This, that and the other. Mostly the other
"Tell me a story, grandma," said the six-year-old, pulling her Gordon Freeman-themed bedsheet close to her neck and looking eagerly at a healthy-looking 213-year-old (who did not look a day over 170, really)
"Hmm, what kind of story," she asked her great-great-great-granddaughter.
"A sad story with a happy ending."
"Many years ago, there lived a goose named Cricky," grandma began.
She was a regular, nice sort of goose. She laid tasty eggs once in five days. People enjoyed the omelettes that were made from her eggs. Then, after many years of this routine, a cousin named Packet had a bright idea. He wanted to bring some excitement into Cricky's boring life. He painted her feathers in bright, vibrant colours and convinced her to lay eggs every seven hours or so. "You will become famous," he predicted.
He was right, because once the new Cricky started laying eggs every seven hours - including under bright halogen lamps at night - other birds got excited. Suddenly TV dodos (large flightless 21st-century birds that entertained briefly while mostly babbling commercial messages) were interested. They convinced Cricky to lay eggs with brand names embossed on them. She enjoyed the attention she was getting.
But as the money poured in, Cricky's local farm association's chief bully, BiCCi the Cuckoo, wanted in on the action. He declared Cricky to be his adopted child and announced to the world that all business deals had to go through him. His very first move was to make Cricky wear sunglasses with advertising stickers all over them (why does an egg-laying goose need to see, eh?). Then he convinced Cricky to genetically modify herself so she could lay eggs all through the year. The male goose (known as the baller) was neutered so the egg-laying could proceed without interruptions by pesky little goslings.
BiCCi soon grew old, fat, rich and lazy, thanks to Cricky's popularity, and built himself a luxury nest from bird's-nest-soup ingredients. He had a sassy nephew named Moody, a Lisp hacker by profession. Moody watched his elderly uncle grow slothful and complacent and thought about how Cricky could get to the next level. He was not content with just branded eggs and sunglasses with ad stickers on them. He wanted golden eggs.
But golden eggs do not come easily. Not only did Cricky undergo painful plastic surgery and more genetic mutation, every action of hers now had to be monetised. Her honk had to be modulated to include brand names. Her beak was altered to resemble a popular brand of mobile phone. She now had to lay golden eggs every three hours. Actresses from Duckwood were roped in for endorsements.
The golden eggs kept coming and Moody the Cuckoo became a big star. He was unstoppable. He now wanted to control all access to Cricky. Other birds who wanted to meet her had to wear t-shirts with brand logos. News-reporting pigeons could only carry 140 characters or less in the messages about her that were tied to their feet. Some TV dodos could stare at Cricky for no more than 30 seconds. Even those fancy internet-controlling penguins were prevented from uploading footage of Cricky laying golden eggs.
Soon Cricky had to take acting classes and enact ads while laying eggs. Every other bird laying eggs in the farm was put to sleep. Merchandise made from eggshells was sold at astronomically high prices. Cricky also starred in a reality show where she picked her consort from a thousand honking applicants.
Eventually, however, Cricky lost interest in laying eggs and the other birds, tired of all the ads, went away. Folks eating omelettes made from brand-embossed eggs started to fall sick. Cricky soon found herself all alone. She introspected and searched for meaning in her life. She even read Grains for the Celebrity Goose Soul. Eventually, a voice in her head said, "The tastiest eggs take five days to make."
Krish Ashok is an IT consultant, columnist and humourist who blogs at http://krishashok.wordpress.com
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