"Arrogance diminishes wisdom"

-- Arabian proverb

 
A raven perched just outside Ham’s door. It sat right on the top of an ancient olive tree. Each morning just as the sun rose bright in the skies of Abad, the raven would greet the day with a caw. Then it would scramble over the dried branches of its perch searching for a morsel.

Each day Ham woke to the croak of the raven and each day Ham shook his fist and shouted, “Stupid raven. You woke me up! I was in the middle of my Cinderella dream. Now I shall have to wait until midnight to return to where I left off.”

But the raven only cawed again and then flew away to more fertile domains, leaving Ham to flounder for his slippers and stumble into his kitchen to make his morning American cup of coffee in an un-American place. Ham would stretch and yawn and drowsily fill his percolator with water, put the filter in its place and flip on the switch. Soon he would drink his Folgers and then and only then would he be able to think almost clearly.

On such a particular day, Ham sipped his coffee and watched the steam rise up into the cold kitchen, somewhere near the hills of Moab. He then picked up his American cigarettes, the most expensive he could find in his poor city of Abad and proceeded to puff circles of smoke up into the frigid winter air. His steady supply of American coffee and cigarettes were funded by his mafia-like practice in a suburb of a city in the center of Ohio. He sighed to himself, looked outside at his barren olive tree and muttered, “if only I could find a wife suitable to my taste. She could help me run the city and I could run her around the kitchen table with my romantic jogging. For sure I will win the race for mayor, but who will be the mayoress?”

As Ham spoke, the crook in his long nose twitched. He wiped off the continuous flow of its drip-drops on his pajama sleeve. Then he heard a knock on the door so he jumped up from his breakfast table, almost spilling what was left of his Folgers and dashed to see who was there.

As he flung open the door, a voice met him and said, “Hi Ham. My, your nose is dripping more than usual this morning. Well, anyway, I’ve got a lot on your agenda for you. Lots of homes to visit today.”

Ham wiped his nose once again on the alternate pajama sleeve and replied, “Sorry for the drip. I always seem to have a cold. Come on in Lin and have some coffee with me.”

“Thanks but got to get moving. Stop by the office to pick me up for the campaign trail. See you later.”

And with this Mr. Lin disappeared into a cloud of dust as he drove off in his tan Lada. With another wipe on his sleeve, Ham turned back into his kitchen, dumped his stained coffee cup in the sink and got himself ready for a long day of campaigning. He just knew he would win this election. No doubt about it. No man was more qualified than he. As for Mrs. Mayor, well, Ham just knew as sure as his winning, that she was out there waiting for him. No doubt about that too. And with this thought, his lips spread in a wide grin. He looked into the hallway mirror at his reflection peering back at him. He bald head sparkled. Handsome fellow he thought. And oh, that crook in his long nose was sure to dazzle all the voters. Darn drip though. He pulled his arm across the drip and wiped it off on a sticky sleeve.

Days turned into nights, and nights into weeks. Potential voters on the trail pelted Ham with such questions as, “What sir, do you think about the rising prices on basic staples like bread, milk, electricity, and gas? It’s getting harder and harder to feed our children.”

Or, “what do you think about the political situation in our fair city what with our freedoms slowly dwindling away?” Or, “What about the rising rate of unemployment?”

Sometimes in the late evenings during campaigns as Ham wiped away that constant drip on one jacket sleeve or another, the raven would flap in through an empty window and mistake Ham’s nose for a branch and thus try to land on it. But Ham had no time for drippy noses and certainly not for ravens. In smoke-filled rooms Ham spoke of wider streets for Abad, of happier times, of better schools, even of more coffee. Yet, he never answered any important questions. And in every crowd, Ham sniffed the air, trying to find the scent of his true love. He just knew she would smell like Chanel 5, sweat, faded mascara, and smudgy makeup. He just knew that she would have died strawberry blonde hair reaching to her shoulder and that her dress would fit skin tight revealing layers of over-abundant flesh. The vision of his Cinderella bride danced through his mind and the concerned faces of his voters faded in a blur of thought. At this point, Ham, bald head flashing in the moonlight, would leave his sea of admirers and speed off for home to dream dreams of his one and only true love wherever she may be. Each night he would hug his pillow and fall asleep dripping nose and all.

During the days when he wasn’t giving speeches and boasting promises, Ham would visit families in the dead of winter. People shaking from the bitter desert cold would invite Ham into their homes. The hostess of every house would pour for him coffee and serve him tea. He would stay long hours noisily sipping hot brews and every now and then wipe his dripping nose onto a jacket sleeve. When the night began to drag on for so long, Ham tried not to notice his host family yawning or see the dreary looks on their faces. And sometimes when the wind was ever so soft, Ham would hear a knocking, knocking, knocking on the window pane of the family he shared tea or coffee with. He knew it was the raven come to plague him. So, finally, to the relief of all, Ham would bow out of the house of potential voters and head off for home with the raven flying not too far behind.

Finally election night arrived. Ham and his campaign manager Mr. Lin, drank coffee, tea, and more coffee. They joked and laughed that night in the campaign office, confident that Ham would win a total victory. Ham continued to puff dark circles of smoke into the pillars of his office. He turned the TV on full blast, expecting at any moment that his victory would be announced. His nose kept dripping, but in his excitement, he failed to notice. The raven beat against the window of his campaign headquarters, but Ham didn’t hear a thing. He was so caught up in the moment of winning. Tea cups rattled and coffee cups clinked. Vapors of steam rose to mix with the curls of gray smoke. Ham tipped his chair back, smiled and thought of all his hard campaigning, and the weary looks of his potential voters. His thoughts drifted away to Mrs. Mayor when suddenly the announcement of the winner jolted him back to reality.

The newscaster’s wane smile appeared on the TV monitor. “I am happy to announce the victory of Mr. Piper. Mr. Hamelin came in close, but not close enough. Congratulations Mr. Piper! You are now the new mayor of the city of Abad.”

The sound of party horns tooted through the night air. Ham began to sob. All his dreams vanished in a puff of ashes. He would not be mayor, he would not ever find Mrs. Right, and his nose still dripped. Angrily, he wiped his nose on each jacket sleeve. All his promises dissolved in that instant and all his dreams turned to dust. His hopes of pocketing the money for mayor floated away and all that was left was the constant drip drip drip of his nose and the caw caw caw of the raven.

“Never again shall I run for mayor,” Ham said. “Never, never, never again. The raven crowed back, “Nevermore.”

Ham didn’t pay attention to the rumors that the children of Abad fared much better with the new mayor, Mr. Piper. The price of bread dropped. The good denizens of Abad paid less for their electric bills, and people could now afford more heat and drive more cheaply under the guidance and hard work of Piper. And Ham heard rumors too that the newly married Mrs. Piper dedicated her time to helping the poor, establishing grass roots organizations, and donating money to orphans as well as defending their rights. Abad became more prosperous and now people walked about with smiles on their faces and greeted each other as friends. Only Ham stayed alone in his empty house with his one raven to keep him company. His campaign manager fled to better and greener pastures. Ham still sat in his kitchen every morning wearing his drab pajamas and wiping his drip drip drip on his pajama sleeves. He smoked his expensive American cigarettes and drank his Folgers coffee and continued to dare to dream of a Mrs. Ham somewhere out there where nightmares still come true and where he could dwell in his metagrabolized world.

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* Based on true events