Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Memoirs of a man who has accomplished nothing

I grew up on an island the size of a coin. At the time I was old enough to see the Egyptian lady down at the Queen's Chamber on the corner of Pyramid and Nile, she asked me how I wanted my fortunes told. I said all I wanted was a drink, and fast.

She poured me a famous wine, of the finest vintage, or at least that's what it said on the bottle. To me it seemed a pale, watery drink; I spat it out. Are you trying to trick me? I demanded. Pour me something I'll remember tomorrow, or I'll take my money elsewhere!

The pint of beer she drew me next was the best I ever tasted. With a head of foam on it like a clear night, and a body like an endless day spent hiding in a field of wheat. It seemed to last forever, echoing down my throat. It seemed to last forever.

And as perfect a drink as that was, yet halfway through I was already thinking about the next. The beer stood stale in the glass, weighed down with a bitter taste now, and hard to swallow. It seemed to last forever, and thank God it didn't.

Never have I thirsted for anything like that third drink. It went straight down and burned me like a pailful of souls descending to hell, yet the more I put away the thirstier I was. Only at the very bottom did I recognize the taste. Poison! I yelled. What do you mean? The glass I gave you was empty.

Water, just give me water, and she did; icy and clear like a glacial lake, it deadened me and quenched me right down to the very soles under my shoes. Benumbed I turned to take my paper cup and leave, but the Egyptian lady called me back: Now for the price! There's always a price.

The wine you spat out, it doesn't count. For the beer you drank I'll give you a sovereign of gold, for the water I'll give you a diamond. Here, take them: They're yours to carry. What are you waiting for? Go away before I change my mind and give you more! So I took my water and ran, not spilling a drop. 

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