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THE FLAMINGOS' SOCKS
Horacio Quiroga's fable

One day the snakes made a very big party and invited frogs, flamingos, alligators and fish. All the animals were very nice for this special occasion. The fish, unable to walk, could not dance either: but the party was near the river bank and so they crowded on the strand, and tossed their tails to applause.
Alligators wore necklaces with bananas and smoked Paraguayan cigars, toads had fish scales in all the body and waddled as if they were swimming: to see them walking along the bank, slow and grave, the fish made soundly fun of them.
Frogs, perfumed as never before, walked on two legs(feet). Moreover, each of them wore a swinging firefly around their necks, as it were a pendant.

The snakes were the most beautiful ones. They wore red, green and yellow skirts, according to the colour of their skin. The red snake had a red tulle tutu,; the green a green tulle; the yellow, a yellow tulle… and the alligators wore grey tulle tutu, striped with ashes and brick dust, as that is their colour.
Gorgeous, among them all, were the coral snakes who, wearing some very long red, black and white veils, danced sinuously.
Seeing them dance, all the guests clapped as much as they could.
Only the flamingos ( which had white legs in that epoch and that today as yesterday have a big, crooked nose), were sad because they had nothing really nice to wear for the party.
They watched with desire all those clothes, above all those of the coral snakes. Every time they meet one of them, so coaxing and rich in fluttering veils, the flamingos were eaten up with envy.
Fortunately one of them had an idea.

‘I know what we are going to wear,' one of the flamingos said. ‘We are going to wear red, white and black socks and the coral snakes will fall in love with us.'
So they all crossed the river and went to buy the socks, knocking at a village shop.
‘Knock knock'
‘Who's there?'
‘We're flamingos and want to buy red, white and black socks,' one of the flamingos said.
‘I haven't got socks in those colours, you won't find them anywhere' the seller answered.
Fortunately the flamingos found another shop.
‘We're looking for red, white and black socks,' one of the flamingos said again.
‘What did you say?' the seller said with surprise. ‘Red, white and black socks? There are not socks in those colours. Are you mad? But who are you?'
‘We're flamingos'
‘Mad ones, that's for sure!'
So they decided to go to another shop.
‘Have you got red, white and black socks?' the same flamingo asked.
‘What colour? Impossible,' the seller answered. ‘Only stupid birds like you want socks like these.'
The flamingos went to a lot of shops, but they couldn't find the socks they wanted. So an armadillo, which was drinking in the river, decided to bother the hopeless birds.
‘Good evening,' he told them. ‘I know where you can find red, white and black socks. Maybe in Buenos Aires, but you've got to order by mail My sister-in-law, the owl, has that kind of socks.'
The bird told them where the owl lived and the flamingos went to her house.
‘Good evening, owl,' the flamingos said. ‘Have you got red, white and black socks to give us? Today it's the snakes' party and we want to wear socks in those colours, so that the coral snakes will fall in love with us.'
‘Sure, my friends! Wait just a minute, I'm coming back soon'
The owl flew away and haunted some snakes. She cut their skin and came back with the flamingos.
‘These are your socks,' the owl said and gave the flamingos the snake's skins.
Unfortunately, the fool flamingos didn't realise it and thought they were real socks.
‘You must be careful in the party,' the owl said. ‘Don't stop dancing. Do you understand? You must dance the whole night. Never stop. Or you'll cry in the end'
So the flamingos put on the false socks and went happily to the party. When they finally arrived, all the animals envied the beautiful socks and the snakes only danced with them. Nobody could discover that the socks were snakes' skin because the flamingos danced very fast and never stopped.
Little by little the snakes grew suspicious. When the flamingos, dancing, touched on them, they bent down the ground to watch them better.

The most suspicious were the coral snakes. They never looked away from their socks, and even tried to touch them with their tongue (which is the same as the men's hand).
Unfortunately, after hours and hours, they got very tired and the coral snakes made the frogs lend them their fireflies, and all together waited for the flamingos to fall down overcome by tiredness. At last one of them stopped, stumbled on a crocodile's cigar and fell down. Soon the coral snakes went with their small lanterns and lit up the flamingos' legs. They discovered the trick and hissed so loud as to make them be heard from the other river's bank.
‘They are not socks!' the snake shouted angrily. ‘The flamingos killed our snake sisters and are wearing their skin as socks!'
The angry snakes started to bite the flamingos' legs. As the unfortunate birds were very tired, it was impossible for them to escape.
When they were almost dead because of the venom, the snakes stopped biting them. The coral snakes were sure that the flamingos would have died because of all the venomous bites they had received.
But they did not die. So the flamingos ran to the water. They cried because of the pain and their legs were red because of the snakes' venom.

Nowadays, flamingos' legs are still red and they are all the time in the water to stop the ardour. They sometimes leave the water, but the pain caused by the venom comes back and the flamingos go to the water again. They sometimes has such a painful burning that they bend a leg and so they remain for hours, as they cannot keep (hold)it outstretched(relaxed). This is the story of the flamingos which had white legs and now have red ones.
The fish know why and make fool of them.
However, while the flamingos cool down, they do not miss an opportunity for revenging themselves, eating all the fish hwo, to make fool of them, get too close to them.

( Horacio Quiroga )

   
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