Not too long in time ago
There was the queerest collection
Of animal friends —
A tortoise, a serpent, and a peacock three.
Tortoise said to the peacock:
“Let us all go for a journey,
But only if the serpent
Will lead us to his favorite place first.”
“I will certainly take you,”
The serpent said to the other two,
“But you must be brave,
For the forest is dark and quiet now.”
“I’m not afraid,” Peacock said.
“Nor am I,” Tortoise said quickly.
So they all left then
To go to the forest that the serpent liked.
Upon arrival, the three huddled
None daring to stray too far away.
Serpent slithered slightly ahead,
“Come, it’s not much further this way.”
Peacock puffed up his chest
And spread his tail to show his pride.
“Let’s go tortoise and see
What serpent likes inside this forest.”
Tortoise poked out his head
And lowered his shell behind his neck.
“Very well, I am ready
To see what serpent likes so very much.”
A smile crossed the dangerous slit
Upon the serpent’s delighted face.
His ruby red eyes sparkled
And he met their gaze with his and spoke:
“You two are my friends;
I can tell by your dedicated pursuit
To see what it is
That I have come to like in here.
But do not feel misled
When I tell you that it is you two
Whom I wish to devour
Inside this dark and quiet forest.”
Peacock smiled much larger
Than serpent was able moments before
He looked to the tortoise
And said with the slightest chuckle:
“Alas, we knew it not long
Before you uncoiled your dark truth
And showed us your fangs
Of treachery and deceit, poor worm.
We wish you not be
Misled when we tell you our plan
To peel the thick flesh
From your weak skeleton as we gobble you down.
Tortoise and I have thought
All along what a delicious morsel
You’d make, if only you’d
Play along and lead us to such a place.”
“But how can this be?
That you two are so much cleverer than me
When all along you have
Played dumb so very well as to make me believe?”
“Oh, dear serpent, our friend,
You underestimate what you cannot see.
The colors in my tail
Are for distraction, and the tiles on his shell as well.”
And when all quieted again
The two began to eat their friend
As they recalled the fun
They had in tricking their slippery foe.
© Anthony O’Dugan 2021