Quite some time ago, in a place not far from here, there roamed a hungry man. He was basically a good man at heart, but he, like other people, had faults. He liked to gamble but lacked the skills needed to be successful. He liked to take drink and sadly possessed more skills than he needed in this area. He was often hungry, and at times, did things of which he was ashamed in order to obtain food.
One day as the man walked down a country lane, his stomach began to ache the undeniable ache of emptiness. He had experienced this ache many times, but this time seemed different. The pangs were more intense and more painful than they had ever been before. It was then that his hunger told him he had had enough and that he should find food in any manner he could. He lumbered on until he saw a farm.
“I must find something to eat, or I am done for,” he said to himself. The thought of entreating the farmer to work in exchange for a hot meal never crossed his mind.
The rusty gate creaked more than a little as the man pushed it open. There was no one in sight. He crept as silently as he could toward the barn, glancing uneasily around as he went. Behind the barn he spotted a small group of hens pecking at the ground feeding. They did not notice that a hungry man was slowly moving toward them. They certainly did not notice the saliva that fell from the corners of his dirty mouth and onto the front of his even dirtier coat. He crept ever closer, slowly, silently in a manner which even a fox would admire. At last, his dinner lay just before his feet. There was a flurry of activity, the din of hens clucking in terror as they ran to escape the intruder, the angry cursing of a gruff voice, the cloud of dust and feathers. The chaos was extraordinary but brief.
The man ran as quickly as his weary legs would carry him away from the farm. He ran instinctively, driven on by sheer panic. After a few minutes, he stopped running. Although he was not certain that he had not escaped any danger of being followed, his body commanded him to stop. His lungs ached. His legs felt as if they were on fire. His heart was beating in his chest. Only his right hand felt fine as it held firmly around the neck of the hen he had snatched, lest his dinner escape. At this point, there are some people who would have had time to reconsider their actions and not slaughter the hen for a simple meal. The man was not one of them. Hunger had long ago quelled any compassion he had possessed. The fact that he had done this so many times, that it was almost second nature to him, was of little importance.
“Just squeeze and twist quickly until you hear the snap, old man. You know how to do this,” he said aloud.
Before his hands could complete the task, he heard a shrill voice cry out. It was the hen. She spoke.
The man was certain that hunger had driven him mad until the hen spoke again,
“Please, sir. Spare my life, and I will grant you three wishes.”
The man was stunned, for he, like many others, had never encountered a talking hen before and realized that this was no ordinary hen and could quite possibly grant him three wishes. His mind raced.
“What should I wish for? Riches? A manor? A beautiful wife?”
Just then, an intense pang of hunger unlike any he had ever felt before struck the man.
“I know what my first wish will be,” he said.
“Anything you desire, for you have spared my life,” said the hen
“I wish to have an elegant setting for a simple meal. I am a simple, hungry man but a proud man. Hunger has a way of debasing a man. An elegant setting for a simple meal would mean a great deal to me.”
“As you wish.”
The hen was touched and thought to herself how she had never granted a more deserving wish. A small cloud of smoke appeared and vanished as quickly. An elegant, perfectly set table befitting a king sat before the man.
“What is your second wish?”
“For my meal, I wish some simple vegetables. Hmmm, maybe some carrots and potatoes. And some gravy. It’s been ages since I have tasted gravy.”
Upon the table appeared an impressive array of perfectly cooked dishes containing potatoes and carrots.
“And now, good sir, your third wish.”
The man turned toward the hen with a look that sent shivers throughout her body. He smiled a very curious smile, his eyes sparkled, and his stomach snarled in her direction.
“I wish for a nice roasted hen,” he said.
As the small cloud of smoke blew away with the autumn breeze, the man sat down at the table and placed the perfectly folded napkin on his lap.
“I am a simple hungry man.”
As he ate, a warm feeling passed through him. His stomach thanked him profusely for the variety of cooked potatoes and carrots, but especially for the succulent roasted hen meat that fell straight off the bone.
Moral: Never trust a hungry man