Mating for Life
from HEY, DIDDLE DIDDLE

      “You don’t dance anymore,”

complained a crane.


      “I don’t need to,” chuckled her

husband. “We’re married. Remember?”


      She clucked, deep in her throat.


      “You could at least throw a

stick in the air. Or strut around

in a circle. Just something.”


      He made a similar noise.


      “I did throw a stick in the air.

Two seasons ago. You weren’t even

watching. I got a crick in my neck.”


      She acted as if she didn’t hear.


      He eyed her affectionately.


      “Oh come on. Let’s just mate. We’ll

do something nice afterwards.”


      She gazed past him.


      “Not without the dance. Not this year.”


      She ruffled and adjusted her feathers.

Then she scrutinized him, tip to toe, as if

she had never seen him.


      “Maybe not ever.”


      He glared.


      “What’s gotten into you? What’s going on?

You can’t do that.”


      “I just did it.”


      “But... But you can’t just change things.

You can’t make up new rules. Things are the

way they are. The way they’re supposed to be.”


      He drew himself to full height.


      “That’s just the way it is.”


      “The way it was,” she corrected. “The way

it is now is, no dance, no eggs. None that

will hatch, anyway.”


      She flicked her tail.


      “You want offspring, you dance. You

don’t want to dance, no offspring. You get

to choose.”


      The feathers on his crest stood straight up.


      “I don’t believe this! Tell me I’m dreaming.”


      He began to pace, spreading and flexing

his great wings.


      “Do you mean to say... Do you seriously mean - “


      He stopped, and puffed out his chest, as if

about to charge. Instead, he sputtered.


      “I had the pick of the flock!”


      She gave her head a toss.


      “Well, you don’t now. Besides, it wouldn’t

have done you any good. Look around.”


      She waited till he peered in every direction.

Each pair of nesting cranes seemed engaged

in the same discussion.


      “We caucused, and it’s unanimous. There’s

not a thing you can do. That’s how it’s going to be.

From now on.”


      She gestured with a sweep of her wing.


      “It’s the same all over the island.“


      Moral: Some things may never change.

But don’t count on it.