Finally, finally, one day the sloths all came together for a picnic. They’d been talking about it for maybe a hundred years or more. Someone brought it up every decade or so:
“Hey…what about that picnic idea?”
And a month or two later:
“I like picnics. It would be fun to invite everyone.”
Somehow, over time, this expanded at random times to include sloths volunteering a dish or suggesting a venue. And then, the sloths all started traveling in the same general direction.
When they all realized that somehow they were actually at the legendary picnic, it was all a bit confusing. They’d never even agreed on the games to play after lunch.
“I thought we had another decade to plan this,” some sloth said.
The other sloths all nodded. Slowly.
A little sloth looked around, clearly confused. “What kind of games do sloths play at picnics, anyway? I’ve never been to a picnic.”
An older sloth scratched her chin thoughtfully. “I saw a picnic once. They had a race. The winner got a prize.”
The sloths all nodded. “Of course. A race,” some sloth said. It was decided.
The lunch itself took a week, but eventually it was time to finish the meal and start the race. The older sloth directed a friend to watch the finish line. She stood at the other end of the dirt path in the rainforest clearing and waited.
The other sloths all lined up along the edges of the path. No one lined up along the starting line. “The racers need to come line up now,” the older sloth said.
There were no racers.
“Surely some sloth wants to win the fabulous prize,” she added.
“What’s the fabulous prize?” the littlest sloth asked.
“I haven’t thought of it yet,” the older sloth admitted.
They all waited and watched the starting line. Nothing happened, until suddenly it did. The bushes rustled and a turtle plodded over to the starting line. The sloths cheered.
“We need one more racer or there’s no point,” the older sloth said.
They waited. The next morning, a rabbit came bounding out of the jungle and stopped at the starting line. The sloths cheered.
“On your marks, get set, go!”
The rabbit hopped like a blur and disappeared somewhere. The sloths weren’t sure where it went. It was hard enough to keep track of the turtle, who was moving at a faster pace than the usual sloth.
They cheered on the turtle, shocked when he reached the finish line by mid-afternoon. The rabbit must have wandered off somewhere, because it wasn’t at the finish line. They declared it a forfeit, and awarded the turtle the leaves he found and was munching on near the finish line.
“Best picnic ever,” the littlest sloth said. “Can we do it again?”
Surprisingly, it took far less time to organize a second picnic. It happened when the littlest sloth was the oldest sloth, most likely hurried along by her fascinating descriptions of the original event. The second picnic followed the plan of the first, because it was now considered the traditional way that sloths arranged picnics.
And so, a week after they first sat down to eat, it was time to start the race. The oldest sloth calmly directed some sloth to wait at the finish line while she sat by the starting line. The other sloths stood along the path.
“So, who’s going to race?” the littlest sloth asked.
The oldest sloth smiled. “Someone will show up. They did last time after all. It was most exciting.”
They all knew the story, of course. Eagerly, they watched the nearby bushes. No sloth was surprised when a turtle plodded to the starting line. It was tradition now, after all.
What did surprise them, was the snail that slid in place next to the turtle at the starting line. Perhaps rabbits just weren’t good racers. The last one forfeited after all.
The racing snail was a clear match for the speedy turtle. The sloths couldn’t look away from the exciting match up between the former champion and the new challenger.
It was close, but the turtle won. He ate his victory clump of leaves, kindly sharing them with the snail.
“Will we ever have another picnic?” the littlest sloth asked.
“Of course we will,” the oldest sloth replied. “It’s tradition.”
“I hope the snail comes again,” the littlest sloth said. “Can that be a tradition too?”
“We’ll have to wait and see,” the oldest sloth said. But that was okay. Sloths are good at waiting.