The rickety carriage’s squeaking wheels dug into the muddy ground as the horse drawn caravan arrived into the village. It was mostly peasants in the village. Many didn’t even have any work to call their own. They still paid whatever taxes they could to the kingdom, leaving them little more than enough to feed themselves with. And the village didn’t host many travelling visitors either. To see a caravan such as this arrive into the village was a strange sight indeed.
The caravan halted and a man stepped out from the rickety carriage that took the lead on the caravan. Behind the caravan were boxcars, each watched over by one armed guard holding mighty large axes. The guards watched the incoming crowd of villages, who were only curious as to who it was that came to visit them. The guards were stoic and silent. But a voice called out from the front of the caravan. The man standing by the rickety carriage was smiling with his arms wide open. We wore a long black jacket and held a walking stick in his hands.
“Hello, hello my friends!” he called out. “Hello and thank you all for greeting us as we arrive from our very long journey to bring you something especially special.”
Everyone in the crowd looked around, baffled and confused as to what this man was talking about. Why did he make a long journey to this village? There’s nothing in this village but a few peasants’ huts. There weren’t even any kinds of services around, no markets or inns or pubs.
“Though, I must ask,” the man continued. “When we do decide to continue on, I may need some help in pushing my caravan out of the mud.”
“That’s not mud!” a voice called out from the crowd. Everyone else in the crowd laughed as it became evident that this man had no idea where he was.
“Oh my,” he muttered quietly before looking back out into the crowd again. “But yes, something special for all of you! I have with me today a marvel of modern mechanism. A devious device that would make the deities decide simply to die because they could not create something as excitable and extravagant as this. I have, with me today, and available to all of you, the ultimate weapon.”
The crowd’s chuckles hush to barely a whisper as the idea of an ultimate weapon crept into their minds. They had their weapons, a few axes and swords and some even had pitchforks from back when they still tried to farm the soil they stood on that produced nothing more than a few weeds and even those died as quickly as they sprouted up. But what could this weapon be? An explosive projectile made from materials even the kingdom isn’t familiar with? A magic incantation to summon beasts only told in legend? The audience’s imaginations tried to conjure what this ultimate weapon could possibly be.
“That’s right, the ultimate weapon,” the man repeated. “I have it here today, with enough stock for everyone in this village, all readily available to you for only five gold pieces.”
“Let’s see the weapon!” a voice cried out from the crowd. Everyone applauded and repeated the request to see the weapon.
“Very well!” the man gestured to one of his guards, who handed him a round object in a pale green colour. You could tell its leaves were layered thickly and it looked quite fresh. The man held the pale green leafy ball over his head and proclaimed, “See now! The ultimate weapon!”
The crowd’s silence was complemented by the blank faces on everyone watching the man. They were even more confused now than they were when the caravan first pulled in.
“That’s not a weapon!” a voice from the crowd called out. “It’s a bleedin’ cabbage!”
“No, no no,” the man interjected. “It merely looks like a cabbage, but it is so much more. It is… the ultimate weapon!”
“I know a cabbage when I see one,” the voice continued. “It’s almost all I bloody eat. It looks fresh though. Might be quite tasty. Don’t know if I would pay five gold for it, though.”
“No, I insist,” the man said again. “It is, the… ultimate…”
“Yeah, yeah,” the voice interrupted. “The ultimate weapon. We heard you the first time. But, seriously though, how do you get your cabbages to grow so nicely?”
The man began looking quite annoying. He pressed one hand against his hip while his other hand continued holding the accused cabbage. The man tapped his foot impatiently and said, “Sir, perhaps you can insist me with a demonstration?”
“Only if I can have the cabbage afterward,” the voice called back.
“Fine, fine,” the man said. “Now please sir, join me up here.”
The crowd’s lone heckler was known around the village. Derby Potts, a fat man whose hair was falling out in large chunks. Everyone in the village knew the village had a distinct smell that many outsiders found fowl. Derby Potts smelled even worse than the rest of the village. The villagers got used to the village smell. No one ever got used to the smell of Derby Potts. Even as he approach the caravan, the look on the salesman’s face turned from a pleasant smile to a cringing mess. He often looked away from Derby Potts to take in breaths. The salesman quickly learned what the rest of the village had already been doing for years.
“Now, sir,” the salesman began. “This is but a cabbage, according to you, correct?”
“Yes,” Derby nodded.
“And cabbages are quite dense, yes?”
“Yes, sir,” Derby nodded again.
“But if I were to hit you with a cabbage, the cabbage would break and crumble, yes?”
“Absolutely, sir,” Derby continued nodding.
“Alright then, here is my proposition. I will strike you with the apparent cabbage. If you are still standing after I have struck you, it will have proven you correct that this is indeed nothing more than a cabbage. I will award you with the cabbage, and three more cabbages just as fresh as this one is if you are still standing after I strike you. Makes sense?”
“Yes,” Derby nodded.
The salesman reaches back with both hands, the accused cabbage high over his head, and drives it down into the skull of Derby Potts. The sound the apparent cabbage made when it struck Derby was a loud, hard whack! Clearly much harder than any actual cabbage. Derby stumbled a bit, trying to keep his footing. A small gash opened at the front of his head and blood slowly dripped down as he teetered and tottered in place, trying to still stand. The crowd imagined how much Derby wanted those cabbages, watching him fight to stay standing with all that he had.
But all he had wasn’t enough as Derby lost his footing and fell off the caravan and crashed to the filthy ground. The crowd’s eyes were locked on the unconscious Derby. Then their gazes moved over to the man standing on the caravan, who was now slowly unfolding the leaves of the cabbage to reveal a pale grey brick inside.
“Ladies and gentleman,” the salesman began. “Imagine one day the tax collectors visit your village and you no longer have anything to offer the kingdom. They demand so much, after all, and what you live off of so little. When you finally have nothing, they will try to take your children, your food right off your table, your beds, your clothes, whatever they can take they will. Now, imagine having one of these ultimate weapons to defend yourself against the corrupt kingdom and its tax collectors. Well, those tax collectors will wonder why you’re attacking them with cabbages. And once they realize they’re so much more than cabbages, it will already be too late, won’t it?”
The crowd’s silence now complemented the looks of intrigue on everyone’s faces. What the salesman spoke of made sense. But should they act on this idea?
“I’ll take two!” the first order was yelled out from the crowd followed by a frenzy of orders from everyone. Sooner than he knew, the salesman was out of his ultimate weapons and the crowd dispersed, talking amongst themselves about how they will use their ultimate weapons.
Once everyone had all but gone, the salesman walked over to Derby Potts, who was still lying on the filthy ground. Derby popped open an eye and asked, “Is everyone gone?”
“Yes, sir,” the salesman nodded.
Derby sat up and grabbed the side of the carriage and pulled himself up off the ground. The smell was dreadful to the salesman’s nose, worse than Derby had probably ever smelled before.
“You really do must clean off this ground one day,” the salesman commented. “The soil clearly isn’t absorbing the waste you’re dumping onto it.”
Derby said nothing but instead his eyes fixed on the salesman. A half smile creeped along the sides of Derby’s mouth, like an excited young boy about to receive a sweet for a task well done.
“Twenty per cent of the day’s take, was that the deal?” the salesman pulled out his bag of gold.
“Twenty-five,” Derby nodded. “You said you’d pay more if I bled.”
“So I did,” the salesman smiled as he handed Derby his well-earned gold coins.
Just as the salesman was about to climb back into his carriage, he felt a hand tap him on the shoulder. It was Derby, still standing in the same spot with the same smile creeping along the sides of his mouth.
Derby held out a hand full of coin and said, “Three cabbages please.”