away, with a ferocious barrage of dung-balls. Henry shook his fist at them. “I’ll show you!” he said between clinched teeth. “I’ll become a U.S. senator and outdo you all!”

Many years later, on a gray, winter afternoon, Henry Dung-Beetle was sitting in his office in Washington, D.C. He now went by the name Harry Reid, since a fickle public had taken to referring to all politicians as dung beetles, and, true to his word, he had become a U.S. senator. One of his assistants, Mustela Frenata, brought him a massive document, many hundreds of pages thick, and set it down carefully on Harry’s desk. Noticing that it was the final version of the new trillion-dollar budget bill, Harry puckered and unpuckered his lips several times (unconsciously working his now non-existent mandibles). His assistant spoke up. “Here it is, Senator. You know, conservatives are already referring to this thing as the biggest shit sandwich in history.” The assistant started to leave, but Harry shot out of his chair and grabbed him by the sleeve. “What? What did you say they’re calling it?”

Mustela, startled by the intensity of the senator’s reaction, repeated his remark in a low, somewhat fearful voice. “I said that conservatives are calling it the biggest shit sandwich in history. But you shouldn’t let yourself get upset, sir. You’ve got to expect that sort of thing from the opposition.”

Far from being upset, Harry’s eyes gleamed with pride. He slapped Mustela on the back and sent him on his way. Once he was alone, Harry walked over to the large office window and looked at the Capitol Dome. His lips were puckering and unpuckering almost spastically. He raised a fist and shook it, and he spoke over the years to the dung beetles who had chased him away from his home. “Did you hear that, good neighbors? The biggest shit sandwich in history! I always said I would outdo you!”


TimT said...

My favourite use of a dung-beetle in a parody (actually, the only other one I know of) is an Aristophanes play that sends up the Greek myth of Bellerophron flying to heaven on the back of Pegasus to do battle with the Gods. The play opens with two slaves shovelling buckets of shit ('Quick, quick, it wants some more'!) and it quickly emerges that their master is going to fly up to heaven the back of the giant dung beetle to challenge the Gods. Funny stuff. Wait, I'll just check and see which one it is...

Ah. it was Peace. One of Aristophanes pieces of complaint against the endless Athenian/Spartan wars.

TimT said...

Lovely piece of satire, btw. I love the mandible details.

JeffS said...

A dung beetle, eh? That makes perfect sense. Thanks for the clarification!

richard mcenroe said...

Peace by Aristophanes.

Or if you don't want to buy a cheap copy, you can find it at

richard mcenroe said...

On behalf of dung beetles...honest,necessary creations... I must protest.

A REAL dung beetle wouldn't shove its shit sandwich down someone else's throat.

SwampWoman said...

What Richard said.

Mick said...

I was always taught that sometimes in life there are situations where you have no choice but to eat the shit sandwich.

When you're in this situation, the best strategy is to get as much bread as you can.

Paco said...

Good advice, Mick!