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  A Fairy Tale
September 5, 2003
 

There was once, in a faraway land, an idyllic village called Dnomhcir (pronounced dee-nom-cir) situated next to a beautiful bay surrounded by velvety mountains. In that village lived a man named Gens Faisant. Gens was, perhaps, the best-known inhabitant of the village. He was extremely wealthy, but because he was eccentric, arrogant, egotistical and a control freak, he had few real friends. However, because of his great wealth, coveted by many, he managed to cultivate a large number of individuals who sucked up to him and pretended to be his friends and supporters. In fact, they would do almost anything to please him. 

Gens did have one true friend. It was a pet bear, named Perceval that he had acquired as a cub when its mother had been run over by a gasoline truck in Yellowstone Park. Gens kept Perceval in cage in his large estate, but occasionally Perceval escaped. Most of the time, after breaking out of his cage, Perceval never wandered outside Gensí fenced yard, and Gens was able to corral and secure Perceval before any damage could be done.

But, as bears will do from time to time, Perceval would sometimes scale the fence surrounding Gensí estate and go lumbering down the road toward the village. Even though Perceval was gentle as a kitten with Gens, he was still a wild animal, and his interactions with the villagers proved to be not so benign. There were stories of Perceval marauding in the village, resulting in various injuries. It was difficult, however, to ascertain the real truth. Like most bears, Perceval smelled awful. After Percevalís escapes when claims of damage began to emerge, Gens tended to dismiss them as simply people being offended by Percevalís unique odor.

It came to pass, however, after a particularly notable rampage by Perceval, the villagers were close to reaching the limit of their tolerance. They were complaining to the village elders, and some had even taken the unusual step of contacting lawyers and threatening litigation.

It was then that Gens had a brilliant idea. He knew that he could never completely stop Perceval from his recurrent ramblings, and he was not sure he had the stomach to do so even if he could. After all, Perceval was his one true friend and the only thing that really mattered to him. Gens knew the villagers, despite their most recent ravings, had deep reservoirs of tolerance and sympathy. He believed that if he could just provide them with a suitable warning whenever Perceval escaped, they would respond with appreciation and gratitude.

So Gens rigged up a warning device of bells and whistles and informed the villagers that whenever they heard its distinctive sound, they would know that Perceval was on the prowl and they should immediately flee to their homes and lock their doors. The villagers were immensely grateful, and their hearts, which had recently hardened toward Gens, melted with appreciation and good will. The village elders, likewise, were full of praise for Gensí enlightened new approach to this old problem. They showered him with praise, and all the community organizations honored him with banquets, roasts, plaques, certificates and other awards of every type in great profusion.

There was great anticipation to see how Gensí new warning system would work, and Gens, himself, was eager to prove its value. A few days later, Perceval once again grew bored with his confinement and smashed through the bars of his cage. Being hungry as a bear, he headed directly for Gensí garden and consumed a couple of watermelons and a bushel of tomatoes. That made him sleepy, so he wandered down behind a blackberry thicket and fell fast asleep. When Gensí discovered the breakout and was unable to immediately locate Perceval, he assumed that he had breached the perimeter fence and was heading for the village. He could hardly wait to sound the alarm to test his new system.

Bells and whistles sounded, and the villagers, who had by this time been well schooled in the expected routine, fled for their homes and locked their doors. Roads were shut down; businesses closed; parents fetched their children from schools; and life in the village ground to a halt. The system had worked! Lives were saved! The villagerís safety was preserved! Congratulations flowed and contentment reigned.

But then a buzz began. No one had actually seen Perceval. Where was he? Then, Gensí gardener, an unhappy man who had recently been discharged after Gens hired a contractor from another village to replace him, revealed that Perceval had not escaped after all. In fact, said the gardener, Perceval was sound asleep at Gensí estate during the entire time of the alert.

After this unfortunate incident, Gens, in consultation with the village elders, resolved to troubleshoot the system to make sure such a false alarm would not happen again. After all, the villagers were all too familiar with ďthe man who cried wolfĒ in a neighboring village, and the potentially devastating effect of a similar situation on Dnomhcir was something the villagers didnít want to think about.

A few days later, Perceval broke out and immediately headed for the village. Gens heard the crash as Perceval burst his bars and looked out the window of his office only to get a quick glimpse of a bearís behind heading toward the fence. His time, however, Gens resolved not to be so easily deceived. Calling together his new contract gardeners, he embarked on a thorough and deliberate search of the premises. After an hour, they were still looking, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, Perceval was wreaking havoc in the village. Reports of his presence first came from Gensí immediate neighbors as they were overcome by Percevalís sickening stench. As Perceval lumbered on toward the more populated portion of the village, he remembered that he had not made a stop at Gensí garden for a snack, and hunger overtook him. That bear intuition embedded in his genes from ancestors in Yellowstone Park kicked in, and he ripped open several cars, scoring a package of twinkies and a six pack of beer. Some villagers had radios or televisions, so they listened and watched for information, but none was forthcoming or it was inconsistent and riddled with speculation. By this time, word of the rampage had reached city hall, and the village elders, unable to reach Gens, made the decision to activate the alarm themselves.

Perceval continued his periodic breakouts, and this pattern of false alarms, no alarms, and late alarms continued to plague Gens and the residents of Dnomhcir over the next few years. The villagers, who had at one time seemed close to reaching their limit of tolerance, grew weary of the subject and lost interest altogether. They no longer had faith in the effectiveness of Gensí alarm system, and they resumed their former pattern of coping with Perceval. Whenever they heard the alarm, instead of rushing for home, they all went out into the streets to see who would be first to catch a glimpse of Perceval to confirm his presence. Instead of closing their windows to avoid Percevalís hideous odor, they would fling open all their windows, searching for a whiff to confirm the bearís approach.

There were some who suggested that the Perceval drill had become an unbearable yoke for the citizens of Dnomhcir to bear (no pun intended) and that Gens should somehow compensate them for the lost time and distress caused by Percevalís unending routine. There were others who suggested that Gens should find Perceval a new home in distant village. Hearing this, Gens became much distressed, and resolved to bolster his esteem in the eyes of the villagers. He reminded the villagers that they were substantially dependent on his taxes, that their charitable organizations were dependent on his largesse and that he might not only find Perceval a new home Ė he might just go away with him.

The villagers then realized that perhaps they had overreached. Perceval was not so bad after all. At least he was unique, and how many other villages could brag that they had a village bear Ė albeit a destructive bear. The men of Dnomhcir reached around to feel the fatness of their wallets in their back pockets and were reminded that, without Gens, those wallets would likely be thinner. A flood of satisfaction, tolerance and good will once again engulfed Dnomhcir, and the problems of bears, false alarms, stinks, and other inconveniences seemed far away. In fact, some began to say that Perceval smelled ďlike money.Ē A new round of congratulations, awards and toasts began to shower on Gens, and in a moment of truth, he assured the villagers that any rumors of his moving away were just, in fact, rumors.

And they all lived happily ever after

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