“In the name of the farm manager, the faithful assistants and of the holy White loyalists,” a pig prayed as he joyously announced that after months and months of walking around the farm, hands behind his back, silent, White was finally going to speak about all the things that were going on in the farm since he took over from former owner Goodhead.
As people waited, they enjoyed the confessions of Goodhead's former pet hyena as he was interrogated by White’s new farm hands. Goodhead used to patrol the farm with That’s Uki as they plundered and took what they liked, almost completely depleting the food supplies of the farm. That’s Uki’s name came from his school teacher on the first day he was sent to a hyena training camp.
“What is his name?” The teacher asked.
“Oh, that’s Uki.”
And instead of writing Uki, the vacuous teacher wrote: That’s Uki. By the time his mother realized it, his name was on all his official documents and it stuck.
That’s Uki told tales of how he had distributed stolen cow meat to many animals loyal to Goodhead. Even animals who were not meat eaters took the meat and hoarded it, hoping to sell it eventually to carnivores. As the confessions rolled out of his mouth, some of the animals implicated began forming a queue to return stolen meat, each promising to return more in exchange for a soft landing whenever White would begin punishing animals for their role in Goodhead’s destruction.
All the animals looked forward to hearing White speak and they sang songs in preparation. White’s staunch supporters told everyone that they were sure when he spoke it would be full of wisdom and foresight and that by the time White would be finished, all the animals would shed tears of regret for ever doubting the perfect heart of White.
As White brushed his white fur staring into the mirror without a smile in preparation for his big speech, the crocodile swamp was bubbling with conflict. Hump had challenged the diminutive, beloved leader of the crocodiles, Sir Na, too many times. This time, people were fed up especially the kingmakers in the crocodile swamp. His gifts of fried camel meat to young crocodiles couldn’t save him when the kingmakers met and decided that they would banish Hump from the swamp for at least 11 months. “Let him take eat camel meat elsewhere on the farm," they declared. Hump on the other hand swore that his banishment would not stop him from making grand, self-righteous speeches about how a crocodile swamp should be run and the fact that once upon a time a long time ago, a farm manager had chained him for a short while.
“You cannot make me stop talking about my scars. I earned those scars in chains!”
As Hump screamed, White took the stage in the centre of the farm, immaculate, stern. And White declared that he knew all that was going on in the farm and knew what he wanted to do about it. He reaffirmed his commitment to not spending farm resources on personal comforts.
One cow then asked him about the recent massacre of bats on the farm. White licked his lips, sighed and said that he had set up an inter-species committee to look into the massacre that happened around the crocodile swamp. He said that in fact the leader of the crocodiles was looking into in. But then it happened - the crack in White’s armour, the stain on his impeccable fur - he broke down and said, “How can an excited bat, a bloody bat, hit the chest of my farm hand?”
He added that he was waiting for the inter-species report.
Then it happened again. He said that in fact, some crocodiles, unconnected to the crocodile leadership had made a press statement talking of how the bats had oppressed them for 20 years. He said that crocodiles had talked about being under siege by bats. His eyes were fiery when he spoke about bats confronting his farm hand, Dick-Tai. But each time his anger showed, he checked himself and said, I will wait for the inter-species report.
He refused to talk about the fact that hundreds of bats had been killed in premeditated rage by Dick-Tai. Or that Dick-Tai had buried many of the bats to hide the numbers. Or whether it was ok for any farm hand to settle scores by killing animals in such large numbers. He was worried only that as a former farm hand himself, any animal dared challenge a farm hand.
He spoke about a few other things but by the time he was done, the farm was back to its old divisions: supporters of White wiped tears from their eyes swearing by all the animal gods that it was the best thing they had heard from White and that they were filled with hope. And those who were still angry that Goodhead was no longer farm manager were filled with rage as they swore by all the animal gods that White was just a dictator covered in white fur and that his speech only showed how wicked he was. And all the unaffiliated animals watched as the others quarrelled, afraid that no one was speaking of the real issues: the hundreds of bat bodies; the scarcity of food; the long silences of White; the difficulty of taking one’s food outside the farm; lack of regard for the justice system…
The unaffiliated animals were afraid that this was like a little ritual, a chore that White felt he had to do. And that soon White would return to walking through the farm, hands behind his back, jumping over dead bat bodies, silent.