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The Tale of Seiichiro

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Once upon a time in the deep blue ocean, there lived a fish named Seiichiro. Seiichiro had had a simple childhood. His parents were very kind to him, and though it was a little hard to make ends meet, Seiichiro did just fine by taking food from any of his 393 brothers and sisters. You can imagine that he never went hungry for nearly as long as everyone else. When it came to sharing toys, Seiichiro always got first pick, and if anyone denied him that right, he put his fins to good use.

Fish grow up quickly, and Seiichiro was no exception. In a few months, his parents had left, like all fish parents do, and Seiichiro and his 393 brothers and sisters went off to seek their fortunes.

Seiichiro found himself in another part of the deep blue ocean. There, he singlehandedly bought a struggling mattress store and established, in its place, the Water Bed Company, an enterprise that sold ‘top-notch’ (but only considered so due to lack of competition), ‘handmade’(with only the cheapest materials), ‘family-priced’ (so that each bed was making a $300 profit) water beds. Over some months, the company became enormously successful; all the celebrities were choosing the Water Bed Company for their sleeping needs. Seiichiro was now middle aged.

At about this time, his health began to fail him, due to the high stress of his mattress-selling job. He suffered from dizzy spells, and soon, even the occasional smirk that used to hover about his lips was replaced by a permanent frown. Eventually, it got so bad that he had to hire people to help him run his business; he contacted the logical source – all of his 393 brothers and sisters.

The ‘handmade’ mattresses were now assembled by siblings 100 to 130. The delivery man was his 40th brother and his salespeople were sisters 159 and 160. His 3rd sister oversaw the company, and his 6th brother was the head of advertising. In fact, once all of the positions that had once been filled by Seiichiro were reassigned, not one of Seiichiro’s 393 siblings was out of work; they all reported daily to the Water Bed Company (which now had to pay employer salaries) while Seiichiro stayed home and was sick.

A few days into his sickness, Seiichiro decided that he had to do something. He called for his nurse, who called for his errand boy, who swam to his secretary, who called up his advisor, who, after a small conversation, agreed to come see his employer promptly. When he got to Seiichiro’s bedside, he waited for an order.

“I am ill!” cried Seiichiro. “I am sick, and rundown, and unwell, and feeling poorly!”

“Yes, master,” said the advisor.

“I have been lying here, contemplating my fate!” boomed Seiichiro. He actually had an unusually high voice and booming (or trying to boom) only emphasized its uncomfortable pitch.

“Yes, master,” droned the advisor.

“And I have decided…” here he paused to suck in a deep breath “…that I must have…” he paused again, and the advisor discreetly rolled his eyes “…a doctor!” finished Seiichiro.

“Yes, master.”

“Nurse,” boomed Seiichiro, “Nurse, I want my physician.”

“Yes, master,” she called and began to start the complex process that was needed to get the physician.

“Advisor, you are dismissed,” boomed Seiichiro with a disdainful wave of his fin.

“Yes, master,” said the advisor, thankful to leave Seiichiro’s presence, though he hadn’t worked that hard. (Sometimes, he had to flatter Seiichiro on command.)

You might say that the advisor wasn’t really an advisor if all he did was agree with Seiichiro and compliment him, but Seiichiro considered him an advisor, and Seiichiro’s word was law.

You might also wonder why Seiichiro was willing to spend money on an advisor who didn’t do anything when he couldn’t bear to pay the salaries of his 393 brothers and sisters. This is because Seiichiro never, ever spared any expense in making himself feel important. However, he was content to cut other corners without any guilt whatsoever.

By this time, the physician had arrived.

“Hello,” said the physician cheerily.

Seiichiro coughed delicately and waited.

“I meant, ‘hello, master,’” corrected the physician with a nervous laugh. He was new to the job, and this was his first time actually treating an illness of Seiichiro’s.

“Fix me,” demanded Seiichiro.

“Well, what exactly is the problem?” queried the doctor.

“I am ill.”

“I know that! What are your symptoms? Do you have any aches? Pains? Fin fungus, dandruff, trouble swallowing? Anything?” He quickly added, “Master.”

Seiichiro rose out of his bed on a thundercloud. “What does it matter what the symptoms are? I don’t know! It is your job to find that out. It is your job to fix me! You are not to ask what symptoms I have, but you are to find them! Because that is your job! Is that understood?” he thundered.

“Well…I…”

“Master! How many times must I say it? Master, master, master! You are unworthy of my presence! Be gone and tarry no more in my sight!” spit out Seiichiro.

“Does that…?”

“OUT!” bellowed Seiichiro. The physician went. The nurse sent out a message for a new physician to be found.

Seiichiro smoothed down his covers and settled back into his bed. “I am ill, am I not?”

“Yes, master,” replied the nurse.

“So call physicians from far and wide to come and cure me! They will be honored that I have requested their presence. I must be cured. I must!” Seiichiro finished in a shrill squeak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I must!”

“Yes, master,” called the nurse as she ran to get the errand boy.

The next morning, a line of doctors from far and wide stood outside the estate of the great Seiichiro. All through the morning, doctors went in and out of the master’s chambers. They all came back out after no more than five minutes, shaking their heads in hopeless disbelief or shaking their fists (fin-fists, that is) in anger.

After a month of physicians parading in and out every day, Seiichiro lacked the strength to stand up on his own. He was convinced that he was dying and even more frantically sought help.

The next physician made headway; Seiichiro tried his cure. After a week of eating the various pills prescribed like candy, Seiichiro was not better – if anything, he felt worse.

While checking his daily fan mail (now pitifully few letters as his true nature got out thanks to the doctors), Seiichiro came upon an interesting letter. It mentioned how fabulous he was. Then it gave a ‘humble suggestion’ of a very good wise man. His name was Bernie. Promptly, Seiichiro made a demand that Bernie be found.

Bernie was brought in a few hours later after a frantic city-wide search was made for him. He sauntered in and made an elaborate bow at the foot of Seiichiro’s sickbed, ending with a flourish. Seiichiro loved it.

“My noble servant,” he whispered. “Why did you not come sooner?”

“I was escaping some armed bandits. My deepest apologies,” said the fish in a heavy French accent.

“You are forgiven, but only if you cure me,” Seiichiro sighed, the very picture of an ailing fish. “Fix me.”

“Laughter is the answer,” replied the wise man. “You have not smiled, even to gloat, for so long. You are a careworn fish, wrinkled before your time.”

Seiichiro looked faintly annoyed. “Get to the point.”

“You cannot get better unless you stop worrying. Laughter is the best medicine, my friend. That is all.”

With those profound words, Bernie, the wise man, sauntered back out of Seiichiro’s apartments, carrying with him Seiichiro’s last hopes of a miracle recovery.

“All is lost,” moaned Seiichiro. Then he called for the nurse. “Gather the public!” he whispered.

The nurse sent in a request for a TV camera. As soon as it arrived, Seiichiro began his dying speech. First, he spent an hour talking about himself and how much good he had done for the whole deep blue ocean. Then, he lamented his fate for forty-five minutes and finished with this: “Even now, I can feel my heartbeats slowing, grinding to a halt. My time is nigh at hand! I am dying! Put up a statue of me in the city square. And remember, go the Water Bed Company for all of your sleeping needs.” Seiichiro rolled his eyes back in his head and then lay still upon his pillow.

The TV camera left.

Seiichiro woke up long enough to order everyone out of the room. Then he lay still once more.

He didn’t want to die. What was it the wise man had said? Laughter. He knew how to laugh.

“Ha ha ha,” he said out loud, just to make sure he remembered how.

And then an extraordinary thing happened; Seiichiro began to get better.

“Vigor returns to my deadened limbs. Worry loosens its grip on my shoulders like winter’s hold on the world slipping into spring. My wrinkles fade away into nothingness, and my cheek is once more as smooth as a babe’s. Oh, I feel young again! Young! Oh, joy is me! Ha ha ha ha!”

Seiichiro bounded out of bed, ready to fire 393 employees and start making more money right away, only to find that his bed had disappeared. In fact, his whole mansion had vanished. There were no servants. There were no antique furnishings. There was nothing at all except the cavernous room that Seiichiro was in with the words ‘kindness,’ ‘humility,’ ‘thankfulness,’ ‘responsibility,’ and ‘fairness’ emblazoned into the walls but barely shining through the layer of filth that coated them. It was, indeed, a very dirty, cavernous room, as empty as Seiichiro’s own soul.
And in Seiichiro’s hands was a mop.

Moral – Laughter is, indeed, the best medicine.



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