The people of the little town of Grovel complain every day. They complain publicly and without inhibition. The town is famous for it. Our Grovel: the moaning capital of the world. Tourists come from afar to hear the townspeople complain. Usually the complaint is about the climate or something more trivial. Occasionally it might be about the stink from the town’s sewer, which runs through Parliament Square. For the tourist, especially those who come from extreme climatic conditions, it is a real novelty to hear someone complain about rain or sunshine. On any pleasant Grovel day Northern Hemisphere tourists feel less ashamed about their February snow complaints or when hurricanes come in late September. Other tourists however, can’t believe how lucky the Grovellers are, and wonder what is really going on. Maybe there is some sort of syndrome running deep in the town’s psyche. Of course not everyone in Grovel complain. These are the incomers who have found a better life here but don’t get involved in local issues. They have their complaints like everybody, but they prefer to keep them private.
One day during the height of the tourist season a strange thing happened. A young child was about to make its maiden complaint in the local city hall for the tourists. The complaints have been coming thick and fast and some quite emotional. Public complaining is an intense affair at times and even sombre tourists find it hard going. The mayor thought the audience needed some light relief. The debutant child was therefore coached to complain about the water being too wet to drink. It’s not an uncommon complaint in the town, but this was going to be the first public witnessing of it. However, it wasn’t the real issue. The real issue is the heavy fluoridation of the water, and a child was needed to highlight the problem in a simple way. The parents, at the prompting of the mayor, who rarely smiled because of his chalky teeth, felt they couldn’t directly complain about the fluoride; instead one could rightly ask how wet is too wet. This is the gentle path to reform. There was a risk, however, that the audience might find this complaint over the top and in a way mocking the whole seriousness of complaining.
The child got up and forthrightly walked to the lowered microphone, took a deep breath and said a funny thing. “I don’t like eating grass”. There was a stony silence. The smiling mayor left his chair and came over to the child, said a few words in the child’s ear and went back. “I don’t like eating grass” the child said again. This time the child’s parents got up from their chairs and ushered him from the stage and out a side entrance. Meanwhile the mayor was at the microphone and began to speak. However he couldn’t be heard amid the sudden uproar of shouting and laughter amongst the audience. It was a scandal. The tourists left Grovel amidst words of disgust and derision. What is it with this place that a child would be eating grass? This is outrageous. This is tantamount to child abuse. Who else ate grass? A murmuring fear took hold in the community. There would be serious economic and social consequences once the world knew what is happening here.
A public enquiry began, headed by a panel of independent commissioners from a neutral town called Ewes. The debutant child was the first witness and he stuck with his complaint of not liking eating grass. The parents were called in. Yes it’s true. They themselves eat grass. And gradually the local people came forward and said they eat grass too. As the enquiry continued it was found that those who complained were also grass eaters. In comers said they have never eaten grass and couldn’t understand it. As a result of this enquiry a new administration was appointed, with a mandate to rid the town of its image and to start afresh, and to find the reasons for all this grass eating and put a stop to the practice.
It appears a strange tradition had been exposed. At midnight when the full moon is its brightest in a clear sky, and when the frogs sing of this enchantment, the locals eat grass in a paddock on the outskirts of town, hidden by trees and protected by hawthorn bushes. They are all completely naked. Children under five are exempt, and are looked after by their grandparents who are also exempt. This has been a tradition since the founding of the town of Grovel. The first settlers discovered the local conditions were intolerable. The beauty of the place belied hostility and stark isolation. With the right and might of God on their side the settlers decided to stick it out, even if it meant eating grass to survive, which they eventually did. It was done stark naked to establish equality, and to create community bonding. They survived and a tradition was born, and it’s been kept ever since. Over time some local people began to complain. By this time the tradition became law. The complaints continued but the law remained firm. Like the law enabling free speech, eating grass was a fundamental ritual before God. In frustration the local people began to complain about other things like the climate and the tyranny of distance. And the sky was too blue and the rain too wet. When the complaints went from being a private town affair to a national one, the media got hold of it. And when Grovel began to appear in travel guides the international legend of Grovel, the little complaining town down under, had been born.
B F Moloney lives in Tasmania Australia where he manages a second hand bookshop. Born into the mad and imaginative world of Catholicism, he’s long escaped it with his imagination suitably perverted by the experience. Loony Tunes and David Lynch have helped him see an absurder light, and he hopes to write a little more.