Cletus and Xerxes : I Tell My Children a Story About a Rabbit and a Turtle, and You Have Not Heard This Before

Once upon a time, there was a rabbit named Cletus and a turtle named Xerxes. 

Magdelana: Daddy, I've heard this story before!

Me: No you haven't.

So anyway, Cletus was energetic. He was enthusiastic about life. Excited, like Whoo-hoo about everything! He was young, for a rabbit.

Xerxes was a turtle. He took things easy. Didn't get too worked up about most things. Slow and low, that was his tempo.

There was a block party. A block party is where the neighbors get together and eat a bunch of sherbet and hot dogs and listen to Bloc Party. A conversation came up about running, and the question came up about who was the fastest runner around.

Xerxes spoke up. Uhh, you know, I think you'd be surprised at my wheels. This old boy got some wheels.

Everybody started laughing. Xerxes! You're like, one of the slowest ones here! You're not fast at all!

Xerxes the Turtle was hurt. I know y'all don't believe me, but I actually used to be quite speedy. Some players are fast in the sprints, and some are fast in the distance. Me, I'm a miracle marathon man.

This sounded wise. Cletus the Rabbit spoke up. 

All respect, old man, but I'd betchyou a bagga carrots and a box 'o french fries you couldn't beat me. 

Xerxes chortled: Well, if you think you're such a hotshot, then let's do it. I'll race you. 

Cletus: No offense, old boy, but I'm a fast cat, and you're not exactly known for your wheels, you know?

Xerxes, snorting: Bring it, ya hare-brained carrotbrain!

Cletus: Well, you say you were good at distance, and I'm a sprinter, so uhh, how about we split the difference? Medium distance race?

Oh yeah, boy. You just bring it. 'Ole Grandpeppy X is gonna game you, boy. 

So they set up the big race. Bookies were having a field day. Pretty much everyone knew that Cletus was going to win, but there's always that hope that the underdog is gonna come through, so Xerxes had a few backers. 

The day came. Cletus was talking it up a little, but however much he was bragging paled in comparison to how much Xerxes was talking it up:

Time to show the youngsters how this is done, them calory-counting FancyPhone hippetyhopping pillpoppas. Grandpappy X is gonna show how we do it old school, with none a that fancy biometriclonic training junk. Time to learn some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, time for the Hare-Head to learn some RESPECT!

Got ready to race. 3 - 2 - 1, bang! They're off. 

Cletus was much faster off the starting blocks, so he lickety-split started running out front. Way out in front of Xerxes. So far out in front that he thought I'll take myself a little nap. 

Laid down, pulled his FancyPhone out and set the timer for 20 minutes. Took a little snooze. Zonked out. Timer went off. Could still see Xerxes a little ways off. Pulled a carrot and pizza out of his backpack. Ate for some quick energy, but it just made him tired. Xerxes was still back there a ways. So Cletus decided to settle in for another quick nap. Xerxes was doing surprisingly well for an old guy, but still plenty of ground to make up. Slow and steady. 

Cletus figured he'd just rest up again for a few. Not a bad guy, he thought. The old man just has a bit of arrogance. So he laid down. But he forgot to set the timer on his FancyPhone. So he kept snoozing and snoozing. All of a sudden, he woke up. Aaaahh! Where's Xerxes? Looks up. Guess what?

Xerxes is in front of him now. 

Cletus jumps up, starts racing as fast as he can. He can see the finish line, and Xerxes is still ahead. They're both hauling along for all they're worth. Cletus is like Oh man, this is gonna be close! And Xerxes is up front chugga-chugga-chugga huff-puff-chugga-hugga and his little turtle backside just going up and down. They're both running and racing and hopping and finally...

one of them crosses the finish line first.

Who do you think crossed the finish line first?

Magdelana: Xerxes.

Johannes: The turtle.


Cletus the Rabbit crossed the finish line first. Even though everyone was rooting for the underdog, and they wanted Xerxes to win, that's just not the way it goes. In fairy tales, the turtle would have won, but in real life, a rabbit will always beat a turtle because a rabbit is a lot faster. Even if a turtle gets a big head start, then a rabbit is still going to beat a turtle ninety-nine times out of a hundred in a timed competition under ten miles.

Even though you want to think that 'slow and steady' is going to win the race, that's not the way it goes. Sometimes, it's about who has the most enthusiasm at the beginning, and that's gonna keep 'em going. Even though everyone was going for old Xerxes because he was the underdog, he just didn't have the physical ability or willpower. Also, Cletus made the wise decision to take a power nap. The power of those should never be underestimated.

Everybody was expecting Cletus to win, and he did win. People like to be surprised, but sometimes there aren't surprises. Sometimes what you think is going to happen is exactly what happens. So I guess the point is that it's important to try things when you're older, but also realise that no matter how much you want Michael Jordan the Turtle to beat LeBron James the Rabbit, it's just not going to happen.

But also, it does happen once in a while, and that's a nice surprise, and makes good cinema.

Also, Cletus and Xerxes became wonderful friends, and eventually both became very out-of-shape and sat on the front porch eating creamsicles and complaining about the next batch of young 'uns, and I suppose that's one way that people can bond, is complaining about whatever generation is the youngest.

The End.


  1. Whilst this amused me to no end, i hope you solve the riddle or better yet, avoid it altogether of how to pass your realism/cynicism on to the next generation without it morphing into fatalism/apathy.

    1. @scruffy, thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it. I'd like to think my life's philosophy is well represented across an ongoing body of stories & art...with that in mind, I don't think there's any danger of my 'realism' morphing into either fatalism or apathy. The latter two, in fact, are diametric opposites of what's important to me :) And cynicism? What's that?

      Have a great day and thanks again!

    2. Cynicism is seeing the world as it is, as it appears to be. Devoid of God, cynicism would be realism. In fact, the most cynical thing a cynic can say is that they are "realists." ;) God likes messing with us though.

      Funny, i don't consider apathy and fatalism opposed. To me they are on the same side of the coin with the motto, "Que sera, sera."


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