A Twist in the Tale: Natural Science Lessons for the Gullible

Alligator poking head out of water

By Jenny Kalahar

Colleges offer a wide variety of unusual courses today, from Tree Climbing 101 to Pet Fashion Design; from Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse to Elvish Language Studies.

Here’s one course that says right up front that it is certainly not full of truthiness, but maybe that’s why it has become so popular with animal-loving university students.

Natural Science Lessons for the Gullible

The friendly narwhal is one of the ocean’s great Arctic pollinators

and the planet’s greatest grass-farming mammal.

The male wields his long, pointy, helical tusk to untangle

gently-swaying shoreline reeds

Offering each blade a greater share of sunlight.

Narwhals learned this habit by observing the curious actions

of another single-spiked mammalian: the land-dwelling unicorn


Delicate, doe-eyed, white-maned unicorns are known to suffer leg ailments

and so, as a remedy, they find conglomerations of chlorophyta at water’s edge

where they use their spiraling horn to swirl the more potent pods to the surface.

And, after wading the shallow water softly, they climb to shore

glistening algae clinging to their pale, slender legs

forming what appears to be

bright green knee-high socks:

A compress of healing agents

that will reduce swelling and ease charley horses as the algae dries.

Paintings and photographs rarely depict sock-wearing unicorns

as they are very shy during convalescence


Also shy is the delicate nursery pig, an exceedingly rare creature.

Pink in color, they appear nearly translucent when winter chills

and prefer to stay warm indoors, beside the baby.

They can be consistently relied upon to safeguard

even the most onerous infant or toddler

when human parents need time for shopping, bathing, or for country dances.

Encountering danger

nursery pigs will stand erect and emit a high-pitched squeal

that can be heard for miles, through thick forest or downstream:

An echoing trill that mimics the raspio saucer-plated marsh beetle—

another of Mother Nature’s wondrous alarmists


And, speaking of mimics

if you have ever been hiking in the rugged Appalachian Mountains

particularly in the northernmost region where the moist soil is the blackest

you may have witnessed the spectacular goldencrisp bird in flight.

They are native to England, but shortly after World War II

large groupings immigrated to the eastern United States

secretly stowing away on hulking military and passenger ships.

There they were not welcome

as they had learned the distinct call of British fish-n-chip street vendors

and, as there were no fish-n-chip vendors on board

this soon made everyone quite unhappy!


Turning our attention now to another unhappy beast

the blue-skinned moaning lilygator

is unquestionably nature’s saddest crocodilian.

He is distinct from other Lilygators in that he moans.

Scientific research conducted at the Institute of Serious Scientific Research

has not definitively proven just what makes him moan

but he regularly turns perfectly good freshly-caught crustaceans

into inedible mush by his constant over-tenderizing and fussing

by adding too much spice of one variety or another

or by boiling them too long over a camp stove


This concludes our brief look at some of the world’s little-known

and little-understood wildlife.

As you leave, please help yourselves to a brochure

on the brown-spotted slipper mouse.

And do take home a baggy

of tasty deep-fried raspio saucer-plated marsh beetles with our compliments.

Drive safely and do please have a good night!


Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime: Another Tale of Used Books and Cats. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog, Bookselling and Writing with Weegee.

More from Jenny:

Krafting Kitties

Weegee’s Halloween Costume

The Formerly Shy Cat

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