The Poor


Once upon a time, there were three sisters, called The Good, The Beautiful, and the True. They lived in white houses on a hill not far from each other, and everyone knew their addresses. They used to give elegant dinner parties where their many admirers were always invited.

One day, a frightful being knocked loudly at the door of The Good. When the Good looked out — she had blue eyes that reflected the light of the sky — she could not tell whether the being was large or small, male or female, one or many.

"I am The Poor," croaked the thing. "I am flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. Feed me, because I am hungry. I am dying of hunger!"

So The Good gave food to The Poor, but as soon as The Poor ate of it, it fell down. It could not eat, because it was evil, and goodness was poison to it. It became angry, and The Good, frightened and despairing and in fact cut to the heart, left her home and went up into the mountains, where she rent her garments and put ashes in her hair and withdrew into solitude.

So The Poor went to the next house, which was the house of The Beautiful, and knocked on the door. When The Beautiful looked out — she had brown eyes that reflected the warmth of the earth — The Poor said to her: "I am The Poor. I am flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. Cure me, because I have been poisoned and I am sick, sick unto death." So The Beautiful put her arms around The Poor and attempted to practice her healing art, but because The Poor was ugly, her touch was like the touch of a knife and lacerated The Poor. It howled and wept, and nothing The Beautiful could do did anything but injure it. So The Beautiful, frightened and despairing and cut to the heart, closed her house and went, like her sister, up to the mountains where she rent her garments, put ashes in her hair, and withdrew into solitude.

Finally The Poor went to the third house, which was the house of The True, and knocked at the door. The True looked out with her gray eyes which reflected neither heaven nor earth, and The Poor said, "I am The Poor. I am bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Help me, because I have been poisoned by goodness and lacerated by beauty." Now The True, who had windows in her house and looked out of them, had been watching the progress of The Poor, and had considered it. So she stepped outside — she was the youngest and the strongest and the bravest of the three sisters — and handed The Poor a mirror. "Here," said The True, "here is one of my toys. I call it Science. Do with it what you will."

The Poor took the mirror and began to look into it. It looked at the mirror, and it looked at The True; it looked from one to the other. And then a change began to come over it; it was changing its features. As The True watched, she realized that The Poor was beginning to change itself into something that looked like her in a strange and distorted way. And though she was by far the bravest of the three sisters, and though her eyes were cool and gray, she began to think of going to join her sisters in the mountains.





Copyright © 2010 Gordon Fitch