THE LAUGHING HYENA
WHO COULD ONLY SMILE
Aldo sat back on his haunches and sighed sadly. What good was a laughing hyena that couldn’t laugh? He was getting old. When he was a cub, he could laugh like nobody’s business. Even when nothing was funny, Aldo could cackle with the best of them. But he’d strained his cackler during the last hunt, and was recovering so slowly he didn’t think he’d ever speak again, much less laugh. Not only that, but his mate had left him for another male and there wasn’t much to laugh about anymore. Jana had been a good partner all these years, but she had never been all that faithful. Now she was gone for good. What was worse, she had taken the cubs with her. Aldo didn’t even have joint custody. The judge said since he couldn’t hold down a steady job catching prey and couldn’t laugh properly, that Aldo was an unfit father. Unfit father, my hindquarters, he thought. Only one thing kept Aldo from utter despair, and the thought of it brought – if not a laugh – a hearty smile to his face. Bruce, the male hyena that Jana had taken up with, was hiding a dirty little secret. While he wasn’t showing any outward signs of it, Aldo knew that Bruce had full-fledged rabies. Jana didn’t know, of course, and wouldn’t – not until she was infected herself. As much as he still loved Jana, Aldo could only see this as her punishment for betraying him. Of course, it would be hard on the cubs losing their mother and their stepfather, but they’d be all right in time. Especially when they came back home to Papa Aldo. He’d protect them from harm till they were big enough to fend for themselves. One day, Aldo thought, when all this is over, the cubs and I – who won’t be cubs anymore, but brothers in the pack – will look back on this and laugh. Time heals all wounds, and most cacklers.
THE DONKEY WHO HEARD WEDDING BELLS
I’m not usually one to kiss and bray, but sometimes something so wonderful happens to you that you just have to tell someone. So I’m telling you. I hope you don’t mind my confession. You see, I’ve fallen in love with the most beautiful jenny I ever laid eyes on. Her name is Stella, and I know – I just know – she’s the one for me. Now I can already guess what you’re thinking – old Calvin is just a regular jack, nothing special to look at, and that’s true. So why on earth would a beautiful jenny like Stella waste her time on someone like me. Honestly, I’ve been asking myself the same question – what does she see in me? I have unusually short ears, I limp when I trot, and I’m stubborn as a mule, no familial pun intended. But for some reason, things most donkeys would consider shortcomings Stella considers qualities to be commended. Plus, she brays that she likes my smile. I didn’t even know I could smile, let alone that it was anything worth looking at. But I guess she’s seen enough smiles from me these past few weeks to know that she likes what she sees. And why not? I’ve sure been happy enough. Did I tell you about her eyes? They’re the biggest, brownest eyes you could imagine, and they’re lovely. Stella’s working her way through community college – she only has one semester left (she’s studying to be a beast of burden) – and as soon as she graduates, we’re going to be married. I already asked her and everything, and she brayed that of course she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me – can you believe that? I know that all this means I’m going to have to get a better job, maybe work longer hours, but it’s worth it. I look into Stella’s eyes and nothing else matters to me. I’ve met my soulmate, and now my future can finally begin.