Miles Kington: Three brand new fables for our times

'I have never seen you before in my life,' said the tuna. 'Please let me go.' So the loan shark ate him
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The trouble with the literary scene today, as I see it, is that there are far too many novels and not nearly enough fables. In fact, I don't think there are any new fables for our times at all. So let's put that right immediately, with three brand new ones...

The Magpie and the Pine Tree

Once upon a time there was a very tall pine tree with a marvellous view from the top. And in spring, when birds start to think about nest-building, a magpie flew to the top of the pine tree and perched on a branch there.

"Is it not a fine view?" said the pine tree proudly, for he did not get many visitors.

"It is wonderful," said the magpie. "Also, it would be very safe up here."

"What would be very safe up here?" said the tree.

"If I built my nest up here," said the magpie.

"Oh no!" said the tree. "You're not building a nest in me! Making a mess of my fine branches with your higgledy piggledy collection of twigs and straggly little branches!"

"On the contrary," said the magpie. "I shall be making the place tidier. Round your trunk, on the ground, there is a horrible accumulation of twigs and debris, which I will clear up to turn into a tidy nest."

"Well, maybe . . . " said the tree.

"Recycling, refurbishing, reusing," said the magpie. "It's green! It's ecology at work before your very eyes!"

"Well, put like that . . . " said the tree.

So the magpie built a big nest of sticks, and raised a family, and flew away in the summer, leaving the nest behind, and in the autumn it all fell down and the mess on the ground was worse than before.

Moral: Ecologists make the worst lodgers.

The Horse and the Zebra

Once there was a herd of zebras in the plains of Africa, who encountered a horse running wild. The horse asked if he could join them and they accepted him gladly.

"Why do you all have black and white stripes?" said the horse to the zebra next to him. "It is the worst camouflage I have ever seen. You can be seen miles away. If you were dull brown like me, you could melt into any landscape."

"Well, this comes with being a zebra," said the zebra. "There is nothing we can do about it. But why are you running wild? I did not think there were any wild horses any more."

"No," said the horse. "I am not really wild. In fact, I was on a farm but I ran away to gain my freedom and I shall never go back again."

Just then the herd encountered a group of hunters, who stared open-mouthed at the brown horse running with the black and white zebras, then chased after them and caught the horse, because it looked valuable.

"Alas, my friend, " called the zebra after him. "If only you had had black and white stripes you would have been all right!"

Moral: Invisibility is the only good camouflage.

The Tuna and the Shark

One day a tuna fish looked round to find there was a huge shark swimming right behind him.

"Have you got it?" said the shark.

"Have I got what?" quavered the tuna.

"The money I lent you."

"What money?"

"Don't make me angry," said the shark. "I am a loan shark and I lent you some money last week and now I want it back."

"I have never seen you before in my life," moaned the tuna. "Please let me go."

But the shark was hungry and ate him up. When he had had his fill and was cleaning his teeth, another tuna hurried up to him.

"That money I lent you last week!" he said. "I've got it! How would you like it? In whiting or porpoise?"

"Don't worry," said the shark, belching slightly. "Forget it. Have it on me."

"You are a good kind shark indeed," said the grateful tuna.

Moral: Get into debt and live; stay solvent and die.