For unto Washington, a panda cub was born

John Kelly
Columnist September 18, 2012

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from the National Zoo Director that all the animals should be watched at all times, XXIV-VII, so that their numbers could be counted and their antics could be streamed live online across the firmament for the entertainment and education of worshipers.

The cheetahs and the ferrets, the gorillas and the kiwis, the naked mole rats and the octopi, the clouded leopards and the Asian small-clawed otters, the fishing cats and the flamingos, the sloth bears and the golden lion tamarins. And, yea, the giant pandas.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

All animals were pleasing in the Zoo Director’s sight, but the giant pandas were the most pleasing, for they were clothed in handsome black-and-white raiment and brought many congregants to the National Zoo who were eager to purchase panda-themed T-shirts, plush dolls, posters, etc.

But for seven summers and seven winters, seven springs and seven autumns, Mei Xiang’s womb had been like a parched desert gully, where no seed would take root, yea even when Tian Tian had knowledge of her. Mei Xiang’s barrenness was the cause of much lamentation, weeping and the annual rending of garments as she again and again proved infertile.

Only once had she produced a cub: the prodigal son, Tai Shan, who was now in Wolong, China, worshiping false idols.

And so the Zoo Director sent an angel to Mei Xiang. And when the angel appeared, Mei Xiang trembled and put down her bamboo and made soft barking noises.

The angel said: Mei Xiang, do not be afraid for behold I am a veterinarian and I bring you great tidings of joy, along with this frozen tube of giant panda sperm. You are, arguably, a virgin inasmuch as on this day you shall not lie with Tian Tian.

And it came to pass four months later that the shepherds who tended the animal flock saw a curious sight: Mei Xiang had gathered nesting materials. Her hormone levels had changed. Was she at last again with cub? Or was this the work of Satan, who smote Mei Xiang with pseudopregnancies like so many boils upon Job? Hard to say.

But one night as they watched the flock, the shepherds beheld a shiver running through Mei Xiang. They heard the squeal of life.

And lo it had come to pass.

For unto you this day in the city of Barack is born to you a giant panda, and its name shall be Butterstick II or Robert Griffin IV or Jing-Chi or something catchy and misspellable.

There was much joy in the city, not least because the Washingtonites were sorely in need of good news. For a moment it was possible to think that all was right with the world. For a moment, the Washingtonites forgot the turmoil in the Middle East. They forgot the endless campaign for Caesar and the constant, wearying refrain of “ . . . and I approve this message.”

They forgot the high price of lamp oil. They forgot the sins of Redskin Josh Morgan, who had been damned in Mike Shanahan’s sight for throwing his slingshot at a prone Ram. They forgot the three-game sweep of the baseball Nationals by the Braves from the accursed city of Atlanta. They forgot Snooki’s baby.

For unto Washington a cub was born, and the people did fall down and worship it. Hallelujah!

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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