Interview with a Lemming

by Dave McNally


Mr. McNally orders books three at a time from the local book store in order to get the special discount. He enjoys a steady blend of British trip hop music and bluegrass. Once he enjoyed a peanut.

For years the lemming has been an underappreciated creature. Unfairly maligned as suicidal, small and furry, the lemming’s reputation has suffered through the years. These animals are actually some of the sturdiest in nature, able to survive throughout the arctic winter unscathed and to outwit foxes and predatory birds quite easily. Axes & Alleys took the opportunity to speak with a lemming this month to find out exactly what it is that makes them tick.

Axes & Alleys: So, lemming, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Lemming: Well, it’s a full life. Foraging, running, smelling, nesting. I especially like the tunneling.

A&A: Do people ever confuse you, a lemming, with a lemur?

Lemming: A what?

A&A: A lemur. You know, furry little critters similar to yourselves?

Lemming: Critter? Similar? To us? Lemmings are a quite singular animal, sir!

A&A: Okay, then, what other kinds of animals do lemmings talk to?

Lemming: It’s actually impossible for us to communicate with most other animals. Very few animals speak English. Donkeys speak Flemish and armadillos know Urdu fluently. Lemmings speak English and the only other animal that I know of beside humans that speaks English is the katydid.

A&A: I must admit I’ve never heard a katydid speaking English.

Lemming: Well, of course not. Not with that imperfect hearing you people have. You just hear some clicking and buzzing. Katydids do speak English. It’s just too high-pitched for you to hear. They’ve got some very interesting things to say about physics.

A&A: They have a concept of physics?

Lemming: Oh yes. They’re avid proponents of the consistent histories interpretation of quantum mechanics, though a significant fraction of their natural philosophers support the Copenhagen interpretation. They all reject Hugh Everett’s many worlds interpretation outright.

A&A: I never knew.

Lemming: No, your kind don’t pay attention. You didn’t even know that voles have this whole new idea that gravity is artificial, that the force itself was created by older beings in order to build the universe.

A&A: Um, that sounds highly unlikely. Moving on then, so what about your species’ suicidal tendencies.

Lemming: Every damn time…

A&A: What’s that?

Lemming: Oh, every interview just has to include the suicide thing.


A&A: So, is it true?

Lemming: Of course it’s true. Lots of lemmings, humans and katydids like to push this conspiracy theory about Disney staging the mass death of lemmings for their naturalist television productions. It’s all hogwash. We experience the same population pressures as many other animals, but in winter the decrease in available food and territory essentially forces lemmings into a frenzy. So, lots of running, occasional falling off of cliffs. It’s all there in the literature.

A&A: What literature is that?

Lemming: The Book of Lemming IV.

A&A: The fourth lemming?

Lemming: Our fourth leader, Lemming IV, also known as the Concept Bequeather. He bequeathed us many concepts. All Lemming philosophy comes from his general concepts. The ones he bequeathed to us all. He was a most brilliant leader.

A&A: Thanks for clearing that up. Earlier you said you liked tunneling the most. What’s it like, just you and your claws tearing through the permafrost?

Lemming: Ha! Claws? So primitive. No, we use machinery just like you do. That’s the fun of it: mounting the tunnel borer, its many metal teeth spinning up to a fierce pitch and cutting through the earth like butter. Unfortunately the borer and laser leveling devices are the most advanced technology we have, so all the dirt has to be taken out by truck.

A&A: You have your own fleet of earth-hauling trucks?

Lemming: Yes. At first we built them ourselves, but now we just special-order the vehicles from The Ponderada Motor Works. This has freed up industrial capacity for our military effort.

A&A: Who are you fighting?

Lemming: Hey, even if no one’s broken their arm lately, you’ve still gotta have a hospital. We prepare. We’re always prepared for war. And you can’t forget the foxes. They mess up a lot of tunnels and kill our brave workers.

A&A: Do you have anything else to offer our readers?

Lemming: Just to recognize the Seven-fold Path of the Buddha in all things.

A&A: So all Lemmings are Buddhist?

Lemming: No, we’re lemmings but we have a marketing deal worked out with the Buddhists. They give us candy and in exchange we have to promote their religion.

A&A: Thanks for the interview, here, have some Starbursts.

Lemming: Mmmm. Starbursts. Dibs on the pink ones.

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