Giraffes do something called spraddling.

You know what it is as soon as you do a double-take on the word. In fact, the mental image you are presently conjuring up could be an outtake on National Geographic special centered on the African beasts at the waterhole.

The lion trots up unafraid, drinking the life-liquid of the Serengeti. Hyenas pass the word along, barking over their shoulders to the next in line, “All is clear, water here.” Wart hogs mush toward the water like sled dogs, slurp noisily through their tusks and snouts, then mush on.

Gazelles dip their hooves as daintily as their mouths: hooves touching the mud with incised prints, mouths quick to quench the ever-present thirst.

Giraffes spraddle. Giraffes don’t walk, they amble. Giraffes don’t run, they lope. All the joints in the giraffe’s body splay outward as the impossible straddle borders on the absurd. The head-on zoom in to the giraffe’s stance is a model of symmetry. A crayon line drawn left to right swoops up the incline of the leg, humps at the first shoulder, slides into the hammock between the shoulders, bumps up once more to slide finally down the slope of the second leg. The long neck tubes straight down the middle as the giraffe’s heart begins to increase its rhythm dramatically. As soon as its lips touch the water, it knows what human beings fear most to know—the deepest needs can only be satisfied when you allow yourself to become the most vulnerable.

Only one giraffe is left in the Serengeti. All others are “protected” in zoos for the inbreeding of the species. Endangered species receive human protection whether they desire it or not.

As the inbreeding continues, a scientist discovers a gene that can make a giraffe have shorter legs. Although there are only a few giraffes to try this on, a law is passed by the well-meaning Congressmen who have nothing better to do than pass laws to eliminate teeth in sharks, mute the zebra’s stripes to increase their camouflage ability and shorten giraffe’s legs.

The first pair with short legs looked a little ungainly with such long necks. In fact, the necks were so long in relation to the new musculature of the body that the heads drooped forward. Not only did that look silly, but it appeared as if they had low self-esteem.

This low self-esteem was noted by a prominent psychologist specializing in body language, and that postural droop was “most certainly indicative of a fall in the perceived self-worth of the creature.” The full text of the eminent psychologist’s remarks was printed on the electronic news picked up by 800 million subscribers worldwide.

The Environmental Conservancy noticed this sad twist of events immediately. With no hesitation whatsoever, the President, Clare Angst, declared a giraffe emergency; “This cannot be permitted to continue to destroy one of the most valuable remaining species on the planet.”

She was quoted on the same network, picked up by the same Congressmen, and, of course, by the same psychologist and scientist as an event with worldwide repercussions. This was especially true given the state of affairs in Washington D.C. where the dominant environmental theme was Pride—gay pride, pride of lions, pride of species, Pride, Pride, Pride.

With the speed of memory, the scientist who originally shortened the giraffes’ legs (“we are decreasing their vulnerability”) shortened the giraffes’ necks. The giraffes now resembled hyenas with giraffe-spotted pajamas.

As the unaltered hyenas approached the water hole, they let out what sounded like giggles, not the usual hyena cackle-laughs. Why not giggle? Did hyenas still have to be hyenas if giraffes were no longer giraffes?

And what good is it anyway to be yourself and be at your most vulnerable just to get that which you need the most?

Who needs giraffes?

Jill Campbell-Mason is a collector of stories and back stories, where metaphor doubles meaning. Her debut novel The Elephant in the Room, published by Global Publishing Group, was released August 2022. Another novel, based on a true incident, titled Mario of my Life, will be released in 2023.