Once a leech almost bled to death. Nothing had prepared it for this unheard-of possibility. As is well known, leeches normally find a host, attach themselves to that host, and suck away to their heart’s content. 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 in the politician’s side and sealed its large, sucking mouth there. 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 to it. The leech profited by its access to the lifeblood of the politician, but the politician also benefited. The customary cold and sluggish nature of a politician’s bodily fluids changed in marked fashion whenever the leech was notably active. In fact, in a curious throwback to the now-discredited belief that frequent bleedings rid the body of “opportunistic humours” and “dangerous airs,” the politician came to believe that feeding the leech was absolutely necessary for continued strength and well-being. In short, both halves of the alliance gained, with each feeling more hale and hearty thanks to their connection. All the stranger, then, that this union could turn so lethal. 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 eventually 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. Alarmed, the leech struggled to get away, but to no avail. A little moderation at this point would serve both of them better in the long run, it reckoned. The politician, however, clearly did not see matters in the same light. Since the partnership served both of them so well, why stop now? The leech felt the other’s tenacious grip harden, felt its 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 generosity, 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 © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans