The Pond

by Marc Friedlander
September 29, 2003

The Pond was secluded and beautiful, and existed undisturbed deep in the forest. There were all sorts of animals living there: fish and squirrels, ducks and swans, frogs and raccoons. It was a wonderful pond - not perfect, but all the animals lived together in a sort of tenuous balance. There were squabbles and arguments, there were outbreaks of violence, but for the most part, the animals kept the peace because they knew they all had to share the Pond.

Things continued this way for a long while, but there came a time when tension increased between the geese and the beavers. The geese, as they are wont, made noise from time to time. Once or twice they tried to edge out the ducks and the swans. When the geese acted up, the beavers, who considered themselves the KINGS of the Pond, helped the ducks and swans to push the geese back. While the beavers roamed the Pond freely, they made it a point not to allow the geese to set a webbed foot outside their own small section of the Pond.

The beavers, you see, had appointed themselves peace-keepers. They liked to run things, and in truth, they were pretty good at it. The beavers were prosperous, industrious, and smart. They had more than enough food, which they shared with everyone, and had earned the respect of all the other animals. Because of that, the animals kind of agreed to let the beavers run things. The beavers would make sure everybody had something to eat, which was good, but there were strings attached. They felt it was their right to pressure the other animals to do their bidding. The other animals resented this, but since the beavers were generous and pretty fair, they went along with it. The geese strenuously objected to the beaver’s dominion over them, but as they were far weaker than the beavers, there was little they could do about it.

One day, the beaver’s dam was seriously damaged when a loon flew into it, seemingly on purpose. The loon was killed, and nobody could figure out why the loon did such a … well … loony thing. The only explanation was that the loons resented the beaver’s prosperity, and were resolved to destroy it. Everyone felt bad for the beavers, but the dam was repaired and life went on at the Pond.

The beavers had survived the attack, but they were justifiably furious. They insisted that someone had to make amends for what had happened. They tried to catch and kill the loons, but the loons didn’t really live at the Pond. They flew around, were elusive and could not be caught.

Frustrated at being unable to catch the loons, the beavers started saying that the geese were responsible for the dam, and were a threat to the Pond. The geese were indignant! “What have we done?” the geese wanted to know. “We have nothing to do with those crazy loons."

Although the beavers could not answer this, they went forward and tried to get all the other animals to join them in attacking the geese. The beavers said that the geese had secret plans to destroy the Pond. The geese said this was absurd, that they had no such plans and the beavers should have to prove what they said. The beavers felt that their word should be accepted without any proof, just because they were the beavers. They said that once the geese had been destroyed, the proof would be clear to everyone.

The beavers tried bribery and coercion, and threatened to stop sharing their food with the others. They wielded tremendous influence, but most of the other animals refused anyway. They were worried that attacking the geese would upset the delicate balance of life at the Pond. Although the geese had indeed been troublesome, they had been contained in the past and obviously had had nothing to do with the damage to the dam.

Despite the pressure they exerted, the beavers only managed to convince the larks to help them. The larks were few in number and had no real power at the Pond, but at least the beavers had one ally.

Together with the larks, the beavers relentlessly attacked the geese. Many on both sides were killed in the struggle, but eventually the beaver’s superior force vanquished the geese. But at what cost? Despite all their efforts, the beavers were unable to prove their assertions about the supposed evil intentions of the geese. Without the proof that the beavers had promised, many now viewed the geese as vindicated. Now, everyone at the pond hated and feared the beavers for spoiling their delicate balance. The beavers had forever lost the precious respect and friendship that had been won with much effort over many years.

After having acted in disregard of everyone’s objections, the beavers now wanted everyone to help restore the Pond to its former state. But their credibility was at an end, their influence over the others, exhausted. They even tried to get the few remaining geese to act like beavers; to make them build dams and chew on trees and such, but even the stupidest of the animals knew that was a hopeless goal. The geese would always be geese and could never act like beavers. The beavers had accomplished nothing except turning the pond into a morass of distrust and uncertainty. Furthermore, the effort had taken up so much of the beaver’s resources, their once legendary prosperity suffered for many years to come. They had been so occupied with dealing with the geese that they had let their own dam suffer and fall into disrepair.

The only ones that were really happy were the laughing loons, unharmed and observing from a distance. They, for their own unfathomable reasons, had accomplished their wicked goal and succeeded in doing what no creature at the Pond could have possibly accomplished by force. Hardly even lifting a wing, they duped the once respected and admired beavers into acting against all reason and forever destroying the serenity of the Pond.