Monday, February 15, 2010

A fox, a hound and other market tales

Originally posted in the Washington Post by Daniel Greenberg

These traditional Tales from The Market have been handed down and treasured for generations. Each story has outstanding analytics and has been rated AAA ("a super-good read") by Shotzy's Tale Rating Service.

One of the wise elders from the town of Greenwich tells this first tale, introducing us to the magic of The Market.

A fox and a hound waited in a copse outside of a farmer's henhouse.

"Ooh, I can hear those chickens clucking from here," said the hound. "Let's go in there and snatch them all!"

"Not so fast," said the fox. "If we take them all at once we can't ever return. But if we take just one, then perhaps the farmer won't notice and we can keep coming back night after night to get more."

"That's a good idea," said the hound.

The two entered and went to work quickly. The fox grabbed as many chickens as he could, emptying the henhouse.

"Hey," said the hound. "I thought you said we were going to take only one chicken."

"That is what I did," said the fox. "I limited myself to one chicken."

"Forgive me, my friend," said the hound, "but that is not accurate. I saw you take at least seven chickens."

"The one chicken was my limit," said the fox.

"And the other six?"

"Ah," said the fox with a smile. "The other six were the bonus I gave myself for staying within my limit. And a very nice bonus it was indeed."

The moral of this story? In The Market, a bonus doesn't count. That's why they call it a bonus.

* * *

The mouse king needed a ride to the other side of the river, so he called on a large alligator for help.

"Can you take me to the other side of the river?" the king asked. "I will pay you $20 billion from my coffers."

"That's a lot of money, even if it is in mouse dollars," said the alligator. "I'll take your offer."

So they set out on the river, which was very shallow, allowing the alligator to crawl more than halfway across. Then they hit a deep spot and started to sink.

"Help!" cried the king. "I can't swim."

"Neither can I," said the alligator.

"But you're an alligator," said the king. "Surely all alligators can swim."

The alligator explained that he had once been able to swim. But the river was so shallow and so rich with fish to eat that he had grown plump and lost the skill.

"What do we do now?" cried the king.

At this point the subjects of the king who were watching from the river bank recognized what was happening. Many began paddling furiously to the sinking alligator. They used their little mouse legs to prop him up and propel him to the other side. Most did not survive the task.

When he was safe on the other side, the mouse king asked, "Why did you accept my offer if you couldn't swim?"

The alligator said, "I will be honest. I did it for the money. I figured we would somehow make it to the other side. And sure enough, we did make it. You see, I was right."

"But what about all of my subjects who drowned in the river?" asked the mouse king.

The alligator shrugged. "Hey, risk is a part of every transaction," he said.

With that, they went to dinner at the restaurant on the other side of the river and shared a very nice bottle of wine. And forgot about the whole thing.

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