This is a series that began as a small in-house contest among the NAS staff members. The prompt was to write a short story limited to 150 words in which the last sentence contains the phrase “the lesser of two eagles.” The essays emulate the spirit of a parable or an Aesop fable. We enjoyed one another’s stories so much we decided to share them with NAS readers and invite you to add your own by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The birds gathered to discuss what to do about their enemies, who had with increasing boldness plundered their nests and preyed on their kind. “We should fly away,” argued the ducks. “No need to swim in harm’s way.”
“No,” said the crows.” “Our enemies would just follow us.”
The pigeons argued that, while the depredations were regrettable, “We can learn to live with the problem. We just need to be more careful. Coo coo.”
The owls hooted, “You don’t understand the deeper problem. Our enemies want to take complete control. We have to take the fight to them.”
The sparrows tweeted, “Owl logic: use feathers to fight foxes.”
The discussion became so heated that the birds failed to notice a pair of eagles soaring overhead.
After they dined, the larger eagle said, “Free exchange of ideas is quite satisfying.” “A tasteful debate,” agreed the lesser of two eagles.
The Harpy Eagle and the Golf Eagle
Once there was a harpy eagle, and she decided it was time that she became queen of the birds. All the other birds agreed, because she wanted to be queen very much. Then a strange bird with orange feathers fluttered into the eyrie and bellowed, "I am a golf eagle, and I will be king of the birds!" "A golf eagle isn't a bird," said the harpy eagle, but all the other birds laughed and said, "The golf eagle will be king! The golf eagle will be king!" The golf eagle strutted around and he gave the harpy eagle the bird, and her crest fell forever. A little while later the golf eagle became the lessor of two eagles, but that is a different story.
Eagle to Win
One day, an eagle named Edison said to his friend, a smaller eagle named Ernest, “Let’s have a contest. We’ll see which of us can fly faster, further, and more nimbly.” To humor his braggart friend, Ernest agreed to a competition, though he didn’t hold out much hope of winning, because his wings were short and weak.
On the first day of the contest, the eagles raced between two trees not far from one another, to determine which of them could fly faster. Edison beat Ernest easily and celebrated with a victory dance. On the second day, the eagles raced between two mountains miles apart to determine which of them could fly further. Edison’s strength carried him the whole way, but Ernest’s wings gave out halfway there, and he had to walk home. Edison celebrated by throwing a party with his other friends. On the third day, the eagles raced between the blades of two windmills to determine which of them was more nimble. Ernest was so small that he slipped through the blades unscathed, but Edison got clipped by the machine and died.
Sometimes it is better to be the lesser of two eagles.
Bird of Prey
“My cousin told me ‘bout you.”
“He said you don’t ask questions.”
“It’s best for everyone not to.”
“I’m a talker. I get fidgety.”
“Yeah. It’s just—my girl. She’s on my case.”
“We see evidence of that here.”
“I told her I’ll get the money.”
“You’re in the right place.”
“I said, ‘My cousin’s got my back.’”
“As family should.”
“Damn straight! But she always wants everything perfect—and that costs. I can’t let her down.”
“Of course not.”
“She’s frettin’ in my ear even before I open my eyes: ‘I want that money in my hand today.’ Shoot. You done lookin’?”
“I said, let’s wait a few more days, make sure it’s safe—but she just keeps on! I can’t go back emptyhanded.”
“Say no more! I’ll take both statues for $500. After all, how does one choose between the lesser of two eagles?”
The Eagle and the Turkey
A boastful eagle met a turkey. “My kind was chosen to be the emblem of the new American nation,” he declared. “We are on the great seal. We are on the presidential seal. Our noble profile is seen every day on the dollar bill. Your kind is good for nothing but to be eaten at Thanksgiving.”
The turkey replied, “Well, there is great honor in that, to grace the table where Americans take some time at last to give thanks for all they have. Besides, the great Benjamin Franklin thought more highly of my kind than yours, don’t you know? He thought you were lazy, cowardly, sneaky, and infected with lice.”
The boastful eagle turned red but could think of little to say. Then he had a thought.
“That wasn’t me,” said the boastful eagle. “That was my lousy younger brother. They mistakenly chose the lesser of two eagles.”
The Progressive Eagle
Once there was a beagle, a seagull, a regular eagle, and a regal eagle named Hegel the Zeitgeist Eagle. The eagle Hegel was not legally a regal figure, but he angled and finagled his way to the top of society, mostly by using big words that his later readers had to Google. Hegel blew the bugle call of Progress. Progress was a new-fangled cudgel that cut away the dawdling gaggle of old-fashioned people. Disgruntled at the meager progress of society, the regal eagle Hegel was eager to set up Experts to run the State.
The beagle and the seagull were among the normal people that Hegel the great regal eagle disdained. “Must we leave behind normal things?” the beagle and seagull asked each other, lingering one night over ladles of stew. “We like rocking cradles or eating breakfast bagels or singing jingles or mingling with our friends. Why must the good life be the expert life, the technocrat life?” Their friend the regular eagle, overhearing, tottered over and said, “Sometimes to live the happier life is to be the lesser of two eagles.”
Another Eagle Story
Two eagles were sitting on a crag overlooking a valley. One said, “I am the rightful lord of this valley. I eat the fish I want to eat. All the other birds and animals pay homage to me. They know I am their rightful lord.” The other eagle turned his beak up and said, “Is that so? I heard Bear the other day boasting that he would make a dust mop from your feathers.” At this, the first eagle sniffed and said, “Bear only said that because he is afraid of me. He is trying to interfere in the natural order.” “Oh I see,” said the second eagle, “Bear mocks you out of his deep respect for your sharp vision, your mighty wings, and your formidable talons.” “Don’t be sarcastic,” replied the first eagle, “Bear knows I own this valley and he only lives by eating my leftovers and the fish that are too puny for me.” The second eagle scoffed. “You are fooling yourself. The whole valley knows you are nothing but a scavenger. I am the only real eagle in these parts.”
Unbeknownst to both eagles, Bear was sitting below the crag listening to the whole conversation. He said to himself, “What a dilemma. I came here for a light dessert. But which of these two shall I eat? They are both so puffed up. Who knew it would be so hard to figure out the lesser of two eagles?”