Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Boy Who Cried Wolf; Or, A Pandemic of Lies

The people of the village of Great Cockup were afraid of wolves. In order to protect the village against wolves, they hired a new Chief Wolf-watcher. The last one, they decided, was not tough enough for the job, which was to keep an eye out for wolves and warn the village if any were nearby. This despite the fact the last one had gotten rid of one of largest wolves they had ever seen. The villagers called the new Chief Wolf-watcher "The Boy." That may seem odd because he was nearing his dotage. Truth be told, he did often act like a twelve year old. He was also rather overweight. An unusual choice for such a job, one might think. But when he applied for the position, he convinced the villagers with his supreme confidence in himself. "I'm not afraid of wolves," he said. "I just look at them hard and poof, they're gone, tails between their legs. You can't hire a better Chief Wolf-watcher than me. I'm the best you'll ever have." Days went by and no wolves appeared. The Boy grew bored. One day he jumped up and cried "Eureka! I have an idea," he said. "The best idea." He ran into the village green, shouting "Wolf! European Wolf!" The villagers came out, holding pitchforks, clubs, and other weapons. "Where's the wolf?" they asked. The Boy laughed. "There is no wolf. I was just checking to see if you were ready. Go home." The Boy was highly pleased with himself. "What fun. I must do that again." And he did. His false warnings became routine. Sometimes he said the wolf was from France or Germany, other times that they were migrants from far away countries. The villagers always came out to chase off the wolves, and the Boy laughed and told them to go home. Meanwhile, reports came from other villages that a plague of wolves had descended on them. It was spreading fast, killing lots of sheep and people, which often amounted to much the same thing. Some villagers told the Boy of their concern. He laughed it off. "They're exaggerating," he said. "If there are any wolves coming, they're few and weak. I can handle them easily." One day, when he cried "Wolf" for fun, the villagers did not respond. They had grown tired of his false warnings. The Boy turned to go back to his post. As he walked away from the green, he was confronted by a huge, powerful wolf. The Boy looked at the wolf and said, "You are not real. You're a hoax." The wolf moved closer and growled. "OK, maybe you're real, but I can handle you. There's only one of you." The Boy made his most menacing face. Truly a marvel to behold. The wolf showed no fear. He moved closer, growling and snarling.
Meanwhile, other wolves were gathering around the edge of the village. When the Boy spied them, he cursed. "Why didn't someone warn me about this plague of wolves? The boy ran onto the village green and cried "Wolf!" But on this occasion, no one came out of their houses. The Boy ran away to his country mansion, Little Penistone. From news reports he learned that many of the villagers and sheep had been eaten by the wolves. In response, he bragged about his brilliant handling of the wolf plague. How he had never underestimated it. How his warnings had saved many lives. One day he wandered back to Great Cockup. It was eerily quiet. One by one the villagers who had survived came out. They were holding pitchforks, clubs, and axes. The Boy ran, but he was too slow....

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