Once, there was a girl who lived in Florence, Italy who all of a sudden realized that she was allocating entirely too much energy to her studies and to self-pity over how much energy she was allocating to her studies and was not thoroughly appreciating being herself, alive, and in Italy. She decided to fix all that by going to a rose garden on a nearby hillside, settling in the shade of a big tree, realizing that the tree was very close to an annoying flock of slightly racist Italian youths, settling under a different, more tolerant tree near a pair of quiet and unoffending Japanese tourists, and writing some stupid stories.
This is one of those stupid stories.
The Fox and the Owl
One time it came about that the Fox and the Owl began to quarrel over which of them was the Cleverest.
“I am the Cleverest,” declared the Fox, “Because I am swift and cunning. And besides, isn’t it Wisdom that owls are supposed to have?”
“Yes,” replied the Owl, “I am Wise, but you’ll find that I am also the Cleverest because I possess the most Knowledge and Experience.”
“Your criteria for Cleverness seem suspiciously similar to your criteria for Wisdom,” remarked the Fox.
“Well, maybe that’s because they’re suspiciously similar things and I just have the most of both, and there’s no need to be an Asshole about it,” said the Owl, in the voice he considered to be his Wisest and Cleverest.
“Maybe we need to pinpoint exactly what it means to be Clever,” speculated the Fox, “And then we’ll know which of us has the most of it.”
“I think the Cleverest animal should be the one who’s best at hopping,” said the Rabbit, whom no one asked.
“You always say that,” said the Owl, “And could you stop hopping around so much because it’s kicking up a lot of dust and some of us have allergies.” The Owl sneezed, as if to illustrate his point. The Fox sneezed too, but in a way that sounded a lot like he was saying the word “nerd,” which made the Owl suspect that the Fox was making fun of him. Several minutes and many passive-aggressive comments about how Nasal Wellbeing Is No Joking Matter (as well as one muttered observation by the Fox that the Owl didn’t even have a real nose, which the Owl pretended not to hear) later, the two animals remembered what it was that they had been originally talking about before the stupid Rabbit interrupted. The Rabbit was told to go hop somewhere where somebody cared, and it was decided that the matter of determining the true meaning of Cleverness would be taken to the Lawyers. In this world, the Lawyers were otters, because all the otters were overly litigious and egomaniacal and everyone agreed it just kind of made sense.
“Help us determine which of us is Cleverest,” the Owl and the Fox said to the Chief Otter.
“Can it wait?” replied the Chief Otter, “We’re about to go for our lunch break.”
“Can’t you just do this one thing first?” pled the Fox and the Owl, “We really want to know and it shouldn’t take long at all.”
“But we’re very hungry,” responded the Chief Otter. “Some of us skipped breakfast, and have low blood sugar.”
But the Fox and the Owl would not relent until the Chief Otter was forced to give in.
“Fine,” said the Chief Otter, in a tone that the Fox and the Owl agreed was overly snippy, “The Cleverest animal will be the one who catches the most fish from the nearby river.”
“Okay,” the Owl replied and turned to leave, but the Fox stayed where he was.
“What happens to all the fish we catch?” asked the Fox suspiciously.
“I can’t see how that matters at all,” responded the Chief Otter hastily.
“It sounds a lot like you’re making us bring you some food instead of testing which of us Cleverest,” said the Fox. “That sounds like a pretty big conflict of interest.”
“Conflict of What-terest?” asked the Chief Otter.
“Interest,” repeated the Fox.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a Lawyer?” added the Owl.
It was then discovered that the Chief Otter had never gone to law school at all, but had been put in charge only because he was the one with the gavel and he wouldn’t let anyone else use it. The Owl and the Fox reported him for fraud and the Chief Otter lost his house and job and was put in prison. The Owl and the Fox decided that it didn’t matter which of them was Cleverest, as long as they had made someone else look stupider than them.
Watching all of this was the Warthog who was actually the cleverest, if anyone had ever bothered to ask, who rolled her eyes and sipped her chai latte, entirely unregarded.