The table-scraps war
When the breeze was just right in Toilerville, they say, you could catch the scent of sizzling steaks clear across town.
Every Saturday evening, as predictable as clockwork, the folks on top of the hill would fire up the grills and throw themselves a dinner party. There were sirloins and strip steaks, hangers and rib-eyes—and when they were feeling especially pleased about things, they’d break out the filet mignon. And the breeze in Toilerville would sweep up each and every scent from on top of the hill, and send them rolling down the other side, down to where the regular people lived.
The regular people of Toilerville didn’t throw themselves dinner parties, not on Saturday nights, or any other night. The regular people of Toilerville had all they could do to put food—any kind of food—on the table. They worked hard, most of them, when they could find the work, but it was difficult to stay ahead even in the best of times. When the times weren’t the best, it was that much tougher.
Which is why the regular people of Toilerville were so grateful for the gristle.
Every Sunday morning, long after the embers had cooled, the folks on top of the hill would wrap up the bits of leftover meat and see that they were sent down the hill to the regular people. Each package was wrapped in nice, clean butcher paper and folded just so, and then tied with a bright red ribbon.
Every Sunday morning, when the packages arrived, the regular people of Toilerville would untie the ribbons and peel back the butcher paper, and they’d pick through the bits of leftover meat. They’d decide which bits could go on the plate just as they were, and which bits were too fatty, or too tough; those they’d set aside for stew. The ribbons went into a drawer, just in case.
This is how it was in Toilerville for years—dinner parties on Saturday night, and table scraps on Sunday. And sometimes when the breeze was just right, a few of the regular people would look up toward the top of the hill and wonder why. Mostly, though, they were too busy trying to make ends meet to concern themselves with such matters.
There came a time, though, when the folks on top of the hill started throwing their dinner parties not just on Saturday evenings but on Friday evenings, too, and sometimes even on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the breeze was just right, the regular people of Toilerville could smell steak two or three or even four nights a week, and they began to grumble. It didn’t seem fair that the folks on top of the hill could eat like princes whenever they wanted to, while the regular people were left with Sunday scraps. (There were more dinner parties, but there were no extra packages coming down the hill, wrapped in butcher paper and bright red ribbons.)
When the grumbling started, the folks on the top of the hill knew they had to do something. So they came out of their beautiful houses and pointed far down the hill, to one little corner of Toilerville. They pointed at the people who lived in that little corner of Toilerville, and they shouted as loudly as they could, “Those people have turnips!”
It was true. Some of the regular people in that particular corner of Toilerville had gotten together and built themselves a vegetable garden, and the first thing they grew in their garden was turnips.
“Those people have turnips, and you don’t!” shouted the folks on top of the hill. “Why should those people have turnips when you don’t? If you don’t have turnips, they shouldn’t have turnips!”
And the regular people of Toilerville who didn’t have turnips got so angry at the regular people of Toilerville who did have turnips that they forgot all about the folks on top of the hill who had all the steaks.
Luckily, this could never happen today.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.