The Cassowary King
The man sat at the base of the large silky oak tree, his head firmly placed in the palms of his hands. He paid little mind to the sweet sounds of the rainforest in which he sat. Neither the agog tweets of the lorikeets at play, nor the quaint twits of the tiny finches and sunbirds, caused to balm his troubled mind. None of these alive sounds made impact through the man’s inner turmoil. All the man could do was to mumble laments to his woe and kick the dirt and small scree away with his feet.
“What more do you want from me?” wailed the man to only the trees who were listening. “You have taken everything. I have no more to give.”
At these words, the man picked up a fallen stick and tossed it, rather forcefully, it must be said, into the dense underbrush of the rainforest.
“Ouch,” can the dolorous cry from behind a dense thatch of wait-a-whiles. “Who threw that stick,” commanded the rumbling retort. “I have mind to see that you pay dearly for your mistake.”
The man lifted his head in surprise at the uncommon intrusion. He did not know there was somebody to where he threw the stick. Immediately he got to his feet and walked the small distance in effort to peer through the thick under-brush, yet he could still not see the source of the voice of anger.
“I, I, I’m sorry,” he mumbled in somewhat confusion, “I did not mean to hit anyone with the stick. It was an accident. I am dreadfully sorry.”
All at that same instant, a large cassowary came bounding through the trees to confront the man and his meek apology. So startled was the man that he jumped back many-a-metre, to stand, once again by the base of the large tree of his previous musing.
‘How dare you hit me with that stick,” said the cassowary with venom. “Why I’ve a good mind to give you a karate kick that you will never forget.”
“Please, please, do not hurt me,” pleaded the man. “It was an accident. I did not mean to hit you.”
The cassowary did see through his anger that the man was sincere in his apology and this did cause him to abate his ire somewhat.
“Well, okay,” said the mollified rainforest creature, “but don’t do it again. Otherwise I will be sure to make you pay a heavy price.”
“Yes, yes sir,” stumbled the man, as his chin approached his chest.
The cassowary turned to leave the man to his own, but then his peaked casque tilted side-wards in question.
“Tell me something before I go. Why did you throw that stick, if you did not intend to hurt me?”
The man scratched the earth diffidently with his feet in effort to draw forth the tumult from his mind.
“Well, it’s just that … well … I, I’m frustrated, you know.”
“Frustrated? What is frustrated?” asked the confused bird.
The man still struggled with himself for a few moments, so he crouched to his haunches and scratched at the earth with the points of his fingers.
“Well, if you must know, I am frustrated because everything I try, I fail at. My whole life has been one big blob of failure. I’ve never succeeded at anything.”
Once again the cassowary’s casque tilted beyond the vertical.
“But, I do not understand,” intoned the cassowary. “What have you got to worry about?”
The man looked at him strangely, as if trying to work out why this bird could not see the extent of his lament. So much so, that he even felt the heat of anger enter body to seek an outlet through his mind.
‘What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see that I am nothing, nothing but a failure?”
“I can see nothing of the sort,” replied the cassowary, followed by a pregnant pause. “Anyway, what have you got to worry about?”
“Huh?” was the man’s confused reply.
“Look,” said the cassowary, “I am nearly the last of my kind. Soon I and my few remaining brothers and sisters will be extinct.
At these words, the man’s jaw almost dropped to the earth.
“You cannot be serious. Why, you are a magnificent rainforest creature, a miracle amongst the North Queensland rainforest. Why, the rainforest would not be the same without the statement of your being here.”
“Well, it is so,” replied the cassowary wearily. “Soon, much sooner than you think, I and my kind will be no more.”
“This is an outrage,” cried the man. “It should not be so. Something must be done.”
“I’m afraid it’s too late,” replied the cassowary in despair. “There a so few that will listen to our cry.”
At these words from the cassowary, the man drew himself to his full height in declaration.
“I will not have it so. I am going to march out of here and do everything that I can to ensure that you and your kind do not die to extinction.” The man then stumbled over his next thoughts before he found voice. “Why, I will shout from the very rooftops. I will plead with the powers that control our sacred rainforest. I will speak to all ears that will listen. I will not stop until it is done, and you and your kind are safe.”
The cassowary’s face lightened with joy and a strange warble entered his chest that he could not stop from expressing.
“You, you would do this for me?” he asked of the man.
“Yes, most certainly and I will not stop until I have succeeded,” exclaimed the man with determination
The cassowary’s casque, once again tilted to the side a little. “But, what about your, your frustration? Your lack of success.”
The man stood to his full height and looked steely at the cassowary.
“My friend, I will not fail you.”
By Stephen Paul CHONG
24th August 2016