Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Ballad of Udo

Once upon a time,
in Germany or Austria or somewhere like that,
I think sometime in the 1700s,
there was a man named Udo.
He wasn’t noble-born,
just a big nobody, and he was blind,
so he didn’t have much in the way of career prospects.
But he didn’t want to merely beg,
so he traveled from village to village
to be a storyteller.
And every afternoon, when the schools were dismissed
and the shops were nearly closed,
Udo would sit in the town square
and, in front of a small crowd, tell a story.
The problem was that he wasn’t very good at it.
Lots of um’s and hm’s and “Oh, wait, I forgot to mention…”,
and he couldn’t keep track of his characters’ names.
And eventually his crowd would lose interest
and drift away.
They had dinner to cook and children to tend to.
Some people felt sorry for him and dropped a coin in his cup.
Usually some asshole kid would steal it all
before he was finished, though.
And that was the life of Udo.

The devil was a lot more active
in people’s everyday lives back then.
Making nefarious deals, stealing souls, tricking virgins,
Etc. etc.
He was bored one day, hanging out on some village green,
watching Udo tell another poorly crafted tale.
The devil waited until the disappointed crowd had wandered away,
and turned the asshole kid into a rat before he could steal Udo’s money.
Then he walked up to Udo and said,
“I couldn’t help but notice that your storytelling could use a little work.
If you promise me your soul,
I’ll give you rich characters, fantastic plots, realistic dialogue
and perfect grammar.
Your work will be remembered.
Your work will be written down.
You will be immortal,
except for your soul, which will wind up in hell, of course.”
Udo spat, “Be gone, devil!”
And the devil had no choice but to vanish.
“My stories are just fine,” Udo told himself.
“The problem is that these fools don’t understand them.”
So Udo never achieved riches or world renown,
but he managed to marry into the lower middle class.
Some merchant’s tone-deaf daughter
who fancied herself a soprano.
And so he lived okay ever after,
and the asshole kid lived out the rest of his life as an asshole rat.

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