Once a leech almost bled to death. Nothing had prepared it for this unheard-of possibility. As is well known, leeches typically locate a host, attach themselves to that host, suck away until bloated, then let go and slither off. The mistake this particular leech made was to attach itself to a powerful politician. The arrangement was routine enough in the beginning. The leech located an especially soft spot on the politician and sealed its suckers there without difficulty. In no time at all, it was getting everything it needed to flourish and grow. The relationship of host to parasite even had a symbiotic aspect in this instance. The leech profited by its access to the lifeblood of the politician, but the politician also profited. The customary cold and sluggish nature of a politician’s bodily fluids changed markedly whenever the leech was sucking for all it was worth. Feeling fired up, such politicians could harangue large crowds for hours on end. In fact, in a curious throwback to the old belief that frequent bleedings rid the body of “opportunistic humours” and “dangerous airs,” this politician came to believe that feeding the leech was absolutely necessary for continued strength and well-being. In short, both sides of the arrangement gained, with each coming to feel more hale and hearty thanks to their connection. It was all the more unexpected, then, that this union should suddenly turn south. The leech was merely following its accustomed practice: it expected to suck at its host as usual until it had taken its fill and then drop off, fat and contented, to return another day. But just as the leech had reached its limits, just as it thought it couldn’t possibly take any more, the politician suddenly clasped it tight, clearly loath to lose the mutual boon they’d come to enjoy. Understandably alarmed, the leech squirmed to get away, but to no avail. A little moderation at this moment, it reckoned, would serve both of them better in the long run. The politician, on the other hand, clearly did not see matters in the same light. Since the arrangement served both of them so well, why stop their quid pro quo embrace now? The leech felt the politician’s tenacious grip harden, felt its own multiple stomachs being pumped fuller and fuller with the politician’s uncurbed largess, and quickly found itself swelling to many times its former size. Bloated with forced feeding, it feared that the politician’s needy and compulsive behavior, this reckless insistence on giving the leech many times what it actually needed, was bound to have disastrous results. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before the leech heard the first squishy, popping sounds. If only it had been wiser in its choice of host!
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans