The American Fable

from Forty Fables by Adam Acidophilus

In a smoky hall, deep in the belly of a steaming metropolis, two boxers met one night for a prize-fight before a crowd of two thousand.

The first boxer — the champion — was a bitter man who knew neither fear nor regret, and had risen from the slums on a ladder of muscle, sweat, and grunting noises.

But the second boxer — the challenger — was a sporting man, who knew only the glory of participation; and was driven by a love of competition, a sense of achievement, and an eternal quest for after-dinner speech material.

“Alright you boys?” said the referee. “I hope I can count on you both for a good clean fight with no funny business.”

“Indeed you can — ” replied the challenger, unwise to the etiquette of the ring — “and I feel sure that I speak for us both when I say that an unclean victory is no victory at all, and we would both rather lose this bout and win our fellows’ respect than dance with the fickle maiden of dishonour and drink from the cup of funny business.”

The bell rang, the boxers approached each other, and with one punch the challenger knocked the champion to the floor.

“One-ah!” cried the referee — to the crowd’s delight.

“One moment!” interrupted the challenger. “Distracted by noises from the audience, my victim was ill prepared for such a blow and I fear that I have hit him too soon. So sudden a victory is no victory at all! I ask that my opponent be revived and that our contest recommence at his earliest convenience.”

“Well, ur, alright then,” stuttered the ref — who had seen nothing untoward. “I suppose … If that’s what you want!”

The champion was revived; but no sooner had the fight been restarted than he was on the canvas again.

“One-ah!” cried the referee — to the crowd’s delight.

“One moment!” countered the challenger. “Dazzled by photographers’ flashbulbs and half-suffocated by the cigar smoke which fills this hall — my opponent has tripped on his own bootlaces and knocked himself senseless. So technical a victory is no victory at all — I insist that he be revived, that the photographers be restrained, and that somebody please open a window so we can breathe in here! and that our contest resume at the champion’s earliest convenience.”

“Well alright then,” shrugged the referee — who had seen nothing untoward — “I suppose … If that’s what you want.”

The champion was revived, the crowd and photographers restrained, the window was opened, and the bell rang for a third time.

But as the fighters circled the ring, their gloved hands ready to strike, their eyes inevitably met and the challenger paused.

“My dear fellow,” he said to the champ, “you seem breathless and stupefied, and your divergent countenance betrays a loss of the binocular vision which is so essential to a fair result. Might I offer you a measure of my mother’s excellent lemon squash? It is a balm for all ills and noted for its restorative effect!”

Alas, while the challenger’s back was turned in search of the lemon squash, the champion, who was a cheat, hit him on the back of the head with a metal object which he had concealed in one sock. The referee — who was blind — saw nothing untoward and rapidly counted to ten. And the crowd — who were very stupid — cheered wildly.

Moral: He who confuses chess with boxing may never pick up the pieces.

© Adam Acidophilus 2011