Gibson stood tall, surveying the Savannah. The short trees beckoned to him, asking to be eaten. But not yet. Gibson had work to do.
His long neck stretched just enough higher and was just enough thicker than all of the other giraffes on the Savannah. His spots were striking and darker than the other males wandering the area. His muzzle and jaw were strongly chiseled. His mane ran from his back all the way to the front with a long tuft falling before his ears, sitting between his eyes. He was a handsome giraffe.
Gibson was also stronger and faster than the other males. His ossicones, or horns, were harder and just a bit longer than his fellow bulls. Fights with him ended swiftly and painfully. Young males tried frequently to see who could go longest against him. Old rivals waited till he seemed weak and tried to challenge his status. All of them left their dignity on the field before him.
That Gibson was so desirable was a good thing, for him. It meant that he had his pick of any female for miles around. The cows traveled far distances just to join his herd for the possibility of having his calves. It also meant that he had more mates than he could service. That was the real benefit because it meant that the males around him, circling his herd, had to ask permission to approach the ladies.
Unfortunately for the lesser males, all he gave them was an invitation to try their luck. As protector of the herd it was his job to judge whether the bulls were threats or not. After that, it was up to the females to accept their company or not. Most of them were willing to wait for a long time for Gibson to rub their neck or nuzzle their cheeks. A few, the ones he rarely acknowledged, were sometimes willing to accept a lesser mate.
Gibson searched his herd, counting heads and watched for predators. The neighboring zebra herd had suffered from a virus for a few weeks. This was terrible for the zebras. For Gibson and his ladies, it was great news. With the zebra’s easy prey, the lions, cheetahs, and hyenas had left the healthy giraffes alone.
Gewel walked by, her steps were slow and measured. Her neck twisted to show off the thick channels between her reticulated patterns. “Gibson, your ossicones are quite dashing today.”
“You know it Gewel, that pattern is making me dizzy,” He answered as she walked by to her friends at the pond.
A tower of unfamiliar bull giraffes caught his attention. They were casually slapping their necks against each other in challenge. Beside them was a pile of bright green leaves sitting untouched. A few fleshy apricots winked at him from the top of the pile. He licked his lips, glanced over his herd once more, and walked to his waiting supplicants.
“Gibson, looking strong today.” Geoff nodded, his long neck dipping down.
“How fairs the savannah for your herd?” George asked. He was an old rival of Gibson’s, he was almost as thick in the neck but too short to catch the eyes of potential mates. Still, he was a mean fighter and should a real quarrel begin, Gibson would be pushed to respond.
The third giraffe, a young bull named Gordon looked steadily at Gibson. “We have come to ask your permission to court some of your ladies.”
“Bulls, glad to see you all looking healthy and eager. What have you brought me?” Gibson asked.
Geoff clopped forward, pushing the pile of gathered greens and fruit. Gibson looked at it briefly and then away, scanning his herd, calculating.
The other males waited patiently, heads tilted slightly down.
Gibson finally stomped twice. “I’ll accept your offering. Stay by the river: Genice, Gasmine, Ganna, and Gerry are all near season and may be willing. There’s only so much of me to go around, so maybe they’ll be open to an arrangement.” He looked at the three and continued, “Remember, it’s their choice. If you get rough with my herd, anything they do to you will be deserved, and I’ll be adding to your pain.” He narrowed his eyes menacingly.
Geoff and Gordon nodded and left without looking backward, long strides pushing them to the trickling river on the savannah.
George stood still, scratching the ground. He looked away from Gibson.
“Is there something else you need, George?”
“You and I both know that I’ve paid you three times to visit your extra ladies. All three times they look past me because I’m shorter than they are. I keep coming up blank. I need more than just access. You gotta help me.” George answered, his low voice barely carrying to Gibson.
“What else can I do? I can’t make the ladies choose your companionship. I can’t even make them pick mine; it’s ladies choice. They have to want what you have.” Gibson preened.
“Well, I was thinking, they like you because you’re tall and strong. I may not be tall, but I am strong, and if I could do something to show them that, maybe they would look at me. And once they look at me I’ll have a chance. That’s all I need is just a chance. One sweet set of doe eyes on me and she’ll be hooked.”
Gibson tilted his head and thought for a moment. “How? I mean, if you helped me against an attack that could help, but I don’t really want to court an attack, and the zebras have been excellent meat for the carnivores. I don’t know I could even make anyone come after us. Some of the local predators are getting so fat off of sick Zebra; I don’t think we’ll have to do more than prance away from them.”
“You could fight me and lose.” George looked away as he spoke.
“That’s never going to happen. I like you, George, you’re not worth losing my herd for. I go down in front of them, and it’s over for me. I’ve gotten used to this life.”
“I thought you’d say that. I didn’t want to force this issue, but you owe me, Gibson. You and I both know that I could challenge you; I may not win, but it would be close. It would be so close, in fact, that it’d leave you vulnerable enough that some kid like that Gordon could get feisty and take the whole herd.”
Gibson frowned. “Do you think that’s a good way for you to go? Is your life so cheap?”
George sighed. “It beats being a lone bull.”
“So either I lose my herd by losing to you, or I lose my herd by not losing to you and then losing to someone like Gordon?” Gibson asked, his hoof stomping the ground anxiously.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I’m desperate here. It’s not easy being a loner.” His head dipped low to the ground.
Gibson paced back and forth for a bit before staring at George. “I’ve got a solution.”
George looked up, his large eyes shining. “What’s that?”
“Where did you get these fruits?” He pawed at the stash in front of him.
George looked at the three soft fleshed apricots. “At a tree just over the hill.”
“Look, I was going to save Gina for me. She’s lovely, and we’ve had a lot of strong calves in the past. But she isn’t picky, and I didn’t win her by strength. I actually lured her from Gerald’s herd with fruit. So run, get some more, a whole branch of them, and she’s probably yours.”
“You’re sure?” George asked, looking at the pond where all of Gibson’s favorites were standing.
“As sure as you can be with anything. You get the fruits, you’ll probably get the girl, and then there’s no need to fight. You’re happy, I’m happy, and Gina’s happy.”
George nodded his long neck, bobbing up and down. “I’ll be back quickly. I’m going to get her the sweetest fruits too.” He ran off, disappearing over the hill in mere minutes.
Gibson made his own dash. He had to find Gina and explain to her that George was going to approach her. He only hoped she was understanding. Gina did love apricots.