Depleted Uranium: A Fable

Wolves are universally recognized as ruthless and voracious predators, doomed by their carnivorous nature to hunt prey and shun the facile pleasures of grazing and gathering fruit.

Whether in packs or alone, a wolf must slay to eat and eat to live.

Beasts of a more pacific constitution, especially vegetarians, are well-advised to shun the company of wolves. Particularly hungry ones.

Wolves feature prominently in the legends, folk tales and fables of the species homo sapiens, of whom Thomas Hobbes coined his Latin phrase homo homini lupus est, a pronouncement that might not prove flattering to wolves, who were presumably not consulted by Hobbes.

In fairy tales, children encounter the wolf more than any other creature as a deadly danger to be avoided by obeying one’s parents and planning for the future by building sturdy shelters.

Less cunning than his cousin the fox, the wolf doesn’t resort to wiles, stratagem or subterfuge. He rarely condescends to outwitting his opponent. He kills him instead.

In the annals of the mightiest and bloodiest of wolves, only once has a single wolf managed to both dominate the pack and extend his hunting forays the length and breadth of the inhabitable world. The wolf in question is named Samuel, a name he christened himself with, as he ran away from home – Great Lupusannia – when quite young and is considered of not entirely legitimate lineage by his parents (who are by no means lacking in wolfish features themselves). 

While yet a cub, Samuel, who has also appropriated an avuncular title of dubious authenticity, devastated all around him and manifested his lupine destiny by devouring the native species of his new-found habitat. Having depleted (the latter word more than once associated with the protagonist of this tale) the prey that predators prey upon, he imported more from across the Atlantic Ocean and extended his range of hunting to points west and south. In his adolescence he once thrust his claws northward, but was rebuffed and even saw his own lair go up in flames. 

With the natural advantages he enjoyed from both his peculiarly nurturing environment and his lack of local competition, Samuel grew to enormous proportions, soon overshadowing not only the other great wolves of his day but all famous wolves of antiquity. Sam was a wolf’s wolf, feared even by the wolf pack that fawned on him.

Having wrested control of world wolfdom and devoured in his lifetime ten wolves’-worth of mutton, Sam reached the stage of late maturity. (Or the advanced age of dotage and dementia as some detractor might say, if any still dare detract.)

Having dug deeply into the earth one day, Sam had learned to excavate uranium, then to fashion the latter into weapons that would terrorize his opponents, silence dissent to his depredations, and insure his untrammelled access to prey of every exotic provenance and flavor.

Of late, perhaps in an effort to feign the mellowness befitting his age, Sam has even taken to conducting his hunting sorties draped in the fleece of a sheep he had slayed and eaten. Lupinarian intervention is the description he now gave to his congenital craving to pursue, pounce on and masticate.

Arrived at an age and condition where he couldn’t run as fast as he once did, where his bones ached and creaked, and the scars of wounds he sustained in previous hunting expeditions – particularly a nasty gash he received in the jungles of Southeast Asia several decades ago – warned him against the recklessness of youth, Sam exercised what diminished powers of reflection and concentration he possessed and formulated a new policy of predation and depredation.

He likes to call it the Prowl Doctrine. Rather than expending any more energy than is absolutely required, and to prevent his being scratched by the lashing out of a victim in its death throes, Sam will now only leap on potential prey if assured of killing it instantaneously and without harm to himself; with a clear way of extricating himself afterward should any relatives of his dinner decide to intervene; and to employ the aid of others wolves, preferably also garbed in sheepskin, by way of diffusing responsibility and providing camouflage.

But what simpler way of accomplishing the above than by using his uranium weapons to guarantee maximum damage to his prey while minimizing his own risks? With the ability to cut through the densest of substances like a hot knife through butter, a wolf no longer need fear facing the woodsman’s axe or plummeting into a kettle of boiling water.

And Sam has in fact availed himself of this option. Liberally. In his two latest major expeditions, he’s strewn uranium dust and particles throughout much of the Mideast and the Southern Balkans.

A potential problem developed as much of the prey was poisoned, their progeny born deformed and even some wolf cubs came home suffering from a variety of ailments, many of them fatal.

Struggling to prevent the sheepskin falling from his shoulders, Sam pondered his predicament: On the one hand he prized his reputation for cold-blooded ruthlessness, knowing that it usually ensured beforehand the compliance of his friends and the capitulation of his adversaries.

On the other, though, he was rather proud of his impersonation of a friend of the world’s sheep, so what was he to do?

He immediately summoned the reigning pack leaders from the North Lupine Treaty Organization and the most beribboned and bemedaled wolves of his own domain and propositioned them thusly: Knowing how we love sheep with tender solicitude, and how we value the well-being of our own cubs even more than that of the much beloved sheep, it’s preposterous of anyone to suggest we’d use weapons of the sort we’re accused of using.

Therefore be it decreed that our weapons, like our wars, are Lupinarian and by definition can cause no harm. Quite the contrary. 

If any embittered opponent of the New Wolf Order states otherwise, it’s part of a conspiracy by hard-line leaders of vanquished nations to discredit our noble, selfless cause.

If evidence nevertheless surfaces that contradicts our assurances, then we can attribute it to other causes; refer it for study to various scavengers who live off our scraps and leavings, sucking the marrow out of discarded bones; imply that it’s been misinterpreted by others because of their ingrained anti-wolf biases; ridicule the fears of the victims by ascribing them to hysteria, comparable to the delusional notion that wolves are dangerous, for example.

Then we enlist the best howlers among our tribe and have them bay and bark the pack line, that our intentions are always pure, our actions always necessary and productive, our explanations always dependable, our doubters occasionally honest if misguided, but always credulous and unreliable. (Be sure to reward the howlers with generous prime cut booty, by the way.)

And as for the odd wolf that dies of cancer, that passes it on to his mate and cubs, that falls apart and destroys himself and others, well – we’ll bury him, won’t we? As deeply as possible.

So deliberated Sam and his pack and so were his directives implemented. But the cases of uranium illnesses multiplied both at home and abroad; the howlers grew hoarse and others had quit listening to them anyway.

Sam’s cape of sheepskin continued slipping off his back and animals of all species increasingly noted the black fur beneath…as they noticed the ravenous eyes and the narrowing teeth.

An hysterical reaction, perhaps.

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