Once upon a time, in the long ago and far away, there was a land where the Critters lived. There were blue Critters, and red Critters. There were orange Critters and purple Critters. There were pink, green, and yellow Critters; pink-and-green Critters; green-and-yellow Critters; plaid Critters; pale Critters; striped, and splotched, and dotted Critters…
There were Critters of every hue, tint, and tone. And the assortment of colored Critters made for quite a view as they walked about and mingled and mixed—and in the jumble of Critters one thing would always be quite clear: no Critter ever looked like any of the other Critters. Except, of course, for one thing.
All of the Critters in the Land of the Critters were exactly, absolutely, unquestionably, precisely the same-sized Critters! The blue Critters and the red Critters; the orange Critters and the purple Critters; the pink, green, and yellow Critters; the pink-and-green Critters; the green-and-yellow Critters; the plaid Critters; the pale Critters; the striped, and splotched, and dotted Critters were all exquisitely, perfectly, identically shaped Critters.
It had always been that way in the Land of the Critters, and all of the Critters there loved it. In fact, it was a great source of pride for them. So much so, that they would gather in large crowds during certain times of the year to laugh and joke about the neighboring varmints and creatures (who were of every size and shape imaginable), and to congratulate themselves for being so exceptionally uniform in every way.
Their harmonious height and breadth was the subject of song and fable. It was said to be the source of all that was good and noble. It, supposedly, gave them superior physical ability and out-right personal charm; it (or so it was claimed) increased their intellectual powers far beyond those of anyone else in the known universe. It (they said) made them better poets, philosophers, farmers, and plumbers. It was thought to give them every advantage, as well as an over-all excellence in all things.
Thus, the neighboring varmints and creatures crept woefully about; and, trying to hide their obvious defections, stayed mostly in the deep shadows and dark places. They would cringe in shame when spotted by a Critter; and the Critter’s laughter would follow them as they hustled into hiding.
All of this, as you may have guessed, made things a lot of fun for the Critters, and not fun at all for the varmints and creatures. But one day, something happened to turn things around. It was unheard of in the annals of Critterdom. A Critter was born without the proper dimensions!
His parents, and grandparents, and brothers, and sisters, and everyone else as well were stunned. They were horrified that such a thing could happen to them. And, of course, they did all they possibly could to correct the situation.
They consulted physicians, and lawyers, and specialists in every field. They checked reference books and almanacs; talked to the wise ones of the Land; called in the wizards and the magicians. Nothing worked. They invoked the names of famous kings and queens; prayed the prayers; drank the potions; and repented of uncommitted sins. Nothing still worked. The Little Critter, as he was called, would not grow.
In all of this, the mood of the Critters changed from embarrassed silence, to whispered chagrin, to out-spoken condemnation, to violent outrage. NOTHING like THIS had EVER happened! NOTHING like THIS was SUPPOSED TO happen! It was an insult to them all! And they all insisted that something must be done.
After discussing the matter for a long time, it was decided that there was only one course to take—if they couldn’t make it un-happen, at least they could treat it as though it had never happened! And that’s exactly what they did. As soon as the Little Critter was old enough to take care of himself, everyone treated him as though he did not exist.
Of course, he existed for the varmints and creatures. They took great delight in the Little Critter, and would dash out from their hiding places at every opportunity to laugh and howl at him, and make him pay for all their years of misery at the hands of the rest of the Critters.
The outcome of all this was that the Little Critter didn’t have a friend in the world. He spent most of his time walking along the seashore, looking for shells, and throwing an occasional piece of driftwood into the water.
While the Little Critter was occupied with living out his life in this fashion, it happened again. In a manner of speaking. But, in a way, this time it was more unsettling than the first. It certainly had a far greater impact!
The story circulated out of the hills, across the farmlands, into the villages and hamlets, and through the streets of all the towns and cities until it was heard with terror by all of the Critters of the Land. One of their own kind, mind you, WOULDN’T STOP GROWING!!!
They tried everything all over again. Every remedy; and chant; and spell that anyone could remember, or imagine, or invent, was poured, uttered, and cast. Without effect. The Big Critter kept right on getting bigger.
Now, the nice thing about a too-little Critter is that you can ignore him, over-look him, pretend that he’s not around. You can walk right past him and go on with whatever business you are about. But what do you do with a much-too-large Critter? How do you ignore a huge, gigantic, tremendously-bigger-than-anything-you-have-ever-seen Critter? There is only one thing to do about a Critter fitting that description. You H-I-D-E!!!
And that’s just what all the Critters did. They HID! Quivering and shaking, behind the trees and rocks, in holes, and caves, and cellars, under beds, and blankets, and tables. Whenever the Big Critter came near (and you could always tell when he was near because the earth shook with every step he took) everyone would zip into hiding and stay there until long after he had gone.
The varmints and the creatures took special pleasure in seeing the Critters run for cover. To be sure, they continued to hide themselves—because the Big Critter was a terrifying sight to behold. But in the dim light of their hiding places they would grin at one another and enjoy the turn of events which placed them on an equal level with all the other Critters.
Since everyone had plenty of warning before his arrival, and since everyone hid upon his approach, the Big Critter never saw anyone. He thought he was all alone in the world—and spent his time wandering through the countryside, being lonely.
One day his wanderings took him to the seashore. As usual, everyone was watching for him and ran to hide when they felt his approach. As the Big Critter stood looking out to sea, he happened to glance down the beach and saw something moving. He could barely believe his eyes. He couldn’t remember ever seeing anything like it before.
It was, of course, the Little Critter. Since everyone ignored him, no one had mentioned the Big Critter to him. And since no one ever talked to him anyway, he didn’t stop to wonder where everybody was. He just ambled along the beach, head down, watching the sand, and the stones, and the water. Suddenly it got dark.
“That’s strange,” thought the Little Critter. “It was quite bright only a second ago.”
He looked around. Then he looked up. And up, and up, and up. All the way up to the top of the biggest Critter he had ever seen. He was so huge that he completely blocked out the sun. The Little Critter was amazed.
So was the Big Critter. He had never seen ANY Critter before, big OR little. Both Critters stood very still, soaking up the moment, looking at each other. All of the Critters in hiding looked too; and held their breath. The varmints and the creatures peeped cautiously out from their safe places. Everyone was watching, and waiting for the inevitable end of the Little Critter.
Suddenly the Big Critter sat down with a thud that shook the entire region, hit his head with the heel of his right hand, and said, “Wow! I thought I was all alone in this place!”
The Little Critter could not believe his ears. Here was a word! A true word—spoken directly to him! Without thinking, the Little Critter threw himself into the arms of the Big Critter, and, as if on cue, they both said, “At last! A friend!”
And they began to do what friends do at the beach. They built sand castles, and splashed in the water, and laughed a lot. The other Critters (and the varmints and the creatures) shifted around to get a better view, and, stretching and straining to catch every word, every move, they gradually left their hiding places. Soon everyone was standing, or sitting, right out in the open, watching.
When the Little Critter saw the crowd, he stood tall (he did seem larger, somehow), looked them all in the eye, and said, “Come meet my new friend!”
They came slowly at first, but with increasing speed they all gathered around the two wrong-sized Critters. And before anyone knew it, they were all laughing in the sun, playing in the sand, and competing with one another for the attention of the Big and Little Critter. Varmints, and creatures, and Critters all together, saying things like: “Gosh, you’re brave!” and, “Weren’t you scared?” and, “My goodness, you’re tall!” and, “Can I ride on your shoulders?”
Needless to say, the celebration lasted far into the night. And the next morning was the beginning of a brand new day in the Land of the Critters, a brand new day indeed.