On a bright spring morning, a mare set out for town pulling a wagon. She usually traveled alone because she knew the route better than anyone else and had no need of a driver. But this time, the farmer hitched her yearly beside her, so he too could learn the route as well as she.
The mare was pleased to teach her trade to her son.
“Remember,” she told the yearling, “after the creek, turn left at the crossroads. It will lengthen the journey but it avoids a mean dog who will snap at your legs.”
Her colt nodded in earnest agreement.
“And don’t drink out of the creek,” she admonished, “The cattle do more than wade in it.”
The colt snickered.
A short time later, they came upon an old woman hobbling up a hill. The mare stopped the wagon and invited the old woman to ride. “Always help others,” she told her son, “whenever you can.”
Next they encountered a woman carrying a child, the yearling looked to his mother, “I think we should offer her a ride,” he said.
The mare beamed with pride. Her son was learning.
Further down the road, they met a strapping stable boy.
“Should we offer him a ride?” the mare asked.
“No,” her son insisted, “we must only help the people who need our help.”
“Wrong,” the mare said, “he cleans our stable. It is wise to take care of the people who take care of us.”
As they continued on, they encountered another old woman, another mother, a gaggle of children and a gang of stable boys.
As each new passenger clambered aboard, the wagon became heavier and heavier. Still, with a level route, a smooth road and a bright spring morning, the task was manageable.
But then clouds veiled the sun and a wind brought rain.
“We can weather this,” the mare said, “keep your head down and pull.”
A short time later, the rain stopped and the sun came out again - but the road remained muddy and the burden of a full cart tired the horses.
Finally the mare stopped and turned in the traces. “Someone has got to get off,” she said, “There are hills ahead and we cannot continue to carry all of you.”
“Not me,” an old woman said, “You have gotten me into this and now I am too far from home.”
“Nor I,” a mother said, “think of my child.”
“We are not getting off either,” the stable boys said, “we had a deal.”
So the mare and yearling put their heads down and pulled.
They pulled through mud. They pulled through sand. They pulled through the ruts. They pulled over bridges and across fords. They pulled up hills and down into valleys. On a dry day, over flat ground, they could manage but with the rain, the mud and the load, it was all becoming too much.
Halfway up a long, steep hill, the mare began to feel her age. Her legs wobbled. Her joints ached. Her muscles spasmed. She knew the hill but had not counted on the consequences of her generosity or the intransigence of the people she was generous with.
She simply could go no further, so to everyone’s amazement, she slipped out of the traces and further shocked the group by climbing aboard the wagon.,
Her yearling protested, “I can’t carry YOU!”
“Why not?” the mare ask, “I carried you for eleven months. I feed you my milk. I taught you how to live and be generous. Now it is your turn to take care of me.”
The yearling had no choice, so he did the only thing he could do - he pulled. He pulled until he thought he couldn’t pull another step - but still he found a way to pull it. He did this, one painful step at a time - all the way up the hill until just when he could see over the rise, another steeper hill appeared before him.
It broke his spirit.
As his will drained away, his lost his hold on the cart. It suddenly lurched backwards and he lunged to counter the movement - but the cart got the better of him, pulling him with it.
In a panic, he slipped the traces.
Gravity then took over. On a sharp curve near the bottom of the hill, it flung the mare, the old women, the mothers and their babies as well as the stable boys over an embankment into a raging river.
The yearly plodded on alone - straining to carry the burden that no one should bear.
Moral: know your path and never take on more than you can carry and oh yeah, be mindful of unfunded liabilities in your pension fund.
This week's challenge: write a modern fable.
- It does not have to be about pension funds. You can write about anything: municipal bond discount rates, overly-optimistic return projections or the escalating cost of health-care.
- If you don't want to write about the things I have listed above, write a modern fable that features rabbits or weasels.
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
- Try to post by next Monday but don't worry if you don't finish in time. I will be glad to include your post the next week.
Last week's challenge was to write about community. Here are the responses. As always, if I missed your response, please let me know.
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.