One glorious spring day, a beggar named Scruff sat by the side of the road looking miserable.
He didn’t feel miserable, on the contrary; he was smitten by the fleet of clouds that sailed across the sky and the sun that shone warmly on the grass.
But alas Scruff was a beggar and misery was his stock and trade, so inspired by the exceptionally nice weather, he was compelled to look exceptionally miserable.
But despite all that, he couldn’t help himself.
“What a day to fall in love,” he mused and no sooner had he formed that thought when the wealthiest, most beautiful girl in town came his way.
Scruff followed her progress as she clamored over a fence stile and took the fork in the road that led to the gravel pit where he begged.
With each step, Scruff fell deeper in love. He had never experience love before and it made him suspicious. It reminded him of the whiteness of the clouds and the warmth of the sun. Something that promised it would always be that way – but never was.
But then there was this girl. Her hair swirled with the wind and her freckles flew like sparks across her face. Scruff soon forgot his misgivings.
“Could you spare a penny?” was all he could manage to say.
She pouted. “A penny?” Is that all you want?”
“Yes, my lady,” he stammered.
“How refreshing!” she exclaimed.
“Well…..to be honest, can I ask for something else?”
“You can always ask,” she said.
“Would you sit with me?”
“It’s the least I could do,” she said, arranging her skirts to perch on a large rock beside him.
But poor Scruff had put so much effort into his career as a beggar that he was unequipped to make conversation with a beautiful girl. He couldn’t think of a thing to say.
After a long awkward pause, she asked, “So how is business?”
“So-so,” he said.
“You must be miserable begging out here by the gravel pit where no one goes,” she said.
“Generally, that is true,” he replied.
“I admire that,” she said, “you ask for so little.”
“I have all I need,” Scruff said.
“See, that is what I am talking about,” she exclaimed, “it’s nothing like my life.”
“You couldn’t believe how much pressure I am under to be happy.”
“Must be rough.”
“I only eat the best of food. No excessive calories. No snacks.”
“I only go to the best of schools where I am taught to charming and witty.”
“Worst of all — I have to smile all the time. If I stop smiling, everyone goes into a panic,” she said, “for once in my life, I would love to be miserable.”
“Misery does have its advantages.”
“It’s very romantic,” she said, gazing deeply into his eyes.
“It is,” Scruff said, gazing back.
“You must suffer terribly.”
“I do, I do” he said.
“To be honest, I have never experienced true misery,” she confessed.
“It’s like anything,” he said, “You have to work at it.”
“Work at it?”
“Sure, look what a beautiful day it is. Do you know how hard it is to be miserable on such a day?”
“So you are not miserable?”
“Not today, not really.”
She looked stricken.
“I have all I need. Why would I not be happy?”
“You’re happy?!!!” she exclaimed.
“Aren’t you?” he asked, staring meaningfully at her.
Her pupils grew as big as dinner plates.
“Screw that!” she said, “Haven’t you been listening to me? I don’t want to be happy. It makes me want to puke.”
“But, but, but,” Scruff stammered.
“Happy, happy, happy…It’s boring, boring, boring,” she shouted. “All I want out of life is angst and misery and if you can’t supply it, I’ll shop elsewhere!”
With that, she snatched up her skirts and stomped off in a huff. Scruff watched helplessly as she scrambled back over the fence and raged into town.
“Lucky girl,” he said to himself, “She always gets what she wants.”