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The Intolerance

The river ran red. Well, more pink really; Yellow in places; Quite often white. It soaked into the fields and when the ground was sodden what couldn't soak in flowed over the churned up muddy field down to the river, where it was carried away on the currents . It wasn't just the field. From the nearby town it rolled down the hill in torrents. The gutters were filled to overflowing. The air was full of the sugary scent of it. Oh, and people were laughing. How people were laughing. The sound of raucous joy simply filled the air. The sound of a battle won.

It was the strangest of traditions. To say that no one really knew how it started wasn't quite true. Old Chrissie sat there in the same chair at the edge of the field as she always did. A blanket over the legs to keep them warm, and a poncho to keep the worst of the affray at bay. To old to join in, but she still liked to watch. She remembered how it had started all those years ago. There were still a few.

Every five years it would mark the start of the season. They would meet on the field. Some met in the town square. Some would hold street parties to celebrate the start of the season. But it was basically the same the country over. It was tradition. People would stockpile for months beforehand, ready for The Intolerance. For some, it was just a massive excuse for a raucous party, but Chrissie knew. Chrissie remembered.

Everyone taking part carried their Furritch cup. There was nothing really special about the cups, except the size, and the material. Always made of paper. That was the tradition. They had to be paper, and they had to be big. Really big.

People would gather, waiting for the shouter to call order, and when the shout came, very briefly, there would be silence... until some brave soul would be the first to call their cant. Everyone would have a cant. The most creative had many. They would take it in turns to shout them out, and the there were prizes for the best. The most outrageous. The most subtly dishonest. The most damnably outright. People would practice their lies for weeks beforehand, until they got them to the point where they were almost, but not quite convincing. That was the trick to it, you had to be almost convincing, enough to fool a fool, but if people didn't get the joke, then it was considered something of a Yaxley. Everyone wanted to be, at the end of it all, crowned The Most Utter. They didn't know why. It was just tradition. The surrounding crowds would heckle and jeer, laughing all the while, until finally, when all the cants were cried, the crowd would call "toofarfurritch! toofarfurritch!", and with screams of laughter, the thick and creamy contents of the paper cups would be hurled in every direction, at everyone. And then there were refills. It was debauched. The rivers ran red. Well, pink. Often sort of yellow, with bits of white. Strawberry, banana, vanilla, it didn't matter. It was perhaps the greatest case of intolerance by lactose a civilisation would ever create. People came away covered. Covered, and laughing. Uncontrollably laughing.

And when it was over, there would be the speeches, and the campaigning would start. Then there would be the elections, and maybe a new government. It was tradition. So few knew how it had all started. But Chrissie remembered. They called it The Intolerance. It was about knowing how far you could go. It was about knowing how far you should go. And every year, she had a little chuckle. The way you do, when you know some thing's sort of wrong, but somehow, given the circumstances, just so utterly right.