There once was an introverted little donkey named Kurt.

When Kurt was just a little foal he used to go to mule school.

He wasn’t into team sports and preferred to read during recess.

His favourite books were Goodnight Mule, Donkey and the Chocolate Factory, The Velveteen Donkey, and especially The Wind in the Burros, which was about some donkeys who ate a lot of baked beans.

After school, when many of the other little donkeys hung out at the mule mall, Kurt liked to go home and watch TV with a nice snack of mixed hay and straw. Or to hang out with his pals, Herb and Lamont.

Kurt’s behaviour bothered some of the other donkeys.

They would chant taunts as Kurt tried to read his book:

Kurt, Kurt, the introvert! Kurt, Kurt, the introvert!

They would steal his lunch money to spend on arcade games like Donkey Kong, and yell as they ran off:

Kurt, Kurt, the introvert! Kurt, Kurt, the introvert!

They would follow him home, pretty much out of bullying ideas – for they were not intellectually gifted donkeys, as bullies seldom are. They’d yell at him softly, so grown up donkey neighbours couldn’t hear – for they they were cowardly donkeys, as bullies often are:

*whispered surreptitiously*
Kurt, Kurt, the introvert! Kurt, Kurt, the introvert!

One afternoon Kurt and Lamont were doing online research for a paper on donkey suffrage and the rise of the donkey vote.

Why the long face? asked Lamont. He was not being ironic, for Lamont was blessed with neither wit nor looks. But he was rich in kindness and could be surprisingly insightful.

Oh nothing, said Kurt. He didn’t look away from the screen. It’s just, those donkey bullies call me names.

What names? asked Lamont. He wondered if Lamont was one of the names. If so, he didn’t see the problem.

They call me ‘Kurt, Kurt, the introvert’. 

What does that mean? As his own name were no longer a possibility, Lamont had pretty much lost interest in the conversation. But he sensed it was important to his sad friend.

Well you know. It’s someone who likes to be on their own. Not really a joiner. And maybe they like nerdy things.

What’s wrong with that? Lamont had crossed his legs and put on Kurt’s glasses. He was trying to look like an empathetic donkey therapist.

Kurt looked away from the screen at his friend. He couldn’t help but smile.

But it was a good question. What was wrong with being an introvert?

It meant he enjoyed his own company, was independent, resourceful. It meant he had few friends but he was a good friend. It meant he was never really bored.

Kurt gave a delighted bray.

Lamont, you’re a genius! said Kurt.

Lamont blushed and turned back to the screen, which he was completely unable to read due to Kurt’s prescription glasses. However he didn’t want to move an inch. He wanted only to bask in his friend’s compliment, which he felt no pressure to analyse or question in any way.

Then next day Kurt was reading his book as usual when the donkey bullies appeared and began their taunts.

Kurt, Kurt, the introvert! Kurt, Kurt, the introvert!

Kurt looked up from his book and into the eyes of his harassers. His little donkey voice quivered.

Yes, I am an introvert. I don’t enjoy big groups or a lot of noise. I like simple things. I have a few friends, but they’re the best friends a donkey could want. I know how to be happy on my own. In fact, I love being an introvert! 

The bullies glared at Kurt in stunned silence. A bully victim speaking up like this was unprecedented. A large tumbleweed blew past, which one of the bullies grabbed and ate (it was full of hay). No one moved for what seemed like donkey’s years.

You… know how to be happy on your own? His thick donkey eyebrow was raised.

Um. Sure, said Kurt. I have heaps of interests. I mean they might not be things you’d like, but they make me happy. 

Huh, said Stanley. If I knew how to be happy on my own I wouldn’t waste so much time with these losers. I mean, they really are asses. 

The other donkeys shifted uncomfortably.

Kurt closed his book and held it out. You can try reading if you like. 

Stanley took the book, Donkey Copperfield, holding it with great care. His nostrils flared. Reading… me? 

Kurt smiled uncertainly. He wasn’t sure how to wrap up a foiled bully session. He waited.

Well I guess I’m gonna go find Lamont, said Kurt finally. I promised to help him with his science project.

The bully donkeys moved to the side so Kurt could pass. He trotted along for a little while, then turned back to look at the bully donkeys. They were all braying at Stanley, who was just standing there quietly, looking down at the book in his hooves.

*

For the next few days a few of the bully donkeys continued to yell half-hearted insults at Kurt.

Kurt, Kurt, likes frozen yogurt.

Kurt, Kurt, he wears a shirt.

But they knew the invectives were lame and soon they gave up and joined a tail-chasing league.

And what of Stanley?

He was never seen with the bullies again. He was too busy in the library, helping to re-shelve books and slowly reading his way through the donkey decimal system.

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