The Profit
Kehlog Albran

THE crowds gathered at the foot of the Valley.
Thousands pushed their way through.
The ominous rumbling was heard for miles.

Is he down yet, a merchant selfishly cried.
Where can I see him, an old woman shrieked.
I have waited for him for over one hundred years, a withered man murmured.
The crowd hushed in unison as a glimpse of a figure appeared in the clouded distance.
He is here, they whispered.

He looked almost young yet his age was impossible to guess.
He was not tall, yet he had many tall ways.
As they stared, he sat upon a rock.
Quietly folding his arms, he began to speak:

I am here.
I am tired.
But I will answer your questions.
Bring me food, drink, and don't forget a little gold.
A little silver for an answer.
A drachma for a doubt, a penny for a thought.
For I am The Profit and what I have learned has cost me ten lifetimes.
What you are about to learn has cost you two dollars and fifty cents.


A man came forward from the crowd and said, May I ask now?
The Master nodded.
Master, what have you learned on the Mountain?
Everything, the Master responded.
Have you knowledge above man?
The Master's eyes slowly focused on the humbled interrogator and a chill came over the crowd.

The Master spoke:
In the scope of the Universe, man knows little.
But in his minute wisdom, he thinks himself a god among the other creatures of this planet.
How wrong he is can be seen by observing the uses to which man puts his tiny ration of intellect.
He gloats over his gold.
And lusts after material possessions.
And all the while his most precious possession slips through his fingers like the waters of a running brook.
He lets go the one thing he cannot nor ever will be able to purchase once it is gone, the precious possession that cannot be borrowed or sold.

Time? Is Time the most precious possession, Master?

No, my son, the Master replied, but you're close.


A scholar then asked:
Could you advise me of a proper vocation, Master?

He then said:
Some men can earn their keep with the power of their minds.
Others must use their backs and hands.
This is the same in nature as it is with man.
Some animals acquire their food easily, such as rabbits, horses and elephants.
Other animals must struggle for their food, like flamingos, moles, and ants.
So you see, the nature of the vocation must fit the individual.

But I have no abilities, desires, or talents, Master, the man sobbed.

Have you thought of becoming a stockbroker? the Master queried.


Then an eccentric looking man said,
Speak to us of Art.
And he said:
It might as easily be said that man could live without Art as that man could live without water.
Look upon the innocent scribblings of little children.
Doubt not that each of us emerged from the womb an artist.
Art is freedom.
That which is called Art, yet is made subservient to commerce is not Art.
That which is called Art, yet is made subservient to a Nation or State is not Art.
That which is called Art, yet is hanging in the Museum of Modern Art is not Art. That crap my six year old son could do, the Master explained.


WHAT of Facial Hair, a nubile lad asked.

The Master replied:
As maturity encroaches upon adolescence, as the child becomes the man (or ugly woman) he (or she) begins to grow first the downy fuzz and, subsequently, the rich, wiry outcropping that has come to be called Beard.
It is no small coincidence that a great scribe or teller of tales is called by the similar word Bard.
Many an otherwise canny person has fallen upon troubled times by confusing these words.
For it is true that a Bard can have a Beard, but a Beard cannot have a Bard.
One can shave a Beard, and, for that matter, one can shave a Bard.
But having shaved a Beard, it no longer exists.
Whereas having shaved a Bard you continue to have a Bard.
A Beardless Bard.


Then a person said, Speak to us of Poetry.
And he answered:
There was once a wise poet from the peninsula of Phara.
This peninsula was famous for two things.
It produced either people of incredible stupidity or it produced poets.
Faedil Falzar was the most notable poet ever to come from the region.
He was highly esteemed all over the country.
One day, he travelled to Capez.
There he met a girl who was totally deaf.
He fell in love with her and they were married.
Now, in the town of Capez, women were not encouraged to learn to read, especially deaf women.
So, Faedil Falzar lived the rest of his life under the curse that his most beloved young wife could never know of the beautiful verse he created the loveliest of which was this:
Oh, the beauty of the eye
Of my sweet loved one,
Thelma Y.
Who ne'er upon the course of Life
Did I intend for her; sweet wife,
A wind so foul could not erase
The piteous fury of this space,
Between the two anointed lips
And o'er her wide resplendent hips.
That she and I remain as one,
And together we could have much fun.


A woman stepped forward and asked,
What is the strangest day?

Tuesday, the Master replied.


THEN a young traveler said,
Speak to us of Home, Master.

And he answered:
There is nothing so tender as a man's Home.
Though I have not returned to the place of my childhood and the treasured memories of the past, I can envision them perfectly in my mind's eye.
Yes, I know what Home is.
For there in the far-off valley of Bhagrir, by the ancient city of Ahdrihl, near the embankment of Eurice, under the Corpit cliffs that proudly encroach upon the sea.
In a small humble house across the town square, next to a towering Cypress, that is where I was born.

Is it the Cypress with the crooked limb, Master, that points toward the setting sun in autumn? the traveler asked.

Yes! Yes! cried the Master.

With the crumbling stone wall leading down to the bay? the traveler persisted.

Exactly! the Master shouted.

Howard Johnson's! the traveler cried.


Arguments with furniture are rarely productive.


AND an orator said,
Speak to us of Silence.

And he said:
Silence can be a valuable tool.
And it can be a great inconvenience.
If a man should ask you a question and you remain silent, he may take it as an insult.
Yet if you answer him, he may take it as a larger insult.
When a person remains silent it provokes mystery, as happened many years ago in Hafnir, near Pez.

In that town there lived a very beautiful young woman.
Her beauty was unsurpassed, but she had one flaw.
For, as long as she had lived she had never spoken a single word.
One day the Calif and a group of citizens called upon her father's house as they had so often in the past years.
They were there to encourage her to speak.

The Calif cleared his throat and asked:
"If an apple tree, heavy with fruit, should go unnoticed by man, the birds, and the changing seasons, and all of the fruit should rot, never to be tasted, would not this be a Sin?"
She did not reply.

The Calif then asked:
"If a fireplace contained dry wood and kindling, would it not be a Sin never to ignite the fire and fulfill the fireplace's destiny?"
She did not reply.

The Calif then asked:
"If a bird of magnificent plumage should never venture to take to the air, the skies and places distant from its home -- would that not be a pitiful waste of Nature?"
It was then that her eyes alighted, and she looked up at the Calif.
Her soft lips smiled and parted, and for the first time in her life she spoke.

What were the words that broke her Silence, Master, the man inquired.

"Your fly is open," he recalled.


And a scholar asked, Should a man drink wines, ales and liquors to excess?
He then said:
He who drinks too much wine will feel the price of that ecstasy the next morning.
For exotic liquors must be taken in moderation or all will pay the penalty of misuse.

Man is the only creature to have the ability to create intoxicants.
No other animal has the taste for spirits.
Nature allows no other animal to taste of that pleasure, because nature depends upon all other animals to remain stable and predictable.
Man is the only animal that is allowed the dubious privilege of overindulgence.

Have you ever seen another animal drunk and falling down in the street, sobbing, stinking, and acting totally insane?
No, I haven't, Master, replied the scholar.

Then you haven't met my horse, the Master stated.


Then an athlete said,
Speak to us of Balance.
He then said:
Man cannot know the meaning of Balance until he has felt the consequences of losing his Balance.

In nature's plan of interdependence, one animal must die so that another animal may live.
This is, of course, the Balance of Nature.
But, more importantly, nature does not waste.
Man, however, causes nature to be unbalanced at times.
Animals that have survived eons become extinct at man's merciless hand.
The ground ceases to bear fruit from man's misuse of crops.
Water becomes dead and lifeless from man's foreign chemicals.

Yes, man has much to learn about Balance.

So, when you see an acrobat struggle to walk a tightrope, remember that man is not as highly balanced as he looks.
ANd that he remains the second clumsiest animal on earth.

And what is the clumsiest animal on earth, Master, the man inquired.

Oh, you haven't met my horse either, he replied.


NEVER forget: the ant can carry eight times its own weight.
Or is it nine?


It is impossible to put too much salt on cottage cheese.


Then a man said: Speak to us of Expectations.

He then said: If a man does not see or hear the waters of the Jordan, then he should not taste the pomegranate or ply his wares in an open market.

If a man would not labour in the salt and rock quarries then he should not accept of the Earth that which he refuses to give of himself.

Such a man would expect a pear of a peach tree.
Such a man would expect a stone to lay an egg.
Such a man would expect Sears to assemble a lawnmower.


Anyone can amass a fortune if he struggles for only that. It is he who struggles to be poor and ends up wealthy with whom we should be annoyed.

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate... I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That's all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.


A nobleman said,
Speak to us of Fortune.
And he replied:
To those who seek great Fortune, I caution thus:
Imagine a land upon which grow copious stalks of gold, full vineyards of emeralds, munificent orchards of onyx, and but one small patch of early June peas.

In such a land, would not a pauper wear diamonds and a monarch peas?
Would not a princess excuse herself to take a gold?


A sparrow could fly to the moon if it but desired to.


Stealing a Rhinoceros should not be attempted lightly.


A youth asked,
What of Night and Day?

He then said:
The darkness of Night is less in the sky than in the mind. For which of us cannot create the illusion of Night by holding a large hollow gourd over his head?
Far different the Day, the Master continued.
It is beyond man's capacity, even for an instant, to create the appearance of Day.

But the petulant youth persisted:
What if one were to gather a thousand candles in a single room?

The Master responded:
A thousand candles do not equal a Day, even in a small room -- say, nine and a half by eleven.
It's different -- take my word for it.
Ten thousand candles, Master?
Twenty thousand candles, Master?
Sixty thousand candles, Master?
One hundred thousand candles, Master?
I give up, the youth exclaimed.
Too bad, the Master shouted, you only missed by six.


A little boy asked me a very perceptive question. I answered him forthwith. Many years later I met him again. He was now a man. He wanted to know the question he had asked so long ago. I told him I had forgotten the question but remembered the answer. To which he said,
"Never mind."


THE River of Ignorance covers most of my regrets.
Thus toad blossoms in glory, fiery purple figs, refracting the Earth's light into a brilliant dawn move me not.
Except sometimes the figs.


Spiders are relatively high in protein, but they tickle.


A lovely young woman stepped forward.
What of Beauty, Master?

He smiled quietly and said:
Can man's eyes ever remember a sunset as brilliant as tomorrow's?
As life's tired evening gently descends upon Everyman's brow, will water ever taste as sweet as yesterday's?
You see, every second that ticks by is like the fragrant blossoms of the field,
whose precious offerings are open for all if only they would
stoop to avail themselves of the treasure.
Beauty is for the few who seek it out.
Are you such a person?
Have you eyes for line and form?
Ears for delicate chords?
A touch for sensitive textures, and a taste for sweet candies?
Do the poets write for your favor, and artists labour for your judgment?
Do you collect beautiful objects and wear fragrant perfumes?
Do you spend your evenings in idyllic peace and harmony?

Do you enjoy reading beautiful crap like this?

You ask of emotional flowers, lonely corn, and orphaned flies.
You have spent your life's hours in endless pursuit of these enigmas.
Yet, I will have the answer in a moment of raindrops, a flicker of shadows, or an Angel's footstep.
If not then, surely by Wednesday.


A youth asked,
Have ye a Plene for a moment's council?
Yes, I replied, but have ye change for a Kneff?


No man ever drowned in the Sahara.
Except Arthur W. Balzak, D.D.S.


My eyes are beholden to the proud delights life has offered. My awareness never crowded with thoughts of clothed horses or images of nude trees ... until last night.


The world as seen through the window of an insane asylum is the same world as seen from the window of a dentist's office.


It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle if it is lightly greased.


A condemned man does not request egg salad for his last meal. He also doesn't order Alka Seltzer.


There is no easy way to bathe a hummingbird.


Even the best of friends cannot attend each others' funeral.


Then a woman said,
Speak to us of Old Age.
And he answered:
Long ago, Elmir the Curious sailed a small craft up the Euriptic River.
He sought the Elixir of Youth.
It was said that a bush grew somewhere along the river bank, the leaves of which, when cooked for many hours, produced a substance which could ward off the effects of age.
For many years he combed the banks of the Euriptic.

One afternoon he happened upon a Strange Bush.
He picked as many of its leaves as he could carry and sailed back to Califen.

Late that evening he had skimmed off two small vials of the thick and pungent substance.
And he called together the elders of the city, explaining that he was prepared to sell his Elixir of Youth.

How do we know it will work, the elders asked.

Elmir was incensed by these doubts. As they watched in silence, he gulped one entire vial full.

Though Elmir lived for many years after, he never spoke to the elders again.
Many inquired of his experience, but his lips were sealed.

Then he had not discovered the Elixir of Youth, the woman shrugged.

True, the Master replied, but his wealth and fame spread throughout the land.

For he had invented Elmir's Glue.


Even the Thickest pizza on earth will be delivered cold.

Speak to us of Wood, a carpenter said.
He then replied:
From a mighty Cypress tree, man can build a ship and sail to distant lands to meet men of many philosophies.
From the same tree, a man can build a sling and destroy an entire willage.

From such a tree man could erect a temple, a prison, an altar or a funeral pyre.
Yes, man has built many things in his time on this earth.

But there is one thing no man has ever built.

What is that? the carpenter inquired.

Man has never really built a decent chicken.


A philosopher stepped forward:
Master, is not a stone a microcosm, like an olive pit?
Recondite, willing to give but little of itself?
Master, a stone may lie in a riverbed for an eon, giving nothing,
observing all, wearing smooth, dwindling, slowly diminishing,
until at last -- nothing.
But where is the stone of eons past?
In what context does it still exist?
Its atoms have spread across the seas.
Is it a stone still, Master, or is it part of us all?

The Master replied:
Do you have a question to ask, or do you want to make a speech?


A quiet woman said,
Speak to us of Virtue.

He then answered.
Goodness and Kindness are popular Virtues.
Some Virtues are much older.

The serene chaos that is Courage, and the phenomenon of Unopened Consciousness have been known to the Great World eons longer than Extaboulism.

Why is that? the woman inquired.

Because I just made that word up, the Master said wisely.


THEN a scholar said,
Speak to us of Language.

And he answered:
I will tell you the story of Calif Cazar.
He was the wealthiest Calif in all Fez.
And, though his wealth was measured by the cubic yard, he was the loneliest man in Fez.
For the Calif, though an educated man, could not speak the language of trees.

What happened to him? the scholar asked.

The Master responded:
The Calif studied for many years under the wisest Balsam in the realm.
He read the poetry of the Willows and memorized untold sixteenth century Cedar sonnets.
He spoke fluent Spruce.
His Chestnut was impeccable.
And he could converse comfortably in both Northern and Southern Pine.
Native born Walnuts took him for one of their own.

I should like to know more of this brilliant man, the scholar said.
Where may I learn of him?

Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 26, pages 119 through 163.

He is written up there, the scholar asked?

He is written on there, the Master explained.


A woman asked,
Which way does the Wind Blow?

And he said:
The Wind is invisible but strong like Vodka or bad breath.
The Wind is a friend.
The Wind is an enemy.
The Wind is neutral, like Switzerland.
Sometimes the Wind will blow down a tree.
Other times it won't.

There's just no telling with the Wind.

Which way will the Wind blow tomorrow, the woman persisted.
He answered:
The Wind is free and unpredictable, like a bird. It is impossible to guess which way it will blow.
She who would ask such a question would be a fool, and he who would attempt to answer it, a greater fool.

I understand, the woman said, but which way will it blow?

North, he replied.


THEN a nobleman said,
Speak to us of Bad Habits.

And he said:
A good habit is the prayer of our desires, an action that when practiced continuously becomes ingrained in our nature.
But we must beware of Bad Habits, for they can easily be formed.

If an idiot were to tell you the same story every year for a decade,
you might end up believing it through the sheer power of repetition.

Therefore beware, do not let your body become trained against itself, as happened to the man who forced himself to eat spiders and became unable to satiate his appetite and died of eating too many spiders.

You told me that story last year, the nobleman said.


A wizened priest inquired,
Is man eternal, as a mountain?

He replied:
No individual lasts forever, yet man has lasted until now.
An individual may live six score, yet mankind has lived for a thousand score or more.
Therefore I must answer:
Think not of man as a mountain, which is ageless, and never changing.
But think of man as a mountain of changes and variations.
Think of man as a temporary mountain.


AND a farmer said,
Speak to us of Wisdom.

And he answered:
Just as the passage of time will answer the question of Age, the passage of Age will answer the question of Wisdom.

Man has always sought to discover the mystery of Wisdom, just as he seeks to discover the mystery of a rainstorm, or why a potato is not expensive.

The smallest insect possesses profound Wisdom.
That small insect knows the secrets of the earth that man shall never know.
A fish knows the secrets of the sea that man shall never know.
A bird knows the secrets of the sky that man shall never know.

And what is that secret, Master, the man asked.

He replied:
It is this:
All of the creatures of earth must use their imagination.
For it is imagination that makes a piece of bread taste like steak, water taste like wine, and worms taste like chicken.

But what about the secret of the bird, the man insisted.

What bird? the Master inquired.


IF a goldfish should want a vacation, who would know?


What lives longer? A Mayfly or a Cyprus tree?

If you answer a Mayfly then you are very perceptive: you realize that in time and space, time is relative and the short life of the Mayfly could be mysteriously longer than the life of the mighty Cyprus.

If you answered a Cyprus then you are unimaginative, but correct.


The strength of a thousand windmills in a hurricane is worthless without the grain to be ground. And the water of the world's most powerful dam unharnesed could not light a single bulb.

But, more important than that is: Why am I telling you these things?


AND a beggar came forward and asked,
What is Wealth, Master?

The Master spoke:
Gold is not Wealth.
A wealthy man without honor is not a rich man.
A beggar like yourself can be wealthy compared to a rich man without honor.

After all, would you consider a man without honor wealthy, even if his Dinar laid end to end would reach from here to the Temple of Toplat?

No, I wouldn't, the beggar replied.
Why is that? the Master asked.

A Dinar doesn't go very far these days, Master.
Besides, the Temple of Toplat is across the street.


A young merchant pushed through the throng asking,
What is Money?

The Master spoke:
Do not ply your wares beneath an avocado tree.
Do what you must with forked pleasure but never encrust a seed that is destined to rule the forest of men's minds.

But what has that to do with Money, Master? the young merchant asked.

The elixir of life is like an earthworm's touch to a rose's sweetness or a length of thread as spurned by the very magnetism of Eartzil, the Master replied.

I understand, the young merchant exclaimed.

You do? the Master replied.


THEN a young man said,
What of Sugar, Master?

He replied:
There is nothing on earth as sweet as Sugar.
Sugar has made kings and brought great expeditions to explore the world.
America was discovered in search of India where Sugar could be traded for precious articles.
Throughout history man has used Sugar to build empires, and some peoples have used Sugar as money.

You're wrong, Master, everything you have said about Sugar really applies to salt, not Sugar.
It's in all of the history books.

Oh, that's right, the Master replied.

Another young man then asked,
But what of Salt, Master?

He replied:
There is nothing on earth as salty as Salt.
Salt has made kings and brought great expeditions to explore the world.
America was discovered in search of India where Salt could be traded for precious articles.
Throughout history man has used Salt to build empires, and some peoples have used Salt as money.


I have seen the future and it is just like the present, only longer.


EXCUSE me, Master, a short rabbi asked,
Why doesn't a nice person like you have a wife?

He then said:
I have studied philosophy for many years, and through my travels I have communicated and meditated with nature.
I have acquired many beautiful possessions of nature by opening my mind to the natural beauty of the Earth.
I have dedicated my life to uncovering the mysteries of life, and the unknown.
Through this dedication I have acquired sublime knowledge and profound wisdom.
Therefore one could actually say that I am married to the desire to achieve wisdom.
I am married to many goals and divine ambitions.

In that case, the rabbi responded, have I got a girl for you!

The Master then clopped the rabbi in the head.

What was that for, Master? the rabbi asked.

That was for trying to introduce a cheap Jewish joke into a
non-denominational book, he replied.


A man asked,
What of Ignorance, Master?

He then said:
If every man was a genius, there would be no idiots, and no gauge for the intelligence of man.
For every ignorant ill-bred man, there exists an opposite intelligent, well-bred man.
Each needing each other. Each dependent upon each other.

Remember, unless you're buying a car there is no shame in being
And if you are married, there exists no comfort in being intelligent.


EVEN the tallest man cannot walk through the Grand Canyon without feeling conspicuous.


AND what of Death? an old man asked.

He then said:
Through the ages wise men have explained Death.
Each had a different explanation. Each was right. Each was wrong.

And what of your explanation, oh Master? he asked.

The Master replied:
Death is like taking a mule to Caliphen City for a vacation during August.

And how is that? the man asked.

Extremely crowded, he replied, and very boring.


THE time had come for him to take his leave of this most mysterious of cities, a city in which he had seen the rise of four thousand suns.
A cloud of dust arose from the mountains upon the distant horizon.
The people who had gathered knew -- each and every one of them -- what the dust meant.
It was the coach which would bear the Master away from them, not just for now, but for all time.
A mist formed in the eyes of the women and children.
More than one stalwart man could be seen to brush away an unremitting tear.

And now the coach was present, the horses quivering in anticipation of the long drive that awaited them.
The Master's foot ascended the first step of the coach.
The door latch was opened.

Though none could speak, the words were written upon their faces:

A parting wisdom, please, we beseech you with all the earnestness our heavy hearts can muster.
Please, Master, please... a word?... a smile?... a simple gesture?...

The Master reflected deeply.
And with a hand upon the coach door he turned to them one final time.
And with his remaining hand, he gestured...

Return to the front page of The Profit