The prodigious child

Once there was a farmer who had two sons.

The eldest son was diligent and successful. He ran the farm so well that even his father felt he was not needed to help in the farm-work. The son had married and had built a home on the farm and was busy running the farm and raising a family.

The younger son tried to help out, but somehow his brother was always ahead of him, telling him what to do and when to do it. He hadn’t married and felt rather tied down by living at home away from the city lights.

Oldest son was a bit of a pain in the neck. He was always telling his father to take things easy, when the father really wanted to keep working around the farm. This was not quite “honouring his parents”. Oldest son was always advising and telling his younger brother what to do. While his advice and instructions were always logical and sound, it was really the father’s job to give instructions and advice to his younger son.

Things could not continue this way so the youngest son tried hard to change matters. He finally came up with a good idea. If he managed his father’s investments he could use his skills to work with his father’s wealth and use the profits as an income. It would then be obvious that father could leave the farm to the older brother while the investments could be left to the younger brother in the will. The whole family thought this was a good idea as the investments were worth roughly as much as the value of the farm.

The younger son moved to the city and became a “day trader”. This means that he spent all day at the stock exchange watching the prices of shares then buying shares as their value dropped and selling them when their value increased. Day trading requires a good memory and good mathematical ability, the younger son had both and soon he was a star investor. He could buy or sell shares with a mere wink or nod of his head. Other traders gathered round to follow what he was doing, whenever he bought shares the others would copy and buy them, this meant that the value of any shares the younger son bought went up immediately after he bought them. He simply couldn’t lose money if he tried.

The younger son became well established in the city. He was making so much money he didn’t need to set up a flat to live in; instead he simply lived in a hotel. Unfortunately he fell into a doubtful company of friends. After every days work, these friends loved to gamble in the casino which was in the same hotel where the younger brother lived. Of course, being a good trader of shares the younger son was also clever at betting; he won more money than he lost; but the fact remains, some nights he lost money. When he won money his friends generally lost money, so instead of stopping gambling, they borrowed money off the younger son and went on gambling; some times they paid their loans back, sometimes they didn’t. The same thing happened on the nights that the younger son lost money he stayed in the casino gambling with money he borrowed from his friends. Because he had a good memory he always made sure that he was owed more money than he had borrowed.

What the youngest son did not know was that his (so called) friends were selling his promissory notes to the crime boss of the city. This bad man would buy a note promising to repay $10,000 for as little as $1000 and then send his thugs off to collect the full $10,000 plus interest. If the person who had signed the note, now owned by the crime boss couldn’t, or wouldn’t pay up they might get beaten up, killed or forced to work as a criminal.

After about a year, the stock market crashed, this means that the prices of all the shares fell and people who had borrowed money had to sell their shares at cheap prices just to keep paying the interest on their loans. This didn’t bother the youngest son as he had invested his father’s money without borrowing; all he had to do was wait until share prices improved. Unfortunately the gangster’s thugs started knocking on his door demanding that he pay the interest on his gambling debts. The youngest son in turn went to his friends who owed him money and was told that they were all they were all insolvent (a fancy term for having no money and cannot be forced to repay), thus could not possibly pay him what they owed. The poor son could not use this argument with the gangsters; he either had to pay his debts (when he had little money) or work for the crime boss. Fortunately they could not force him to sell shares that belonged to his father.

When the youngest son admitted that he couldn’t pay the gangsters, he was lucky; instead of getting beaten up, he was hauled off for an interview with the crime boss. This nasty man could see that the young man was well brought up, well educated and capable of doing good business; he would clearly be useful but not as a thug or common criminal. Instead he was given the job of persuading the runaway street children to come in off the streets and work for the gang. This meant that most of them would become drug pushers and prostitutes (the boys as well) and they would end up as slaves to drug addiction and working for the criminals for no pay at all.

As a personable young man, the youngest son was good at his new job, he lived on the streets of the city by day and by night and when he found lost and unhappy young children, he gave them the address of the criminal headquarters and told the children, quite truthfully, that if they went to that address they would get good food, new clothes, somewhere to sleep and training for new jobs that offered easy money. Many children jumped at this offer, what more could they want? They had all been on the streets long enough to know what, and who was involved in this new life. It might be a life of crime but it was better than fighting, starving and freezing in the gutters. At first everyone was happy with this arrangement, everyone except the youngest son that is. He felt terribly guilty and sad about what he was doing and the way he was sending young people off to long term ruin and death. No one else seemed to care and soon the gangsters stopped calling, they had got what they wanted and had moved on to new recruiting schemes. Slowly the youngest son came to realise that he would be better of at home despite his stupid actions and obvious failings. He borrowed the fare to get home and headed back to his father’s farm. Having been on the streets for so long he didn’t even realise that the stock market had recovered and he and his father were still quite rich. If he had known this it would have made little difference; he was thoroughly sick of the slick city life of flattery and deceit, he just wanted to start afresh with a clean honest life. When he got to his home town, he still had a long walk out to his parent’s farm. Everyone got to know of the strange beggar walking through the countryside, but no one recognised him as the young man who had left home so full of hope about five years ago. What a surprise, when he finally reached home and knocked on the door, although he had changed his mother knew him straight away. His father was overwhelmed with joy; sure he had lost some money, but most of all he wanted his son back and this is what he had!

Amidst all the excitement the younger son tried to explain that he just wanted to work hard on the farm, for his older brother, and try and forget all excitement and pains of city life. His father would just not hear of this proposal, his younger son was just too clever for menial work; he had a much better idea, but never mind for now, ‘just eat drink and be merry’ and then he would explain his plan in the morning.

In the morning the son got up, he was late of course and he had been given his breakfast in bed. His father was waiting with excitement to show him what he had planned for his son to do. They walked out from the farm house and over a hill where the son could see a large building, it looked like a hotel, but why would anyone want a hotel in the middle of a remote farm? His father explained that his latest project was not a hotel, but a rehabilitation centre for young city folk who could voluntarily leave their messed up city lives and start anew with fresh training in country life and agricultural skills. The younger son would be a perfect manager after his financial and city experiences and he still had his farming background to call on. Full of enthusiasm the father took his son in to meet the young people staying in the hostel. His son followed him with no enthusiasm at all; it only took him one glance to see that he knew almost everyone there. He had personally helped start them in their old lives of crime and degradation. What would they think and say to him?

When he entered the dinning room, everyone was present and about to start lunch. Many looked up at the stranger and straight away recognised him, the room slowly fell silent, they all gazed in wonder while the youngest son cringed with embarrassment and heartily wished he was elsewhere. Pandemonium slowly broke out, they all ran towards the son and raised their hands to pat him, hug him and some even prayed for him. The son couldn’t understand what was happening, “they seem to like me” he said to his father, "they have every reason to hate me". “No” said his father “they know they made their own choices in the past and they don’t blame you in the slightest”. “But why are they so happy to see me? asked the son.

“Well” answered the father, “if you had kept reading your bible while you were away you would know there is more joy over one sinner who starts to do the right thing, than there is over a hundred good people who continue to do right.”

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