Many many years ago, in a little town not too far from here, it was known that a crocodile lived in the sky. He was feared among the people because he relished the taste of children who misbehaved. He came without warning, descending only when he was hungry. On each return, he acutely picked off the children whose discipline faltered during his absence. And after this, he would slowly weave back to the darkest recesses of the sky and stay hidden behind clouds for an indefinite period of time.
The crocodile ate children who did not do their homework and children who were too lazy to make their beds. He ate children who enjoyed playing tricks on their elders and fibbed to get out of trouble. This crocodile was so particular with his food that he could tell the difference between a naughty child and his good-natured twin.
He refused to eat cats as was suggested by some of the townsfolk, although they argued that a cat could be just as naughty as any child. The crocodile declared that cats were much too small to satisfy his hunger and were, besides, not worth the trouble of being scratched in the eye. And crocodiles, as we all well know, are incapable of crying but are sufficiently replete with sensations of pain and such emotions as grief.
One day, however, all the children were indoors. It had been raining all week and the rapidly rising river caused concern among townspeople. Livestock was taken to higher ground and harvest was picked earlier than usual. Each and every home was quiet save for the busy sounds in the kitchen, where mothers could be found boiling jams and jellies, pickling, and curing meats.
None of the children were sent to school; and the teachers, who had now been given a rest from their troublesome pupils, spent their days in animated gossip and speculation of the coming flood. Nobody gave a thought to the crocodile that lived in the sky. Even the old people, who normally recalled to the children stories about their childhood friends who had been eaten by the crocodile in the past, were preoccupied with the pounding rain. They fretted over their illnesses and worried that their families would forget about them in the haste of moving to elevated areas.
Some of the children stayed in bed with the flu. Others played board games or painted, quietly sipping cups of hot chocolate. Others, still, were kept busy helping with one task or another. The crocodile roamed and hovered around the town eagerly waiting for misconduct. He went upstream, and then down. He went to the school hoping to chance on mischief but found it empty.
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