Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall and looked gloomily down the road.
Humpty was not happy. In fact, he was so far from happy that people with mild depression crossed the road and turned their heads away in order not to become suicidal at the sight of him. He was so far from happy that condemned prisoners turned cartwheels and broke into joyous songs at how much better off they were than he. He was so unhappy that Mrs Humpty, unable to tolerate him any longer, had ordered him out of the house until he could cheer up enough not to turn the air blue.
"Don't you sit on the wall, either," she had shouted after him, loud enough for all the neighbours to hear. "One of these days you'll fall and break in half. Don't expect me to feel any sympathy for you."
Humpty grimaced, thinking of that. Falling off the wall would probably be the best thing that could happen to him.
Humpty’s problems were many and, to all appearances, insoluble. He was in hock up to the crown of his hairless head, and had no prospect of paying off the debt. He’d been laid off at work because his company had been taken over, and he had no savings left. A stock scam had taken almost all of his investments, and his last attempt at getting hold of money from somewhere had collapsed without anything to show for his efforts.
Even lookswise he had nothing going for him. As bald as he was pale, as fat as he was clumsy, he had absolutely no charm, no charisma, nothing. Hell, kids yelled at him in the street, shouting that they'd make him into an omelette. People wondered why his beautiful wife still stuck with him. Even Humpty wondered, sometimes. But she was a high-maintenance woman, and he hadn’t been able to provide much maintenance recently. So losing her was becoming a more distinct possibility by the day.
Humpty had just one last hope, and, sitting on the wall, he was thinking about it. It was a desperate shot, but he had to try.
Far down the long white road into town, he saw a pall of dust. It was the sign he’d been waiting for. He’d have to move fast.
Inching forwards until he was balanced precariously on the edge of the wall, he leaned forward to ensure that it was the people he’d been looking for.
What happened next was perhaps inevitable.
The King’s Cavalry Corps had been on a training ride, and now they were on their way home.
They rode easily in their saddles, tall men in dust-streaked blue and red ceremonial uniforms, plumed metal helmets on their heads and sabres at their waists. Coming round a bend, they drew their horses to a sudden stop, gasping with involuntary horror.
A mangled body lay in the middle of the road. Shattered white shards mixed with gelid material, in a scene of horror so great that even the hardened cavalry troopers were shocked to the core.
They tried, though. Gathering around, they did their best to put life back into that poor ruined shell. Even the horses, poking around with their sensitive noses, tried – but it was far too late.
And as they straightened from their labours, there was a sudden wail. Mrs Dumpty stood with her hands over her mouth, eyes wide open, staring at what lay on the ground, and shrieking.
“Well,” said Humpty, “how do you like the seaside?”
“Very much, so far.” Mrs Dumpty sipped at her daiquiri. “You know,” she said thoughtfully, “I never actually thought it would work.”
“Frankly,” her husband said, “neither did I when I first thought of it. But then I realised it might.” He stretched lazily. “I’m so glad I paid that last insurance policy premium, even though I could barely afford it.”
“Still,” his wife said, “you took a real risk. If they’d caught on to the fraud...”
“There was never a chance of that.” Humpty smiled, with the happiness of one whose financial woes were taken care of virtue a massive insurance payment. “They could never have suspected that it wasn’t I lying on the road.”
“Why not?” asked Mrs Dumpty, frowning. “I never could understand why you were so sure about that.”
“Elementary, my dear,” Humpty said. “There is, you know, an advantage in being precisely as bald and obese as an egg.”
Copyright B Purkayastha 2012