Short story – King and the Blind Beggar: Liar, liar!

LIAR

The blind beggar was bathing in the royal bath while servants fed him grapes and other delicious fruits. The king arrived and descended into the steaming water opposite to the beggar and said: “It has now been several days since I took you to my palace, and I am getting restless. How much longer until you shall impart to me the divine knowledge and heavenly secrets, like you have promised?”

The beggar shooed off the servants and said to the king: “You are quite impatient, oh dignified king. But your impatience also shows me your deep desire for the truth, and it may hasten the process of your maturity. I promised you that in five years time it will happen, but it seems now that four years might well be enough.”

“Four years!?,” the king exclaimed in agitation and splashed water with his palms. “I have been so kind to you, you wrinkly, smelly codger, that I have spared your life many times over and even let you in my palace to be served by the most beautiful servants and fed the most delicious foods, and you tell me four years I must wait?”

The king’s black beard was quivering from his irritation and impatience and the beggar said calmly: “I promise you that the heavenly secrets are worth the agony of your waiting. And you must understand, oh great king, that only rare beings ever reach the highest peaks of existence, so unless you want to remain a suffering mortal, you have no option but to follow my guidance with patience and let me show you the way to godliness.”

The king splashed water in frustration and got up from the bath and ordered his servants to dry his body and rub fine oil onto his skin. When the king was gone, the blind beggar waved his hand to the servants to bring him more grapes and serve him wine.

The next day the beggar dressed up in the most exquisite silk clothes and let the king’s slaves carry him to the market square to meet with the ordinary townsfolk.

A poor boy came to the blind beggar, thinking that he is a wealthy royal, and said: “I am just a poor boy and I have been raised by rats and stray dogs and evil witches. Please, sir, give me a dime so that I can buy myself a piece of bread.”

The beggar ordered the slaves to stop and he turned his blind eyes towards the boy and said: “You are lying, small boy, you are lying to me. But because I am a merciful man, I shall pity you and not send you to the dungeons.”

The boy looked closely at the old beggar, who was dressed in royal silk, and said: “You are not a royal! I know who you are! You are a blind man who used to be begging for alms at the street corner. What are you doing up there, being carried by the king’s slaves and dressed up in such fancy clothes?”

“You have mistaken, young man,” said the beggar. “I am indeed the king’s counsellor, and for that reason I am being carried in this chair by the king’s slaves. I do not know what nonsense you are talking about.”

The boy said: “You are an impostor! You are just a dirty beggar, and somehow you have managed to fool the king with your foul tongue to listen to your blabbering.”

The beggar gestured to the slaves to start moving away from the little pest, but the boy followed and started mocking the beggar and using more and more ugly words to insult him.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” said the beggar. “I am the noble counsellor and I am the man who decides the fate of this kingdom. Go and ask the king, for he will surely tell you the truth if you will not believe my word. But what does it matter? You are but a wretched troublemaker, and your words are like the hum of a little mosquito in my ears. So make yourself disappear before I change my mind and send you to the dungeons to rot with the other bandits, you little insect.”

The beggar had to order the slaves to move faster and head back to the palace, for the boy became a disturbance and he didn’t want to attract too much attention among the people.

Upon meeting the king, the beggar said: “The townsfolk are becoming a real nuisance, my king. They should be taught and disciplined for better and more respectful behaviour. I recommend that we create a new order in this city, for the people have lost their manners and they cannot talk rightly but use foul language that makes my ears hurt.”

The king looked at the blind beggar and a red colour appeared on his face and the king said: “Who do you think you are? Have you forgotten that you are nothing but a decaying old man whose life I have spared because I think you hold something that might be of great value to me? But each day I start to doubt that more and more. You don’t deserve or need the respect of the townsfolk, because you are just a cockroach who is extorting me and I am too weak to use my kingly sword to cut your head off and be done with you.”

“But king,” said the beggar, “what if I told you that the people are speaking ill about you and some are even conspiring against your might? What if I told you that there is a vast cabal being put together with the aim of overthrowing you, the mighty and beloved king.”

“If you told me that,” said the king, “I would laugh so hard that I could not breathe and I would die immediately. But because you are just a lying, devious beggar, I cannot believe such words and my patience with you is running out.”

“I might be a devious, lying beggar, but how about that boy I met in the marketplace this morning? Was that boy also a lying beggar?”

“What boy? What are you talking about, you filthy creature?”, asked the king.

“The boy who came to me while the slaves were carrying me in the chair,” said the beggar, “and who said that there are people speaking ill of the king and that there is a dangerous cabal being created in dark halls and dungeons deep underground, where the eyes of the rule cannot see or its hands reach.”

“Nonsense!” shouted the king. “Where is my sword? I need to cut this madman’s head off before he spews out more lies with his poisonous mouth!”

The beggar didn’t budge by the king’s threats, but continued and said: “Yes, and this secret cabal will shackle you and your family and everyone close to you in the castle dungeons and use your beautiful daughters and your wives for their pleasure and they will defile your forefathers and remove the rule of your family from the accounts so that no one shall ever again remember your name.”

Then the king jumped towards the beggar and grabbed his throat and jolted him forcefully, but the beggar didn’t give up and said with a stifled voice: “But it is not too late to stop it!”

The king suddenly calmed down, let the beggar free and said: “How can we stop it? Tell me now or I shall make you carry buckets of excrement day and night for the rest of your life.”

“You must establish a new order in the kingdom. The people have become complacent and lazy. They have become ungrateful and deceitful. You must establish a new order that will turn everything upside down and make the people respect the throne like they should. Only a new order can save you from demise, for I have heard rumours that this cabal is quickly advancing in its plans and it will soon begin to execute a horrible measure of action to overthrow you and disgrace your name.”

Short story – The old man in the woods

Oldman

Once it happened that a lone traveler was wandering deep in the forests. Far away from the nearest human settlement he stumbled upon a small, ramshackle hut.

The traveler became curious. At first the cabin looked abandoned. “Who could possible live here?” the traveler thought.

He couldn’t resist, and decided to take a closer look. The traveler walked over to the house and knocked on the door. To his surprise, someone opened the door.

The traveler saw an old man and said, “Good day, sir. I’m sorry if I disturb you, but I couldn’t resist knocking on your door.”

The old man looked at the traveler with his sharp look and said, “Go gather the scrogglings,” and then closed the door.

The traveler was dumbfounded. He didn’t understand what the old man meant. He knocked on the door again. Again the old man opened the door, looked at the traveler with his sharp look and said, “Go gather the scrogglings,” and pulled the door shut.

What a mysterious man,” the traveler thought. He became even more intrigued.

Once more he knocked on the door, and once more the old man opened. This time the traveler opened his mouth before the old man got to say anything. “Go gather the scrogglings!” the traveler spluttered.

The old man looked at the traveler, but this time he didn’t say anything. He kept on looking at the traveler with his fierce eyes. The traveler was starting to feel uneasy.

“May I come in?” asked the traveler.

The old man looked at the traveler for a long while. Then he moved aside to let the uninvited visitor into his small cottage.

The traveler looked around the hut and couldn’t help but notice the numerous beautiful paintings on the walls of the shack that otherwise seemed rather rudimentary.

“Did you make these?” asked the traveler.

The old man didn’t answer.

“Are you living here all by yourself?” asked the traveler.

Still no answer.

The traveler was becoming more and more suspicious about the old man. Why would he stay in the middle of the forest all alone? What was he doing here?

Maybe he is one of those enlightened masters who live in absolute solitude,” the traveler thought to himself.

“Are you one of those enlightened masters?” asked the traveler.

The old man suddenly burst into a vociferous laughter.

“Are you one of those fools who ask too many questions?” asked the old man.

The traveler now felt even more disturbed. He thought about leaving the cottage, but he was too much interested. He wanted to know what the old man was doing in the woods. He wanted to know what the old man knew.

“Yes, I’m just a fool,” answered the traveler. “Can you help me become more wise?”

The old man grabbed a broom that was resting against the wall and swung a blow towards the traveler. The traveler managed to parry the swing with his arms. Nonetheless it hurt like hell.

“Why did you do that?” asked the traveler.

“I am testing your wisdom,” said the old man. “How could I help you unless I knew from where to start?”

Then the old man swung again. Again the traveler got his arms in front of the hit.

“That hurts!” shouted the traveler.

Once more the old man swung his broom. This time the traveler grabbed ahold of the broom. The old man released his hold of the broom, grabbed a bowl of water from the table and tossed the water at the traveler.

Now all wet, the traveler asked, “What is wrong with you?!”

Again the old man bursted into a belly laugh.

“What is so funny?” asked the traveler, trying desperately to make sense of the old man.

The old man looked at the traveler and said, “Your confusion is funny.”

“I’m not confused,” said the traveler with a slight sense of irritation. “You are behaving like a child, and you are telling me I am confused.”

“But I am like a child. How can I not behave like one?”

“A child couldn’t survive alone in the woods,” said the traveler. “If you were stupid you would already have starved to death.”

All of a sudden the old man took a wooden spoon and threw it at the traveler. It hit him right in the forehead.

“Stop that!” shouted the traveler.

“Who said a child is stupid?” asked the old man.

The traveler remained silent for a moment. “This man is crazy,” he thought.

Then he asked, “What are you doing in the forest? Are you an enlightened master? I have heard stories of men like you. They say that the enlightened masters behave in odd ways. Some say that they might appear to be quite mad.”

“What do you want?” asked the old man.

“I want to know everything about you!” said the traveler.

“I am just an old man living in a small house in the woods. Why would you be interested in such a man?”

“I have never met an enlightened master before. In fact I have never met anyone who has met one.”

The old man’s face turned grim. “Then you should continue your search.” He walked over to the door and opened it in a gesture to wish the visitor goodbye.

“Please, good sir, before I leave, tell me one thing; do you think there is hope for man?”

The old man shut the door and said, “What good is in hope? What good is in wishing for better times? Hope is nothing but a false promise.”

“But if there is no hope, how can we live?” asked the traveler.

“If there is hope, there is no life,” said the old man.

The traveler did not understand the old man. Nonetheless, he went on asking.

“But when one is fearful, what else is there than hope for something better to come?”

“Hope is nothing but fear in disguise. Both are worthless.”

The old man walked back to the door and opened it to bid farewell to the visitor.

“Please, tell me one more thing; what is the meaning of life?”

The old man took the broom and smashed the traveler in the head.

“What is the meaning of an old man hitting you with a broom?” asked the old man.