Jokes Make the Dry Journey to and From the Watering Hole Laughable!
"He-hey, Spot? You-you wanna hea-hear a j-j-joke?" asked Laughter. Usually, she spoke much more fluidly, but the unending heat of the dry season had started to have an impact on her brain as water became harder to find. They needed to reach the nearest waterhole. Fast. But Laughter was the boss; she would set the pace and direction. All Spot could do was follow and try to keep the matriarch on course indirectly. Even when she wasn't in top shape, he wouldn't dare risk openly questioning her or trying to influence her. That's just how the hierarchy went. He was way too low on the hyena pecking order to try disagreeing with the leader.
"I would love to hear a joke!" he responded, already grinning as he panted along behind her. While he did enjoy the matriarch's jokes, he also figured it would give her something to focus on short-term as they loped along, and the joke itself might lift their spirits on the trip to the waterhole.
"Why d-did the hyenas cross the r-road?"
"I don't know - why did the hyenas cross the road?"
"Because humans built a r-road in their w-w-way!" Laughter giggled. She stopped short as they reached an actual road that they would need to cross. Elders had described what the area was like before humankind built the scorching roads through their territory, but to the pair, it was a familiar - if unpleasant - landmark.
"Ugh. Humans transform the Earth - you'd think they'd be able to make something pretty, instead of this hot, hard, black crud..." Spot lamented as he stood just behind Laughter. He knew from experience that the hard, black rock the humans laid down would be unbearably hot in the midday sun of the dry season, and that alone made the task undesirable. Gingerly, he tested the surface with a paw pad; indeed, the blacktop was scorching hot. He pulled his paw back with a yip.
"Best be q-quick," stated Laughter with a sigh, glancing around for vehicles before beginning her crossing. The first few steps she took were quick-paced but normal, but by the halfway point, she was doing her best to minimize contact with the road. If he wasn't going through the same, Spot would have been in a fit of snorts at the strange stances his matriarch took to do this. A chortle broke through anyway, and he saw Laughter's body tense slightly.
"Sorry," Spot began preemptively, "but we're both dancing around on it like newborn gazelles!" To his relief, Laughter began giggling again, the hair of her nape coming back down to rest.
"I t-think n-newborn gazelles would move more gracefully than us r-right now!"
"To be fair, gazelles do have hooves. Their feet don't get burnt up like ours," Spot added. Laughter nodded, the action causing a long string of drool to ooze from her mouth. Both were panting much harder now as the midday heat peaked.
"At least we're across the r-road," Laughter conceded.
"I can't wait to get to the waterhole; I'm so thirsty, I'd about drink mud."
"Careful - this t-time of year, we just might be."
By the time they reached the waterhole, they were dustier than either ever remembered being before. The water was little more than a shallow pond; it would be mud in a few days and completely dry within the week. Still, other animals were taking advantage of the scarce resource. Zebra drank on the opposite side from where the hyenas approached, eyeing the pair warily. Even though it was just the two of them, the other animals in the area were familiar with the rest of their small clan and their antagonistic advances; mothers instinctively blocked their foals from sight. A few elephants scooped mud-water with their long trunks, spraying it over themselves as a type of mud mask to protect and cool their skin.
"Why the long faces?!" Spot called out to the zebra, who pulled their ears back at the joke. Seeing the elephants had turned their attention to them at this, their ears waving like huge fans, he added to them, "Hey, mind your own! I know those big ol' ears make it easy to listen in, but that doesn't mean you get to be so nosy!"
His antics had Laughter in hysterics, and he felt a small bit of pride at the accomplishment. His rank in the clan was rather low, so any good attention from Laughter was a rare treat to enjoy. The two made their way to the edge of the water, lapping up what little clear water there was. Once they were sated, however, the two couldn't help but take inspiration from a few other animals laying in the mud surrounding the waterhole, and lay down themselves.
"This mud is going to take forever to get out of my fur..." Laughter lamented a little while later, her speech more normal now that she'd had some water and cooled off in the thick muck. "We should probably start heading home soon. It's getting dark; lions will be out hunting soon."
Spot nodded, rising with his matriarch. It was a long trek back, and he didn't enjoy the thought of crossing roads again as the sun went down; snakes were known to come out and bask in the heat retained by the blacktop. Plenty were venomous.
As they began their walk home, they spotted the towering, familiar silhouettes of the local giraffes. Giving the giraffes a wide berth as they lowered themselves into their awkward stances to drink, they moved off with haste. Two hyenas would be easily outnumbered by nearly any pride of lions prowling in the dark. Feeling tension creeping in, Spot decided to try out another of his jokes.
"Hey, Laughter, you ever hear how giraffes got their long necks?"
"No, I don't think so... How did they get such long necks, Spot?"
"Oh, I don't know," he cackled, "but I hear it's a tall tale!"
About the Creator
A fun spin on her last name, Baker enjoys creating "Baker's Dozen" lists for various topics, several of which have earned Top Story honors on Vocal.media! However, she also writes candidly about her mental health and a LOT of fiction.
Megan Baker is not accepting comments at the moment
Want to show your support? Become a pledged subscriber or send them a one-off tip.