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Back when the world was much younger than it is now certain of the animals were different than they are now. One example is the butterfly. The butterfly used to have big, splendid, colorful wings that were his pride and all the other animals’ envy. They would see him flitting from flower to flower (for the butterfly could fly back in those days) and would say, “There goes the butterfly with his splendid wings. I would do anything to have spectacular wings like his.”

So the other animals said, but none of them actually meant that he would do anything to get the butterfly’s wings. But the crafty snail decided that he would own the butterfly’s splendid wings, and it didn’t matter what he had to do. “I will own those beautiful wings,” he told himself, “if I have to resort to thievery or extortion or even violent act to get them.”

Thus resolved, the snail determined to craft a plan that would obtain for him those splendid butterfly wings. He announced to the other animals that he was feeling a spot of the gout and would have to retire to the privacy of his home for a few days. The other animals believed him because this was back before everyone knew how crafty the snail was and why would someone lie about something like that anyway? So relieved of suspicion, the snail was free to work his deviousness in privacy.

The snail understood already at such a young age that great ideas are born only of the informed mind. So he began his planning with research. First the snail read Plato’s Republica cover to cover. Then on to Bismark and then the master himself, Macchiavelli. Not only Il Prinzipo (in the original Italian, of course) but also the lesser know works. Next came Field Marshall Montgomery’s treatise on modern warfare. Vergil, Juveline, Das Kapital, and a scattering of Freud, and the wiley snail felt ready to launch his own endeavor.

The first (and most important) question to be addressed was what sort of sin the snail should utilize to catch his prey. Simple mugging seemed both inelegant and risky. Not only might the snail be seen in the act, but also the butterfly was looking pretty buff back in those days, what with all the wing-flapping and whatnot. The snail next considered blackmail, for appearances were very important to the butterfly. But for that very reason the snail could not imagine what sort of secret the butterfly might consider more damaging than the loss of his wings. Perhaps the snail could blackmail for a single wing, but he wanted the whole set. Finally the snail considered trickery, a con. The butterfly was something of a party boy, and there was every reason to believe he could be made to think all sorts of crazy things. Furthermore, since the snail was himself crafty, he played to his own strength. It was settled, thought the snail, a con it would be.

That matter having been decided, it was simple to work out the details. In only the space of a single sentence the snail had worked up an elaborate scheme involving next week’s weather forecast, three actresses posing as nuns, currency from seven nations, a phony lottery ticket, and the winning move to a chess match in Bucharest. The plan soon lay ready to execute. All it needed was the butterfly.

The snail returned to society, announcing that his foot was feeling much better and immediately set out to find his prey. The butterfly was not flitting from flower to flower as usual, but eventually the snail located him on a bench in the park. Much to the moxie snail’s dismay, the butterfly’s wings were not to be seen.

 “I haven’t run into you lately,” the butterfly commented to his supposed friend.

 “I’ve been sick,” the snail responded. “How have you been, buddy, and what’s happened to have those delicious wings of yours?”

 “Oh, those old things,” the butterfly said. “I traded them to the spider monkey for a champagne enema.

 “I cannot recommend the champagne enema,” he added, “not highly enough.”


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