After the last couple blogs, I’ve got to take a step back from MS and play for a while. I recently posted a couple of writing exercises I had done, and today I think I’ll run with scissors and again write something new and silly. But while I do that, you can read this little fable I wrote several years back. I hope you like it.
Trouble with Burros
The Mexican walked along Crooked Mile Road. It was market day, and he wanted to get there early; he had a wagon full of fruit to sell. He was thinking about what a fine day it was to be walking to town when he was stopped by a crooked old man coming from the opposite direction.
“What’s wrong with your burro?” said the crooked old man.
“Nothing,” answered the Mexican from beneath his bushy eyebrows.
The crooked old man stared at the gray burro for a quiet moment and the Mexican waited patiently for the man to speak. He didn’t really want to wait, but he did not want to appear rude. And he worried—was there something wrong with his burro? He needed his little burro.
“Well,” said the crooked old man crookedly, “for one thing, he’s straight.”
The Mexican looked at his burro with renewed interest and some pride. “Si,” the Mexican nodded, “he is very straight.”
The crooked old man scratched absently at the stubble on his chin, and looked at the burro through rheumy eyes. He shook his head. “I’ve never seen anything so straight in all my life,” he said.
The Mexican puffed out his chest proudly, as if he had made the burro so straight. “He is a very excellent, straight burro.”
“But, how is it that he is straight?” asked the crooked old man. “When everything is crooked.”
The Mexican looked about. Certainly that was true. The road was crooked. Fences rambled alongside it like something installed by a one-armed carpenter with a rusty hammer and bent nails. Even the trees which hovered along the horizon leaned against one another like great wooden soldiers drunk on leave. The Mexican hadn’t really noticed how crooked everything was before, but he was new to the area; everything looked different. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want any trouble with the crooked old man. All he wanted was to get his fruit to market, so he smiled and shrugged apologetically for his animal’s perfection. He tapped the burro on the flanks with a stick and tipped his hat at the crooked old man. “Thank you, sir.” He didn’t know why he should thank the crooked old man, but felt he should say something nice.
The crooked old man put out a crooked old arm and said, “Wait a minute there. You can’t go bringing an animal like that into town.”
The Mexican stood there beside his wagon full of fruit and eyed the crooked old man with concern. “But my fruits. I need to take them to the market and sell them. I cannot pull the wagon myself. I need my burro.”
The man now looked at the fruit piled high in the small wagon hitched to the straight burro. The wagon was well made. You could say—straight. And the fruit! Why the crooked old man had never seen such round melons, apples, and grapes, not the wobbly, warped fruit he was used to seeing. “Your fruit is strange.”
The Mexican began to get nervous. He had to get to market. He had six children, a wife, a mother as well as a sister-in-law and her lazy husband to support. He smiled ingratiatingly at the crooked old man and grabbed one of the fine-looking apples, “But senor, my fruit is very good.” He pulled out his machete and quickly chopped the apple into quarters and held out a piece for the crooked old man. “You try.”
The crooked old man nearly fell over trying to avoid touching the perfect quarter of a perfect apple, as if he’d never seen anything so sinister.
The Mexican didn’t know what to make of the crooked old man and his fear of apples, but before he could puzzle it out, he noticed a crooked old woman leaning on a crooked walking stick making her way toward them. When she was close enough, she struck the crooked old man on the head with her crooked stick.
“Ow!” cried the crooked old man, wincing. “What was that for?”
“You’re late,” she answered. “I’m a very old lady. I haven’t got time to waste sitting in my living room waiting for a crooked old bastard like you.”
“But this Mexican fellow here, he’s got a straight burro,” he told her, as if this would explain his tardiness.
The Mexican smiled indulgently and prayed silently for a miracle, while the crooked old woman looked at the straight burro. The crooked old man stood absently rubbing the knot on the back of his crooked head.
The crooked old lady marched crookedly around the burro, who stood patiently before the cart-load of fruit. She poked the burro with a long, crooked finger. The burro slowly blinked one great black eye, and twitched a rabbit ear in her direction. After several quiet moments, the old woman began to giggle. She clapped her hands together, childlike, and cackled.
The crooked old man looked at her. “What’s so funny?”
The Mexican looked anxiously from one to the other, wondering if he should make a break for it while the two were distracted. But he, too, wanted to know what was so funny. Perhaps she remembered a funny joke about a burro. The Mexican smiled under his mustache thinking it would be good to go home with a joke to tell the little ones.
“I’ve never seen anything so funny looking in all my life,” she snickered, and nudged the crooked old man in the ribs. “I forgive you for being late.” The crooked old man smiled and took the old lady’s hand.
Seeing as there was no joke forthcoming, the Mexican again tapped his burro on the flanks and tipped his hat to leave. “Thank you,” he said again, not sure why.
At that moment two crooked farmers and their crooked wives and their crooked children arrived in their warped wagons, heading for town. “What’s the matter?” the first farmer asked, pushing his straw hat back from his sun-darkened face. Two uneven brown eyes peered from beneath his crooked eyebrows. The crooked children slipped off their perches in the back of the wagons and rushed forward to see why they had stopped. “Why are you blocking the road?”
The crooked old man pointed. “His burro is straight.”
The farmers’ wives gasped in amaze. The children sniggered and pointed. The two farmers looked, not at the straight burro, but at the wagon-load of round fruit. They exchanged a look the Mexican had seen before. “You can’t bring your straight burro into our town,” said the first farmer, pointing at the burro for emphasis.
“But it is very good fruit,” smiled the Mexican wondering at their fear.
The first farmers’ wife stepped forward, one hand on her hip. “Are you saying your fruit is better than ours?”
The Mexican scratched his head and saw the anger in the eyes of the farmer. He could see the farmer didn’t like the way his wife stood there in front of the second farmer, and worse than that, in front of some stranger with a straight burro! The farmer grabbed his wife by the arm. “What do you think you’re doing?”
The woman pulled away from his grip, surprised and angry. “I was just—”
She was interrupted when another farmer stopped with his produce and his family piled in the back of his crooked wagon. At the same moment the Mexican watched as a rock sailed over the heads of the crooked old man and the crooked old lady and the crooked arguing couple and landed—THWACK!—against the side of the newcomer’s wagon, leaving a serious ding in the new paint job.
A hush fell. The crooked farmers and their crooked wives, and the rock-throwing crooked children stood, grim-faced and silent.
The poor Mexican and his straight burro turned to look at the damage.
The farmer, handed the reins of his pony to his son and jumped to the ground. He was a big man, his spine as twisted and strong as an old oak.
Shouts and curses followed, and the first crooked fist connected to its first crooked jaw. The crooked wives were soon tumbling in the dirt, their dresses becoming torn and their hair undone.
The Mexican hovered in the midst of flying fists and curses, trying to maneuver his wagon out of the fray.
Meanwhile, caught up in the excitement, the children began to throw more rocks. The Mexican understood that the boys—being boys—were eager to prove how strong they were, and began to pick up larger and larger rocks. While these rocks required amazing feats of strength for eight-year-olds, they proved to be poor projectiles, landing not far from the boys who threw them. The last of these large stones, one approximately the size and shape of a partially melted bowling ball, brought the impending riot to a halt when it landed plum on the head of the burro. BAM! The burro keeled over—dead. Its neck broken.
The Mexican looked at his burro, lying there on the crooked road, his neck as crooked as any in town.
“Hah, its not quite so straight now, is it?” said the crooked old man with a grin.
The way the crowd saw it, the death of one straight burro and some stranger peddling weird-looking fruit was as good a reason as any to turn the squabble into a fight—and, as more and more farmers became stuck behind the fighting—intensify the fight into a riot.
With one dead burro and a growing crowd of rather odd townspeople, the Mexican decided he had better try the town on the other side of the river. As voices were raised and fists answered, he unhitched his wagon from the no-longer straight and quite dead burro and slowly began to pull his cart away from the crowd, back the way he had come.
The next day the Mexican headed to the market in the town across the big river borrowing a burro from his friend. It was a fine burro. Not perfect like the one killed by the crooked little kid, but a good burro. He was thinking what a fine day it was to be on the road and lead the borrowed burro over the steeply arched bridge. When he stepped onto the road leading to the town along the river’s edge he was met by a Very Big Man.
“Whoa there pardner,” the Very Big Man said to the Mexican, looking down at him from a great height. “Where do you think you’re going with that tiny burro and all them itty-bitty fruits?”