It was a hot summer afternoon in June at the town of Savannohta. Savannohta is a small town that lied in the far east end of Africalia. It has a market at its centre and the roads were not so good compared to the city. With mountains blocking both the sides of the town, rain was a rare visitor to the town. All the animals were busy packing their baggage for a long vacation away from their home. Only if they departed now, the hotels and the lodges would be available and renting a room would be affordable. It was almost the 15th of June, and most of the rooms would be full by the end of that month. The bison, zebras, antelopes, deer, giraffes and other herbivores had already started for their migration some days ago. Even the ticket prices of metro trains and flights had shot up way before the migration season. The media slammed the government for the price hike in the ticket fares and activists were protesting in front of the Mayor’s office. The migration was about 100 kms from where the king lived, the Great Republic of Africalia.
On the outskirts of the Savannohta lived Mr. Scarab, a dung beetle, who always dreamt about travelling to the capital city. Whenever his friends asked him about anything they didn’t know, Scarab would spin a cock and bull story right away. His best friend, Buggita, a lady bug, always knew he would fib anywhere and anytime, and was always worried of his boasting. She feared that one day or the other, Scarab would face retribution for his boundless boasting.
Mr. Scarab flitted every day to the nearby horse stables and occasionally fluttered to the dairy farm where the cows and bulls resided for his daily dung collection. He fed on the cakes and biscuits he made from them, rolled the leftovers into spheres, dried them and carved toys out of it. Sometimes he even made jewels for the newly wed couples of Savannohta, or this is what he has said all over the town. No one has ever seen him either make toys and ornaments or sell them at the market as Mr. Scarab was always burrowed inside his house. One could say he is at home only by making out through the buzzes and crackles from his old radio. At times, Scarab would be spotted with his cronies at the bar talking about dirty politics and sports, if he was cheerful. Buggita often had tough times dragging him from the bar fights which he got into, and only she would be there to save him from getting beaten.
Buggita lived next to Scarab’s home and she too couldn’t be seen often in the streets. She ran a flower shop at the grand market and made minimal earnings of her own. Her rattling sounds and the shrill cries attracted the customers readily and even the Mayor was fond of her shop. The ambrosial flowers were always fresh until she latched the shutter punctually at 4 pm.
Life was very smooth for the citizens of Savannohta, up until the summer set in early that year. Infants and toddlers suffered a lot due to the heavy power cuts both during day and night. The prices were increasing on an alarming scale and so did the bills. Taxes were being heavily levied on the middle-class citizens and unemployment struck the town. Bad word spread like fire about the current government and the king was expected to land in jail anytime soon for the corruption cases that were imposed on him. Though it were claimed as rumours by the senior officials of the king’s cabinet, all the citizens of Africalia knew it was the unvarnished truth. Every year, the citizens from all over the Africalian Republic would come over to the capital city, as the cost of living per diem was quite reasonable during the migration time. The kids enjoyed the luxuries and opulence of the city during their three months stay. But this time, it was different. With the Expo of Africalia around the corner, no one seemed to be interested in a holiday at the city.
As everyone looked forward moving to the countryside for a sojourn, there was one person in the whole town of Savannohta jumping with joy to go to the golden city of Africalia, Mr. Scarab. He was overjoyed looking at the drastically reduced train fare to the city when compared to the heavy fares for other parts of the country, he thought of booking a business class seat in the most expensive airlines which was as the same pricing of last year’s ticket pricing to the city. After all, when someone is going to meet the King and the Queen for the first time, posed as a famous jewellery maker, and not like some regular villager, the excitement would increase multiple folds. He boasted to his friends at the bar that he was invited by the king himself to make fine jewels made out of his own fine dung and wanted to surprise his wife with the jewels. He even handed out a typewritten note addressing him as MR. SCARAB, THE JEWEL MAKER and it was signed by the King himself. No one has ever seen the king’s signature and seal before and this favoured Scarab. He had carefully typed the whole thing in the official format the previous night and was proudly boasting the next day in front of his blandishers or “friends”.
Buggita was watching him from a distance as she didn’t want to bring shame for scarab in front of his friends. When Scarab reached home, she was waiting for him on the small porch of his tiny brick house. Scarab recognised the look on her face and without any hesitation, readily apologized for having boasted at the bar and promised to never do it again. Buggita was sick of her advising him and directly got to the point. She warned him,
“NEVER GO TO AFRICALIA AT THIS TIME, THAT TOO FLYING ON YOUR OWN! YOU THINK MEETING THE KING WOULD BE EASY, DON’T YOU? EVEN IF THAT HAPPENS, YOU CAN’T SURVIVE A DAY AMONG THOSE LUNATICS! PLEASE DON’T GO THERE AND HURT YOURSELF... YOU’LL GO BONKERS AND BECOME MAD AS A MARCH HARE!!”
But Scarab wasn’t in the mood to listen too. He had already made up his mind to visit the city. He waited for Buggita to leave his home, and just as she left, he bolted the door and filled a large suitcase with his favourite flashy suits and his favourite set of cotton swabs which he took from the nearby dustbin for his dumbbells. He didn’t want to waste one more minute in this stupid town, always dusty and filthy all over the place. He was tired of rolling the same horses and cows’ shit over all these years and didn’t want to continue that anymore. He aimed big. He wanted to roll big. HE wanted to roll the precious clay of the most feared citizen of the whole Republic of Africalia – The King himself! He will roll the sweetest smelling, aromatic dung ever smelt, into pretty, glazing tiny balls and produce beads out of them, splash wonderful bright colours over it, he’ll string them in a thin, strong nylon wire and create the most beautiful necklace the world has ever seen. He’ll present it to the mighty queen of his highness and he will get appointed as the official jewel maker of Africalia right away. He will marry the most beautiful beetle in the world, and his life will flourish in the most unexpected way. All his friends who mocked behind his back calling him a liar, will now no longer remember him as one. Instead, he will be known as the Famous Jewel Maker of Africalia!! All these thoughts drove him more anxious and energetic. He packed everything in a hurry burry, and took wing to the airport.
Hard luck showered on him, as all the planes were full, and he had to wait till morning for the next flight. Mr. Scarab isn’t the one to wait for glory to reach him, HE is the one who’ll grab glory before it flies away high. He lifted the suitcase in both of his hands, and thrusted towards the sky. He decided to go by flight! All his energy and enthusiasm and his years of workout proved to be fruitful and adrenaline gushed through his veins. He flew all night without breaking a sweat and stopped for breakfast at a country dairy farm. Fresh dung pumped his adrenaline once more and rocketed his way up the sky again.
By noon, he almost reached the outskirts of the city and after a couple of hours he was standing at the Gates of his dream destination! The Great City! The Golden Atlantis! Africalia! His joy knew no bounds and his legs trotted happily in the large, wide main roads as he searched for a good hotel. Cars and bikes vroomed while hawkers and charmers shrilled at the top of their voices. Fresh buns and cakes filled the city with its delicious aroma. Deer and antelopes were looking flashy in their party wears. The tigers and leopards were not like the ones he saw in the town, here he saw civilised citizens roaming around in their sneakers and sweatshirts with their earphones plugged. As he crossed the grand junction, his eyes caught the brightest advertisement flex he ever saw – ZOOPARFAIT– THE ULTIMATE SHOP FOR ALL! Next to the fluorescent green font, posing was his favourite actress, Ms. Leopon – the Cheetah who was famous for her acrobatic dancing in her songs. Hypnotized by all this, he remained gazing at her until a car nearly rammed him in the middle of the street... just imagine how it would be if Mr. Scarab was squished along with his dreams… he shook his head to wipe off the thought and advanced along the road with the help of his pocket map. After an hour-long search, his black beady eyes caught hold of a glittering board – BULLERIA. There stood a Bison, a security guard, guarding the premises. The bison didn’t allow the beetle to step inside and said it was a “Bovidae Only” hotel. It was already evening and scarab was too tired to fight or cry. He pleaded with the guard to take him inside for one night, but in vain.
At last, the bison took pity on him and accepted him to sleep in his shed for that night and leave the next morning. The beetle was relieved and went with the bison to his shed, although he was unhappy and made a disgusted face when he entered the shed. All these struggles only for tonight... From tomorrow, my whole lifestyle will change... I’ll be given a separate chamber in the king’s palace for my stay. He boasted about how the he was so strong that he could roll multiple dungs simultaneously and that he could even roll perfect balls from the slimy dung too. He amused the bison with the same story which he said the previous day to his friends about how he was invited officially by the king himself to prepare a valuable necklace for his beloved wife as a gift for their 20th wedding anniversary. The bison couldn’t help laughing and began mocking the beetle for being such an awful liar. Mr. Scarab could take no more from the bison. The bison had touched his ego and Scarab was not a let-it-go person. He challenged the bison,
“How much ever dung you produce, I’ll shape them into perfectly round balls within no time, you’ll see my strength when I balance your loose slime without letting a drop fall!”
The beetle stretched his long black arms and made some abdomen crunches to show how ripped his body was. He took out the cotton swabs with a slight difficulty from his bag and began lifting them as a warmup exercise. After a few minutes, he came dressed with his bright red boxer shorts and dung making gloves. The bison geared up for the challenge and ate the huge pile of hay sandwiches, corn dogs and drank large amounts of water. The beetle stood directly below the bison with his arms high above his head and was looking up. The clay started to fall and within minutes the beetle too started making his dung balls.
All was plain sailing for the beetle until the bison’s intestines faltered and everything went down the drain for Mr. Scarab. It was the corn dogs that made the bison’s gut to rumble, and on seeing the corn dog wrapper, a panic-stricken bison became even more panicky! It had expired two months ago! The density of the dung loosened and the beetle was stuck in the middle of a poop blitz.
“YOU BARMY DIARRHOETIC BOVINE! JUST STOP! BLURB…JUS...BLURBB...”
The beetle began to drown in the dung and couldn’t take it anymore. If it continued, he would surely die.
His blurry eyes caught hold of the invitation letter at a distance that peeped out from the suitcase. He unfurled his wings and made a dash for the letter. He quickly snatched the letter from his suitcase and flew out of the shed. After he flying across a couple of streets, and ensuring he was safe, he reached the central playground where a small artificial stream flowed in it. He washed himself and put on some nice lavender scent from the nearby lavender garden. He was looking perfectly fine except he was wearing bright red boxers at midnight and he was in the middle of the city. He couldn’t go back to the shed again and retrieve his clothes. But what he had was the letter! He will go right way to the king’s palace, meet the king, accept the offer and then he’ll get a new room and his life will progress just as he wished.
With the letter in one hand, he flew to the gates of the palace where two more bison were guarding the gate. He proudly walked up to the bison and showed him the letter. “See, the king has asked me to come and meet him, let me in at once!”. The guards were not in the mood to squish him and patiently warned him to go away and come again tomorrow to meet the king during his visiting hours. Enraged by all the incidents he had faced till then, frustrated Scarab and he flew directly into the large flappy ears of the bison. The bison bellowed in pain and soon all the guards surrounded the bison to help him. The ruckus brought the king down to the courtyard and he came running in anger to see what had happened. As Scarab heard the voice of the king, he quickly came out from the bison’s ear and apologised to the king for having created such trouble, just to bring him down from his room. When enquired what was the ruckus all about, the beetle came front and explained his whole journey, skipping the diarrhoea attack from the bison, and showed him the fake letter. The King became furious on seeing how this puny creature disturbed his sleep just because of a practical joke and he was more shocked when he saw the actual seal and stamp of his, on the fake letter.
The mighty lion roared in anger and immediately ordered the guards to imprison Mr. Scarab for forfeiting the Government’s stamp, causing unnecessary trouble to the security guard and creating chaos in front of the palace courtyard. The beetle pleaded for mercy to leave him alone and he’ll never ever lie or boast again, but they paid no heed to his cries and locked him up in a dark cell. Buggita who waited for his arrival, was shocked when she heard about him and wept silently for bringing his own doom upon him.
As for Mr. Scarab, his wish for a separate room and bright coloured clothes came true, only that it was an orange jumpsuit…