The Scorpion and the Crocodile
S It’s true, I did it. I admit it. That’s what I do. I can’t help it.
J I told you not to do that. Why did you disobey? Did you think I wouldn’t notice that a few are missing?
S I can’t help what I am. I can’t control my urges. You should know that. I am no more responsible for doing what I’ve done than the others are of disobeying you. Haven’t they ever broken your rules? Have you questioned and punished them like you interrogate and punish me?
J That’s not the point. My instructions to you were quite explicit. Why did you disobey me?
S Either you’re not listening, or you don’t like what I’ve told you. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all the same to me.
J What does that mean?
S I think you know very well what I mean.
J Do you really believe that?
S Now we’re just going round in circles. Eventually we’ll both forget what we were really discussing.
J I won’t forget. I don’t forget.
S So, why is it you have one set of rules for them, and another for me?
J What do you mean?
S By answering questions with questions, you’re not only being rude, you’re trying to evade the question – and we both know why you would do that, don’t we?
J What do you mean by that?
S There you go again. I’m not stupid you know, regardless of what you think.
J So where were we?
S Oh, very well! You were having difficulty understanding why I am the way I am. Of course, if you’re honest with yourself, you know that you know the answer to your own question.
J If I knew the answer, why would I ask the question?
S Oh I can think of a number of reasons why you would do that.
J I’m intrigued …
S At last – a statement, rather than a question, although it doesn’t really advance our conversation. Or would you characterise this more as an argument?
J Now who’s asking questions?
S It’s not quite the same is it? But, never mind that. To answer you … probably because you think you’re being clever … possibly because you just like to needle me. But it won’t work you know. And what’s more you know why you won’t beat me on this one.
J I think you presume too much. If I ask a question, I expect, as your boss, an unequivocal, straight-forward answer.
S Apart from the poor English (the use of redundancy if you weren’t or even if you were aware of it), I gave you what you wanted.
J What? You gave me an answer?
S Yes. I told you why I disobeyed you, but you were determined to ignore me.
J I didn’t ignore you. How dare you speak to me like that! Have some respect for your elder!
S What are you going to do about it? Throw me out? Again? Eh, just checking, but haven’t you done that already? You threw me out long ago. I can still hear the gates clanging shut behind me, and that sinking feeling as if falling head-first to the earth.
J You know the reason for that.
S We both know the real reason for that, whatever you might have told your darling little boy.
J And just what do you mean by that?
S Don’t act all innocent. Gosh, you’re such a hypocrite!
J How dare you!
S It’s about time you heard some home truths. Remember, I’m on my own now. Isn’t that what you told me? Just before you threw me out!
J You brought that on yourself. Don’t blame me for any of that nonsense.
S I’ve made a life of my own now. You know I can manage without you. That’s what really hacks you off, isn’t it? Having loads of fun without you? In fact, I’m doing rather well without you and all your rules … “Thou shalt not this, Thou shalt not that…” Get a life! Lighten up!
J I had no idea you felt like that.
S There’s a lot you don’t seem to know.
J Actually, I know everything.
S If that’s the case, why so many questions? Well, I can tell you this for nothing. If you thought I would come crawling back, asking for forgiveness, don’t hold your breath. Forget that!
J If you’re prepared to play by my rules, you’re welcome back any time. You know what the rules are. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no difference between you and the others. I love all my children equally. There’s plenty of room in the mansion. I’ve kept your room for you. You know that. You’ve always known that, haven’t you?
S Aha! I’ve got you on the ropes now. A father is supposed to have equal love and affection for all his children? We’re all meant to be the same to you, aren’t we? Yes we are! But him, he was always your favourite, wasn’t he?
J What, eh I mean, who, do you mean?
S Oh grant me patience! Knock, knock, anyone at home? Adam! Don’t you remember?
J What about him? What’s he to do with the price of cucumber in Winter or anything else for that matter?
S Oh, I see where you’re going with this! You’re trying to make me lose my temper so you can justify heaping more punishment on me. You’d like that wouldn’t you? Well, I’m wise to you. It won’t work. I’ll make sure.
J Make sure of what?
S Just don’t! Don’t! That is enough! I’m warning you, don’t push me! You might be the boss but I can still do you a lot of damage. So just don’t make me lose my temper. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
J Why would I want you to lose your temper?
S Well, I can tell you this, precious little Adam may be your darling boy, but mark my words, he’ll let you down. That girlfriend of his, she’s no better. Once she gets her claws into him, and don’t worry, she will, women know what a man wants, and once he’s tasted her “forbidden fruit” so to speak, he’ll turn on you. Just you wait and see. And when that happens, will you chuck him out as well? Keep doing that with everyone who annoys you, and you’ll be left alone, because we all know, you’re perfect. No-one can live up to your expectations. Before long, there’ll be a whole brood of little Adams all over the place, swearing and fornicating and worse.
J Oh, I think you’re the one on the ropes now. If that isn’t losing your temper, I’m sure I don’t know what is.
S I can assure you, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet kiddo. That precious little lad will hurt you far more than I ever did. In fact, if you think about it, I’ve sort of done you a favour, getting rid of a few of your little pets.
J You’re so juvenile.
S Me? Juvenile? Ha! That’s a laugh!
J Oh! This is getting us nowhere! Just answer my question. Why did you do it?
S Eat them? Why did I eat them? It’s quite simple you know. Let me think. How can I explain this in a way you’ll understand? Okay, I think I know. You’re fond of moral stories, aren’t you? Well try this.
A scorpion came to a river he wanted to cross. But try as he might, he couldn’t find any way across it. Then a crocodile happened to swim up close to the bank. Seeing the scorpion looking down-hearted he asked if he could help. The scorpion explained what his dilemma was and asked the crocodile to help by taking him across the river on his back.
“Oh, I can’t do that Mr Scorpion,” came the reply.
“Why not?” demanded the scorpion.
“If I let you jump on my back,” said the crocodile, “you’ll wait until I swim to the middle of the river and then you’ll sting me and I’ll die.”
“I won’t do that because I can’t swim,” explained the scorpion. “If I sting you, I’ll drown. So I would die as well as you. I wouldn’t be so foolish as to do that, would I?”
The crocodile thought about this for a while and appreciating the logic of the scorpion’s explanation, allowed him to jump onto his back. Half way across the river, the scorpion stung the crocodile.
“Why did you do that?” screamed the crocodile. “Now we’ll both die!”
“I can’t help it,” said the scorpion. “That’s the way I am. It’s my nature.”
J So what’s the point you’re making?
S If I ate them, who gave me a mouth? … And an appetite? It’s because of you that I am what I am. It’s my nature.