Based on the story from Aesop’s fables. Told by David Rakoff on “This American Life.”
The scorpion was hamstrung, his tail all aquiver, just how would he manage to get cross the river? The water’s so deep, he observed with a sigh, which pricked at the ears of the tortoise nearby.
Well, why don’t you swim, asked the slow-moving fellow. Unless you’re afraid, I mean, what are you, yellow?
It isn’t a matter of fear or of whim, said the scorpion, but that I don’t know how to swim.
Ah, forgive me, I didn’t mean to be glib when I said that. I figured you were an amphibian.
No offense taken, the scorpion replied. But how bout you help me to reach the far side? You swim like a dream and you have what I lack. Let’s say you take me across on your back.
I’m really not sure that’s the best thing to do, said the tortoise, now that I see that it’s you. You’ve a less than ideal reputation preceding. There’s talk of your victims all poisoned and bleeding. You’re the scorpion, and how can I say this, but well, I just don’t feel safe with you riding my shell.
The scorpion replied, what would killing you prove? We’d both drown. So tell me, how would that behoove me to basically die at my very own hand, when all I desire is to be on dry land?
The tortoise considered the scorpion’s defense. When he gave it some thought, it made perfect sense. The niggling voice in his mind he ignored, and he swam to the bank and called out, climb aboard.
But just a few moments from when they set sail, the scorpion lashed out with his venomous tail. The tortoise, too late, understood that he’d blundered when he felt his flesh stabbed and his carapace sundered. As he fought for his life he said, tell me why you have done this for now we will surely both die?
I don’t know, cried the scorpion. You never should trust a creature like me because poison I must. I’d claim some remorse or at least some compunction, but I just can’t help it, my form is my function. You thought I’d behave like my cousin the crab, but unlike him it is but my nature to stab.
The tortoise expired with one final quiver, and then both of them sank, swallowed up by the river.
The tortoise was wrong to ignore all his doubts, because in the end, friends, our natures will out.