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Friday, January 16, 1998
By Paul Ford
“We are going to war with the Irish! We will cast out the Leprachauns!”
Our ruler was mad, and we were his mad children.
"Dogs belong to Allah!" I remember the state pronouncement, on an old black and white TV at my alleymate Tawzi's. The Ayatollah had a favorite mutt, a cock-eared little waggler, and he pulled it into the camera. It was dressed, covered with loose cloth at the haunches.
"Dogs are now Muslims," he said. "There is a jihad on dogs. We must teach them the way of peace." The dog barked and wagged its tail.
A rush on pet stores came, as zealots looked for puppies to raise as Muslims, and the mosques filled with yapping. We received special printed instructions for the religious instruction of pets. Female dogs wore the veil and stayed indoors. When a dog stole a bone, or excreted on a carpet, or attempted to breed with a leg, the punishment increased from a swack with the Voice of the Haga newspaper to the removal of a paw in the public square. Three-legged dogs, unrepentant, ran underfoot at the market and coffee shops.
The dogs made terrible converts, as did the fish and the monkeys, but the "jihad on the zoo," as the pundits called it, continued for years. During that time, our country's father made another pronouncement. By now, our television was color, and he stood before a blue curtain with our nation's flag to his left.
"Americans are trying to poison our shoes," he said, his beard now fully white. "They are adding chemicals to our leather and making us footless cripples."
He paused, and I looked at Tawzi. Arik, Tawzi's pet monkey, sat nearby chattering. We had trained him to run to the mosque when the muezzin cried out, and he could put coins in an alms cup on command, but other than that the impish monkey made an awful Muslim. Truth be told, we had began to doubt our leader. Who did we know who had been crippled by their shoes?
The television continued, "We cannot wear poisoned shoes, so we shall make all of our shoes from chewing gum." He pulled out a pair of such shoes, two shapeless blobs. Where did the feet go in?
Around the country, eating utensils dropped to the floor. From outside, I heard loud shouts: "He's crazy! A madman!" I nodded in hushed agreement.
But the habit of obedience is the strongest habit, so we dutifully found packs of gum and began to chew. Tawzi and I carved shoe molds from wood and sold them. Soon, everyone wore sandals and slippers made from hardened chewing gum. On the hottest days, people stuck to the ground.
Finally, with a nation and its army immobile from wearing candy on their feet, and millions of secular animals too ignorant to convert stinking up our houses, people began to complain. "Our leader makes us put food on our feet, while we try to make beasts into Muslims! He is a spy here to humiliate us!" Other wits said that he had crafted the ultimate weapon: if an army attacked our country, their soldiers would die from the laughing at us. We wondered, as citizens, what we could do without being traitors.
The last pronouncement of our leader was the most baffling. His eyes burned and his cheeks drooped. He said "We are going to war."
The alley gasped. "We are going to war with the Irish! We will cast out the Leprachauns!" None of us even knew where Ireland was.
I was in Tawzi's bathroom emptying my bladder when I heard this pronouncement; I heard it through the curtain and stopped midstream. Then I heard the gunshots come from the television, and trying to cover myself, jumped back into the room.
"They have shot him! They have shot him!" Tawzi kept yelling. The television camera leaned down, and showed us our leader slumped like a doll, bloodied. Then the image turned to static.
That was the rebirth of our country. Our military can be a harsh leader, but they are fair and they are most certainly sane. The monthly pronouncements of our country's new leader describe agricultural yields and advise us on hygeine and Islamic law. After the speech the television shows traditional dancing. There have been seventeen years of new rule, and in that time the three-legged dogs all became old, and died. You would never know what we went through in that time to see our great country now, so I wrote our story down before we forget.