Having narrowly escaped being shot by Vice President Dick Cheney during his hunting trip to the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier on Monday, an exhausted pheasant and a very angry mallard discuss the meaning of life, patriotism and the ethics of shooting fish in a barrel.
Freddie Pheasant: Y'know, it could've been worse, Jean-Luc. At least we're alive. We're not lying in a bullet-ridden heap with 400 of our brothers and sisters. But I suppose you're simply going to use this incident as another opportunity to bash the Bush administration, right?
Jean-Luc Mallard: Why in the world would you think such a thing, mon ami? Just because this situation is rich with metaphoric possibilities doesn't mean I'm going to bring up such obvious parallels as the last days of Louis XIV or any of that Sun King jazz. Like you, I accept my lot in life. Our destiny is to be target practice for whatever plutocrat with an itchy finger wanders by on Air Force Two.
Freddie: I know sarcasm when I hear it, Jean-Luc. Personally, I consider it an honor to have been shot at by the vice president of the United States. I'm a patriot first and a ringneck pheasant second.
Jean-Luc: Don't confuse your blindness with patriotism, Freddie. You're a resident of an open-air abattoir, you ridiculous bird. Your whole existence is predicated on rich, hairy bipeds taking pleasure at shooting you for sport.
Freddie: Look, I know it looks bad, but that's only if you lose sight of the big picture. I figure that if the veep is shooting at us to relieve stress, that's one less country that's being invaded.
Jean-Luc: I'm sure the mallards and pheasants of Syria and Iran will thank us, Freddie. But why is that small comfort to me?
Freddie: My sense of self-preservation is as keen as yours, Jean-Luc, but there's more to living a good life than looking out for one's own interests.
Jean-Luc: Yes, nothing beats running in circles and dodging bullets with hundreds of other birds while dogs chase us with disciplined blood lust. I get a chill of gratitude every time a hound points to another unfortunate soul hidden in a brush. Such obedience would be heart-warming if it didn't lead to such wholesale slaughter.
Freddie: I hear that Mr. Cheney shot 70 pheasants all by himself. That's probably a record for a sitting vice president, don't you think? They say they were plucked and vacuum-packed for the trip back to Washington. I wonder if they'll be eaten at the White House? If it weren't such a horrible fate, I'd be jealous.
Jean-Luc: Imagine the skill it takes to shoot at 500 farm-raised birds squeezed into a killing field at a private club. What sportsmanship! How blind would a man have to be to miss so many targets at close range? I'm surprised Cheney didn't kill all of us, frankly.
Freddie: Still, about 100 of us escaped the vice president's hunting party, J-L. Doesn't the Bible say that there's always a remnant? We'll live to be stalked another day, for which I'm grateful. Besides, I thought you mallards were supposed to have an appreciation for life's absurdities. What could be more absurd or patriotic than what we do?
Jean-Luc: How about living to a ripe old age and dying in one's own pond? Call me old-fashioned, Freddie, but I don't see why I should have to give up my life for the sake of an old man's vanity, do you?
Freddie: Well, no, but why do you insist on framing the question in the most negative way possible? If the vice president thinks our lives are expendable, then he must have his reasons. We don't have to agree with him, but why impute evil motives to the man all the time? It's un-American.
Jean-Luc: This is the second time in two years Cheney has come to Rolling Rock to kill us. I take shotguns pointed at my face personally, Freddie. Silly me.
Freddie: I suppose you think his hunting style mirrors his politics, don't you? I bet you're going to say that "canned hunts" are a metaphor for the no-bid contracts Halliburton won from the Bush administration to rebuild Iraq. You're a master of conspiratorial cliches.
Jean-Luc: It's better to be a tiresome left-winger than a dead duck, Freddie. We'll see how patriotic you are when Dick Cheney comes around next year to finish the job.
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