Thought and Memory©
It was twilight. Hugin and Munin as usual perched on the broad shoulders of Odin to recite the day’s events. The raven that represented Thought said: “What I said to you in the strictest confidence should remain so, within your godhead. Not even Memory has the right to hear it.”
Odin laughed and said: “I know. This is just what Memory told me. He also insisted that you had no right to hear what news he passed on in strictest confidence.”
When Memory was confronted with stealing his thunder Munin flapped his wings and said: “Your thunder! I merely spoke my mind.”
*There is nothing new under the sun.
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Young Midas even as the heir apparent loved wealth. The idea of making wealth make more wealth appealed to his rational mind. Anticipating all that wealth coming to him one day he made all the vassals of his father give him unlimited credit. They willingly obliged him and waited for the young prince come to the throne. Meanwhile Prince Midas made every servant in the palace work round the clock. His rational mind taught him a crust of bread chewed is better than a goblet of wine promised tomorrow. Whenever they approached him for back wages he was sure to hint that he as a king would spread his hand out,’My liberality shall know no bounds. You want to enjoy my largesse?’ Of course he did not pay them for long.
One day Silenus called on him. He was a Satyr. He had come through a wild tempestuous cold night. He was so beat and he shivered as he sought his aid. Prince Midas looked at the ugly mug and said,’Hello, Paragon of Beauty, warm yourself by the fire. You look almost on your last legs.’ There was a blazing fire and the prince sent for viands and warm wine, of course on credit, and he set it before him. He said, ‘Eat and take ease.’ The Satyr a friend of god Dionysus ate and drank and was fortified. He asked why the prince was lost in thoughts. The host said,’fire is free but think how much firewood need for it? The royal forests are almost cut to keep the hearth warm.’ The guest cackled giving a toothless smile. Puckering his hideous face the Satyr suggested,’I could be of help.’
Suddenly he hit upon a happy thought. ‘Please give me this boon: whatever I touch must be turned to gold.’
Silenus clapped his hands in joy, ‘Done!’ As soon as I stand on the road to Olympus you shall receive the boon you have asked.’
Having taken ease Silenus went off.
Prince Midas felt a cold coming and he took to bed. He told his wife to sleep in the baby room.
Next morning he sat up with a sever sneeze and took his kerchief to wipe the snot. To his horror the kerchief was shining! And the snot was all gold! Such gobs of gold was pure and it came from within! With a laugh he stared at the kerchief and deposited his snot in the treasury. His rational mind knew it was for anyone to lay hand hands on. Was it not 24 kt gold? He was hawk-eyed to prevent anyone stealing it. Nothing of his was to be thrown away.
By the time he was cured of cold His treasury was burst to full.
A fortnight later the King died and the servants whispered it was due to some kind of flue that came with the arrival of the Satyr. Prince Midas exulted when he was told he should be crowned without delay. Soon after his private coronation his first royal order was to give a state funeral to the dead king. Before the priests and the council he made a show of sorrow and kissed his dead father. He stared at the corpse. It was 24 carat gold, every ounce of his sire’s lifeless body.
He ordered it to be placed in his treasury room. He excused,’I intend to worship him each day before I hold the council. His presence shall lead us to good governance.
Rest of the day was the hardest. He dared not accept the hand of his Queen. She cried a little and accused he had already found a mistress whose bed warmed him more than their marriage bed.
A month later’ when he was stretched in his bed his Queen brought the baby daughter and laid by his side. Shedding tears she murmured that she was going to make a hole in the Aegean Sea.
The King didn’t hear her leave.
Later King Midas got up,- and he was still drowsy, took the baby in order to put her back in the crib. To his horror saw her turning into a lump of gold!
Midas frantically sought out Dionysus and begged him to remove the spell. Dionysus told Midas how he could get rid of the gift. Midas washed his ‘golden touch’ away in the river Pactolus. Even now the soil along the riverbank has a golden gleam.
When he went back to his palace he knew he was cured off his gold fever. He walked with a happy tune to his chamber and he shrieked. The treasury was stinking!Wading through putrid rags stuffed in pigeon holes was was horrible. He glanced at his dead baby and father! Oh horror of horrors the cadavers rotted and oozed some horrible green bile that was corroding the iron stand on which the bier stood. Standing there unable to move and overcome with the pestilential air about him he knew the gold had left its deadly touch on him. He took to bed and died a horrible death, silently and unattended.
There is a statue erected by his subjects to perpetuate his memory. Only what is not known is the one ton of gold released from the royal treasury to make the statue went into the pocket of the Royal Chamberlain who paid out of it a handful of drachma to the sculptor. He was formerly an ironmonger who from the slag-heap laying in his yard cobbled up a life-statue of his royal master. It is coated with with fools gold to fool the eye. So far no one has found the difference.
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I am not what I seem. I am some three thousand years old. Let it not hold up the story.
When I reached the age of 987 and having suffered my wife constantly harping of the dowry she brought into our marriage I looked some way of escaping it all. I could have shrugged it off had I tried harder but she made everyone in the neighborhood know of the fact. To top it all she would rub in her private grievances whenever I wanted a little loving. I knew from the first time we lay in our marriage bed how she was mistaken to my ability to keep her in a lifestyle she was used to. Of course I gritted my teeth and suffered her to speak her mind. Of course I did what made me feel complete. Sex made me feel good but still, the bed was the coldest place on the earth. The day after I turned 987 I was all dressed for day. I went to my wife and laughed and say,’I shall be out for a while. Don’t wait for me for lunch.’
I was an astronaut and I took off with a laugh and even as I sped faster than light and travelled into farthest reaches where no man had ever before me touched the ground. I was deliriously happy. After dawdling over the fiasco of marrying my wife when I had future, I told myself to take firm grip of my future. When I landed on the earth I knew the world had changed. The earth was totally in peace and from that moment I knew that my wife is a thing of the past. My neighborhood was different and I looked no older than some thirty years. My premonition was correct. ‘My wife was dead and gone. Nothing that reminded of her remained. I shall take my future and I lead my life’ said I.
No wonder when the whole neighborhood was gunning for me in the next two years I could shrug it off. I told them that I didn’t intend to marry. ‘But you are in flower of your youth.’ Many said earnestly. ‘You will make some woman deliriously happy’ said one who had become my shadow of sorts. ‘Oh no,’ I said carelessly,’ I am used to a lifestyle no woman is worth considering for.’ in the end I brought a bitch home and said,’ Nothing like a dog. Man’s best companion.’
In the end I was left to myself. I was so happy with the dog who fawned on me. How many ways she delighted me! she was ultimate in playfulness. Every time I threw a bone she ran and ran with it. She improvised on it with so many complex gimmicks and every time she came she had some twenty to twenty-five mutts at her heels sniffing her all over. The delight of her fetching the bone was lost in the voracious appetite of those stray dogs that never quite left the place. So one day I chided my dog that the very sight of a bone made me sick for the mutts that she brought home. The dog wagged her tail and said,’I am used to a lifestyle that you cannot give either in my previous or this present life.’
It made me shot up as though someone had lit a firecracker in my behind. The tone was very familiar through her whelping, and the toss of her head was distinctively of my wife.’
I could only sigh.
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When the merchant prince al- Marauf thought he would cross the Arabian desert he asked his friends if they felt inclined to accompany him. None wanted to make the journey. Disheartened at the polite refusal the merchant asked Mulla Nasruddin who out of the blue had dropped in. He asked if he felt up to make a journey. ‘ I must warn you, Mulla it might kill you.’ Mulla asked,’Are we going on camel’s back or take donkeys all the way?’
‘What has it got to do with crossing a desert?’ it was the turn of the merchant to be amazed. Mulla said,’ if we are taking camels I am your man. ‘ Mulla Nasruddin explained that he was an expert of camels. Merchant prince immediately set about his train of camels and baggage.
Soon after on an evening they set off. Everything was so quiet and by nights they would camp in some clearing and after a meal by campfire they would tell stories to entertain the company.One night it fell to the lot of Mulla Nasruddin to tell a story.
Mulla asked if they ever wondered why deserts came about. None knew. ‘ What you are crossing this great desert without knowing why?’
Mulla continued,’The First Man Adam, blessed be his name, was fashioned by Allah and He also made animals to amuse him. He told the four legged beasts,’ My beautiful creatures, show this Man how wonderful you are!’ On hearing the horses galloped while elephants showed how clever they were. Only camels remained unimpressed;and they stood there as if they were bored stiff. Adam felt sorry for their lot. He asked if they cared to accompany him and Eve. The animals shook their heads and it was awful! Never had they felt so awful with camels making them all the more downcast. The camels bore upon man and other animals as well. The dispirit of camels was spreading all through the creation of the Lord. Adam asked ‘ Who can bear this!’ almost pulling his hair by the roots. He asked the beasts,’Perhaps you will be pleased to see a great conflagration of fire?’ No response. Adam set fire to the garden and the camels merely turned their heads away in disgust. It made the First Man try harder. He did all to get some response from camels. To none effect.
One noon the camels made such a ruckus and Adam and Eve were awakened from their siesta. The camels were gamboling and kicking up heels in joy, unconfined! There was desert stretched out as far as eye could see. The garden was completely gone!
Camels at last found what pleased them most. The Lord of three worlds asked if Adam liked what he saw.
Adam shrugged his shoulders to say,’ That beautiful garden is gone for ever. But considering the awful look of camels that made our spirits squirm it is no small loss.’
Looking at the company who heard him in total silence, Mulla Nasruddin ended by saying, ‘Camels got what they wanted. And of course we lost gardens of the earth.’
Next morning as the caravan continued, the camel let out a such foul smelling fart. The merchant asked,’ I thought you were an expert on camels? Because of your story it is certain the camel took offense and I,- get his full blast!’
Mulla Nasruddin replied, I did not say I can anticipate what he will do on any given situation.’
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Jai Paramartha, the mystic was once the guest of a rich zamindar who was a favorite of the king. One day an old man in shabby clothes and with strange manners boldly entered the quarters of JP, disregarding the servants who mistook him for a mad man. The servants wanted to know if he needed help.
Gampa Guru shook his head. For he knew the stranger indeed.
He would have recognized Mahirshi Shunya in shabby clothes or not. There was he out of the blue and he without any preamble tugged the mystic by shoulder and said, “I am onto Cosmic matters!”
Maharshi wanted to know his views about reality of the matter.
The younger man began. “ Brahma once went visiting. At some place he stopped over. He tied his elephant to a tree but when he thought he would continue his journey he could not find what tree it was. He called for Shiva. The god of destruction produced a seed and said that it was from the tree to which the animal was tied. Brahma was incredulous but Shiva assured that he would soon find it. Shiva held the seed out. In a trice it was swallowed up. There was his elephant!
Something of that seed disagreed with the animal and he broke wind. A Big Bang it was. The seed came out in cataclysmic force. In its wake came energy making every form visible! Not only that of elephant, but also many universes! The animal was still tied to the tree from which stars pulsated with energy.
Old Maharshi shook his head and violently and barked,’Impossible!’
JP queried,’Why not?’
The old man snapped,’I never break wind and the elephant of Brahma would neither.’
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The Liars Club ©
One morning I woke up startled. Normally nothing short of a suicide bomber exploding him right on my face could make me nervous. What startled me was very mundane and I could have gone on my sleep had I a yen for it. You see my dream was asleep in my four-poster bed while I had my shuteye in the gazebo. Some must have a nightcap or count sheep but sleep under an open sky is de rigueur for me. Whenever the night is warm and stars are all out in the inky darkness above I sleep soundly without distraction. Dreams are the distraction whether they choose my bed or my head.
That morning my dreams like newspapers piled up by milk bottles not yet cleared startled me to put it mildly. My esteemed Members of the Club to which I aspire to be a part may naturally wonder, ‘Do I sleep?’
Some sleep like a log but must find a fetal position or curl around like a hound. No it is not for me and I sleep on my feet. As I feel magnetic lines zapping right through my crown to my soles I know my sleep shall be sweet. No dream can match my neon blue sleep what with my hair all up and muscles in a twitch. Wish fulfillment of dreams cannot quite match the pleasure I derive therein. Stars may fall in Alabama but sleep on my feet get me touch the stratosphere during my REM phase. Who needs dreams, I ask you.
Of course in my adolescent years when wet behind my ears to make any cap a shapeless wet rag I used to sleep like a bat from the tree house in my yard much to my dad’s annoyance. But then he understood the vampire was much to blame and he let me sleep anywhere even in the doghouse. But owing to my regards for Fido who never could have a shuteye with me around, I slept in the barn where my sleeping companions were much too dumb to wonder what I was doing from the rafters in the first place.
Well to cut short my request to the distinguished Club for allowing my company I also vouch that I do not snore or fidget while I catch forty winks. My sleep is bound to give no offense whatsoever to any distinguished member who may be catching his sleep of the just beneath the freshly pressed pages of his morning paper larded with gory details of murder and mayhem. Among my peers I am content to peruse the funnies while I rest my gray cells and my ivories. Lastly but not the least my fangs have never sought for the jugular of the dead. I am willing to abide by the rules and regulations of the Club scrupulously to the letter.
Chas. ‘Dracula’ Beddoes
Reply to the application came back and the letter carried only a line. ‘The request has been blackballed by the undersigned and refused with utmost regret that the Club cannot entertain a request from a living aspirant.’
Frank Stein, Hon. secretary of the Liars Club.
The name rang a bell and I knew the man who signed the letter. On the tenth grade he was my first victim and as a vampire I must admit my only unprofessional job. No wonder he has not quite forgiven me ever since.
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Puss in Boots ©
The Chairman of Gridlocks Corporation retired and his town house together with liquid assets he willed to his eldest son; his home situated in the suburbs he gave the middle son and Randolph, the third son got his tortoiseshell cat.
Compared to what his brothers received the value of a cat was almost nothing. After the will of Pilkington senior was read and his earthly goods divided up his brothers thought their youngest ought to have received more. Directly they set out to make amends. Randolph got part of the furniture earmarked for disposal, some pots and pans and a pair of calf-leather boots. Having done this the two shut the door on the face of young Randolph and the cat.
Young Randolph had to think of a roof over his head. He moved temporarily to the house of a friend. Luckily Baron Balderdash had a castle and some hectares of ground. Before leaving for a long cruise around the world this baron was certain that he would amuse himself in his estate.
‘Worthington Castle is a pile of ruin. But what a ruin!’ the baron said as he handed over keys to it. Randy thus found himself in a castle where every stone was a slice of time chipped out and halls laid out with fan vaults an antiquarian’s dream. While his brothers moved to the suburbs to live in houses with two carports he had a castle moat with drawbridge. The only advantage he could think of was it would discourage bailiffs from coming in, if it came to that..
Worthington Castle was grand but drafty; its demijohn dark and musty. Randolph Pilkington found the wine cellar bare and the larder empty. The cat checked the buttery while the master found some linen to furnish the sleeping quarters. The young master had no choice but settle his few belongings in one room that later he found was the boudoir of Lady Worthington. Looking through the Norman window he had to agree the lady could look at some pleasant vistas while she sulked. He made it his home in transit as it were.
What money he had was quickly spent in food and fuel. Next day a shivering Randy looked morosely about him. He was all alone but his cat purred as if he was purposed to bring some warmth into his life. He asked his cat, ‘How are we going to survive this?’
Puss said, ‘It is a four letter word. But in a time like this I cannot soft pedal.’
‘Is it some riddle?”
‘No, master’ replied the cat, ‘Only work can help you now.’
‘Puss I didn’t know you could speak?’
‘Your mistake master,’ the cat said matter of factly, ‘May I remind you I have nine lives?’
Poor Randy groaned and lay in his bed. ‘If I don’t sleep migraine attack is sure to come,’ and he slept.
On the third day the cat came up to his master and purred, ‘I have one request.’
‘Well what is it?”
“I would like to wear a pair of boots.”
‘Mine or my fathers?’
The puss said he had his heart set on his father’s unbroken boots. Randy laughed his heart out. His migraine was gone and he saw a glint in the eye of his cat. It was queer of course. Then he realized a cat who wished to break a new pair of boots must be prince among cats. He threw the pair of boots with a laugh towards him.
‘You break this new boot, ‘he said, and let hell loose for all I care.’
The cat dug his paws into the boots.
Presto! The puss transformed himself into a man and the wonder of it was he was the spitting image of Randy Pilkington! The size was right and also the wave of his hair and mustache. The cat stroked the tuft of hair below his lips and silkily murmured, ‘mon panache.’.
‘Call me RP,’ said he trying his master’s best coat.
‘It fits me like a shot,’ said the body double after checking himself in a mirror. He admitted the only misgiving of his change was what to wear for an occasion. ‘Do I enroll myself in a suit or casuals?’ He asked his master whether he recommended a pinstripe or a mauve shirt for the morning. The master whose shock had still not died down jabbed his finger to a sober gray. RP had some reservations. ‘I am going to the university of Runnymede’, said he.
Not wanting to jump him needlessly he explained that he had rummaged through his papers and was sure a bachelors degree in computer application and information systems was right up his alley.
‘But I am dud in mathematics or in working out figures.
‘But I feel strong about the subject’
‘Well it is your funeral,’
RP thought his master needed to know a few matters between their relationship. ‘I intend to work and bring home the bacon.’
RP was sure from careful deliberation that he was right to say and say he did,’ Some people take to work like a duck to water and some don’t.’ His conclusion was his master would be a disaster in any workplace.
‘The more I see I know you will thrive only on your supine position.’
Young Randy knew his cat was all industry and eager to get ahead.
‘Trust me, master’ the cat announced as though he had read his thoughts.’I take your place from here and now.’
Before it sank in RP had all the papers in his briefcase and wallet.
‘What is your password?’
Ralph’s jaw dropped.
‘I have the bank statements social security number and other particulars.’ RP said and his confidence was awesome. Perhaps he was born to fill his dad’s boots, so thought Randy. So the master quietly clued him in.
‘But there is a heavy cutback and Tories are out to rub your nose on the gravel if you intend to work your way in?’
The cat gave a laugh that was tinged with diabolical cunning. He purred and said, ‘I am going to give work an altogether dimension. You need to learn how and what, from my example.’
There was something strange in the way he said it.
That evening RP came home and said he had to hang out with some students in a pub.
His observation was that picking all the loose information was good for the career. But he was reticent to answer questions in detail.
RP was good at his word. Everyday he went out and bought food from the supermarket swept the hall clean and polished his boots and cooked breakfast and it was quite a treat. Randy could on the strength of it bear life and the ghostly air of a castle as though he were in the Bahamas. The bleak countryside in his mind had brightened up thanks to his incomparable puss in boots.
Two months later a constable knocked at the door and demanded admittance.
PC. Potts the constable on duty said there was an armed robbery in the neighborhood. From several witnesses the law was trying to piece together the identity of the bandit. The law didn’t like the look of things. The young master burst out laughing, ‘And you come to me to solve it?’
The constable explained gravely a security van was waylaid and a bandit in boots had decamped with money. Randolph laughed and explained, ‘I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t see anything or heard anything.’ The constable looked at him and his innocent face betraying no emotions hit him that he was wasting his time. Only that he asked in his line of duty if he could produce one who stood alibi. Alas the young master admitted he was alone in that castle and it made him feel very despondent to keep on with a conversation that was to no purpose.
The constable went off. His sixth sense said, ‘Master Randolph could not have even got away robbing old lady of her purse if he wanted to. But his experience tweaked him to consider two pairs of boots that stood innocently in one corner of the room. One had a peculiar cut and evidently made to order by some nob. He filed his suspicion away and went to the police station to report.
Meanwhile Randy did not observe the cat who had just ambled in his tail swishing and he silently jumped on to the cill to take in the back of a constable moving away.’ Well the caller drew a blank, didn’t he?’ he asked conversationally.
The young master wanted to ask how his study was getting on. ‘Application, application is the watchword, ‘he observed.
‘In what sense?’ Ralph asked.
‘Attending lecture is fine but applying it in real situation makes it all the more fruitful.’
Ralph had to observe, ’Work makes you take a moralizing tone as easily as baring your claws.’ Rather peeved he said, ‘I pefered you purr than drop pearls of wisdom. Coming from you it smacks of fish oil. ’
Strangely RP was not to be drawn in and he stealthily went out into the night.
PC Potts the constable went back to the police station made his report.
Five months later there was arson and an ATM was blasted. Money was found missing. Again witnesses found the culprit was seen moving in suspicious circumstances. Some witness could swear whoever it was intended mischief. Some swore the culprit carried dangerous stuff to blast open the ATM. None however could be sure of the height or his color. But all of them agreed on one point. His boots were very distinct. The detectives also thought there was something in it. PC Potts immediately unlocked his mental file and informed his colleague about seeing something similar in the Worthington Hall. He was sure it could help them crack the case.
Meanwhile the sergeant in charge of the case found the shoe imprint. Photographs revealed all the more strange feature. The sole of the boot merely imprinted a cat’s paw in the debris of plaster and mortar. The evidence of boots was shooting beyond the realm of probability!
It so happened Randolph Pilkington had to do some business in the city. He took a taxi and called on his bank and checked his account. His cash balance of Pounds 82 s.12 had overblown as though by magic into 3 million! His hand trembled as he pored over the statement. Below he saw a debit entry and it had drawn the entire amount leaving pounds 1000 in his balance. He could from the transaction understand his unknown beneficiary had created a special account for College education.
He probed the manager who was sure that he had come four days earlier and had an interview with him. In order to make sure he referred to his diary and showed the day and the hour. The manager asked if he had any doubts as to it. Quivering inside Randy shook his head and said everything was in order.
Randy took leave of the manager and all of a sudden scales fell from his eyes. There was no unknown benefactor but a criminal mind who had taken over his life.
That night Randy wanted to have a show down with RP but at that precise moment a team of police constables descended from a van. The sergeant who led them was to the point. Politely but firmly he showed a warrant and searched the premises. One had directly swooped in and collected the two pairs of boots. One pair was identical to the description but the sole was as ordinary as any boots of a man size 10.
The sergeant pointed to the sole to his subordinate and hissed, ‘There is no imprint of a cat’s paw.’
One took down the details and photographed the pair. He asked, ‘Whose boots are these?’
‘Mine of course!” Randolph said without blinking. He knew he had to brave it out with them.
They also understood there were none in the castle but a man and his cat.
As soon as the van drove away Randolph confronted the cat and said, ‘You robbed a ATM off Soho and waylaid a publishing form in the middle of the street. Do you deny this?’
‘It all depends,’ the cat asked,’ are you asking RP or to your cat?’
Randy sank into his sofa dejected. ‘Have you ever thought of loss of name or honor if this crime is found out?’
‘Ah,’ exclaimed the cat ,’this crime shall never be laid at my door.’
Randolph could appreciate the gravity of his situation. He sighed and there was a painful silence such as one got to have a machete to part it. Randy knew no rancor at what happened and also at the awful realization that nothing would undo the damage. He said controlling his mixed up emotions, ‘RP don’t you think we need to make a fortune for living in style and have the best address in town? Perhaps I could have an escutcheon at the entrance with a cat en rampant? ‘
The cat just purred and went around his pair of boots swishing his tail lovingly around it.
‘Tomorrow I have a test. I must read well into night.’ he said. He meowed and went to his corner.( based on Charles Perrault’s tale)
(Reprinted from ben4ben.wordpress.com-Elves Bells)
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Posted in short story, tagged art, beauty, Benny Thomas, duties, Law, mercantile mind, obligations, Oscar Wilde, story teller, the Happy Prince, trivializing life on December 4, 2010 |
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The Unhappy Prince ©
It was a sight that hit whoever laid eyes on it. The statue of a prince sheathed in gold and many precious stones was a marvel. More marvelous was that there it stood for centuries, a ransom for an emperor unmolested, in the town Square. As I said no one on seeing it for the first time thought of anything other than beauty.
Who was that prince ? No one knew. It did not however stop the viewer from feeling uplifted by happiness of being alive. There was an inscription chiseled in marble and gilded and it read ART. In that town with strange spires and gargoyles spitting rain water the statue of a prince made art synonymous with the most noble sensation of happiness. The tradespeople basked under its spell; so did the town crier whose stentorian voice often made the hearts of people feel dread of some bad news coming to their happy shores. The prince was called with one voice the Happy Prince. He stood as symbol of their happy state.
Far North under a gelid sky the statue of the happy prince stood warming the cockles of the aliens and natives alike. Visiting embassies of kings, diplomats,- jesters in their caps and bells or in pinstripes made a detour without exception to the Square and there they stood lost in admiration before they presented their courtesies to the king.
The happy kingdom stood the test of time and stayed in perpetual happiness since the happy prince stood vigil as it were, over their weal.
Of course time brought certain changes in their lives. The town came under the rule of a town council and all the elders of the city unlike in the olden days were chosen by certain rules of the law and Law was the thing and not the people. Law stated progress was the right of the people so those who lived cheek by jowl with every one else took to find how far did their rights go. They had their home turf surveyed and fenced so their rights were guarded. Unlike in olden times neighbors came only by invitation and not by any feelings of sociability. Then came the officials by the order of the Council to give number to each house. Rights of the householder was reduced to a number.’ It makes the work of Mayor Swallow-Tail easier,’said the Mayors office. Soon every householder had to pay tax for the privilege of keeping his rights. ‘It makes the ‘Town Council function better with money in the coffers.’ said one statement issued like clockwork by the Mayor’s office. Progress meant better informed people.
One morning the Mayor passed through the Square and he had a shock of his life. There were puddles of water at the base of the statue. ‘What made the Prince unhappy?’ asked the Mayor. Same day he called for a meeting . The Council found the town finances were in arrears. Mayor Swallow- Tail wanted to know why the Works department was behind schedule.’ We should have completed the Trade and Commerce Pavilion two years ago. What is holding up?
‘Our coffers are empty’ said the treasurer appointed for that year.
‘We collect tax don’t we?’ asked the Mayor somewhat hot under the collar. Money became a topic that made him edgy and he had no way to cure it. One Councilor piped,’People are defaulting on their payments’. The Mayor was sure penal interest would deter them from treating matters of money casually. The town council went about a Collection drive that brought in some. Soon it was seen the statue was becoming shabbier by day. And by night.
The treasurer had a bright idea. ‘Why not tax the people for maintaining the statue to its proper glory?’ One Councilor pooh poohed it and said the Happy Prince was covered from time immemorial with pure beaten gold sheets. ‘Silver and precious stones adorn every available surface of the chain mail coat of the Prince. You want to gild the lily in his hands?’ The Mayor was stunned! He had never for a moment thought of the statue in terms of its parts. ‘Silver!’ The deputy Mayor who was on nodding acquaintance with the real Power nodded,’Yes Silver. Its worth beyond measure.
The Mayor wanted the worth of the Prince put down on the Official Register.
‘So long no one had thought the Prince in terms of money the councilors exclaimed in confusion.
‘Progress means paperwork.’ hollered the Mayor,
Yes, paperwork means an official Archives,’the deputy Mayor chimed in dutifully. He suggested that there ought to be a building for storing all the official records.
Then it was the question,’Is it wise to keep 5 million gold florins and 60 pence that was the official worth of the statue unprotected? The law of the town had clearly stated public property worth more than twenty florins should be locked and kept away for safekeeping. They were breaking law if the statue was left unattended. It agitated them and they had a great respect for law! The Council after deliberations took to vote and they passed a law that the statue would be moved to the bank vaults for safe keeping.
However before the law could be put into effect the Mayor found some miscreants had systematically stripped every precious metal from the statue. Not even a brass stud that cost two pence a piece was spared.
How did the happy Prince become Unhappy Prince?
Progress had seeped into every pore of the townsfolk and the statue had to pay the price for strange sensations that overwhelmed them. It was not happiness or art that moved them but the awful reality of defaulting on their tax obligations.
Law of their rights had in equal measure imposed on them their duties. In its equation art and happiness were too abstract and superfluous.
No wonder the statue of the prince looked in the vault more like a scarecrow and the officials from the Mayor’s office, who from time to time took inventory had to observe each time, ‘The unhappy Prince!’
(based on the Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde)
Reprinted from Elves Bells-ben4ben.wordpress.com
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