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Three Parables

Posted by Jew from Jersey
24 May 2021

The Inheritance

A young man was an heir to an amazing fortune. His parents, Mother Nature and Father Time, loved him very much and let him spend whatever he liked of it and asked no questions. But they warned him: one day you will be responsible for all of this, and we will not be here any longer to manage it for you. Then, you will not be able to spend so freely and will have to plan for the future.

As he grew, he spent his money on more and more things. His parents spoke less of their expectations, but he understood correctly that by not mentioning their concerns, they were in fact showing how worried they were. This made him anxious.

He travelled more, eventually reaching the ends of the earth where news of home would not so quickly reach him and he hoped news of him would not so quickly reach home. He befriended people who had no money and lived very differently than how he had been raised. He bought them lavish gifts and told them: you are so much luckier than me, I hate my parents and their money and have no use for them. I hate my inheritance and everything it represents, and I never want to go home. I want to stay here with you forever.

He lived in poverty, worked at menial jobs, and even begged in the streets. He particularly enjoyed appearing low and humble to tourists who reminded him of his parents. Later, he would laugh at such people behind their backs and smoke and drink with his new friends until the early hours of the morning. You guys are my real family, he told them.

One day a messenger came to tell him his parents wanted him to return home at once. He hid in a shack to avoid seeing the messenger. When he emerged, he told his friends: why don’t they just leave me alone. Some days later, the messenger returned and insisted on waiting until he came out. The messnger told the man, who was no longer so young: your parents insist that you return to assume your role in the family. It is of the utmost urgency. The man said he understood, but that he was busy at the moment. He gestured for the messenger to leave.

Some time later, the man learned that his parents were dead. The family business had collapsed and all their assets had been seized. The man suffered a nervous breakdown and didn’t leave his shack for several days. His friends did their best to comfort him. They said: he will overcome his grief and finally settle down here, to make this his permanent home as he always said. But when the man emerged from his solitude, he returned to the city of his birth. He raced frantically from bank to bank, from creditor to creditor, trying to salvage something of his vast fortune. It turned out there had never been much of one to begin with. Everything his parents had, they had already given him. They had hoped the experience of handling and spending money would instill in him a desire and a capacity for earning and managing it. Now there were only debts to pay off.

His friends from the ends of the earth heard of his predicament and contacted him, saying: come back and live with us. You can make a living growing vegetables and selling trinkets to tourists like you told us you enjoyed so much. If you live frugally, you will eventually pay off most of your debts before you die. No! said the man, I don’t want to live like that! That was just something to do, something different, before I inherited my fortune and took my rightful place commanding the servants and lackeys who are rightfully owed me. On hearing this, his friends were insulted and did not contact him again.

Little has been heard of the man since then, although occasionally rumors do surface. Some people say he returned to the ends of the earth demanding that the people there become his servants and lackeys and support him in luxury. They grew angry and chased him away and he was never heard from again. Some say he continues to haunt the banks and houses of credit, crouching in their doorways in a mess of crumpled clothing, begging for a loan and vowing that his wealthiest days are still to come. And some people will swear he got a job at a university, preaching to the young about the evils of money.

And some say he was never a man at all, but a woman. And that the legendary fortune had never been in currency, but sex appeal.


The Leopard

A man said to a woman: I heard you have a leopard living in your house. She answered: wherever did you hear something as silly as that? Whoever heard of keeping a leopard as a pet? Really! He said: I didn’t say as a pet, just that it lives with you. She said: some people are incredibly gullible. I suppose you can go on believing that, if you like. He said: I have some meat your leopard might enjoy. I will stop by tomorrow evening and bring it to you. She said: you are welcome to come over, but I guarantee you, there is no leopard and there is no need to bring anything.

The next night the man knocked on the woman’s door. He had the meat in his pocket, but when she invited him in, he said nothing about it. They talked of all kinds of unrelated things until the man felt something picking at his side. He turned to look but saw nothing. What’s the matter? said the woman. Nothing, said the man. It’s just that I could swear that the leopard is getting hungry. Oh! said the woman, there you go again. I thought surely you’d forgotten about that silly story. Maybe you’re right, said the man. Must be my imagination.

They resumed chatting and the man said: wait a minute. The woman said: what’s wrong? The man said: I could have sworn I heard some savage growling. Oh you! said the woman, and laughed. The man took some of the meat out of his pocket and held it out. Really, said the woman, don’t you think you’re taking this charade a little too far? Yes, you’re right, said the man, and began to place the morsel of meat back in his pocket. Just as his hand had almost returned to its place, the man felt a violent yank. He looked down and saw that his shaking hand was now empty. He heard soft paws scampering and the sounds of energetic chewing. The woman was blushing. The man changed the subject and eventually left.

A few days later the woman called the man on the phone. They chatted some and eventually the man suggested they meet again. There is no leopard! the woman suddenly blurted out. Then I’ll pick you up around eight, the man said.

This time the man kept a closer watch on his pocket. He resolved not to let the leopard have any more until it had shown itself. When he felt a tug at his side, he yanked back and looked to find himself engaged in a game of tug-o-war with the leopard itself! Of course the leopard won, since leopards are so much stronger than men. But before the leopard could grab what it wanted and run off to devour it, he looked into its gem-like yellow eyes. For an instant, he saw its sharp teeth and red gums revealed from within its shiny coat of speckled fur. Then it was gone. Well, said the woman, that was embarrassing. I don’t know how that thing could have gotten in here. Who knows, said the man, stranger things have happened. She said: I hope you don’t get the wrong idea. He said: it’s been a lovely evening.

I must be careful, thought the man. Leopards are dangerous beasts. If I want it, I must give it want it wants, but I cannot let it devour me. The next time he came to see the woman, he had no meat on his person. He sat and chatted with her a long time. Eventually, he heard the leopard’s paw-steps. He pretended not to notice. He felt the leopard nuzzling his side, searching intently. He looked in its eyes and the leopard looked back, standing its ground. He looked up at the woman. Her mouth was open and her eyes were wide, but she said nothing. He went out to his car and got what the leopard wanted and brought it back in. Now the leopard was pacing the room, no longer trying to hide. The woman was nowhere to be found. The leopard devoured all of the meat. The woman had become the leopard. The man is still not sure if it was not he himself who was devoured. The woman continues to claim that the leopard doesn’t exist.

Sometime later a second man approached the woman and told her he’d heard about the leopard. She denied it. This second man said: I knew you would say that. But that means you really want me to come over and feed it. No, said the woman, I most certainly do not. And get away from me, you creep! The man smiled to himself. The leopard is in the bag, he thought. He picked up some grade A meat on the way over and knocked on her door. The woman was terrified. Trembling, she called the police and said: a man has been stalking me and making threatening comments. Now he’s found out where I live and is trying to break down the door. The police came and arrested that man. He spent the night in jail and was later served with a restraining order.

A third man likewise told the woman he was interested in the leopard at her house. She denied it this time, too. He had heard about the second man. He said, I’m sorry, I must have been mistaken. Yes, she said, you must have.

A fourth man came along sometime after that and asked if he could pay the woman a visit. He had heard about the previous two men and said nothing about any leopard. She said: alright, I wasn’t really doing anything tonight anyway. He made sure to bring meat and, jittery with anticipation, left his pocket open to make it easier for the mighty cat to sense and get at it. He stayed a long time and talked with the woman about all sorts of things. But there was no sign of the leopard. He came back many more times, each time bringing more and more expensive cuts of meat and also expensive gifts for the woman. But the leopard never appeared. The woman said, let’s just be friends.

Eventually, the woman got married. Her husband thinks he’s caught a glimpse of the leopard occasionally, but he’s not sure. His wife assures him that’s all in the past. She once kept some kind of feline, true, but only as a pet, and nothing anywhere near as large as a leopard, Lord no. A swamp cat maybe, or a lynx at most, and it was completely tame. But anyway, that part of her life is over, so why bring it up?

The first man wrote a book about leopards and held seminars to promote it. The woman, her husband, and the other three men all denounced him as a misogynist, a racist, and a Nazi. All his social media accounts were deleted and Amazon refused to carry his book. On the evening news, they made it sound like he was bringing in an army of men with leopards trained to kill women on sight. The city council hurriedly passed a number of bylaws and the venue where he was planning on holding the seminar cancelled on him. When he held a smaller event at a smaller venue, the mayor called out the entire city police force to patrol the streets that night and the mayor himself led a candlelight vigil to make sure women would be safe for as long as he was in town.

The leopard prowls the neighborhood most nights now. Some people claim to have seen it quite far away. But it never wants to come home.


Concert Pianist

I am going to be a famous concert pianist. I just know it in my heart. I have been waiting patiently for it my entire life. I close my eyes and I can feel the heat of the spotlight as I walk on to the stage. I can hear the roar of applause in my ears. I can feel the audience’s admiration. I can feel the felt of the pedals beneath my feet, the soft touch of the ivories, the resonance from the wood as the hammers fall on to the strings. No one has ever heard the instrument handled as skillfully or as soulfully. I know what it will be like and no one can tell me it won’t happen just as I imagine it.

You might ask: how can you be so sure? And I will tell you: one day, when I was a child, I saw a movie about a concert pianist. How effortlessly she played! How respected she was... It made such an impression on me. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I knew then and there that I would one day become a great concert pianist and have only become more sure of this with every passing day. I know what I want. I can almost touch it. It was meant to be.

You might think to point out that I will be thirty years old next year, that I have never demonstrated any ability to play, and that I have not so much as seen a piano in a long time. And I tell you: it will simply happen. When I get the magnificent instrument I deserve, I will suddenly know what to do.

You might suggest I get myself an instrument already and begin to play, even if I can only afford an out-of-tune old upright. But I will never compromise my high standards. I will wait for a brand new top-of-the-line concert Steinway to be given to me.

You might ask if I have ever taken music lessons. But I will tell you: that is a double standard! I have lots of practice banging on the keys of pianos I have seen. Family members have said it amused them. And all my girlfriends agree.

You might suggest that I take lessons. This just shows how judgmental you are. I will play in my own way. Who are you to tell me I’m not great?

You might say that the general public will not pay to hear someone play the piano who has no background or aptitude at it. That is your opinion. My opinion is that maybe some people will.

You might suggest I give up my dream of being a world-famous and highly paid musician and instead make do with playing for family and friends. But I say: you must be a bitter man indeed, sad and broken. Someone must have hurt you deeply that you envy me my future happiness so much and want to drag me down to your level. You cannot stand to see a woman who believes in her dreams.

You might try to rush me and make me feel that I should be doing something right now to realize my plans, but I will not let you pressure me or cause me to panic. I believe in myself. And I know it will all have been worth while.


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