A Pound of Peace
“A pound of Peace, please, mate,” said the man in front of me in the queue at the market stall. His shopping bag was packed full and I wondered how he was going to fit any more into it.
“Beautiful bit of Peace, this is,” the stallholder commented, weighing out a pound on the scales. “You’ll not find better in the market today.”
The customer smiled his thanks and pressed the Peace down onto his bag that was already bulging with Worry, Regret and Frustration. It looked precariously balanced as he walked away. I wasn’t surprised to see it topple out and splatter into the gutter.
“And what can I do for you today, sir?” The stallholder’s voice brought my attention back to the table. “How about some Pleasure for your supper? Just sprinkle a bit of Indolence on it and fry it in Indulgence – beautiful!”
Tempted, I checked my wallet. “Sorry,” I replied, “I’m all out of Trust to pay you with.”
“That don’t matter,” he retorted, “I take all the major cards – Gullibility, Foolishness, Ignorance. And if you’ve got that new one, Complacency, I can even give you a discount.” He winked at me. “In fact, some of my customers just transfer what they owe on their cards month to month. You can buy with Gullibility today, then move the debt to your Foolishness at the end of the month. That way, you never have to pay for anything, really.”
My eye was caught by an empty box in the middle of the table, marked ‘Happiness’. “What’s happened to that one?”
“Happiness? Oh, that’s long gone. If you want Happiness you have to get here when I open. People sometimes queue overnight for Happiness. An’ they buy as much of it as they can carry, on account of the fact that it doesn’t last very long.”
I was disappointed. “Have you got any Contentment then?” I asked.
“Contentment? Bless me! I ain’t been asked for Contentment since I can’t remember when. It’s long gone out of fashion.” Then, his voice dropped. “Tell you what,” he said, “What you need is this.” He looked about to make sure no one was watching, then slid a little box across the table to me.
“What is it?” I asked, my eyes widening.
He paused, and leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Gratification,” he said, looking a bit smug. “Only – it’s black market, init? So, keep it to yerself. Take this and in ten minutes I guarantee nothing will worry you again – ever.”
I pulled back, feeling threatened. “So, what’s that?” I asked, nodding towards a rather sickly looking plant at the end of the table.
“That? Oh, that’s Love. Don’t get much call for Love now. It used to be popular years ago, but it’s hard work, see, and no one’s willing to take the trouble with it any more. It has to be home-reared in a well mulched soil of Tenderness and watered every day with a warm solution of Kindness and Commitment. If you’ve got the patience, it will grow into a strong tree. But most folk are too busy to grow Love these days. You can have this one for nothing if you want. I’m not likely to sell it before it dies, now.”
I liked the idea of growing my very own Love. But I didn’t know if it I was willing to make the effort. So, I took the Gratification instead. It was really expensive and took me right up to my limit on all my cards.
“Got the time?” I asked the stallholder as I turned to walk away.
“Five minutes to midnight,” he answered, without even looking at his watch.
“Thanks,” I said, stepping over the Peace that lay discarded in the gutter. “I’ll be back for some Happiness first thing in the morning. I might even take that Love.”
He smiled at me. But he knew I wouldn’t.