“When you are younger you waste a great deal of time figuring out whether you are good or not. Later on you know perfectly well, good or bad or indifferent, and the problem drifts away.”
- Jim Harrison, in Valdene’s “For a Handful of Feathers”
Once upon a time, there was a king who lived with his queen in the castle upon the hill. The villagers liked their king because he would regularly regale them with tales of adventure and derring-do. In fact, he rarely shut the fuck up. He was particularly fond of talking about his lovely queen, whom he loved very much. She never left the castle so the villagers never actually saw her but they knew from his stories that she was the most beautiful woman in all the land. It was said that the stars shone through her eyes and that the Sun grew jealous at the sight of her radiant golden hair. They also knew, from his stories, that the two of them enjoyed amazing and frequent sex. There was little doubt among the villagers that the King was the most virile of men, and the most skilled in the ways of love.
One day, a lone peasant was walking the small stream that flowed through the wood when he caught a glimpse of two people locked in love’s embrace upon the streamside’s mossy bed. He at once recognized the King and then deduced that his lover must be the pulchritudinous queen herself. He watched as long as he felt it was safe, then quietly slinked away.
The next morning, the peasant and his friend were fishing for trout in the stream.
“I saw the Queen yesterday,” said the peasant.
“Really?” said his peasant friend.
“Yep. The King and Queen were right here, alongside the stream,” said the peasant.
“Well, is she as beautiful as they say?” asked the peasant friend.
“No. She’s not real. She’s a blow-up doll,” he replied.
“A blow-up doll!? The villagers think she is real! The King is a liar!!” screamed the peasant friend.
“Well, not exactly,” said the peasant.
“What do you mean?” asked the peasant friend.
“He thinks she’s real too," answered the peasant.
* * * *
At that moment, a very large brown trout rose and both anglers saw it. The peasant made a beautiful back cast, which quickly hung up in the branches behind him. The trout bolted downstream, far out of sight.
The two peasants roared with laughter, the way some peasants do.