Last laugh to the lizards, and fair play for frogs an’ all


Long ago in a land skirted by two oceans, there lived a people who worshipped lizards.

In their speech those people oftentimes invoked the “Sacred Lizard,” and since it was punishable by death to harm, let alone kill and eat, a lizard, they used that expression a lot. Eventually it got very hairy there, in a religious sense. The scales of justice tipped so radically that citizens were afraid to be seen near a lizard for fear of being denounced by their fellow citizens as being “anti-reptilian.”

“President Chemania is a Sacred Lizard,” people would say. “No one can say so much as a bad word about him anymore.” And it was true: It was just as serious a crime to criticize the president as it was a lizard.

But it was a very prosperous land, because within its borders lay the only oases for about 5 million sq. km. Every time an outsider wanted some water, they had to ask the permission of President Chemania or Vice President Bushop, paying them money just to set foot on their shores.

Nonetheless, so many people came from all around the world that this country had more money than the president or vice president knew what to do with. No one there had to work, because everyone had enough revenue from water rights to live off of. People even outsourced their dry cleaning to other countries.

But because people without work become very lazy, President Chemania put all his subjects to work building temples. There was the Temple of Our Lady of the Lizard, the Temple of the Latter-Day Lizards, the Sistine Lizard, Beth Lizard Temple and many others. In fact, there were so many temples that it was impossible to see the houses for the temples. Yes, Reptilia (I forgot to mention that this was its name) was a very religious place.

But not everyone in Reptilia liked lizards, though everyone respected them. That was because lizards don’t need to drink much water.

There was another land across the sea from Reptilia. They, too, had oases, as well as a lot of castles. They worshipped the frogs who lived in their moats.

In the beginning there was a lot of freedom of speech in that united, frog-loving kingdom. Then the prime minister started to praise lizards all the time, and soon it was a sin to say a nasty word about a frog or a lizard.

Yet no one seemed to realize that frogs are greedy amphibians, requiring more and more water to live in. Eventually the frogs jumped out of the moats and took over all the watering holes, and the people of that realm across the sea began to die of dehydration.

This convinced everyone in Reptilia that a religion based on lizard worship was a better guarantee of eternal prosperity in a world that was turning into a desert than one based on frog worship. As a result, souvenirs such as frog pendants, frog icons, green robes for priests and nuns, and portraits of William Shakespeare as a frog (who had been affectionately dubbed “The Frog of Avon”), that had once cost an arm and a leg could now be had for a song and a dance. In short, the bottom leapt out of the market for frog souvenirs.

But Reptilia was still doing a roaring trade in lizard souvenirs.

Even people from distant zones who came to buy water at exorbitant prices always went back home with a few Statues of Lizardy, which depicted an erect lizard wearing a crown of depleted-uranium-tipped spikes and holding up a blowtorch.

Well, to make a short story even shorter, the oases in Reptilia kept getting smaller and smaller, and its desert kept on growing and growing. Soon, there was barely enough water for the people there, let alone for all the outsiders who came begging for it. The price of water in Reptilia shot up. Eventually no one could afford to go to Reptilia and buy water anymore. The market for water had, in a word, dried up.

The rest of the world literally went to hell, but that didn’t bother President Chemania or Vice President Bushop, because they had enough water on their private ranches to last them, their families and their faithful reptilian followers half an eternity.

But then . . . something unpredictable happened.

The people of Reptilia started to turn against their lizards. And they blamed President Chemania and his greedy water-guzzling advisers who had never planned for the future. The president and his oily-skin toadies had all been raking in the cash from other countries and slimily living “high on the lizard” (which is the way Reptilia folk referred to “the good life”).

Eventually, sad to say, Reptilia disappeared from the face of the Earth. No one really knows today where it actually was. The temples crumbled into the dust and their foundations turned to a fine sand that was blown away by the four winds.

But the little lizards living there somehow dug in their heels, so to speak, and stuck around. After all, they had never really cared one way or the other whether they were worshipped or not. All they wanted was their own little place in the sun.

Frogs started returning to the castle moats of the land across the sea . . . and, on planet Earth, all animals, people included, came to be seen as equal. Which, after all, is the way they were created . . . or evolved . . . or, whatever.