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The Wingless Wombat (Fiction)
Jan 16, 2006, 8:15a

The wily wombat was prancing through the fields of wheat on a quiet, overcast day. As he bounced, he began catching tufts of wheat in his fur. The faster he caromed through the fields, the more wheaty he became. Bouncing and bouncing, faster and faster, higher and higher. Soon, the flecks of wheat had assembled into two wheat wings, and he found that he could now glide back into the wheat fields after each hop. He was airborne!

The wombat was excited by his newfound skill. He had always wished to soar above others, and now he actually could. With the next step his wing caught even more wheat, and he was able to stay in the air for ten seconds before touching the ground. The step after that, with the wing even denser, he was able to stay in the air for twenty seconds.

Soon, the local animals caught a view of this strange creature gliding about the wheat fields. Intrigued, they had assembled as close as they could get to the winged creature, amazed at what they saw. They couldn’t quite tell what it was. “Is it the kangaroo?” a young bunny asked. “Could it be the prickly porcupine?” the cow pondered. Amazed yet somewhat frightened, the group sent the wizened owl as their emissary, to talk to the bouncing blur.

The moment the wombat landed and was about to take another step, the owl shouted “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“Why, I’m the flying wombat of course. I can soar higher than any other! Would you like to join my circus?”

“I’ve never heard of a flying wombat before, let alone seen one. Wombats cannot fly. And what is this circus you speak of? I don’t see anyone else with you.”

“That’s right, so far it’s a one-man show and from the looks on the other animals’ faces, it seems to be quite the event. But I’m looking for recruits. Do you do anything circus-worthy?”

“Thank you very much, but the circus doesn’t suit me.” And with a harumph, the owl trotted back to the crowd.

“So what did he say? Where is he from? What is it?” the young caterpillar asked in excitement.

“He calls himself the ‘flying wombat’, though i’ve never heard of such a creature. He also seems to be under the misguided impression that he’s starting a circus.”

“A circus?” the crowd wooed.

“I’ve always wanted to travel,” the green frog said. “I can touch my nose with my tongue.”

“Me too, I’ve always wanted to see what’s beyond the hills,” the great hog agreed. “I can change colors, given I have enough mud of course.”

“Yeah, that would be dreamy, like being a movie star,” the usually solemn salamander announced. “I am going to join his circus!”

And with that, the animals ran past the owl to the wombat’s next landing point. The owl only turned and looked on in disgust, as everyone left before he could utter even a sigh of protest.

“Take me, pick me, I want to be in the circus!” the crowd clamored as it formed a circle around the landed wombat.

“OK, OK, hold your horses. Being in the circus is very hard work. And you have to do something truly amazing. We’ll travel across the plains, gather crowds of young and old, short and fat, tall and skinny, every animal you’ve ever heard of will be at our shows, waiting for us to perform. And we must give them the best show they’ve ever seen!”

The animals’ eyes twinkled as they envisioned their future stardoms.

“So let’s begin try-outs for the, er, ‘Wombat Extravaganza Circus Show’ right now. Now doesn’t that sound just fantastic! Just form a line behind the walrus, and when your turn comes just step up and demonstrate why you should be a part of my circus.”

The walrus was first. “I can balance a ball on my nose. Watch this.” He pulled an inflatable beach ball out of his vest, blew it up, and balanced it for one minute on his nose.”

“Bravo my walrus friend, but I’m afraid that people can already see that trick at other circuses, so it’s not going to wow the crowd much. Sorry. Next please.”

Up trotted the donkey. “I can kick a ball farther than any other animal.” And with that, he kicked the walrus’ beach ball high into the sky, until no one could even see it anymore.”

“That’s nice, but we need talented circus showmen, not soccer players. Next please.”

Up scooted the snake. “I can squeeze the strongest metal into any shape you wish.” He pulled out a quarter, held it up, wrapped himself around it, and squeezed. After several seconds of much huffing and puffing, the quarter was now twisted into a corkscrew.

“Wow, now that’s circus-worthy. You can be our strongman. Next please.”

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck down, singeing the wheat. As thunder clapped, rain started to pour. The crowd was too intent on their try-outs to even notice. After several minutes, though, they began to notice that the wombat’s wings were starting to shed.

“What’s happening to your wings?” asked the crowd.

The wombat stopped his interviewing and looked down. His wings were melting! How was he going to run the circus without his wings?

“Um, try-outs are canceled. We’ll start again tomorrow. Good night everyone.”

With that, the wombat slowly started backpedalling through the field, away from the crowd.

The owl was also watching from a distance, and saw the wombat’s wings coming off.

“Aha, I knew that winged wombats don’t exist. How stupid I was, to not see that his wings were made of wheat!” thought the owl.

So he yelled to the crowd, “The wombat is a fake! His wings are made of wheat, and are dissolving in the rain.”

The wombat stopped in mid-step.

“Is this true?” asked the seagull. “How dare you lie to us, get our hopes up!”

“I was only trying to, to, to make a name for myself. I wanted to be a star just like all of you wanted to. Today I was lucky enough to get something to make me star-worthy, and I took it. And I was going to take you with me, so we could all be stars. And don’t forget, you came to see me, remember?”

“This is true,” the owl ruffled. “Many of us wanted to be stars just as much as you did, and we were willing to look past the obvious if it meant that we could have a chance.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell the whole truth.”

“It’s both our faults. While you shouldn’t have misled us, we shouldn’t have let our hopes mislead us.”

The owl walked toward the wombat, covered his head with his wing, and said, “Come now, let’s get out of this wretched weather.”

The animals walked back to their homes, and while their hopes had been dashed, they were all a bit wiser and wetter.

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