THE MORAL OF THE STORY
An old camel who had carried tourists around
on his back since he was old enough to work was much too tired to keep doing his job.
He choked on the city’s pollution and if he felt his own weight
augmented by the weight of a man, he could no longer get to his feet.
His legs shook, and he bellowed in pain.
His employer, who had looked after him since the beginning, advised him to take a rest in the desert.
The camel walked and walked in the same direction in blinding sun and burning heat, when he suddenly realised that the landscape no longer changed. He was in the desert.
He was lost.
For as long as a camel could remember, this had never happened before.
A little fennec who was passing by quickly understood what was afoot.
She told the camel to follow her to a little waterhole where she had set up home with her large family.
'There’s water there,’ she said, ‘and life’s good.
The only problem is there’s no shelter from the sun.’
The camel, who only listened to half of this invitation, was already imagining a green paradise.
When they arrived, the old camel, foaming with sweat, dropped to the edge of the waterhole.
The camel’s huge hump made a nice big, deep shadow on the ground.
The little fennec, who dreamed of taking a nap in a cool place seized the opportunity
and asked the camel: ‘Camel, may I lie down beside you—will you protect me from the sun?’
For as long as a fennec could remember, this had never been thought of before.
The camel agreed but on one condition. If she wanted to make use of his shadow, the fennec should bring him a little stone in exchange.
The fennec was delighted with this proposition. A stone was so little to ask.
Under the stone she chose lived a colony of ants. A dozen surprised ants went out in search of a new shelter.
The little fennec’s brothers and sisters, who normally made burrows in the sand to rest in, also preferred to swap stones for a nap in the shadow of the camel’s hump. They all stopped digging and started collecting stones and rocks in earnest.
The camel accepted all these new arrivals.
He simply asked that the stones be placed on top of one another, all along in a line.
In this way, his collection was seen to grow before him.
And a wall quickly rose up, while hundreds of ants, who nobody bothered about, ran about under the blinding sun.
‘Anyone seen a stone?’ they ran around asking each other.
For as long as an ant could remember, no one had ever seen anything like it.
The news spread through the desert, and whole troupes of fennecs descended on the waterhole each with a little pebble between his or her teeth. They each fantasised about a different paradise.
There were more and more fennecs, and there was less and less shade.
And the last fennec to arrive had nowhere to lie down, neither in the shadow of the hump, nor in the shadow of the wall...
The camel woke the little fennec from her nap.
He explained that if she wanted to keep sleeping there, she would have to go and find another stone.
The camel explained: ‘I want to be fair. Everyone’s wellbeing has to be thought of.
The bigger the wall, the bigger the shadow, and everyone will be happy.’
There were almost no stones left in the desert. The fennecs had to travel further and further to find them.
Each time they came back from their expeditions more tired than the last time.
Sometimes they fought over the few rare minerals that remained.
The camel became aware of the problem.
From now on, he accepted all contributions, even the very smallest, in exchange for naps the length of which would be proportionate to the size of the stone offered.
For as long as a camel could remember, it was the best solution.
Thousands of ants, tired of moving house, got together to dig the biggest tunnel ever dug.
As for the camel, he no longer moved at all, except for the moment when the sun had shifted so that the shadow of his wall no longer completely covered him.
The third time that the camel woke the little fennec from her nap to remind her to fetch another stone, she yawned as she climbed over the other fennecs stretched out around her.
She said, ‘And why don’t we dig our burrows like before?’
‘Ahhh (yawn), of course, that would be so much simpler.
But how could we abandon a wall that has taken so much of our investment and our effort?’
The fennec didn’t insist and let her own idea drop.
For as long as a fennec could remember, no one had ever thought like that.
The little fennec resignedly went out in search of new stones. In the distance, she saw a storm brooding. She ran back to warn her friends. Some of them didn’t want to leave the shelter and lose their place in the shade (a fennec is not stupid),
while others ran to the immense undertaking of the ants and begged them to take them in.
The ants were divided on this point,
the fennecs wouldn’t stop bickering,
and the camel watched on good-naturedly.
A first gust of wind caused the wall to shake— and ants and fennecs to tremble.
While the debates raged,
lightening rendered the sky, and rain beat upon the dry ground.
The camel hoisted up his two humps and climbed to the top of his wall,
the fennecs raised their ears—tens of raised ears battered by the wind—
while the ants linked together until they had formed a boat.
And it rained and rained.
For as long as an ant could remember, no one had ever been through anything like it.
When dawn broke, the sunlight glimmered on the calm water.
Not far off from two little hump islands, surrounded by a multitude of ear-reeds, a colony- boat drifted in the current.
It was a new world.
For as long as a desert could remember, nothing had been seen like it before.