The Rise

Another Non-Metaphorical Fable by Adam Acidophilus

A country was divided by a broad and dangerous river, and the people of the opposite banks scarcely knew each other. Moreover, whilst the farmers and villagers of the left bank shared all the land and its bounty — on the right bank they slaved for a single, powerful landowner.

Now the people of the left bank, having superior craft, were in the habit of making brief crossings when the water was low — to do a little trade with their neighbours. And on one such occasion a man of the left crossed the river.

“How goes it?” said the visitor, to a farmhand digging by the bank. “Can I tempt you with some fruit? Or cheeses? Or wine?”

“You can tempt me all you like,” said the farmhand. “But alas, I cannot buy.”

“Come now,” said the man of the left bank. ”Surely you can take some apples?”

“Apples, no,” said the farmhand, ”for the apple is out of favour. Apples are not grown upon this bank. Our orchards have all been levelled, and their wood been made into furniture for our master. Were I to be found with an apple on my person, that could bode very ill. Best to avoid the apple altogether.”

“Cheese then,” said the visitor. “I have some lovely cheeses. Fresh and soft, or yellow and tangy with age.”

“A cheese would arouse even more suspicion than an apple,” the farmhand sighed. “For it is made from creamy milk, which calls for cows and pasture. The little cheese we do produce is enjoyed only by our rulers. In any case, it is a dangerous food — or so I have been told.”

“Wine then,” said the visitor. “A vessel of new wine for your family. As a gift. As a gesture of friendship from one bank to the other?”

“Wine is illegal,” the farmhand shrugged. “True, I would be pleased to try it, for I have never tasted wine. But my family are so poor and hungry I would be compelled to sell your gift. And if I were caught selling wine — why, my life would be scarce worth living. In any case, wine is best enjoyed by the high-minded and well-bred.”

The trader from the left bank looked sorrowfully upon the other. “If you have no money, when you work so hard,” he advised, “then you should ask for a rise. If you could do that, then you could have apples, cheese and wine. Remember, this land and all its bounty in truth belong to you all. Who knows, if you can ask for a rise, then perhaps you can do anything?”

And the farmhand watched the superior craft, loaded with all the things he wanted, paddle away, back across the wide, shining river.

“Then I shall,” he muttered to himself. “I shall ask for a rise, and then my problems shall be over.”

The farmhand walked all day across the land — for the ruler dwelt in the hills, in a castle of rocks from which he could defend his lucky subjects. And as he walked, he called to his countrymen “I am going to ask for a rise! I am going to the castle, to get some money to buy cheese with!”

That evening he came to the bottom of the hills and made his way up the track, and passed through many gates, explaining his purpose as he went.

And as the sun set he came to the mighty front door of his baron’s castle, and rapped upon it. And the door was answered by the baron himself.

“Come, come, come in dear fellow,” the baron told the farmhand. “We’re just finishing supper — cheese and apples. And there’s wine — but of course you can’t have any.”

“I need no food nor wine,” said the man. “For I ate only just the other day. I have come in search of the thing they call the rise.”

“The rise eh?” said the baron, thoughtfully. “Then we’d better go into my office. Dearest?” (to his wife) “It’s one of the men, finish the bottle and open another … ”

“Now, about this rise,“ the baron began, settling on an apple wood chair. “Don’t sit down, it’s bad for your back. It could harm you.”

“Well, I understand that if I ask for a rise I shall have money and be able to buy things,” said the farmhand. “As things stand, I have very little though I work continuously.”

“Yes, yes,” nodded the baron. “I completely understand. Now remind me: just exactly what do you do?”

“I plough the fields, pull the weeds, plant the seeds and water them, drive out the pests and crush all the bugs with my fingers, harvest the crops, thresh the corn, bag and carry it, deliver it to the castle, burn the stubble, start again — and don’t get nothing for my trouble.”

The baron sighed. “Anything else?”

“I fell orchards and slay cows,” said the man. “Only there’s none of them left now, so that side’s dried up a bit.”

“So you’re not unskilled?” the baron remarked.

“I have a great deal of skill,” said the farmhand. “My granddaddy taught me bug-crushing, and my father the rest.”

“Only,” said the baron, “I couldn’t even consider a rise for a ditch-digger or a quarryman.”

“Of course not,” said the farmhand. “I leave them sorts of things to the stupid and unimaginative lower orders.”

“Quite right too,” the baron agreed. “They get too much as it is. Some of the ditch-diggers have been stealing mud, and the quarrymen have been smuggling dust out in their lungs.”

“Nothing to do with me,” said the farmhand. “I’ve never much cared for their sort.”

“Quite, quite,” said the baron. “Nasty little hovel-dwelling folk …

“Erm — you don’t dwell in a hovel do you?” he asked.

“No,” said the farmhand. “We have a cave.”

“A cave?” said the baron. “Sounds a bit like a hovel to me!”

“The sleeping accommodation is in a cave-like recess,” the farmhand conceded, “but the bulk of the house is fashioned from undergrowth.”

“Ah! A garden residence. Lovely!” said the baron. “But you find that you’re still having difficulty?”

“I am having no difficulty at all,” said the farmhand. “I look after my family. I put food on the floor every week.”

“But your wife can’t cook it?” suggested the baron.

“My wife is an excellent cook,” said the farmhand. “She does a lovely straw loaf, and sparrows’ eggs — and sparrows themselves when we catch them. With feather pastry. And a fine roast fungi — not your mushrooms, just the puffballs. And an earth soup. And snow pie. She is a genius.”

“Kids out of control though, eh?” the baron sympathised.

“I keep ’em away from the quarry kids and ditch-diggers,” snapped the farmhand. “They know the rule of law in our house. I’ve already sent three off to the army. And when the boys are grown, I’ll send them along as well.

“That’s good to hear,” said the baron. “I’m about to declare war on the opposite bank.”

“Good!” said the farmhand. “I’m sick of them opposite bankers with their smelly cheese and wine, and lah-di-dah superior river craft and stable hull profiles. Coming over here with their poisonous apples and filthy propaganda about everybody owning and sharing everything — ”

“And their rises — ” added the baron.

“Aye, their rises,” said the farmhand. “And tellin’ us we can do anything if we get them.”

“So you don’t want a rise?”

“No, I don’t want a rise! I want an end to all these rises!” said the farmhand. “There’s too much risin’ goin’ on — that’s the trouble with this country!”

“Agreed,” said the baron. “And if you see any farmhands or left bank spies spreading this kind of talk?”

“I’ll bring ‘em in!” spat the farmhand — purple with rage.

The baron slipped him an apple; and the farmhand staggered down the hillside and back to his hovel and his wife (who couldn’t scrape the water out of a puddle).

“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people asking for rises while the rest of us suffer!” he bellowed.

“He was a tough one,” chuckled the baron. “Better put a guard on that riverbank … ”

Moral: If they can do this, then they can do anything.

 

 © Adam Acidophilus 2014