Radagast couldn't help himself. After finding a page about the names of groups of animals -- and their sounds, offspring and other attributes -- he issued a challenge for your host to make something of it. It took a little while to come up with ideas. Post something about the etymology of entomology? Coo about pigeons? What to do?
After serious thought, SC decided that the best way to handle this was to resort to a genre popular among the elementary-school set: see how many words in the list he could compose into a story. Being an indifferent fiction writer at best, SC offers no quality guarantees for what follows:
Joe stole into the zoo like a thief in the night, which was fortunate for him, seeing as it was nighttime, and he was there to steal as many rare animals as he could stuff into his trenchcoat. Of greater concern, since he was unable to enter through the main gate, he would not have an opportunity to pick up one of those useful brochures containing a directory of the exhibits, and perhaps also the locations of some places where he might snake a snack.
To his right, there was a persistent, yet random, sound of peeping noises. Squinting at the list he had helpfully downloaded from the Web, Joe couldn't quite decide if the squall was due to the children's zoo's collection of chicks -- or alligators. Knowing from restaurant experience that they not only sound alike, but taste alike, he decided to venture in the noise's direction. Alas, the zoo was poorly lit, and Joe tripped over the low-lying fence, into a pool containing a congregation of crocodiles. Joe would have sworn he heard one saying "Hamotzi adam min ha-aretz" ([that would be Hebrew for "who brings forth humans from the ground" -- ed.]), but his ears must have deceived him -- crocodiles aren't kosher, so they probably don't daven, either.
"Well, if it had to be a congregation, at least they weren't plovers -- their feathers make me sneeze", thought Joe as he scrambled back out of the pool, crocs thrashing just behind him. Having established that he was likely not to be in the children's zoo, he headed for the nearest building-shaped shadow.
Inside, the building turned out to be at least dimly lit, permitting Joe an opportunity to inspect some of the names on the exhibits. He seemed to have come to the snake house, which meant he could finally get down to collecting some of his targets. "Let's see, where are they?" he thought, as he strode down the aisle. He could hear the Latin-tinged beats of something playing through the public address system within the building. "Holy Ricky Ricardo! A rhumba of rattlesnakes!". Employing techniques first learned as a graduate student in order to clothe himself, Joe smashed the glass, grabbed a snake, and stunned it with a squirt of liquid nitrogen in a Thermos he had brought for the task. One down, one to go in the snake house. Humming "Cold Slither" to himself, Joe headed for the quiver of cobras, one of which soon found its place in his coat next to the rattler. "Time to get out of this nest of vipers", Joe thought to himself, as he turned towards the exit.
Stepping outside, Joe saw a snack bar, the window of which he pried open. It looked like someone had been cheap with the refrigeration, as the flies were clearly in business. Closing the window in disgust, Joe turned around just in time to watch a gaggle of the geese that were allowed to freely roam the park pass by. "Turn into a skein!", he shouted, as he chased them in a moment of playfulness. Flying away, the geese obliged.
Walking on, Joe saw a stand of flamingos; "I wonder if they ever sit", he remarked. Gradually, as he continued on, he heard a rumpus start to build -- it sounded like the baboons were coming together. As he got nearer, the noise continued to build, like a cartload of chimpanzees hooting and screaming. Joe felt a foreboding, like an army of darkness was building around him; luckily, the only assembled armies contained caterpillars, ants and frogs. Joe was right about one thing, though -- it was still dark.
As he continued cautiously toward what he was now certain was a display of large mammals, Joe pondered the question of whether he could sleuth out whether or not they were bears. Grinning at his predicament, Joe laughed like the cackle of hyenas who were busy finding him amusing from inside their cage. Finally, he realized he was in for some monkey business -- a troup of said creatures was getting agitated in a cage right next to him. The cacophony made Joe nervous, and he started to run.
Slowing down in the middle of a large field, Joe started to hear the beating of wings; a flock of...what? Ducks? Pigeons? Parrots? No -- it was a gang...of turkeys! "Could've been elk", Joe thought in relief. Although he might like to poach a horn or two for resale on the black market, it would have been too difficult to handle so many elk at once. But before he could relax, he could hear the stampede of animals running toward him. He had made too much noise, and panicked the flock of camels. Or maybe it was goats. Hard to tell in this light, and say, where did the moon go? Looking up, Joe saw that it had been obscured by a cloud of bats.
At this point, Joe had seen enough. Lying at home, even on a bed of clams -- or oysters, would be preferable to being spooked so much by all these animals. All this running around was getting him tired. "What a fine kettle of hawks I've gotten myself into", said Joe, too exhausted to be sure if he meant fish. Although still in a field, Joe wasn't out of the woods yet -- a lioness was growling at him, and her family was less than proud to see an intruder in their midst. "I'd better make like a quarter-bottle of champagne and split!" Joe cried out, as he took off.
Spotting what looked like an aviary, Joe made like a sord of mallards, and ducked inside. "I'm about ready to give up the funk", he thought, as a Parliament of owls flew overhead in search of a hoard of mice. At last, finding a door marked "EXIT", Joe got out of the aviary, which turned out to be right near an exit from the zoo.
"I think I'm going to get out of the thieving business and go start an alpaca farm. Raising them one at a time; who needs any more herds of animals? It's gotta be a faster way to turn a quick buck than this", Joe said to himself ([note that Joe's wrong -- the editorial staff of this blog does not recommend the alpaca get-rich-quick scheme, though we may recommend others -- ed.]). But before he could get started on his new life, Joe knew he had one more task: to find the author of Semantic Compositions and beat him senseless for a long and defamatory story.
(Edited on 4/16/04 at 4:27 p.m. to correct erroneous link.)