There once lived a farmer by the name of Axelrod Earnestman
who, being in a hurry to let his cow out to pasture
one morning (for he had overslept for the first time in his life
--because his rooster had unexpectedly croaked overnight),
when he noticed that there were a number of nearly-naked strangers
mixed in right in there along with his cow
behind the wooden picket fence of his cow-corral.
Axelrod Earnestman tried to make out
how many women there were all nearly-naked
in his cow-corral (and how many men also,
excluding the cow since she was no stranger to him):
He carefully counted ten gentlewomen first
and quickly afterwards eleven gentlemen
(and he could see by their actions
these were indeed gentlepersons both).
That's when the last one of the nearly-naked gentlemen
included in his count calmly walked over
to where Axelrod Earnestman was summing them up
and said, "Good morning Neighbor Earnestman,"
extending his hand in a gesture of friendship
towards Axelrod: "I do suppose you must be itching
to know what we might be doing in here with
your cow... short of our clothes."
Food for thought
as far as Axelrod Earnestman was concerned,
although he already knew how come
the cow wasn't clothed.
"We," said the young speaker to Axelrod,
"Are pledged never to lie," (which went a long way
towards explaining why they were just mostly
standing around in his cow-corral):
"You will just have to bear with us a while
... until this whole problem resolves itself."
(The young nearly-naked gentleman did not elaborate on
what exactly the problem was he was speaking of.)
It was too late for Axelrod Earnestman to pretend he
hadn't noticed them and start slowly backing away,
in any case:
"What an odd explanation," Axelrod thought
as he started to step away from the cow-corral's picket fence
(just far enough to give himself the elbow room to
consider all his options).
It either had to be a joke (you know:
how many nearly-naked people can fit in a cow-corral
or something like that
--Axelrod Earnestman had heard of such pranks),
or it was some delusion
(and Axelrod Earnestman scratched his head then
to see if there were any telltale bumps on it
out of which the whole crazy thing had hatched
--but there were only the usual ones there).
"You can let your cow out to pasture now if you like,"
said the young gentleman in the cow-corral
as he leaned against the picket fence as unembarrassedly
as if it had been his farm instead of Axelrod's.
From where he stood Axelrod Earnestman could see
that his cow still hadn't finished eating
the fodder he had stocked the corral with the previous day,
so he decided that letting his cow out to pasture could wait
till he talked things over with his wife:
She'd had some schooling, after all,
and he valued her point of view a lot.
The problem would be
exactly how to break the news to her.
"I'd be much obliged," he told the young gentleman
who looked like he was meaning to do most of the talking
for the bunch: "I'd be much obliged
if you'll excuse me for a little while, young sir:
Mine is a bright sort of wife, and I'd like to get her views on
this whole unseemly affair
--see if she can shed some light and all."
Then he slowly backed away towards his farmhouse,
hat in hand and hoping he wouldn't have to run for it
while being chased by a whole cow-corral(ful) of
"Mother," Axelrod Earnestman said to his wife,
once he had put the bolt to their farmhouse door
from inside: "Just now as I was meaning to bring out
our cow to pasture out there
I stumbled upon nearly-naked folks in there with her
... ten women and eleven men in all
--What do you think we should do about it?"
She asked if he had ever before laid eyes on
any of the strangers in their cow-corral.
"No," said he, trying to picture any number of them:
"I can't say as I've ever really seen any of their
... faces around these parts before," correcting himself:
"I know none of those strangers (nor hardly any strangers
at all, when it comes right down to it)."
She then wanted to know if he knew what they were all doing
nearly-naked in there with their one and only milk cow.
But Axelrod was sure they weren't
up to anything with their cow.
"You think I should get the gun out
and maybe shoot a number of'em?"
Axelrod Earnestman's wife thought that unwise
(especially as they were all bunched up
down around their cow
like they'd all been her own calves),
and not very sporting either.
It all looked very puzzling to Axelrod Earnestman's wife
(especially from the dirty little window that was
the only place in the farmhouse from where
she could eye their cow-corral):
"They're all just standing there!" she announced:
"Maybe they're waiting on somebody to
fetch them their clothes."
Axelrod assured her they hadn't asked him for any,
which left his wife free to speculate on
how shocking it was for so many folks to go about
covered with so little--Shame!
"It's your corral," she told Axelrod:
"And it's your cow in there with'em!"
So she insisted he go out and show'em a thing or two
(about country folks's spunk and moral indignation
and things like that):
"Don't slacken, husband," she encouraged him:
"Only... make certain that
if there's any profit to be made out of any part of this
that you are not cheated out of any part of it!"
"Profits?" Said he: "What profits a man
to hold a crowd of nearly-naked people in his cow-corral?"
Axelrod's wife was sure she didn't know, but
if it did profit a man--even by a warped penny--
she expected her husband to do all he could
not to let it slip through his fingers.
"Howdy again," said the nearly-naked young fellow
leaning against Axelrod Earnestman's own picket fence:
"I suppose your wife wants you to ask us
what it is we're doing in your cow-corral."
And, "Wouldn't it be better to talk over the whole matter
in the warmth and comfort of your own home,
good neighbor Earnestman?"
Axelrod Earnestman pursed his lips at that:
He had to take into consideration the modesty of his wife,
who was, after all, not only a bright wife
and an extremely proper woman, but very keen-eyed as well.
So he suggested they keep things just where they were
(even though it was a rather nippy morning).
"Would you mind opening the corral gate for us,"
the nearly-naked young gentleman asked Axelrod,
as if he might not come out at all unless
the courtesy were extended to him
and even though it would have been a small enough thing
to extend such a courtesy to any stranger
locked in one's cow-corral.
But it started Axelrod Earnestman beginning to suspect
that these nearly-naked people in his cow-corral
might have more things to hide
than they were actually showing.
having been asked why he didn't just walk over and
unhitch the corral gate to let himself out,
the nearly-naked young gentleman just stood there
leaning against that picket fence
and instead demanded to know whether Axelrod would be
so inconsiderate a host
that he would refuse a complete stranger
standing nearly-naked before him
so small a courtesy as to open a gate for him.
Then the nearly-naked young gentleman waited on the response
with such powerful suspense
it struck Axelrod Earnestman as downright peculiar.
"Excuse me," Axelrod apologized, and started backing away
... towards his farm house.
"He won't open the corral gate or he refuses to?"
His wife asked Axelrod Earnestman, keeping a suspicious eye
on the nearly-naked people in their cow-corral
through the same dirty little window as before.
Axelrod's answer was a mere shrug.
And, "Well," said his wide: "It seems to me
the young man's awfully demanding for somebody
discovered nearly-naked in somebody else's cow-corral!"
"Maybe he can't come out of there on his own,"
Axelrod suggested. "You know, like genies in bottles
ain't allowed to pop their own corks
(and things like that)."
And, "Maybe they're witches!" suggested his wife.
But Axelrod Earnestman was sure witches came in
packs of thirteen, whereas his cow-corral
had awakened with twenty-one bodies in it.
And, as far as genies were concerned, Axelrod had
never before heard of them being bottled
more than one at a time.
"You know," his wife interrupted him: "These could be
one of those crazy cults (or even worse:
some school fraternity)," (they had been hearing about lately):
"Plenty popular nowadays," she reminded him.
But, no matter what crazy stuff cults were getting into
these days, Axelrod Earnestman had never heard of
any of'em getting itself into a cow-corral all in a single bunch
--And by then there was little doubt in their minds
that the nearly-naked folks in their cow-corral thought
they were trapped in it.
Something which didn't square either with what he had heard
about the cleverness of fraternity students either:
"Maybe I should just go out back there
and open the corral gate for them so they'll go away
and leave us be," he told his wife.
Something his wife didn't think a wise thing to try either:
"What if once they're out
they decide they don't want to leave behind any witnesses
to tell folks how they can be easily trapped in a cow-corral?"
Certainly something to think about:
"Crazy folks are super sensitive about such things,"
she warned him: "Especially once they cross that line
beyond which they start taking off all their clothes
and locking themselves up in people's cow-corrals!"
The Earnestmans were sure in a fix all right.
"Go out there," she instructed him nevertheless,
"And ask them if they think they're really trapped
in our cow-corral." (Otherwise they were getting themselves
all worked up over nothing.)
"And while you're at it, good husband Axelrod,"
she added, "see if they had anything to do with
the croaking of our rooster this morning,"
(as all their troubles were traceable to that singular and
most unusual event):
"You did say they could not tell a lie."
"I only said they SAID," he reminded her:
"I never said they couldn't--You sure it's safe?"
She assured him it probably was (while loading the shotgun
she had carefully taken down off the wall):
"Just stay out of their reach--and my line of fire.
You'll be safe as long as they believe they have to be let out
of our cow-corral," she said: "Just don't try to talk them out
of their madness--If there's anything worse
than trying to talk a madman into being sane
it's convincing him he really is crazy."
And after filling her husband with as much self-confidence
and encouragement as she could (and finding a good spot
from where to cover him with the shotgun)
... out she sent him again
to talk to the nearly-naked crowd in their cow-corral.
* * * * *
"Howdy a third time, Neighbor Earnestman,"
said the young gentleman leaning against the cow-corral's picket fence
to Axelrod still as nearly-naked as an unpainted sign:
"Are you ready to invite me to your farmhouse
for a get-acquainted?"
"Not as un-dressed as that!" Thought Axelrod Earnestman.
What with his very utterly proper wife back there,
in their farmhouse, peering through that dirty little window
with a loaded shotgun in her hand: "Actually,"
Axelrod Earnestman was more interested in finding out
from the nearly-naked young gentleman
whether it was true they always had to tell the truth.
"Well," said the young gentleman,
"Obviously... if it isn't it's a lie."
Axelrod thought and thought about this bit of logic
for a long time, but finally concluded he could be told no lie
large enough to hurt him more than this tight stretch of logic
was now starting to hurt his poor brains,
so he decided to accept it all
as self-evidently God's truth on earth.
He asked the young gentleman then who they all were
and how they had come to be caught nearly-naked
in his cow-corral.
Straightaway the nearly-naked young man insisted
they were NOT nearly-naked
(except in Axelrod's eyes).
"You see, Neighbor Earnestman," he began
(while Axelrod tried to figure out how the young stranger
might have got hold of his name
before they had been properly introduced):
"My friend and I are angels," he started,
serious as you please:
"Last night we came down--as we often do--
to your cow-corral to dance (by the stars' harmony)
on the head of the pin that holds up your cow's bandanna,"
telling Axelrod that he could refer to him as The Chaperon Angel
(and explaining that he always accompanied angels
who came down to the earth to dance on the heads of pins
because even the dances of perfect angels
are best chaperoned):
"After a good night's dance, we usually get our(selves) back
to Heaven at your rooster's first cock-a-doodle.
Unfortunately, your rooster croaked this morning
instead of crowing. And between one thing and the other
(maybe it was an ill wind--and maybe it was
some less innocent influence)
... your cow-corral's gate was shut tightly against us
and here we stand before you still in our glory
and the better part of dawn already cracked up
and scattered to the four winds, Good Neighbor
Earnestman... completely at your mercy!"
"At my mercy?" Axelrod scratched his head
and looked over the 'people' in his cow-corral.
(Despite the angels' words: every one of them
seemed very nearly-naked to his eyes.)
And then he asked him why they didn't just
fly themselves right over the corral's fence
and back to wherever they came from,
Heavens or some other place.
"We are angels, neighbor Axelrod," the 'angel' explained:
"Many aeons before your world was born
the Lord fashioned a race of perfect beings
to keep the Laws of the Lord to the last one
--That's us: We angels are given to keep all things of God
even unto Perfection (and but only a single one of us
ever broke His Law... but that one, although perfectly evil,
is no longer an angel, of course)"
the young gentleman explained.
"So you see, Good Neighbor Axelrod:
We are angels up until the instant we break the Law
(in this respect we have to be perfect)."
"Man's purpose, on the other hand," continued the angel,
"is to choose which laws to follow
--A purpose hardly to have much to do with
the absolute Perfection I spoke of before."
And, "As you're seldom restrained by anything short of
your own judgment
I doubt you find it easy to appreciate why we angels can't
just do whatever strikes our fancy
(jump over a cow-corral fence
and things like that)," the Chaperon Angel told Axelrod:
"What makes us angels is not whether we are good or
evil, ugly, beautiful, powerless or strong, but
whether we keep the Law even unto perfection," he said,
apologizing to Axelrod (for he was, after all, a human):
"Any human can keep the Law a while.
But you are men that you may choose your actions
towards the Good... or away from it
(there is no limit on the evil you're capable of
... so that there be no bias in you one way or the other)."
The Chaperon Angel's homily
made some (muddled) sense to Axelrod,
who embarrassedly remembered exactly how many times
he himself had stood up for the Good, and by it
had to acknowledge he'd taken it sitting down as much!
"Let it suffice," the Chaperon Angel continued:
"That, as angels, we may not come out of your cow-corral
except by your leave, Good Neighbor Axelrod,
which you can grant us by opening the corral gate
by your own hand," adding ten or twelve other arguments,
some of which Axelrod grasped
by the hair follicles on the skin of his teeth,
but most of which he just could not much get hold of,
for they were coated with the slippery
argument of Perfection:
"There are a million reasons to do evil,
Neighbor Earnestman, but only a rare few to do good,"
(something mere mortals
had very little experience handling).
* * * * *
"He further said," Axelrod Earnestman explained to his wife,
back in the farmhouse behind closed doors
and her loaded shotgun, "That the reason they danced
in our cow-corral, aside of the very broad-headed pin
holding up our cow's bandanna,
was that in all the years I'd kept a cow in that cow-corral
I had never yet failed to leave the gate open
by at least a crack nor had our rooster failed to crow
--except this particular crack of dawn
when the cow-corral gate closed on them mysteriously
and our rooster croaked."
"And you believed all that?" asked Axelrod's wife,
her eyes squinting through their dirty little window,
her trigger finger itching to be scratched with a blast.
"You always were a mite too trusting
of that cow not to get out on her own
--And too trusting of things not ever finding their way
in there with her, as it now turns out."
She wanted more proof these were angels at hand.
"Well, what do you suggest?" Axelrod asked her.
"A boon," she was quick to answer,
so quick in fact that Axelrod stuck his thumbs in his ear.
"A boon," she explained, "Not a boom but a boon!"
(pulling down his arms):
"If they're really angels let them grant us a boon.
Yes: Not so large a boon as to make me President
of the United States or anything like that,
but a boon nonetheless," she said again,
very pleased with herself. And adding:
"And from EVERY individual angel
... some small boon,
as rent for the use of our cow-corral!"
This did not please Axelrod Earnestman at all,
who thought it was probably bad manners to demand rent
of angels. Besides, what should he ask for?
What might they want? What did they need?
And, what in heavens might a bunch of nearly-naked angels
in a cow-corral themselves have to grant?
"They can't even get themselves out of it!"
For sure, not a one of them looked like they had
much of anything on'em at all,
but he did not include that in his argument
lest he come off too sure of it in his wife's eyes
for his own good.
"You ask too many questions!" said Axelrod's wife.
"If they have anything to give for their freedom,
they're the ones to know: The only thing up to you is
to go over and take the best bargain the angels can grant
--Just ask! Ask! Ask! Ask!" She insisted,
pushing him out the door over his protestations (that
he was indeed tired of asking so many questions).
"Nothing," plain and simple was all the Chaperon Angel said
they would be able to pay for their freedom
--cut and dry: "Only our gratitude, brother Axelrod."
"Enough for me," said Axelrod,
resigned to face his wife as nearly-naked of profit
as the angels were of clothes... in his mind
pictures of winged money flying away
(as he was, after all, only human).
"But this cow-corral you're all in is also half my wife's,
and I'm bound to get her consent
whether 'nothing' (plus your thanks) is enough to
compensate her for the use of our cow-corral."
"Go! Neighbor Axelrod," said the Chaperon angel,
himself understanding only too well
how it was to be bound by a trust:
"Yes, ask your wife."
And so did Axelrod Earnestman again go
back to the farmhouse to consult with his wife
(for he was too high-moraled a man
to bring his wife down to the cow-corral
to face all those angels' near-nakedness
just so he wouldn't have to keep going back and forth
between it and the farmhouse).
And although mightily disappointed
(for she had already mentally spent
about half of what profits she'd hoped they'd realize),
even his wife knew that if a body had nothing to give,
it would take all efforts for nothing.
"Besides," her husband reminded her:
while the angels were cluttering up their cow-corral
they couldn't let their one and only milk cow out to pasture
(which for them was already a running loss
with a heady start right there).
And that's when they were startled by
a powerful knocking at their front door.
"Good Neighbor Earnestman!" Cried out
a grand, charming and booming voice from outside,
possibly even that of some local politician,
or at least someone who clearly
made a substantial part of his income
peddling words: "May we talk, Good Neighbor Earnestman?"
An awfully attractive, handsomely dressed gentleman
stood before the Earnestmans when they swung open
their farmhouse door, dressed to the teeth
in clothes that loudly proclaimed volumes and volumes
about his personal status and success in
getting access to the money it took
(at least, to buy such winning clothes):
"Neighbors, although you do not know me," he said
(quite attractively): "I just happened to be
going by your farm, when I noticed
you keep a flock of nearly-naked people in your cow-corral,"
talking as knowledgeably (all about the Earnestmans)
as if he'd been speaking of his mule--while moving and
moving about them faster and faster (as he spoke)
like someone who'd like to remain a moving target:
"Good neighbors," he went on and on to the Earnestmans:
"Being a man of considerable business experience,
and wondering if the good people whose farm this is
were fully aware of the immense commercial potential
inherent in a cow-corral full of nearly-naked people,
I immediately decided to come over and see for myself
whether we might not talk over a small business proposition
... before you made a business blunder of the first magnitude
(due to lack of normal business experience, et cetera)
which I'd be only too glad to provide to you myself
(for a small percentage of the gate, of course)..."
The Earnestmans were very impressed indeed
(for the very attractively dressed stranger had said
all he'd wanted to say without so much as once
needing to take in a second breath):
"Does that mean there's money in this?"
Axelrod Earnestman's wife asked
the beautifully clothed stranger.
"By the wheelbarrows!"
The attractively dressed businessman assured her:
"Leave the matter to me. Lease me the franchise,
so-to-speak (meaning, your cow-corral)
and I'll see to it that you make more money
out of every single one of those nearly-naked angels
out there in your cow-corral
than if you were to sell them by the ounce
and they were fatter'n Hell and made of gold!"
Words which brightened the eyes of Axelrod Earnestman's wife so
that it hurt Axelrod to look upon her
much more than it had ever bothered him
to look on the angels's near-nakedness.
But, "Who told you they were angels?"
Axelrod tried to ask.
"Who indeed!" The handsomely dressed stranger
snapped back: "And who's to say they are not?!
Folks will pay a higher gate if we insist they're angels
(as we shall insist on that).
Anyone claims they're NOT angels: We sue them
and take them to the cleaners for all they've got
--For, as I'm certain you know, brother Earnestman,
it's impossible to prove a negative."
"You mean you want us to sell you
the angels?" Axelrod asked.
But, "Of course not!" He was quickly set straight on that:
"What would I do with a cow-corralful of nearly-naked angels?
I am something of an impresario. I want only
to entertain mankind. To bring my own odd sort of satisfaction
to every dissatisfied customer I can find
--Show every possessor of a sour liver
his own (if but once) glad heart. In short,"
he concluded on the very last gasp of his breath:
"I'll bring the world to your cow-corral,
charge a nominal admission,
and we'll all cart away the cash--How's that
sound to you, brother Earnestman?"
"Of course we'll have to dress up the angels,"
said Axelrod Earnestman, who was afraid
to ask his wife how it sounded to her
because he could already see that she had been made deaf
by the immense waterfall of cool coins
she was showering through in her overheated mind.
"Dress'em up!?" The stranger laughed
so hardily that for a moment he looked like he was
going to blow up: "You know how much
we'd have to knock off the price of admission
if we dressed up that bunch?"
He sounded a note of moral outrage with this, and then
he tried to make up for it with a big brotherly smile:
"Of course we'll NOT dress'em up, neighbor Earnestman:
Do you want to be accused of fraud? deception?
People aren't stupid, you know (not by much, in any case)."
He draped his arm over Axelrod Earnestman's shoulder
as if he'd been Axelrod's personal guardian angel:
"Think, brother Axelrod:
Are not angels that appear embarrassed by the least
portion of what they are... going to look like fallen angels
to folks who remember why their own forefathers were
evicted from Paradise!?"
Then he embraced both of the Earnestmans.
"We can provide them with instrumentalists
so they can swing to a hotter tune
--However, if clothes make the man,
want of clothes is the thing that distinguishes the angels
(from the rest of us poor pitiful human souls
who wear them so well): But put plain, ordinary street clothes on
our load of angels out there
and our customers will only see their clothes.
It's neither clothes nor angels our customers will
pay good money to feast their curiosity on
(when it comes right down to it), Good Neighbor Earnestman
... not even the fanciest of clothes
on the very best of the angels!"
Then, as if right out of nowhere, he brought forth a document
(with both the Earnestmans' names already inscribed on it
in fancy red letters, and over a thousand different clauses
in print so small that ants would have needed magnifying glasses
to even look for them)... he placed it on the table before them,
offering them a gorgeously ancient quill
with which to sign: "The contract!"
"Wait!" Axelrod Earnestman told his wife,
who imprudently had already taken up the ancient pen:
"This is a pact with the Devil!"
Axelrod's wife dropped the quill and staggered back
away from the stranger, who only laughed at the suggestion
and demanded Axelrod Earnestman explain
what the Devil would want with a third interest
in a two-bit little sideshow in an out-of-the-way farm's
tiny cow-corral full of nearly-naked angels
in a forgotten part of their small state...
Although sorely tempted to request that he repeat the question,
Axelrod Earnestman simply told him he was sure he didn't know
but, "I do know it's bad business to sign up with the Devil."
"You miss the point, Good Neighbor Axelrod,"
said the still very attractive stranger, as he straightened his tie
by the Earnestmans' little mirror, palming down his greased hair:
"I too, no less than you, agree it's bad business
to sign up with the Devil.
But I am a simple down-to-earth businessman,
and this is a straightforward simple little down-to-earth business deal
between us down-to-earth country folk for our mutual benefit.
Believe me, neighbor Axelrod: I execute them all the time, and
they are always profitable to everyone I sign up."
And then he went on to point out how
a businessman's name was his greatest asset, and thus
ought not to be cheaply bandied about--lest it be used against him
(when Axelrod Earnestman complained aloud to his wife
that they didn't even know the attractive stranger's name).
"Tell me," Axelrod insisted: "Are you as bound as those angels
in our cow-corral to always tell the truth?"
"I always put the truth before a man if he knows where to look,"
said the always attractive businessman, turning down an offer
of a chair, although it was their best chair
the Earnestmans offered him (lest its uncertain quality
wrinkle his definitely expensive pants).
"But," Axelrod Earnestman asked: "What if
a man can't see the truth even when it's right in front of him?"
"Well," the stranger answered Axelrod Earnestman glibly:
"You needn't worry about it:
Eventually even the blind stumble over the truth."
"What if it were a hard truth. What if
it were so hard a truth that it might be the very end of him
who stumble over it?" Axelrod Earnestman asked him.
"Alas, Good Neighbor Axelrod,"
the stranger (who had stopped laughing
not so much to answer Axelrod but because
all successful salesmen know the difference
between a hard sell and no sell at all), insisted:
"We all face the truth in the end.
I give the truth whenever and wherever anyone wishes me to
be had of it," he said: "And whatever truth
anyone wants me to give him or her," noting
that Axelrod Earnestman was much more interested in
the current meanwhile than in any dead ends ahead.
But it was all too much truth for Axelrod Earnestman.
He asked his wiser wife if she could see
through to the nearly-naked truth across all the fancy clothing
the salesman had swathed it under
right there in front of their very eye:
"Ah, husband," she told him, as confused as he:
"I am sure there's a load of truth in it somewhere,
but it's too heavy a burden for me: It is true, though,
that it would be a better truth if it were a bit less layered,
and not half as thick a truth, I should think."
With which her husband was eager to agree: "I'm sorry,
good neighbor businessman," he apologized
to the extraordinarily attractively-dressed stranger:
"We cannot do business.
I know not what the Devil would want with the profits from
exhibiting a cow-corralful of nearly-naked angels,
but I doubt there would be enough in it to cover the angels too,
never mind what customers would take out of it
(a lot less than they would leave behind)."
"But you," the stranger objected.
"You would certainly realize a great deal from it.
More than you realize!"
"You speak a lot more truth than you imagine,"
said Axelrod Earnestman,
for whom it was all a great realization indeed.
Then he showed the attractive businessman to the door
in spite of any number of other protests from him
even after they had closed the door behind him!
"I am proud of you," his wife said to Axelrod Earnestman:
"Now go and let the angels out of our cow-corral,
charging them nothing for the use of the place
--And be sure to apologize for taking us such a long time
to make up our minds to do the right thing,
which no doubt they understand. And go quickly!"
she told him, suddenly struck with one of her
woman's intuitions: "Quickly! Quickly! Quickly!"
This last Axelrod jumped to immediately,
as he had avoided many a strike against himself in the past
by paying attention to her intuitions
whenever they struck her that urgently.
In no time at all he was back with the Chaperon Angel
again, only this time he headed straight for
the cow-corral gate to swing it open.
"You've made the choice, Good Neighbor Earnestman,"
the Chaperon Angel said to Axelrod.
"Myself and my wife as well,"
Axelrod wanted to make sure it was understood.
"But I can see," the Chaperon Angel told him,
"That you aren't certain why you're letting us go.
I spoke the truth when I said we could give you nothing
for letting us go, yet you're still freeing us.
It's just that you know not
whether you're doing it out of fear or goodness."
"Do you know why I'm letting you go?"
Axelrod asked the Chaperon Angel,
for although he was certain he was doing the right and proper thing,
much to his own consternation
Axelrod Earnestman had to acknowledge that he did not exactly know
if he was freeing the angels as a good deed in and of itself
or because he was expecting to get something out of it himself
... some eventual payment of some sort
--Not to mention that he was also experiencing a most disgusting
feeling that he was giving away something valuable!
"It's hard and confusing, and a terrible bother
to do the right thing, is it not, brother Earnestman?"
The Chaperon Angel commented.
"You angels have better go and get out of my cow-corral,"
said Axelrod Earnestman to the angels,
hurrying to open the cow-corral gate:
"Before your presence here turns me into just the rotten sort
of person I have always tried never to become!"
"You are part of the stand," the Chaperon Angel told
Axelrod Earnestman in return: "As is all mankind!
Your reward has little to do with anything outside
your own personal, individual struggle against temptation,"
the Chaperon Angel in all his near-nakedness cried out to him:
"Win the battle even we angels cannot fight,
brother Earnestman. What is given unto you
even the angels may not touch,
for yours is the judgment of Right and Wrong."
Which Axelrod Earnestman did not fully grasp,
and so he told the Chaperon Angel,
as he swung open the gate of the cow-corral:
In a flash, a glorious chorus of Song rose from the freed angels
and two by two they all ascended to Heaven
wrapped in the splendor and majesty of their perfection,
accompanied all by the most wonderful
hues and music Axelrod Earnestman had ever seen or heard.
Two by two they went up into the blinding sunshine
above Axelrod Earnestman
clothed gloriously in the purest Sun
until nothing could be seen of them but the Chaperon Angel himself,
wrapped in a cloud of wings
like the curtains that surely must embellish Paradise,
fluttering and fluttering
above... simple down-to-earth good neighbor Earnestman:
"You yourself are the reward, Good Neighbor Earnestman!"
Were the last words he heard from the Chaperon Angel.
Then he too had gone back up to Paradise,
beyond the clouds still visible above the world below
... upon which Axelrod Earnestman stood in awe.
Almost immediately Axelrod was startled by
a large and loud crowd of townspeople rushing into his farm
coughing dust... as recklessly, the whole bunch of them, as if
they had been told gold was to be had there
for the first few who showed up to claim it!
"Good Neighbor Earnestman!" said Peter Brook,
the town's blacksmith (and the first one to reach him,
as his was the quickest horse), laughing pruriently
as he dismounted Lightning beating the dust
and dirt of the road off himself with a passion of hat
and elbowing Axelrod Earnestman as if he'd had been sharing
some off-color joke with him: "I understand you've caught yourself
a clutch of angels in a compromising situation!"
But, before Axelrod Earnestman could make an answer
to Peter Brook: "Where are the angels you've
supposed to've caught in the nasties inside your cow-corral?"
Mister Daniel Dawson, owner of
the town's newspaper, was asking him.
Axelrod Earnestman was so stunned
that any townspeople should know of the matter, let alone
so many of them rush there themselves
that... he could hardly make any reply at all.
"Where are they!? Where are they!? Where are they!?"
Many and many more townspeople were demanding
as they arrived at the farm, leaving Axelrod Earnestman wondering
whether anybody had remained behind to keep an eye on the town.
Just then he was thinking that he had very good reason to suspect
that if a certain splendidly dressed stranger he knew of
were to walk into a town that had been left unguarded
... he just might be the sort to
make sure he didn't walk out with his hands empty.
But just then he was distracted
when some of the townspeople had got into
the cow-corral proper and were poking all around the poor cow
for any possible angels...
"Come clean now, Neighbor Earnestman," said
the town mayor, who, by the authority of his high position,
was actually demanding Axelrod--
"Deliver the angels at once!"
"It cannot be done," Axelrod Earnestman tried to explain
to the townspeople, a broad smile breaking across his face,
for it began to dawn on him just who the all-too-attractive
source of all this mischief might really be:
"I cannot deliver up any angels," he assured the townspeople,
"because what has been done (with) can't be done over."
Leaving everybody as puzzled and as bothered
... and hissing as pins whose heads had been plunged in cold water
after a dance with fire!
Most of them started back to town right there and then,
some shuffling embarrassedly,
others angered still and stepping to it hotly.
Some even cursed Axelrod Earnestman
over his having made them waste a great deal of time
on a trip with nothing to show for it.
Although, perhaps quite understandably,
none of them were that eager to come right out and
admit to Axelrod Earnestman just who it'd been that had
set them chasing after such a spaced-out will-o'-the-wisp...
Axelrod Earnestman then walked over to his wife,
who wanted to show him the clear evidence she had found
that their rooster hadn't croaked at all naturally...
"Naturally," said Axelrod Earnestman, for whom the entire affair
just had too neatly a dressed up sinister air about it.
And then he accompanied her back into their farmhouse
(after he was finally able to let his cow out to pasture
from her vacated corral).
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